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The term ‘sales pipeline’ gets thrown around a lot in a lot of sales teams and organizations.
The sales pipeline is, in fact, more than just a buzzword in sales circles. It plays a vital role in every successful sales organization.
Understanding and managing the sales pipeline generation is a key factor for any sales manager looking to increase their organization’s efficiency and close more deals.
A good set-up sales pipeline can provide valuable insights to visualize how effective your sales process is, and in turn, improve your productivity exponentially.
But, what exactly is a sales pipeline?
In this blog post, we’ll explain what a sales pipeline is, best practices on how to improve the sales pipeline, and common challenges faced by sales managers in improving the sales pipeline.
What is a Sales Pipeline?
A sales pipeline, in simple words, is an organized, visual representation of tracking potential buyers as they pass through various stages in the purchasing process.
Additionally, a sales pipeline can also give sales managers an overview of how well their sales reps are performing to meet their targets.
A B2B sales pipeline consists of seven basic stages -
- Lead Generation
- Lead Nurturing
- Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
- Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
- Product Qualified Lead (PQL)
- Closed Deal
#1 Lead Generation
Sales organizations attract and engage potential buyers via marketing campaigns, paid ads, and targeted strategies to capture buyer information.
#2 Lead Nurturing
Post lead generation, sales reps typically establish contact with the potential buyers and follow up with them by maintaining constant communication by providing relevant information between you and the buyer.
#3 Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
These are the leads acquired by various marketing efforts such as content marketing, demand generation, paid ads, and more.
#4 Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
A sales-qualified lead represents a lead that has been thoroughly vetted by the sales team and has been put off as a potential customer.
#5 Product Qualified Lead (PQL)
Product Qualified Leads or PQLs are leads collated by the sales teams when a potential buyer has shown interest in your product by either signing up, trying the free trial, or watching a demo.
#6 Closed Deal
This is a potential customer who makes a purchase and becomes a buyer to add revenue.
Post-sale involves the process that occurs after closing the sale with a customer including billing, collections, onboarding, customer support, and constant resources to keep them happy.
Having a well-thought-out sales pipeline performance management helps you to -
- Track your leads easily
- Sell systematically
- Predict your revenue accurately
- Improve sales processes
- Analyze various sales strategies used
- Manage and allocate resources carefully to close the deal
- Learn your progress in the funnel
A sales pipeline can play a key role in closing more sales deals and improving your organization’s overall revenue engine.
10 Best Practices to Improve Sales Pipeline
- Refine and Target the Right Customer
- Follow Up Consistently
- Use a Sales Intelligence Software to Manage the Pipeline
- Track the Sales Pipeline Metrics
- Manage your Time Efficiently
- Clean Up your Sales Pipeline Regularly
- Shorten your Sales Cycle
- Coach your Sales Team in Pipeline Management
- Frame a Standard Sales Process Throughout your Team
- Sales Enablement Content for the Win!
#1 Refine and Target the Right Customer
Many sales teams often commit the same mistake - going after the wrong customer and pursuing it. Without realizing it, they spend a substantial amount of time chasing these prospects who do not fit the right profile.
Filling your sales pipeline with mismatched prospects can clutter your pipeline, resulting in wasted efforts.
Ergo, identifying and nurturing the right buyers rather than pushing your sales pitch with the wrong prospects is important.
It’s a proven fact that sales reps tend to close more deals even with a small pipeline filled with high-quality leads.
Create a lead qualification checklist to identify, filter, and nurture the right prospects.
#2 Follow Up Consistently
According to studies, 92% of salespeople give up after no sales on the fourth call. 60% of customers say no four times before saying yes.
With the higher power rested with the customers, they have more choices than ever.
Providing your buyers with the right intel by following up with them consistently helps them make the right decision.
The best salespeople ensure to follow up with their leads regularly to close a sale. But in reality, most sales reps give up after two calls.
Following up might not be easy, it is one of the third biggest challenges for sales teams, but recognizing ways to follow up with the customer can close the gap.
#3 Use a Sales Intelligence Software to Manage the Pipeline
When your sales funnel is filled with leads, it can be a daunting task to manage them manually.
Moreover, it’s not necessary that they might all be in the same stage.
Maintaining a sheet to track all the leads can become extremely tiring when your business starts to grow. The best to overcome this is by leveraging the right sales intelligence platform like Salesken to manage and overview your sales pipeline seamlessly.
A sales intelligence platform offers an easy-to-collaborate method to support and manage tasks, and deal assignments, add notes, and maintain conversation records to close the deal.
#4 Track the Sales Pipeline Metrics
A sales pipeline is a thriving element of a healthy sales process.
Monitoring key metrics of your sales pipeline can help you in making important decisions that can affect your deal directly.
Calculate sales pipeline with metrics such as the number of deals, the average size of a deal, the average percentage of winning deals, and the average lifetime value of a deal before it is closed can prove to be extremely valuable.
