10 Ways to Build a Profitable Sales Pipeline

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10 Ways to Build a Profitable Sales Pipeline

High Converting Sales Pipeline or Sales Plug Hole?

What have you got…

High converting sales pipeline, an ok-ish sales pipeline, or a sales plughole?

It’s ok if you don’t know.

Many organisations don’t. It’s a classic failing in under performing sales functions.

Sadly, that’s an opportunity missed to really extract the highest level of sales conversions from your sales efforts, from marketing budgets, from leads, and opportunities…

And, if that were enough, it blows your sales ROI calculations

But all is not lost…

What is a Sales Pipeline?

A sales pipeline is your way of assessing what prospects and revenues are in your sales opportunity pile based on what stage those prospect are at in their buying process according to your conversations and their activities and behaviours to date…

Your sales pipeline is dynamic.

Prospects move up and down it daily.

Some will fall out of it completely never to be seen again.

Some will drop out and re-enter again at a later time.

Your sales pipeline can be all sorts of shapes. Whilst a sales funnel is typically funnel shaped, a sales pipeline doesn’t follow the same logic

There are a hundreds of factors that impact your sales pipeline

You can have skinny sales pipelines, fat ones, pregnant ones, non-uniform ones, top heavy ones.

Your sales pipeline shape tells you a lot about your ability to close business over the next X months (based on your sales cycle duration)

There are a mountain of factors that impact your sales pipeline and we cover a lot of them in our Sales Improvement Workshop

But really – a sales pipeline means different things depending on what role you have and what lense you look through…

The Sales Rep’s Definition of a Sales Pipeline

If you’re a sales rep – then your sales pipeline 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?

The Sales Leader’s Definition of a Sales Pipeline

If you’re a Sales Leader – then your sales pipeline is ….

Your bible in terms of forecasting revenue and margin

How you retain your credibility by having rock solid sales forecasts and projections

How you resource your team, track contribution, plan for the future…

So, sales leader or sales rep, CEO or CFO…having a clean, accurate, realistic and honest sales pipeline is what keeps the madness in check!

What is a High Converting Sales Pipeline?

A high converting sales pipeline is one where you can rely on the quality of the process to provide a steady stream of sales at the right price, with the right margin, and it does so in a regular, predictable and scaleable way.

An added facet is that sales forecasts from this sales pipeline are accurate, stable and precise.

It means the highest level of Sales ROI and the lowest sales acquisition costs and shortest sales cycle duration.

Dirty Sales Pipelines | Rubbish In = Rubbish Out!

Do you treat your sales pipeline like a dumping ground?

Fill it full anything?

From your gold opportunities to your second rate, tyre kickers?

So many that the good, healthy, profit generating sales prospects either get lost forever or struggle to get the attention they deserve in order to convert to a sale.

It’s because of this one single thing…

The sales pipeline is not being used effectively or efficiently.

How to Build a High Converting Sales Pipeline

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 based on how thye sell, and the stages in their sales process.

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 pre-agreed and criteria heavyvstages 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.

we dig more into this in How to Qualify Your Sales Prospects

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.

The most basic for of sales qualification is BANT

Sales Happen When Your Pipeline Flows!

A sales pipeline is a flowing source of information.

It’s organic.

It doesn’t bulge out of control for an extended period…and if it does there may be some very specific skills or market conditions that cause this to be a common sticking point for deals in your organisation – check out our the Morton Kyle Sales Audit Solutions

Having criteria for every stage of the sales funnel is critical for good sales pipeline health because at every one of the sales stages you have a choice to make.

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.

It’s called a Go/ No Go set of criteria. This is what keeps your sales pipeline clean, clear and healthy. And it’s what makes sales forecasting a breeze.

It also means, as a Sales Leader you can immediately identify deals that are stalling or moving backwards and dig into these in your training sessions to identify learning points or rescue packages….depending on the circumstances.

And here’s the other great thing about a well organised and well structured sales pipeline – from your reps perspective

A Clean Sales Pipeline Directs All Daily Sales Activity

A high converting sales pipeline and the process that manages that pipeline area great diagnostic tool for solving those sales issues that when left unattended can disable evern the very best sales rep – for example:

PROBLEM – Not enough sales prospects in your sales pipeline due to drop at a certain stage?

SOLUTION – Better get on with topping up the sales funnel then.

PROBLEM – To many sales leads dropping out?

SOLUTION – Maybe need to tighten up the sales qualification criteria at the start of the sales process.

PROBLEM – Sales prospects dropping out due to one factor?

SOLUTION – Maybe need to look at how expectations are being managed earlier on in the process.

PROBLEM – Inaccurate sales forecast?

SOLUTION – 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.

It’s the single biggest fix for sales functions that are under-performing.

Taking the time to hard line some of the criteria around the specific stages in your high converting sales pipeline might seem like hard work – but if you’re looking for a high degree of certainty in your sales operations, this is the area to invest in.


How to Get the Best from your Sales Process and Business Development Pipeline

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Understand the difference between being busy and being effective, some business will never be worth chasing.
  5. 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…
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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…
  10. 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 behaviours / habits / discipline in how you manage sales prospects through your qualification and closing process will either be major asset or an opportunity to drop opportunities and revenue…which is it?

At the very least, get into the habit and set expectations around

Rejecting or ejecting unworthy sales prospects early on.

Do this relentlessly as it saves a mountain of time, money, resource.

Do it 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.

Just think about the 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, and with no guarantees.

If the chances of conversion are low (you can use good sales qualifying skills here to find out) ensure you qualify hard at the start of the sales process.

High Performance Sales Teams

One of the key characteristics of an efficient and effective sales function is there ability to maintain a high quality sales pipeline – a sales pipeline full of high quality, high converting sales opportunites – and their ability to build an acurate and meaningful sales forecast.

These are the two hallmarks.

What sits behind those hallmarks is this:

  • Great habits
  • Great systems
  • Discipline
  • Brilliant sales qualifications skills
  • The ability to remove competitors from the field fast
  • An innate ability to build vlaue in the prospects mind….

We cover all of this and much much more in The Sales Improvement Workshop

This is a business development and sales training course designed for sales team and sales leaders to attend together.

It’s described as the perfect start to building certainty, predictability and scalability into the sales function, but most of all, helping you build a high converting sales pipeline.

Join us?

For more details – call Carol on 0779 002 1885

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