Wouldn’t it be great if sales prospects reached out to you for your product and you closed sales in one fell swoop every time? Every sales representative is nodding their head in agreement right now. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. Instead, you have to approach prospects, build a rapport and nurture relationships, and closed sales follow somewhere down the line. Until then, your prospects are in your sales pipeline, and that pipeline must be managed effectively to result in closed sales.
What Is a Sales Pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a tool that salespeople and managers use to monitor prospects and where exactly they are in the sales process – from initial lead to closed sale. It provides information that can be used to determine how sales representatives are performing in relation to their goals and also forecast sales for a specific period of time.
Steps for Sales Pipeline Management
- Obtain prospects – In order to have a pipeline, you have to have prospects. There are many different ways to obtain or generate leads; your company may already have a way to do this. The important part of this step is to enter all of the information you have about your prospects into your database, or CRM program, so that it is easily accessible every time you make contact with your prospects.
- Determine closed sale probability – The next step is important for forecasting potential sales. During this step, you need to ask some probing questions that will help you identify the likelihood of closing a sale with each prospect. The first thing to consider is whether or not your prospect is a decision-maker. If not, then you need to ask about the approval process for sales of your type – will it take a week, a month, longer? Next, you need to determine how your prospect will be buying your product or service. Will it be a recurring order? Do they utilize other suppliers? Every piece of information that you can obtain will help you to determine the likelihood of closing the deal. Prospects that you determine are likely to buy are the ones to focus on.
- Follow-up – This is the single most important aspect of the sales process. Managing your pipeline requires consistent and thorough follow-up with prospects; without it, prospects can easily fall through the cracks, and potential sales may be lost. Use automated tasks and reminders so that you don’t forget even one prospect.
- Measure – Measuring where your prospects are in the sales process is essential, otherwise how will you know when they are ready to close a sale? So having clear metrics in place to tell you – at-a-glance – where your lead is, lets you know when they are ready for the next stage of the sales process. Tracking success and failures in relation to your forecasting helps with accuracy for business planning and cash flow.
- Analyze – This step is where you get to be creative using the information you have collected. When you analyze the data you have collected about your sales pipeline, you are able to adjust your process to optimize closed sales. What things worked for reps when it comes to making the sale? And what things didn’t? How can you use that information to increase your closed sales?
- Use the right tools – Managing your pipeline really requires a quality CRM program to help you keep track of all of the sales process information. It will make it much easier and efficient for you, saving you and your sales team lots of time – time that can be better spent on finding and working with new prospects. And that’s the name of the game!