Sales Pipeline Management: 5 Key Steps
If your sales are stagnating, it could be your sales pipeline is holding you back. From administration issues to follow-up, scrutinizing your sales pipeline can help identify where the bottlenecks are occurring, and what's preventing you from achieving your goals.
If your sales are stagnating and you’re looking for ways to boost performance, it could be sales pipeline management is holding you back.
Managing sales pipeline effectively is crucial to your success, so take the time to review your entire sales process to identify the gaps. From administration issues to failures in following up, scrutinizing your sales pipeline can help identify where the bottlenecks are occurring, and what's preventing you from achieving your goals.
In this post, we address ways to better manage your pipeline, increase sales and boost your customer retention rate.
What is a sales pipeline?
Before we launch into the actionable strategies, let’s define what we mean by a sales pipeline.
A sales pipeline is visual snapshot of where prospects are in the sales process.
A sales pipeline should not be confused with a sales funnel. A sales pipeline illustrates the steps a sales team should take in order to qualify leads and close deals, whereas a sales funnel is the theoretical journey a buyer takes towards making a purchase.
Though pipeline stages may differ from company to company and even by product, there are five best practices when it comes to improving your sales pipeline management.
1. Follow up - persistence and timeliness
Elite sales professionals are persistent. According to Invesp,
- 60% of customers say "no" four times before saying "yes"
- 48% of sales people never even make a single follow-up attempt
- 44% of sales people give up after one follow-up call
but here's the real kicker...
- 35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first
While following up isn’t easy, (in fact, it’s generally viewed as a sales team challenge) it’s a key element in the sales process. And, it can be automated, so there's really no excuse to not follow-up in a timely manner. How?
- Set reminders in your CRM so reps receive timely alerts to send an email or call the prospect
- Integrate your CRM with your proposal software, so you can send a proposal immediately after ending a call. Your team will not only save time, but can also personalize collateral using CRM data, giving your brand a tailored and professional image. To see how how Qwilr integrates with HubSpot and Salesforce, schedule a demo with our sales team.
2. Focus on the ‘warmest’ leads
Identify your high-value leads by viewing the sales activities for each one to see which are the most engaged. Focus on the best opportunities and drop those that are taking up too much time with little promise of success.
Dropping leads that have been in the pipeline for a while can be hard to do. However, if they don’t seem interested after months’ of nurturing or if they can’t be contacted, it’s unlikely your team will be able to push them to the next stage of the sales pipeline.
Learn how to identify worthless leads early on, so you can use your time more productively. Some clues that a lead might not be worth the effort:
- The company or individual you’re dealing with doesn’t fit your buyer persona
- They’re in a geographic location you’ll struggle to serve
- They keep responding to messages, but take no other actions to suggest interest (I.e. downloading eBooks, subscribing to newsletters, but no response to demo requests, etc.)
3. Watch your pipeline metrics
Just as your customer review examples indicate the effectiveness of your customer service team, your sales pipeline metrics allow you to see how well your sales team is performing. Your sales pipeline will change over time, so you need to keep on top of key sales metrics, including:
- Number of deals in the pipeline
- Average % of deals in the pipeline
- Average % deals won
- Average time to close deals (sales velocity)
Additionally, schedule regular meetings to review these metrics so that you have an overview of the health of your sales pipeline. Over time, your tracked results will give you clues as to whether any changes or improvements you’ve made are working and if they’re contributing towards growth.
4. Continually update your sales pipeline forecast
As you gather new leads, they need to be added then moved from one stage in the pipeline to the next, in a bid to close deals. However, it’s all too easy to let the pipeline become disorganized by neglecting to add information or adding incorrect information, which could result in lost sales.
Avoid leaving money on the table by insisting your team updates your CRM with accurate details on every lead, and adding regular notes for each lead at every step of the pipeline. This means your reps may have to spend a little extra time on admin work, but it will pay dividends in the long run. By removing ‘dead’ leads and updating information, you have the best data to work with to make an accurate forecast of your sales revenue.
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5. Look for opportunities to shorten the sales cycle
A typical B2B sales cycle can be lengthy. Additionally, high ticket or more complex products and services usually translate to numerous decision makers, not to mention lengthy legal reviews. And the longer the sales cycle, the longer the prospect has to change their mind or find an alternative solution.
It’s essential to find ways to shorten the sales cycle– and buyers want a simpler, shorter cycle, too. This doesn’t mean you should start bombarding prospects with endless follow-ups, but it does mean you should look for ways to deliver a world-class buying experience that streamlines the process and converts prospects into customers.
As an example, HR Collaborative, a full-service HR firm in a highly competitive market, was struggling with sales processes, speed, and delivering an exceptional buyer experience. By integrating Qwilr with HubSpot, they were able to automate sales proposal production, send collateral out quicker, plus with Qwilr's interactive features, (configurable pricing, deal acceptance, and e-signatures) they were able to reduce the unproductive back-and-forth that consumes both buyer and seller time. As a result, their proposal-to-close time has decreased 20%— and that's more time their team can spend on prospecting and building their sales pipeline!
Another tactic to shorten your sales cycle is to demonstrate the value of your solution in a tangible way. An ROI calculator is extremely effective at visualizing the time to be saved, financial gains, etc. of your product or service.
When you can prove the ROI and present it in a way your buyer accepts and understands, you can leverage the data to close the deal with more urgency, as delays can be quantified by the pending benefit. Additionally, anytime you can present your value in hard numbers, you make it easier for financial influencers (CFO, COO) to give their blessing, too— especially helpful when you're dealing with multiple decision makers! If you'd like an ROI calculator you can customize for your own use, contact our sales team— they'd be happy to create one for you! They're a great tool post initial conversations to start proving out the value of your product or service.
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It goes without saying, but paying attention to your sales pipeline is critical to growing your business. And, your sales pipeline also holds the key to hitting (and exceeding!) sales quotas and reducing your time to close. Help your team to be productive, not just busy. And at Qwilr, we're here to help optimize your outcomes, too. Give us a shout...we'd love to brainstorm with you and show you how our proposal software can positively impact your bottomline.