How to manage your sales pipeline to close more sales
In our ‘Life of the Lead’ series we’ve looked at sales and marketing alignment, lead scoring, lead nurturing, CRM and more.
Hey, we’ve covered a lot of ground but, right now, it’s time to pull things together a bit, join the dots and loop the loops.
We’re going to look at how all of these factors can help you manage your sales pipeline and convert more prospects to leads and into customers more efficiently and quickly.
So, you need only read on if increasing your sales is important to you.
Good, let’s do this.
What is a sales pipeline?
Here’s a typical pipeline:
- Prospecting provides your business with leads
- Your sales team can reach out to qualify, connect and capture their interest
- They promote products or services that solve a lead’s pain points
- And ultimately they close the deal
A successful sales pipeline is one that allows to sales to drive contacts as efficiently as possible from the intro to the closure.
OK, so what’s a sales funnel then?
If you’re scratching your head trying to work out what the difference between a sales pipeline and sales funnel is, leave that scalp alone and we’ll explain.
- A sales pipeline is the sequence of actions that lead to a sale
- But a sales funnel is a visual representation of the success rate and drop-offs at each stage in the sequence
Now here’s the critical thing.
The best way to analyse shortages, blockages and failures in your sales pipeline is to analyse and take insights from your funnel.
A sales pipeline without movement is just a list of leads but by regularly cleaning it up, you’ll create a faster flow toward more closings.
It is when you analyse and track both your sales pipeline and funnel that you can truly accelerate the conversion rate your sales strategy achieves.
And here’s how.
1. Keep it lean and clean
The 80/20 rule holds true.
Only 20% of your leads are going to provide at least 80% of your revenue.
So, you need to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Regularly review your contacts to identify those who have been stuck at a stage in your pipeline for longer than expected. Then qualify them or reclassify then as a future prospect.
2. Keep on top of the slugs
Use automation to check in on sluggish leads.
Schedule a follow-up call or email, or get really smart with deal-rotting features in your CRM to pinpoint who’s wasting away in your pipeline.
3. Weigh the time-scales
Regular communication helps you understand a lead’s timescale.
If you discover that someone is interested in your service but will not have available budget till next April you can recategorize them. This way you can create a short-, medium- and long-term pipeline that ensures consistent sales over time.
The only prospects who should be in your active pipeline are those who are likely to close within your normal sales cycle.
4. Keep the scores on the doors
Scoring leads is a great way to automatically evaluate them – and it helps accelerate your sales pipeline.
If a lead has a serious interest, an immediate need for your product or service, as well as the authority to make a decision and allocate the budget, it’s a well-qualified, high-scoring lead and should be placed straight into the CRM pipeline immediately.
Yet even marketing qualified leads (MQL) may need qualifying further before they are hurled into the pipeline.
Of course, this means the pipeline will be tighter but it is likely to generate more sales.
5. Nurture into the pipeline
The pipeline should be clear of leads who are not ready to buy.
Create a separate list of casual browsers unlikely to make a deal in the foreseeable future – and then let the marketing team nurture them.
This speeds up the pipeline sales because it allows reps to focus on the well-qualified leads while marketing work on nurturing leads that can enter the pipeline later.
And it has been shown to produce 20% more sales opportunities in the longer run.
6. CRM numbers are just half the story
Sales pipeline management is not just tracking CRM numbers – it’s asking ‘what can I do differently today to win more deals?’
Sales pipeline management allows sales departments to drill down into the numbers to see where the blocks are, where shortages are and where their actions can accelerate the sales cycle.
No more blocked and dirtied pipes
If you’ve ever stood there, plunger in hand, trying to clear a blocked pipe, you’ll know it’s no fun and hard work.
And, likewise, if you’ve ever mixed gasoline with water and tried to separate them from the fuel pump’s pipe you’re not likely to go far.
Your sales pipeline must flow and it must separate the leads that you need from those that shouldn’t be there.
So, put the plunger down, and fuel your pipeline with only qualified leads.