Sales pipelines help you understand your sales prospects and where they are in the conversion process. If you're a sales team manager, having an effective sales pipeline management strategy is essential for ensuring all team members are performing effectively and that your department is hitting its targets. In this guide, we'll look at some sales pipeline management best practices that can help you make the best use of the data your team is gathering, properly prioritize leads, and tailor your approach to the market segment you're dealing with. By implementing these tips, you should see your sales performance grow.
What Is Sales Pipeline Management?
Sales pipeline management focuses on the process of moving leads through the sales pipeline. It includes taking a focused view of the process to consider how individual prospects are turned into customers. It also requires you to take a holistic view and look at the pipeline as a whole.
Sales is a complex job that requires an understanding of many issues. Sales managers deal with multiple departments and must coordinate their efforts with each department to ensure they're producing a consistent message that matches the company's brand. There's a lot of data to handle, and salespeople may be communicating with dozens of prospects every day.
Fortunately, there are sales pipeline management tools that can make this job easier by processing the available data and giving sales managers the insights they need. A big task of sales pipeline management is understanding what to do with that data and knowing what questions to ask in order to turn it into useful insights. The managers that master this part of the job and can communicate their insights effectively to executives are the ones who are most likely to succeed and meet their Team’s sales goals.
10 Tips on How to Manage Your Sales Pipeline
Converting a lead into a customer requires multiple contacts, often across several channels. The following tips and best practices can help you improve the efficiency of your sales pipeline and increase your ROI. Although the exact process of selling differs from company to company, these tips can be applied to any business to help increase conversion rates and reduce the number of leads that drop out through the conversion process. Take a look at the following tips if you think your sales pipeline could use an efficiency boost!
Have a clearly defined sales process
Take some time to draw up a clear sales process, and make sure your sales staff are trained to follow it. Make the process a part of your brand kit, just as your logo, preferred typeface, and taglines. Use consistent messaging as it’s an essential part of brand building and helps with long-term loyalty and conversions.
Your sales process should be focused on educating consumers, rather than directly selling to them, and there should be a clear message throughout the entire process. If leads are getting told different things by different sales staff, or they're being contacted by several different staff members, this could drive them away. Give your sales staff a process to follow, a clear message to send, and a system for documenting their contact with prospects. This makes closing the sale easier for everyone on your team.
Optimize your lead generation process
If your lead generation process is not targeted or is poorly targeted, you're wasting effort and losing out on potential customers. Optimizing your lead generation process could save you a lot of time and money—and can increase your conversion ratio.
Consider getting back to basics. Think about your target audience, and make sure your Sales and Marketing team are aligned in their messaging.
Focus on high-potential leads in the sales pipeline
Your sales staff have limited time and a lot of leads to get through. To improve the performance of your sales pipeline, prioritize the leads with the highest potential to convert.
Scoring leads according to potential is an effective way to get more out of your sales pipeline, and it's something that is easy to do if you have the right data and tools. Using information you already have about market segments and customer personas, along with data from your Marketing team and CRM platform, you can make educated decisions about the quality of the leads in your database. Working smarter, not harder, is one of the key elements of effective sales pipeline management.
Drive sales pipeline conversions with high-value content
The job of your Marketing team is to attract leads into your sales pipeline, where your Sales team can convert them. To do this, you'll need high-quality content to feed to your leads. To do this, you'll need to understand each lead. Do they want to be entertained, educated or both? Are they looking to solve a specific problem or learn more about a subject? Do you have examples of your business solving a similar problem that you can share as a case study? What can you offer your leads that is valuable to them and that will increase the likelihood of them buying from you? Answer those questions well, and you're on the way to earning a new customer.
Measure sales pipeline performance with data-driven metrics
There's a lot more to understanding the pipeline in sales than simply knowing how many of your leads turn into customers.
Do you know which marketing materials generate the most leads, and then what percentage of leads from each segment turn into conversions? What about how long those conversions take? How much time is your sales staff investing in follow-up calls? Are some team members better at prioritizing leads than others?
These are all questions that you can answer given the right data. One of the keys to effective sales pipeline management is gathering that data and then using it to inform future decision-making. Stop trying to sell your product or service in the dark, and start taking advantage of the data from your Sales and Marketing.
Optimize your sales tech stack
If you're currently using an outdated CRM or no dedicated sales software at all, you're most likely wasting time and effort and leaving deals on the table too. Accurate sales forecasting, insights, and benchmarking tools can massively improve the efficiency of your sales pipeline.
If you're struggling with sales pipeline management or find it difficult to get a handle on how efficiently your team is performing, it's likely you have a data problem. Investing in the right tools can help you get a much better understanding of the health of your sales pipeline and can highlight areas for improvement that you might have otherwise not known about or overlooked.
Make the handover from Marketing to Sales seamless
This is perhaps one of the most important sales pipeline management best practices. Brands that do a good job of this usually achieve high conversion rates, as there's a steady flow of information between the two teams that provides a smooth experience for prospects. When sales staff are equipped with detailed profiles of each lead, including their interests, wants, and the past dealings they've had with the company, they can avoid superfluous questions and roadblocks that might hinder the sales process. This one simple improvement can make a huge difference in your conversion rate, saving your Sales team time and increasing the likelihood of prospects becoming satisfied and loyal clients in the long term.
Customize your sales approach by segment
Tailoring your Sales approach by segment can greatly increase your conversion rate. Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to Sales, you can categorize leads by segment or even by persona. Then you can provide each segment with different materials or assign a different salesperson to them based on their likely needs and interests.
Create exceptional sales enablement content
Sales enablement materials such as whitepapers, ebooks, and case studies play an important role in informing and persuading customers. Emails and blog posts are important because many prospects will speak to a salesperson and then take time to do their own research and make a decision. Invest in quality content, as each piece of sales enablement material you provide is a tool that can be used to drive a purchasing decision.
Perform regular sales pipeline analysis
Effective sales pipeline management is not a one-off job. Rather, it's an ongoing process. Be sure to keep collecting data about your leads and sales pipeline, and review that data regularly.
If you see that something has changed, consider what you can do differently to take advantage of that change or maximize the performance of your sales team. Always keep in mind that customer tastes and market conditions are not set in stone. The needs and wants of your customer base may change over time, and there are always trends in the market you can take advantage of. The companies that move quickly and stay alert to these opportunities are the ones that stand to do the best in the long term.
Implementing the sales pipeline management tips covered above could improve the performance of your sales pipelines and increase your ROI, too.
Level Up Your Sales Pipeline Management With Xactly
Using the right tools for sales pipeline management can help arm your sales team with the data they need to make better decisions. Xactly can help you streamline your lead generation process, understand the performance of your team and identify high-value opportunities. Information is key when it comes to successful sales, and the Xactly suite of intelligent sales forecasting and pipeline management tools puts the data you need at your fingertips, helping you maximize your Sales efforts.
If you'd like to know more about Xactly’s data-driven approach to Sales and how it can take your business to the next level, request a demo.