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Four Steps To Optimise Your Sales Pipeline

Salespeople often have a hard time keeping their sales pipeline organised. It’s easy to get busy, lose track of the details, miss a few follow-ups, and turn into a mess.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Managing your sales pipeline is a crucial part of running a successful business.

If you’re not doing it, then you can’t expect to be in full control of your sales process. You certainly won’t be able to forecast your future revenue accurately or make informed decisions about how to increase the performance of your sales team.

First things first. What is a sales pipeline?

A sales pipeline is the process that every sale goes through from when a prospect first becomes aware of you (or your product) to when they buy from you. A sales pipeline lets you get a quick glimpse at who might purchase from you and how close they are to actually buying.

Here’s how a sales pipeline can benefit sales:

Identify problems with the sales process

Where are prospects getting stuck in the sales process? Why are they dropping out? Identifying these issues gives you the chance to address problems quickly and keep prospects in the pipeline.

Identify sales team members who are struggling

Comparing the performance of team members against each other allows the manager to see what the average results should be for lead-to-sale closure. Underperforming team members can be given extra training, coaching, and mentoring to bring them up to speed.

Enable better forecasting and target setting

Historical data in your CRM can be used to set accurate targets given the current environment for sales. Knowing the percentage chance that a lead will turn into a sale enables management to set better targets and also create accurate forecasts on performance.

Test new tactics and strategies

A sales pipeline lets management try out different tactics and strategies. The data that flows from the pipeline lets you accurately determine whether a tactic is working especially when tried over a set period of time.

The sales pipeline can be broken down into four distinct stages:

1. Lead

2. Qualification

3. Proposal

4. Close

As a sale moves through each stage, the salesperson defines the chance of moving to the next step.

For example, from best practice, the salesperson may define that successful qualification of a lead means there is now a 40% chance of a close.

Here’s how you can simplify your sales pipeline with BuddyCRM:

Stage 1: Define what a ‘Lead’ is at your company

Your company’s definition of a lead should be determined before you begin to attract them. This helps you identify your ideal customer and provide you with the highest quality leads. The better defined your lead is, the more likely you are to be a fit for their needs, and therefore the more likely you are to make a sale.

Here are some examples of what could fall into the ‘Lead’ category depending on your industry.

– New subscribers to your blog

– Visitors to specific pages on your website

– Attendees at webinars or in-person events

– Email subscribers

– New social media followers

– New contacts from your regular networking and referrals

Stage 2: Create a standard process for all sales opportunities

Sales processes are a way to improve your sales productivity. They also make it easier for you to handle multiple clients at the same time and handle certain situations in a more efficient manner.

A sales process is a series of repeatable steps that a seller follows when working with a potential buyer. It is the process of doing all activities required to sell successfully.

The most common steps in a sales process template include:

Prospecting: This is the phase where you find potential buyers and generate leads.

Qualifying: This phase involves determining whether or not the prospect has needs that align with your product or service offering, and if they have the ability to buy from you. Essentially whether this prospect is worth your time and attention.

Relationship-building: The goal of this phase is to build rapport with your prospect and identify their needs. It’s also where they’re learning more about you and what it would be like to work with you. This is an important stage—some people may be more interested in working with you because of your personality than because of what you do.

Presentation/demonstration: This phase involves demonstrating how your product or service will solve the prospect’s problems or meet their needs (This may involve multiple meetings).

Handling objections: The sales prospect may have a reason, or reasons, why they are hesitant to buy your product. It’s important to be prepared for potential objections and also to anticipate what stage in the sales process the objection is likely to come up. Anticipating and addressing questions and concerns that might prevent the prospect from buying. Are there common objections that come up when you’re presenting? List those out here, along with some ways to answer them.

For example, one prospect may object because of pricing. In this case, you’ll want to make sure that your product offering is competitively priced, but also that you can tout the added value of your product over others on the market.

There are other steps you could add in to your sales process. For example, the 7 Stages of Sales Perfection lists these as the typical sales process steps:

Prospecting

Initial Meeting/Call

Needs Analysis

Presentation/Product Demo

Proposal/Price Quote

Negotiation/Closing

Follow-up

Stage 3: Determine what ‘Won’ and ‘Lost’ means to you

Determine what ‘Won’ means to you. Does ‘Won’ mean the customer has agreed to purchase your product or service, or does it mean they’ve signed on the dotted line and paid for it? How long after the sale is made (or the agreement is made) before the customer gets the product or service?

