First, off we’re not going to tell you how to create and manage the perfect pipeline, why? Because it’s completely company and product/service specific. There is no one size fits all, but we will go through a few key areas that we’ve seen are critical to managing a pipeline effectively to maximise conversion.
Sales measurement & tracking
Without understanding the vitals of your leads and clients, and what data you should measure, there’s no way to manage your pipeline efficiently. A few key areas you should track include, stage of prospect, timeline/communication points and deal size, there are much more but always start with the essentials. With the above tracked you can start to understand what’s in your pipeline, what’s converting, what is not and analyse to identify issues, opportunities and what should be prioritised.
Clear pipeline stages
Unless you have a very complicated (justified) sales process, you should never need more than 12 key stages in your pipeline. We often find organisations either clutter their pipeline with too many stages or have too few. Both are bad as one side creates needless complexity that can result in an overwhelming pipe and on the other minimal stages leads to an unclear understanding of where a prospect is at and a loss of efficiency/conversion in the pipe.
A sales pipeline is much more than a piece of software in the cloud or an excel sheet, and it’s used to track the entire sales funnel and is arguably one of the most important processes of your business, sales. One thing people often overlook is the human element involved in this, you can have the best CRM (client relationship manager) on the planet, but if your team isn’t clear on their responsibilities and haven’t incorporated behaviour patterns around using the system, you’re losing money.
Active updating of your pipeline is one thing, but you also need to have clear ownership of a lead once it enters the system. We’ve found that in many occasions leads are passed around from sales person to sales person, and this often leads to the loss of the lead. Once a lead comes in it needs to have a clear owner who is responsible for taking it through the sales process.
Sales & revenue forecasting
Once you’re sorted on the above, and you have a working process and tool, you’ll be able to gather and analyse data, as well as to look at structural problems in your pipeline and create/track optimisations that can lead to efficiency and conversion gains.