6 Best Practices for Sales Pipeline Management

by | Mar 11, 2016 | Sales Coaching, Sales Strategy

A recent Forbes study showed 63 percent of executives feel their business has “ineffective” sales pipeline management. Such a staggering number reveals pipeline mismanagement as an all too common issue. This is alarming considering pipeline efficiency plays a critical role in a successful sales operation. The consequences of poor pipeline management are huge – how can your team avoid them?

1. Define your process

Start by understanding the stages in your pipeline. Take stock of what you’re already doing– what is working and where are your gaps? Huddle with your sales reps and ask questions such as:

  • How do we qualify leads?
  • How do we contact leads/prospects (phone, email, social media)?
  • What are our buying stages? How does a prospect move from one stage to the next?
  • Are we using our CRM? How?

Your answers help define stages in your pipeline and create a process for moving prospects forward. Adopt a common vocabulary and discipline reps in staying fast to your design. Consistency is key, ensuring decision makers hear a unified message

2. Specialize to buyers

Know your buyer’s journey and use it to specialize your selling. Identify the influencers, end users, and other decision makers in an organization and their role in its specific buying process. Specialize your team to work with these decision makers. You should have multiple contacts within an organization at one time, each adapting to speak the language of their contact. Know who is talking to who within the organization and when they are moving to the next stage in their process.

3. Train your reps

According to the Forbes study, 61 percent of executives said their sales managers were ill-trained in managing their pipeline1. If managers don’t know what they’re doing, good luck with your salespeople. Ensure all team members know your sales process – don’t leave it up to each rep to do it their own way. Your team should know the stages in your process, the action items at each stage, and be confident in adjusting based on company size, industry, and market. The same study showed sales teams with well-trained managers gained 23 percent more revenue than those without1.

4. Use metrics

The only way to know if you’re managing your pipeline correctly is through results. Closing deals shows progress, but it’s not the full picture. Start by tracking metrics such as:

  • Deals in your pipeline
  • Stage duration (average time spent in each stage)
  • Impression per stage
  • Cost per opportunity
  • Average return on investment
  • Percentage of deals closed
  • Sales velocity (time it takes to close a deal)
  • Lead conversion rate

Get a baseline of each metric, then start tracking progress. Share these results with your team, pinpointing areas of improvement and celebrating wins.

5. Leverage your CRM – and Go Beyond

Too many are mystified or confused by their CRM, making them afraid to use it. Trust in its powers and invest your efforts accordingly. Your CRM can provide the data you need in a format you can understand – if you use it correctly. Through your CRM, you can set up follow-up reminders, access a comprehensive prospect picture, and obtain the metrics you need to measure success. Ensure all reps are inputting data so your results are accurate.

However, your CRM has its limits. Do continual research on your target organization, watching for events that may affect their buying process.

6. Give it time

Your sales pipeline management abilities are directly proportional to the time you put into managing your pipeline. Companies putting in four or more hours a month saw a 14 percent sales increase over those putting in less than one hour. Devote time each week to evaluating your pipeline, identifying areas for improvement, and bringing discipline to your process. Make these the focus of your trainings, watch for improvement, and share successes with your team.

Jump Start Your Pipeline Management

With all you have to focus on, even this short list can be daunting to enact. Consider hiring an outsourced sales company to jump start your pipeline management. Outsourced teams like NuGrowth bring an established sales management processes, training from experienced professionals, and efficient CRM systems and knowledge.

To get connected with NuGrowth, fill out a simple contact form or give us a call at 800.966.3051.

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Author: Kyle Tillar

Kyle Tillar works to ensure that clients’ target goals are reached and that the inside sales team is meeting objectives. Kyle is able to leverage his sales expertise and extensive training to help inside sales executives advance their career development and achieve client commitments.