What about ‘Lost’? Which leads drop out of the pipeline and what factors would need to be met to cause that to happen? A written decline of a quote from the prospect? A prospect having made no decision after six months?

Knowing how to move a prospect on or out of the sales pipeline can help you to keep your eye on the prospects that matter and the deals that you have the best opportunity to close.

Stage 4: Score your leads

Once you have completed the first three steps, you are finally ready to score your leads. Scoring is just a way of assigning values to your leads so that you know who’s the most qualified and who’s the least qualified. This step helps to determine the likelihood of a lead converting into a customer. There is no one specific method for scoring your leads, but here are some guidelines:

-Identify factors that indicate how close a lead is to becoming a customer: For example, did they request a demo? Did they make it through the entire sales funnel without dropping out? Did they ask for a quote?

-Assign numerical values to these indicators: For example, you could give 10 points for each factor that indicates the lead is close to becoming a customer.

-Make sure your numerical values add up to 100%: You can achieve this by assigning more points to the indicators that are stronger and more likely to result in conversion.

-Score your leads accordingly: Let’s say you have 2 leads, A and B. Lead A has 3 factors that indicate they are close to becoming a customer and Lead B has 1; therefore, we will assign 30 points (10 x 3) for lead A and 10 points (10 x 1) for lead B. Lead A has twice as many indicators as Lead B and therefore is more likely to convert into a customer.

That’s how you score your leads.

A worked example:

Once you have your step names, assign percentages to each step (or at least an estimate). If one step is more work than another, it needs a higher percentage attached to it. Let’s say that I have four steps in my sales process, and Step 1 requires 20% of my effort, Step 2 requires 25%, Step 3 requires 30% and Step 4 requires 25%. So I would write this:

Making Contact: 20%

Book a Demo: 25%

Present Proposal: 30%

Negotiation and Close: 25%

To define the percentages for each step, you’ll want to figure out which ones are most important to your business.

For example, step 1 may be most important because it brings you leads. Without leads, you have no opportunities.

But once you have an opportunity, it’s even more important to close that lead or else you’re just wasting time and resources on prospects that aren’t going anywhere. So step 4 would be more important than step 1 in this case.

As you complete the tasks for each step, a lead will move through the sales funnel – step by step. You’ll be able to see where your leads stick at the most and from that determine a course of action to move them on.

There may be further steps required for each stage. For example, Present Proposal may be broken down into three smaller steps. ie. Get brief from client 10%, Arrange meeting 10%, Present in-person proposal 10%. The addition of these further steps may help managers try out new tactics and strategies and enforce best practice in the team.

Bonus Tips on Managing the Sales Pipeline

Feed the pipeline regularly.

Never settle for the group of leads currently working their way through the system. Salespeople can get starry-eyed as they concentrate on nailing the close and forget about prospecting. But it only takes a few missed sales before the scramble to find new leads causes a panic. Keep prospecting all the time – actively contact prospects with calls and emails, ask for referrals, and leverage your partner network.

Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up

Follow-up is critical to success. It’s why BuddyCRM was created! Too many missed opportunities and leads never chased. Automating your follow-ups and setting aside time every day to get back in touch with your leads is crucial.

It can be helpful to make sure you have a clear, valid reason for contacting the prospect. It could be checking up on the reception to your presentation, finding out thoughts on competitors’ prices,

Don’t forget to note your conversations in BuddyCRM and if there’s movement on one of your key stages, update your pipeline at the same time.

New research shows that 78% of B2B customers buy from the first company that responds to their demo request. That’s incredible and something you can use in your everyday life. You want to be that person who follows-up first!

Clear out your pipeline

Just like your drains, sales pipelines can get clogged too. Bad leads build up and stick in the pipe leading the sales team to waste time on poor opportunities with limited scope for closing. Always pick quality over quantity with your leads. Leads that stick should be removed. Set an average amount of time for a lead to close, or for each step to be moved through. Run a report in BuddyCRM to show you how long your leads have been at each point and you’ll soon notice which leads are being held up and causing the entire pipeline to clog.

Review results

Regular reviews between team members and management will help to determine best practices when dealing with leads along with the best methods for moving prospects on. Oversight of the entire company pipeline will allow sales managers to try new tactics and update the sales pipeline steps accordingly.

Takeaway

It’s easy to create a pipeline that works if you follow these simple steps in your CRM. BuddyCRM enables you to optimise your sales pipeline and create a powerful sales machine that lets you manage your team, forecast accurately, determine new sales tactics, and identify members that may need further assistance.

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