What is Pipeline Management?
A sales pipeline is a predetermined series of steps that help you to push the sales forward and it is often looked upon as a graphical chart.
Pipeline management is an extremely important part of keeping a sales pipeline healthy and becomes more important every time a new lead is added to the pipeline.
Taking a single lead through each step of the sales pipeline is relatively straightforward. You know your goals, you know the requirements, and you only have to keep track of where that single person is within the pipeline.
Adding a second and third lead will make the process more complicated as you will have to keep track of each individual – not just where they are in the pipeline, but also their wants and needs, and what is necessary to get them progressed. When you reach the level of having a hundred or more people in your sales pipeline, management becomes a lot harder.
There are a few ways of managing your pipeline effectively. You can keep notes on paper, in an online service, or by using CRM software. Whatever way you choose, you not only need to record the information but also need to act on it. If managing multiple leads is like juggling eggs, ineffective pipeline management is like trying to catch them all in one hand.
Here are some tips for effective sales pipeline management.
Treat each lead as an individual
Even the most basic record keeping will allow you to see where your lead is in the pipeline. From this, you can work out what you need to do to get them to the next stage – but by only doing this, you have missed out on a great opportunity.
Every lead will have different requirements, a different history, a different amount to spend. In short, every lead is an individual, and you will build a better relationship with each lead if you treat them as an individual.
Think of it in terms of spam email. Spam is sent out to thousands of people, and every email has the same message. Maybe one or two people will respond positively to it because it isn’t personalized, it doesn’t take account of everyone’s unique situation, and it doesn’t know their history.
If you’ve worked to gain a thousand leads, why would you treat them in a way that would only prompt a very small percentage to respond positively?
Keep every detail intact
While talking to your prospects, make sure to keep notes of what they tell you. It is easy to forget small details and information, and the next time you get in touch you may have forgotten what they wanted.
If your lead has to keep giving you the same information, they will soon get frustrated. Similarly, if you put together a deal for them that ignores what they’ve repeatedly asked for, you aren’t going to be able to close.
Attention to detail makes it much easier to help your lead, which will give them confidence in the relationship you are building with them. In turn, this will make it a much simpler process to close any deal with them.
Learn to identify good leads
While the goal of the sales pipeline is to convert every lead into a paying customer, you will become aware of certain patterns that identify leads that will convert quickly and easily.
Keep notes on these patterns, and refer to them often. Being able to spot a lead that can be closed quickly will help with the overall cash flow of the business and allow you to work more efficiently. Of course, don’t ignore the harder-to-convert leads, but be aware that converting the easier leads will give you more time to work on the harder deals.
Set up systems to save time
Using a digital system (online services, CRM, etc) to help manage your pipeline will save a lot of time in the long run. You won’t have to sift through pieces of paper to find what you need, nor will you have to resort to paper and a calculator to work out ROI or any other metric you need to track.
You’ll be able to generate reports at the touch of a button, and some processes can be set to run automatically.
You can also receive timely reminders on what the next thing is that you need to do – being able to get it all out of your head and into an effective system means that you’ll have the ability to focus on the task at hand.
And if you’re not the only person working on sales, the information that you record in these systems can be shared with the rest of your team, reducing the amount of time needed to get people up to speed.
By setting up systems to help people enter the data at the right time, run the reports, and process everything as necessary, you’ll optimize your sales pipeline and be able to convert leads much faster than you previously thought possible.
Analyze and Improve
Your sales pipeline can be very efficient and bring a large number of sales to your business, but there will always be room for improvement.
Analyze what you do and try to make it as effective as possible. If you have a sales team, get them all together and review the sales reports to see what is working well – and to discover what isn’t. Pipeline management doesn’t have to be complicated, but making it work for your sales team as well as your leads can be a balancing act.
By constantly refining your processes (especially taking note of the things that don’t work) you’ll be able to empower your sales team to close deals more quickly and easily, which can only be a benefit to your business.
And remember, even though the idea is to turn every lead into a customer, you may hit roadblocks that can’t be removed. By working as a team, you may be able to find a solution, but if the problem is insurmountable, it is OK to let a lead go.
The only way you can be sure you are taking the right action is to regularly review everything that happens in your sales pipeline.