Sales Pipeline Management- 7 Pro-Tips for Sales Leaders
In the wise words of W. Edwards Deming, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” More often than not, you’d find this quote often being shared with sales teams. In the hustle and bustle of meeting targets and getting conversions, sales professionals often don’t keep processes high on their priority list.
As a result, when each salesperson on your team is getting work done in their own way, chaos takes over in terms of managing the sales pipeline. There’d be days when your sales pipeline is overflowing with leads and your sales team is overwhelmed and there’d be days where there’s a shortage of people to reach out to. Not just that, in most likelihood, several quality leads might go unnoticed because of your messy sales pipeline.
That’s why you need a well-defined sales pipeline management process in place to make sure there are no missed opportunities and lost prospects. While you could also leave the pipeline management to an efficient sales management software, there is some nitty-gritty that you too need to take care of.
In this article, we’ll talk about some best practices that you could follow to manage your sales pipeline better. However, before we go down that road, do know that sales pipeline management is not the same as sales funnel management.
Source: Engage Bay
Even though some of these tips would definitely help you strengthen your sales funnel, we’ll try to focus more on how you can maintain a free-flowing sales pipeline.
Sales Pipeline Management- Best Practices and Tips
Tip 1: Well-Qualified is Half Done
A common blunder most teams make in pipeline management is that they get their sales team busy a little too early in the process. Most of the time, they’re caught sharing information about the brand and informing the leads, nurturing them instead of actually nudging them towards conversion.
A lead should be handed over to the sales team, only after it has been qualified by the marketing folks. Your marketing team should not only collect relevant information about the lead but also share content about the brand so as to inform the prospect about what’s in store for them. The interested folks who are in the consideration stage of the sales process can then be dealt with by the sales team to close. That way, you not only reduce the pressure on the sales pipeline but also ensure that your sales team is able to communicate well and prioritize the leads based on their qualification. In fact, 60% of the prospects prefer being contacted by a salesperson in the consideration stage where they’ve already researched their options and are analyzing a shortlist of choices.
Qualifying leads is a part of the sales funnel management process where you place your leads in the funnel based on how close they’re to conversion and their persona. We’ve discussed it in detail here.
Tip 2: No one likes a Bumpy Road
Imagine you’re trying to buy a product online and you are asked to share the product with 5 friends before you can add it to your cart? Not just that, you also have to follow the brand on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter before you can purchase the product. With so many unnecessary steps involved in the process, you’d probably opt-out and not purchase the product.
When you’re setting up different communication content that you’d use to convince your leads to become your paying customers, you also have to keep in mind the channels. If you can gather a piece of information over email, or club two emails in one, do that. Don’t use calls for every communication. This not only keeps your sales team occupied but also perturbs the lead.
©Seth Phillips/Dude With Sign
Avoid any unnecessary steps and hurdles in the process and keep your sales flow as clean as possible.
Tip 3: Where do I Pay
The Worldpay Global Payments Report states that the preferred payment method of global online shoppers is eWallets with 36% of them preferring it. Credit cards (23%) and debit cards (12%) come next on the preference list. At present, every business is moving towards digital transactions.
However, most businesses set up payment options that suit their needs and convenience oblivious to the preferred payment mode of their customers leading to cart abandonment in e-commerce or spoilt customer experience for B2B businesses.
While it is good to keep payment options that you can monitor and use easily, your priority should be the convenience of the customers. The more conveniently a customer can pay, the better chances are that they’d complete the transaction instead of getting flustered and moving elsewhere.
At the same time, it is equally important for you to ensure that the mode of payment has fewer chances of failure or downtime. It is okay to avoid a payment mode or disable it temporarily if it is experiencing a lot of failures. Businesses also now add a pop-up to inform their user that a particular payment mode is experiencing a lot of failures and recommend users to choose an alternate option.
Tip 4: Be the Remedy
You’d probably have come across Seth Godin’s famous saying, “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” Well, that should be the motto of any salesperson when dealing with the leads in your sales pipeline. Every customer has a different pain-point, a different concern, you’ve got to talk about their language and present your brand as a solution.
Source: Fit Small Business
Not just with respect to leads, when it comes to the stages of your sales pipeline, you’ve got to offer a different remedy at each stage. A person in the prospecting stage just wants information, while one at the closing stage needs qualifying reasons to choose your brand. So, prepare and plan communication such that you deliver the right ‘talk’ at each stage.
Tip 5: Don’t give up on Follow-ups
Here are a few data points for you:
- An average of six call attempts is made to 95% of the converted leads.
- 60% of the customers say no four times before saying yes.
- 44% of the sales professionals give up after one follow-up attempt.
Do you see the disparity between the first two points and the third one? When it comes to sales pipeline management, salespeople feel that moving leads quickly into the dead or no-response list keeps the pipeline clean. However, the truth is, you are merely adding more leads to the pipe without actually working through with the leads that you’ve already got.
With the right amount of follow-ups and perseverance, a significant share of your unresponsive or cold leads might warm-up. The shortcoming, however, is that most sales pipelines only include one round of follow-ups. Once there’s no response, those leads are completely forgotten, when in fact, they need about 3-4 more follow-up touchpoints to get interested in your offering. Effective pipeline management is not just about moving new leads through the sales process but also managing leads that are already in the pipeline through regular follow-ups.
Tip 6: Prioritize and Deprioritize
A crucial part of pipeline management is picking your battles. You’ve got to put your best foot forward with high-value, most sales-ready leads and let go of the ones that are clearly uninterested in your brand.
Prioritizing leads means choosing the ones that would push the needle for your business over those which are highly unlikely to convert. While all salespeople take pride in cracking a difficult customer and converting a cold lead, such leads should not be prioritized over the ones that are interested and can bring in revenue. After all, as much as we like it, sales are not about romanticizing struggles, it’s about churning customers quickly, and that should be the focus.
A part of deprioritizing is also to let go completely of dead leads. While we emphasize the need for follow-ups, there’s no use in watering dead plants, right? If a lead has clearly stated that they’re not interested even after multiple calls, let go. You don’t want to spend time, energy, and efforts sowing life into leads that will never buy from you.
Tip 7: Make Documentation a Habit
The biggest challenge about managing a sales pipeline is that it is constantly evolving. There are new leads flooding in, and leads moving from one stage to another. If you want to prevent your pipeline from getting messy and confusing, you’ve got to document everything. Every touchpoint, every conversation, and every communication needs to be recorded.
While you can easily invest in sales management software, cultivating a habit of immediately recording the updates from a call, and moving leads from one stage to another takes time and effort. You’ve got to constantly remind salespeople to update the CRM or the tool you’re using as soon as a call is over or communication is made. Only then can you keep your entire team on the same page and avoid any unwanted or repetitive communication to the same lead.
Why Should You Care?
To conclude this, we’d just like to bring forth why it is important to manage your sales pipeline well. The answer is simple–revenue growth. An HBR study revealed that there was an 18% revenue growth difference between companies with an established sales process and pipeline and those without.
Sales pipeline management is often taken for granted and left to the sales folks to handle on their own. If only the leaders take out some time to standardize the process, businesses can achieve tremendous growth.