10 Ways to Get the Most From Your Sales Pipeline
Sales Pipeline Abuse!
Let start off by explaining what a sales pipeline is, it is:
Your pay check for the next 12 months and beyond.
The difference between you going on holiday or having to explain to the family why it’s another staycation.
Choices and options – do you spend your birthday in NYC or Rotherham…
You see where I’m going with this don’t you?
Do you treat your sales pipeline so shoddily when it’s so important?
Fill it full of half-baked, second rate, tyre kickers?
So many that the good, healthy, profit generating sales prospects either get lost totally or struggle to get the attention they deserve in order to prosper.
It’s because of this one single thing…
Being busy is more important that being effective…chasing a lead is chasing a lead, whether it’s a waste of time /effort or not…
Disagree with me?
Great…it means you know better.
So, this is NOT about time management, it is about how you manage your sales pipeline.
What is a Sales Pipeline – REALLY?
Some firms will map their sales pipeline so that it matches the buying process of their buyers.
Some firms have their own loosely structured sales pipeline.
So, to generalise between those two extremes, you can think about your sales pipeline as your sales forecast in motion.
The sales pipeline can represent a series of stages in the sales and buying process.
At the top of the sales pipeline the sales prospects are relatively unqualified…the nearer those sales prospects move to the end of the sales process the more details become attached and the higher the level of qualification as the discussions turn from possible sales to discussing prices and potential delivery dates.
You can see how it works.
Some firms will attach very specific qualifying criteria to each stage in the sales pipeline. Other firms are much more fluid around what happens at each stage.
In the former, you’ll see prospects held back in the sales pipeline until the sales person can qualify certain information – it may be around budget, sign off date, understanding/mapping the buyer process, meeting the key decision maker or some other business critical insight
Sales Pipeline – Understand This!
A sales pipeline is a flowing source of information.
It moves often, maybe daily, maybe several times daily, weekly, monthly, depending on your sales cycle duration, order value and sector.
Either way, the crux is, it moves.
It doesn’t bulge out of control…at every one of the sales stages – there is a chance to decide if you keep that sales prospect in the sales pipeline and progress them to the next stage or if you ditch the prospect or simply take them back to a previous stage in light of new information.
Your sales pipeline directs all your daily activity.
Not enough sales prospects in your sales pipeline due to drop at a certain stage? Better get on with topping up the sales funnel then.
To many sales leads dropping out? Maybe need to tighten up the sales qualification criteria at the start of the sales process.
Sales prospects dropping out due to one factor? Maybe need to look at how expectations are being managed earlier on in the process.
Inaccurate sales forecast? Maybe a tighter sales pipeline with more specific criteria.
Your sales pipeline and the sales forecast it creates is vital to your business…it’s the resource planning, funding, operational blue print, so accuracy, management, maintenance are all vital.
To Get the Best From Your Sales Pipeline:
- Refer to your sales pipeline daily to direct you most urgent sales activities, your sales pipeline should direct your day, what do you need to create today? More appointments? More quotes? Are you chasing existing clients today or closing deals? What’s your activity? Your sales pipeline will show you.
- Don’t be afraid to push for the information you need at all stages in the sales process…a serious buyer will be happy to answer your questions as best they can….or tell you why they can’t.
- Pension sales prospects off if they have stagnated for unexplained reasons i.e. the prospect has stopped returning calls/responding to emails…don’t be a sales stalker.
- Understand the difference between being busy and being effective, some business will never be worth chasing.
- Allocate your resources carefully to protect yourself and your resources – beware of prospects just wanting a price, or those who are just at the ‘thinking about it stage’ and seem happy to stay there…
- Check the next stage in the buyers mind to ensure you’re always on the same journey, together and with the same map…otherwise you’re not partners in the process as you’ve different understanding of the situation
- Make sure you’ve done a very thorough fact find and be mindful that facts can change, i.e. another referrer/influencer needs to be convinced, the late entry of a competitor, a change in budget, change of delivery date…keep checking the important questions
- Credit check the sales prospects in your sales pipeline…you may check then at the beginning, but you should be checking them periodically though the sales process too…you don’t want to get to order sign off stage and find the prospect lacks credit worthiness.
- Be scrupulously honest with yourself when you’re working your sales pipeline…don’t delude yourself…if things in your sales pipeline look shaky then the sooner you take remedial action, let someone know and get additional support, the greater your chances of success…head in the sand is not a good tactic for remaining successful in sales…
- Neither is relying on blind luck…the great thing about an active sales forecast is it lets you work out what your very own sales recipe is. How many cold calls:meetings:quotes:orders do you need to hit your target? Once you know this you know everything you need to know to optimise your sales earnings…learn what this recipe/formula is for you ASAP and work on the leaks continually…
The truth is – your sales pipeline is either a major asset or a wasted money making opportunity…which is it?
Also, consider this, rejecting or ejecting unworthy sales prospects early on saves a mountain of time, money, resource…because dragging an unwilling and unqualified prospect through to the sales close at which point they reject your proposal is dangerous and it’s a money pit with no end in sight…actual costs plus opportunity costs all start to mount up.
Be diligent about the sales leads you progress early on. It may cost thousands to get a sales prospect to the end of the sales process, if the chances of conversion are low, ensure you qualify hard at the start of the sales process.
Look out for a new blog on sales conversion rates tomorrow.
In the meantime, here are a selection of free guides to help you create a robust sales pipeline. They’ll help you create a profit generating sales funnel – free instant download – just hit the link.
Just hit the links above and the reports are available for instant download
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