Sales Pipeline Management: How To Manage Your Pipeline And Shorten The Sales Process

comprehensive guide to sales pipeline management

When it comes to managing your sales pipeline, it’s important to understand every stage of your pipeline and what it takes to progress your prospect to the next step in your funnel. The act of sales pipeline management is the conscious effort to keep track of your prospects and know which stage they’re currently at, while typically documenting it in a CRM. Your CRM will typically also give you criteria to identify which stage in your pipeline they’re in.

But allocating your prospects to the right stage are is only half of sales pipeline management, the other, arguable more important piece is doing what’s necessary to effectively move each prospect closer to the close.

In our comprehensive guide to sales pipeline management, we help you understand the stages and what it takes to optimise your results.

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What Is A Sales Pipeline?

A Sales Pipeline is essentially a condensed view of every stage of the sales process. Sales teams document which stages of the sales pipeline each of their prospects are in, which allows sales leaders to identify where there might be issues with sales reps’ pipelines and for sales professionals to be clear on what action needs to be taken next with each of their prospective buyers based on which stage of the pipeline they’re in.

Sales Funnel vs Sales Pipeline

Sales Pipeline Vs. Sales Funnel

A sales funnel is a visual depiction of your prospects’ journey from start to finish and is essentially a process that turns a cold prospect into a closed deal. Aptly named a “Funnel” due to its shape, they work by being wide at the top highlighting the quantity prospects you need at the top of your funnel and how the number of leads are reduced as prospects are disqualified or opt-out. Therefore a Sales Funnel represents the number of prospects and their conversion rate that move through your funnel stages.  

In comparison, a Sales Pipeline is an overview of your sales process that allows you to enable your team to understand, organize and control the sales process. With a pipeline, marketing teams and sales reps can forecast revenue by identifying the stages where opportunities lie and predict how many prospects will become customers during a defined timeframe.

Why Is Documenting Your Sales Pipeline Important?

The Sales Pipeline provides Sales Professionals and their Sales Managers with a tangible, visual, and dynamic representation of where their prospects are in each stage of the sales process. This allows Sales Professionals to see if they’re on track to hit targets and Sales Leaders to forecast revenue with better accuracy.

What is Sales Pipeline Management?

Sales Pipeline Management is the act of overseeing and optimising every stage of the sales process to track progress, from finding and qualifying right up until the final stages of closing the sale.

What Are The Stages Of A Typical Sales Pipeline?

The stages of a typical sales pipeline include all the major steps needed in a sales process to get prospects closer to a close. These include:

Prospecting

Prospecting involves promoting your business, services, or products to the customers you wish to attract; Typically, by using advertising and public relations. Targeting parameters are applied to optimize the reach of your message to the correct potential buyers. 

Lead Qualification

Once hooked, it’s imperative to incentivize customers to keep progressing. At this stage, you must have the Sales Training Tools that Every Team Needs because your Sales Reps need to offer a free ebook, white paper, or even a webinar; by using educational content, you can quickly gauge whether your customer is interested enough to continue. 

Demonstration or Meeting

This is the stage when you schedule a demonstration or meeting to introduce your product or service; afterward, you’ll evaluate if there is a strong business case for the lead to receive a proposal. 

Proposal

Compile the benefits of how your product or service will aid your customer, ensure you include your competitive advantages – This will help differentiate you from your competitor’s proposals. 

Negotiation & Commitment

Negotiation is the stage where each party can adjust pricing, manage expectations, and discuss any discounts before proceeding with the commitment. It would be best if you endeavoured to encourage repeat business as it ensures satisfaction for the client, company or person you are doing business with. To do this, here is What You Need To Know About Win-Win Negotiations.

Opportunity Won/Lost

At this stage you’ve either won the deal, or lost the deal, either way, your deal is now closed.

Retention – Post-Purchase

By continuing to monitor your customer’s success after that purchase, it’s essential to extend your knowledge, services, and support. Providing excellent customer service will allow you to cross-sell, up-sell, or promote premium products to customers you’ve built a great working relationship with. 

