How to Manage a Sales Pipeline? 6 Simple Steps to Optimising Your Sales Pipeline for Maximum Results and Efficiency
Building a sales pipeline is the first step to success.
Knowing how to manage it, is the second.
A sales pipeline is the perfect way to define your sales process step by step. From first contact with a prospect, to closing the sale, the pipeline is the tool to consult for each stage of the process. Having a clear view of the entire process gives you a fantastic opportunity to define, evaluate and optimize each of the steps along the way.
As with any other aspect of your business (social media, marketing, finance) simply having the tools is not enough. A sound strategy and good management are key ingredients to success. So how do you do it? How do you manage a sales pipeline?
The first step is identifying prospects and collecting data. Look at the prospect objectively and record the name, primary address and contact details, the value of the deal, what they are interested in (particular product or service), closing date. This information will be stored into your database so that whenever you access the prospect’s account, you will have all the information you need at your disposal. These are critical pieces of information that will ultimately have an impact of how successful your proposal and follow up will be.
You cannot realistically proceed with your sales process and expect results if you don’t have that basic information. Once you have the basics covered, you can go onto preparing a compelling proposal with relevant content while maintaining a personalised experience.
The next step to the successful management of a sales pipeline is having the right content. Why you may ask? Well, contrary to what you may have thought, a sales pipeline is not about selling but educating. It is about the exchange of thoughts and ideas. You offer something of value (a white paper, a piece of advice, how to guide) in return for something of value you want from the customer (their time, their attention, their custom).
Most times, all the steps leading up to the sale would involve some kind of content and having that content up-to-scratch is crucial.
In practice, the content that you send out to the prospect is a taster of what you offer. You acquaint them with your style and quality of work. Imagine that you are an ad agency that produces copies and other advertising materials, sending a complimentary white paper on copywriting or an article with Advertising best practices would show your lead your style of work.
Achieve even better efficiency and optimization, by including the content in an automated email. Add the lead to the sequence whenever they reach a certain stage in the sales funnel and voila.
When creating content for your sales pipeline, consider the sales process, the customer journey and the data you’ve collected at the beginning. All those factors have an impact on the type of content you should be producing and distributing. Think about what your prospects would benefit from and what would be of interest of them during the different stages and prepare your content accordingly.
One of the most common mistakes we see sales teams make, is a lack of follow-up. It is too easy to forget to follow up. Often it is the person that follows up the best that ends up with the sale.
So use automated tasks and reminders to prompt a one-to-one follow up call or to trigger an automated email follow up.
If you don’t measure what, how and how much of the what turns leads into sales, you are basically shooting in the dark.
How would you know when a lead has passed one stage and is ready to be move to another? Having clear metrics that would measure the progress of your lead down the funnel. Think of these as milestones and with each milestone the probability for closing the sale should be increasing. For example, preparing a first draft proposal and waiting the customer to come back to you with comments could be one milestone before moving the lead to the next stage.
Is there a certain number of interactions with a customer you would like to meet? Maybe you can measure the effectiveness of face-to-face vs non-face-to-face interactions and see which ones help you close a sale faster.
Also, think about time. A prospect may take anything from a few days to a few months to go from a lead to sale, depending on your business and the industry you operate in. However, estimating a closing date is important since it gives you a timescale by which activities should be performed.
Evaluate and improve
Evaluating your sales process and performance improvements when necessary is a huge part of the sales pipeline management process. Linked to the measuring point above, how do you measure success? What other factors should be taken into account when evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of your pipeline? Consider the time it takes to convert a sale, the satisfaction of the customer at the end of the pipeline, the leaked prospects (leads you have lost at different stages) etc. There are always areas for improvement and finding ways of identifying those areas is crucial.
Feedback could be of great use. Ask your former leads (now customers) how they found the whole sales process, the content you’ve given them etc. Ask what they would change if given the chance. Also, listen to your salespeople. The ones who actually use the pipeline (if you have a sales team), they may have identified gaps or areas that require improvements. Give your staff the chance to voice their opinions.
Invest in the right tools
Having all the data, the right content and measurements in place are the parts that would make the machine run smoothly. A good CRM system that can incorporate all these is the actual machine.
When it comes to efficiency, nothing is more efficient than having all these components under one roof. Instead of having a spreadsheet with customer data, and your content somewhere else, a good CRM system such as InTouch that incorporates all these features would save you and your team tons of time and effort. It will also ensure that the process of converting leads to sale is more systematized, automated, and that it runs smoother and faster.
InTouch has a sales pipeline tool to better track the lifetime of your opportunities.
In today’s business environment, the importance of a knowing how to manage a sales pipeline is ever-growing. Understanding a lead’s critical needs and desires and addressing those during the sales process is a recipe for success. Another vital ingredient however is a deep understanding of the actual conversion process. Managing that one well will help you and your sales team be more focussed, disciplined, organized and deliberate in your actions to nurturing leads and closing more sales.
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