Understanding & Using Your Sales Pipeline for Impressive Sales Growth

Resources, Sales Resources

In this post, we will talk about ways for you to manage your sales pipeline to maximize sales.

These are strategies that you can use for self-improvement or apply to build a high performing sales team.

Here is what we will cover:

What is a Sales Pipeline?

The Stages of a Sales Pipeline

How to Manage your Sales Pipeline which includes:

Define Your Key Metrics

Manage Your Data

Manage Your Team

Best Practices

Common Sales Pipeline Mistakes

Sales Pipeline Reviews

The 7 Step Guide to Clean Up Your Sales Process

What is a Sales Pipeline?

A sales pipeline is a structured, documented step by step overview of the sales process.

It allows a sales rep to:

  1. Systematically move a client through each stage of your pipeline based on pre-determined actions
  2. Fully understand where each of their clients sits in the buying process

The sales process will differ from company to company and should be unique to your typical buyers’ journey from the first contact to a closed sale.

The Stages of a Sales Pipeline

The first step in building your sales Pipeline is to clearly define the steps in your sales process.

As we have already discussed, every business will have its own unique sales pipeline, but a typical sales process will include the following steps:

  1. Prospecting
  2. Qualifying
  3. 1st Meeting & Needs Analysis
  4. 2nd Meeting & Proposal
  5. Follow Up
  6. Close
  7. Grow

Once you have a clear overview of each stage, you can then create tasks for each step and identify how a client successfully moves onto the next step. This will build a clear repeatable process that can be refined as you accrue knowledge and data over time.

Tip

You want to pinpoint the common tasks that convert your opportunities at every stage.

How to Manage your Sales Pipeline

Creating your sales pipeline is just the beginning. The real work begins as you put your structure into practice and start to manage your sales team through pipeline selling and refine your process.

These are some of the steps you will want to consider as you start to manage your pipeline:

1. Define Your Key Metrics

Metrics give you valuable data and allow you to understand what’s working and what’s not working at every step of your pipeline.

You should be looking at positive trends and roadblocks and build benchmarks to track success.

It’s important to have meaningful positive conversations with your sales team.

Learn from their experiences and coach them with a positive forward-thinking attitude using the information from all aspects of the pipeline.

There are many key metrics that you can measure, but here are some common ones you may wish to consider.

  • Average deal size
  • Number of deals in the pipeline
  • Average sales cycle length
  • Number of days in each stage
  • A conversion ratio for each step in the pipeline
  • Number of deals closed compared to leads – close ratio
  • Existing customer growth

These may change over time as you gather more data, but they are a great starting point from which you can develop your sales metrics strategy.

For your business to grow the overall value of your pipeline must increase. To do this the average deal value must go up, as well as conversions at each step of the sales cycle.

Tips

  • Aim to coach your team to spend their time on high return activates.
  • By using the data, you can help them spend more time selling and less time on tasks and busy work that bring in no return.
  • It’s important to have a strategy to grow the value of your existing clients.
  • Don’t ignore your existing client base in your efforts to build new business.
2. Manage Your Data

Too often, sales managers get stuck on converting the data they have gathered into actionable items.

Allocate time each week to evaluate and understand data by measuring and evaluating each step of the pipeline.

Then turn your learnings into actionable items. If you use your data well, you will see significant results.

3. Manage Your Team

Manage, don’t micromanage. Reps want to sell – help them do that.

The data is important; however, it is vital not to forget that success hinges also on the human element and how a sales leader relates to their team.

Best Practices

  1. Share the vision: Make sure your team is aligned with the strategy and understands why what and when.
  2. Learn: Your team will often have the best insight into positive results and challenges. Make sure you loop them into planning and strategy discussions – make sure you share the credit of any ideas they bring to the table.
  3. Training and coaching: Have a regular training plan for your team to help them be the best and exceed expectations.
  4. Invest time into your team: Meet with your reps one on one weekly, discuss opportunities and challenges where the pipeline has stalled.
  5. Share the data: Don’t keep the data and trends to yourself. Share best practices and positive trends for deeper learning.
  6. Less administration: All too often sales reps are expected to spend a disproportionate amount of time on administration. Do an honest review of the administrative tasks they are expected to fulfill and the time it actually takes. Remember that you hired them to make sales so this is where the majority of their time should be spent.

Common Sales Pipeline Mistakes

Here are some common Pipeline mistakes you want to avoid

  1. Neglecting to nurture new leads
  2. Neglecting to nurture existing accounts
  3. Neglecting to grow the value of your pipeline
  4. Letting your pipeline decline in value
  5. Letting a lead go cold through slow follow up
  6. Leaving old data in your pipeline

Sales Pipeline Reviews

To avoid the common sales pipeline mistakes regular reviews will help eliminate them.

The purpose of a review is to ensure deals are moving through the pipeline as efficiently as possible.

This would be a one on one review meeting and your reps should come prepared with:

  1. A quick summary of each deal that is closing
  2. A quick review of early pipeline stages

For each of the 2 agenda items, you would discuss successes they are having, and work together to clearly define why something is working so repeatable process is documented.

Review any challenges and discuss how these can be addressed with a clear documented action plan for the next steps.

You will also pull your data reports for their pipeline for discussion and review.

End the meeting with a positive clear plan and next steps that you have created together as a team.

In Conclusion

If you master your sales pipeline you will experience increased sales, a more engaged sales team with a clear direction, and a deep understanding of a process that brings in results.

Please feel free to download our: The 7 Step Guide to Clean Up Your Sales Process which includes our 7 Step Sales Process Planner to help you work through building your pipeline tool.

Enjoy!

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