Are you tired of hearing your sales reps complain and gripe about not having good opportunities or a strong pipeline? Do they panic over whether or not their prospects will close at the end of the month? If yes, you need to assess your sales team’s pipeline concerns rationally and effectively address them.
Your ability to create and manage a healthy sales pipeline depends on your proficiency in three diverse aspects: inflow, visibility, and execution. Mastering the pipeline is an integral component of the sales process, and an effective way to increase your revenues. Effectively creating and managing a sales pipeline that works best for your company helps improve productivity, efficiency, and ROI. Your sales representatives will have a clear understanding of every step, and they can visualize where each of their prospects stands and how difficult it is for them to close.
This article will help you understand the following aspects:
- What is a sales pipeline
- How to build your sales pipeline
- What are the areas of sales pipeline management
- Tips to optimize your pipeline to boost your ROI
What is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline is an overview of your entire sales process. It is broken down into several steps that provide a clear view of what actions your sales team should take to convert leads into customers. It helps organize and track your prospects, quota, and goals – as well as understand whether or not certain areas need special attention.
A quick view of your pipeline reveals whether your sales team is on the right track to achieve their quota, which stage the deal is in, how much investment is tied up in the process, and whether you have enough leads on board to reach your goals.
Done For You provides you with a custom sales funnel that helps you scale your business to a broader audience. We build and manage a sales funnel for the business that helps you get more leads, and sell more to your customers.
How to build and structure your sales pipeline
While the stages may vary depending on your product, sales process, and industry, there are five steps to follow when creating your pipeline:
1. Setting up initial contact
When prospects enter your pipeline, they are just your leads that may or may not eventually turn into customers. So, you first have to open up the lines of communication. To streamline the process, you can use advanced tools to automatically create leads in your sales pipeline.
Once you have the list of opportunities that you want to target, you next have to make contact. Typically, this involves cold calling or cold emailing the leads to see whether or not they are interested in your business, products or services.
Good sales pipeline management tools help you build, execute, and track the entire campaign seamlessly.
2. Qualifying your leads
Once you have made contact with your leads, it is essential to determine which ones are worth following up with.
Qualifying your prospects involves identifying how likely one is to make a purchase. Find out at what stage your lead is – just browsing? Interested in knowing more? Currently looking for a product like yours? Waiting for budget approval? Not interested at all?
Create a lead scoring system for your business that allows you to identify prospects interested in buying or are, at least, ready to talk to your sales representatives. Leads who are keen to speak to your sales team, respond to your email or spend much time on your pricing page may be considered qualified sales leads or SQLs. At this point, it is vital to take them to the next stage: scheduling and meeting.
3. Scheduling and meeting
Once a prospect becomes a qualified sales lead, they are likely to hear more about your solution from your sales representatives. At this stage, schedule a demo or meeting to talk to your leads one-on-one about how your products or how your services fit their needs. The objective is to push the unique selling proposition of your solution and delve into the negotiation process.
The key to presenting a winning sales meeting depends on tailoring the solution to fit the needs of the lead to whom you are pitching.
4. Create a proposal
At this stage of your sales pipeline, you have a better understanding of what a given prospect is like, and how much ROI you can earn. Leads have either received your sales proposal or you are preparing to send one very soon. You can use Done For You. Sales funnel to create automated, ROI-based sales copy that can convert a higher number of leads into sales.
Often prospects get stuck at this stage. This may be due to several reasons – perhaps the lead is awaiting approval, or he is still looking around for other solutions. Whatever be the case, it is better to have activity attributes integrated into your sales pipeline to see how long the prospects remain in each stage, and when is the last time you have made contact with them. This will help you identify bottlenecks if any, and brainstorm unique ways to optimize the sales process.
It is not surprising that your prospects need a number of follow-ups before you can close the deal. In most cases, it takes more than five follow-ups to close. This means that your opportunities can get stuck at any stage if you are not persistent and unique.
By the end of your sales pipeline, every lead is either closed won or lost. If everything goes well as planned, the deal is closed, and you have a new customer. If the sales process fails, move to the closed-lost stage and clear out the dead prospects from your pipeline.
3 ways to manage your sales pipeline
There are three different aspects of effective sales pipeline management – inflow, visibility, and execution.
We will now discuss the challenges of each stage, and how to overcome the same to streamline the sales process, and increase revenues.
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1. Build a consistent lead inflow
Often sales reps miss their quotas because they do not have enough prospects down their pipeline. They are also not clear of how many opportunities they actually need to hit their number. To overcome the challenge, it is vital to monitor the trends in your lead inflow. Keep a comprehensive track record of your sales team’s pipeline, including both opportunity count and value. Take a bigger picture into count so that you can stay ahead of product, market, and seasonal trends.
It is also important to analyze what actions drive pipeline inflow. New product launches? Out-of-the-box marketing campaigns? Does the period of higher opportunity inflow correspond with higher sales rep activity? Getting answers to these questions will help match input with output.
Next, understand the opportunity coverage needs for each of your sales representatives. What is your sales rep workload? How many leads are they expected to generate? How many leads do they need to be successful? Finally, create a sales process that helps you have a consistent supply of leads through every stage of your sales pipeline.
2. Develop pipeline visibility
The challenges of your sales team do not end with having a steady inflow of opportunities. They continue to face the same in cases where the numbers do not reflect reality, or no one knows what a good sales engagement process involves.
Lack of consistency is one of the biggest roadblocks to pipeline visibility. To overcome this and attain better visibility through your sales pipeline, it is crucial to define quality. Compare all closed-won and closed-lost prospects, and track the patterns from opening to closing a deal.
Use these patterns to develop a framework for your sales representatives to determine the quality of an opportunity when it hits the pipeline.
Once you have defined the characteristics of good-quality prospects, it is vital to develop guidelines for how the leads should be dealt with. These guidelines should be incorporated into the daily routine of the sales reps, which will help solidify the sales process as well as aid in monitoring and analyzing performance.
3. Execute and seize opportunities
Now that you have resolved the challenges of pipeline inflow and visibility, you should start seeing a boost in sales when your sales reps are able to seize opportunities and execute them well.
They should know how to prioritize opportunities, and likewise, make opportunities often and early. Better execution on the pipeline will not only help improve overall productivity but will also give you more free time to focus on what you are best at.
Tips to optimize your sales pipeline
Once you have successfully set up your sales pipeline, it is important to optimize it and clean it often to ensure improved opportunity inflow, better pipeline visibility, and smart execution for higher closed-won deals. Here are some valuable tips for you:
- Make sure your entire sales team has a clear understanding of your pipeline stages
- Set reminders for regular and timely follow-ups
- Communicate your expectations and actions for all stages
- Automate tasks to streamline and save time
- Perform regular sales pipeline reviews
No matter what are you are selling, having a sales pipeline can help increase your revenue. A well-designed sales funnel can help boost customer engagement and maximize profitability.