Best Practices For Sales Pipeline Management

Follow Up

Did you know, Following Up is ranked as the third most significant challenge for sales teams? This is no surprise if you consider that today, consumers have more choices than ever before. It’s fair to say that competition is fierce, so you must consistently follow up to stay relevant. However, there is a handy solution – Automate the process by using Email Automation Software to calculate and time your follow up emails.

Focus On The Best Leads

It only makes logical sense to concentrate on your high-value, sales-ready leads; Especially considering that it takes approximately the same time to close each deal – you’ve got no time to spare on unpredictable leads. Nonetheless, when leads are qualified properly, less time is wasted on people not likely to buy from you, so you can hone in on the ones who are. This is why Sales Qualifying Methodologies are imperative to your strategy.

Drop Bad Leads

Letting go of relationships you’ve nurtured for weeks or months on end can be especially hard. Unfortunately, your lead becomes completely dead when they make it clear they’re not interested; you might find they stop replying, are hard to contact, or just aren’t progressing through the sales pipeline. Don’t waste your time chasing after invaluable leads, instead focus on the most viable. 

Monitor Metrics

Following Key Sales KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) is indeed the science of your sales art. So it would be best if you tracked metrics that cover; the number of deals in your pipeline and their average size, close-ratio, and sales velocity. Not exactly sure what you should be following? We’ve collated a complete guide to the essential Sales KPIs – Metrics Every Sales Leader Needs To Track for you to start implementing today to double down on what’s working, cut out what’s not and improve processes that need tweaking or updating. 

Review & Revise Your Processes

The quickest, most straightforward method of optimizing your process is to look for bottlenecks in your sales pipeline. Take these and consider undertaking mini-experiments in these areas by trying out different solutions until you find the correct one. The secret to success is to alter your processes bit by bit until your sales pipeline is streamlined. 

Update Regularly

Your Sales Pipeline is, in fact, active and alive. You have new leads, leads moving through the different stages, and deals being continuously closed. This is why it’s super easy to lose organization quickly, resulting in the potential to lose sales. To ensure this never happens, you must always invest your time in administration to keep all records up to date. 

Focus On Shortening Sales Cycles

It’s a universal truth for B2B companies that sales cycles tend to be quite long. The main issue with long sales cycles is that they just don’t retain customers’ attention, so if you’re finding that you’re not closing many deals, perhaps consider refining, shortening, and fine-tuning your sales cycle. The quickest improvement is usually providing the customer with the relevant information up-front, wasting no time grabbing their attention. 

Create A Standardized Process

We’re not saying one size fits all here. However, your ideal customers all have various goals in common. So it’s fair to assume that their hidden agenda for buying your product or service is also very similar. This allows you to begin standardizing your sales process, which will enable you to scale up, grow, and dominate your industry. 

Give Prospects More Content

When considering buying complex products or services, customers often need far more in-depth knowledge. Unfortunately for Salespeople, this can’t be provided over the phone. Instead, you’ll need to consider what sort of content you can offer your customers to advise them for each stage of the sales pipeline. 

Content such as e-books, articles, or product sheets are ideal; however, if your customer asks you for a resource you don’t have – it’s imperative to feedback this information to your marketing team. 

Use A CRM To Manage Your Pipeline

As your business grows, you’ll find that using an excel spreadsheet will soon render it useless for tracking your full sales pipeline. So it’s crucial to consider how CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software can benefit your business’s success. Some CRM programs even automate several tasks for you; better yet, they allow your team to access any information, anytime. 

Optimizing Your Sales Pipeline

Beyond managing the Sales Process, Sales Pipelines are an excellent leadership tool for encouraging and shaping Sales Teams’ behaviors to increase performance. However, when considering your Sales Pipeline Management, you need to have a detailed design of your funnel; otherwise, your sales teams won’t understand how your customers buy and why.

Therefore, to ensure maximum efficiency, you need to train your trainers to motivate Sales Reps to get the most out of the sales process. More so, it’s always essential to continue to provide your staff and new hires with continuous support and training.

We suggest maximizing your growth and potential with us – Asia’s Award-Winning Sales Training course provider. Our exclusive and innovative training develops your sales team into high-performing sales experts to help launch your company to the next level. The SOCO methodology includes our suite of solutions and products designed to quickly and efficiently train sales staff with minimal downtime.

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