Setting aside a dedicated amount of time with your team once a week to review these metrics can help you steer your sales engine in the right way and also, give an overview of your business.
#5 Manage your Time Efficiently
Time management is one of the most important skills for everyone, irrespective of their department, but especially for a sales rep.
Only 22% of sales agents leverage time management to manage their time efficiently.
Poor sales pipeline management leads to messed up schedules, mismanagement of tasks, and piling up of work.
This ultimately will lead to poor handling of clients, thus losing the deal.
Managing your time efficiently can help you overcome these challenges. Some tips to stay on top of your time are -
- Do not micromanage things
- Schedule daily sales activities
- Make use of time management apps
- Leverage easy sales templates to stay organized
#6 Clean Up your Sales Pipeline Regularly
In a regular sales cycle, every time your lead progresses to the next stage, they move further down the pipeline.
In a B2B sales funnel, if you do not regularly update the sales pipeline, you might disarrange the leads making your team inefficient and could lead to lost sales.
To avoid this, make sure to update the sales pipeline with fresh details on every single lead by adding regular notes at every stage of the sales cycle.
A clean and well-organized pipeline can offer clear insights into your organization’s future and present projections.
#7 Shorten your Sales Cycle
If your sales cycle is long, there is a possibility that you’re providing your prospects with more time, and in turn, trying to change their mind to ultimately fall out of your pipeline.
As a best practice, it is always suggested to shorten the sales cycle as much as possible.
B2B sales cycles are painfully long.
According to a report, 27% of sales reps say that a longer sales cycle is one of the biggest barriers to sales productivity.
Try to reduce the follow-up duration, or increase the decision-making process by giving endless information to your customer.
Experiment with shorter, newer, and unique sales processes to reduce the sales cycle.
#8 Coach your Sales Team in Pipeline Management
61% of sales reps do not believe that their sales managers are adequately trained in pipeline management.
Sales organizations that train their sales teams in sales pipeline management witnessed 9% faster revenue growth as opposed to those that did not train their teams.
Review, process, and train your sales teams from previous conversations.
Evaluate your current sales pipeline’s health in terms of its size, shape, and content to develop a comprehensive understanding of pipelines.
Always be more informed when it comes to making decisions by monitoring sales data, and train your team with coachable moments using the data for better processes.
#9 Frame a Standard Sales Process Throughout your Team
Typically, each sales rep has their own process of closing a deal and talking to a customer.
In addition, personalization is the center of any and every sales conversation.
But, how does having a uniform sales process throughout your organization help?
While targeting a certain section of the market, you may find that several things are common between your audience and your product. Besides, when sales reps create their own process, they lack team alignment.
The mismatch between processes can make your organization look messy and have a negative effect, ultimately affecting your sales engine.
Create standard sales frameworks throughout your organization to push interested prospects down the funnel, be uniform in your approach, and improve your revenue engine.
#10 Sales Enablement Content for the Win!
In any sales organization, having supporting content to push the prospect down the funnel is important.
Each stage of the funnel requires a different type of content to support your pitch.
At the top of the funnel, sales reps usually require blog posts, infographics, and social posts to capture their interest and understand what exactly you bring to the table, and how it will benefit them.
The middle funnel consists of e-books, video tutorials, case studies, and reports to transform the lead into a paying customer.
Finally, the bottom of the funnel consists of the action stage where the prospect is officially a paying customer.
Evaluate the funnel at this level and follow up one last time to convert the lead into a full-paying customer.
Potential Challenges in Improving the Sales Pipeline
Several organizations fail even before the customers move through the sales pipeline.
Because they fail to solve their customers’ problems.
There are many challenges in improving the sales pipeline. Let’s take a look at a few of them -
- Clear definition of your client: Your sales pipeline starts by establishing who you are selling to. If you don’t know who exactly you are selling to, you cannot find them and will be unable to help their problems.
- Understanding where your clients come from: Pay attention to specific prospects who have the greatest interest in and use your business. Evaluate where your customers are coming from, their industry, their company’s average revenue, the number of employees, their structure, and more.
- Dig deeper to identify the decision-makers: Take a look at who you will be presenting your product to and who will approve the decision to make that sale. Find out about their title, role, seniority, and their channels of research to seep into the nitty-gritty and influence their decision.
- Opportunities that stall the progress: Every sales rep experiences some roadblock that does not move further in the sales pipeline and stalls the deal. Get complete information about the customer and try to genuinely solve their issue to eradicate this challenge.
- Dead-end proposals: Proposing a pitch too early in the pipeline can also be one of the biggest challenges faced by sales reps. Identify all the decision-makers in the process, set out the challenges the customer is facing, and then provide them with solutions that help them out.
The sales pipeline can be tricky for any company. At the end of the day, you need to close the gap to deliver easy-to-comprehend, actionable insights, and support that are in the context of the customer relationship.
Looking to simplify and shape your sales pipeline to improve the health of your sales for your organization? Book a demo with Salesken to see how we can help you!
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