Anyone in business knows that generating leads is essential to success when it comes to sales. Finding ways to increase the available streams of leads in the hope that they will eventually convert into paying customers is integral.
There are many ways in which salespeople can increase their reach when it comes to potential leads, as are there ways to help get more out of these leads in the long term, but what exactly should a salesperson do once they have their lead pipeline established?
How should salespeople keep track of the leads they have? What can be done to make sure leads stay “warm” until they are ready to buy? What are the best practices to make sure potential conversions aren’t missed and maintain the most effective collation of potentials in the first place?
- How to Manage Your Growing Sales Pipeline
- Define your Pipeline Stages
- Focus on Quality Leads
- Measure the Value and Potential of All Your Leads
- Monitor Stalled Leads
- Drop Dead Leads
- Clean Up Your Leads Regularly
- Provide Sales Pipeline Analysis
- Regular Internal Pipeline Review Meetings
- Measure relevant Pipeline Metrics
- Provide Highly Tailored Content
- Ensure All Sales Reps Are Managing Their Leads Consistently
- Always Follow Up
- What is Sales Pipeline Management?
- What Are The 5 Stages of a Sales Pipeline?
- What are the main challenges of Pipeline Management?
If you’re looking for the answers to the above questions and more, read on, we’ve got you covered with this easy guide to managing a pipeline of leads in simple steps.
How to Manage Your Growing Sales Pipeline
After taking into consideration the five stages of a sales pipeline, it’s necessary to understand that since the intention is for the list of potential leads to grow, there also needs to be some processes put in place to ensure the pipeline yields the best results.
To do this successfully requires a plan for managing related tasks and an understanding of how new relationships can benefit not only the salesperson but the customers as well.
With some strategic planning and forethought, you can create a process for staying on top of your pipeline so that nothing slips through the cracks and that you can prioritize those who are in need or red-hot leads who may close quickly.
Below are some tips to further help manage and maintain a growing sales pipeline.
Define your Pipeline Stages
Although there are five clear stages to a sales pipeline, it’s important to note that not every pipeline will look exactly the same for each salesperson. By defining clear goals at each step, you will be better able to track progress each step of the way and spend less time second-guessing.
Make sure that each stage is clearly outlined in terms of the expected outcome, timeline and necessary action steps, whether it’s setting up a proposal or meeting with potential buyers online.
Defining these stages not only helps you take charge of your sales process but also gives you peace of mind knowing that you’re heading in the right direction.
Focus on Quality Leads
When it comes to sales, quality leads can make all the difference. That’s why focusing on quality leads is key to achieving success.
Once leads have been properly qualified, start by making contact with the warmest ones.
Warmer leads tend to yield the most beneficial results meaning that the input required to get them to close is considerably less when compared with colder leads.
Measure the Value and Potential of All Your Leads
All leads are good, but they aren’t all worth the same amount of energy, and effective triage will ensure that sales efforts aren’t made in vain.
Not every lead will turn into a successful sale, and measuring the potential of each lead can help you prioritize where to invest your time and resources most efficiently.
By understanding which leads show greater promise, you can tailor your approach to maximize customer satisfaction or even re-allocate leads for higher success rates.
It’s essential that you take an active role in measuring the value of each lead; only then will you be able to make the best decisions for achieving lasting success.
Monitor Stalled Leads
In a sales pipeline, it’s paramount to stay on top of the status of leads. When it comes to remote selling, this can be difficult at times, especially with ‘stalled’ leads.
That is why it is important to monitor these leads in order to efficiently ascertain when to take action. There are many ways to approach a stalled lead, like scheduling automated communication or designating them to salespeople who have more time in their schedule.
Effective management of stalled leads saves time and energy. If salespeople take the time to monitor the status of stalled leads, it helps to keep any outreach timely and organised.
Drop Dead Leads
Just like the old Kenny Rogers song goes, ‘You gotta know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. It’s important for any sales team to have a process that allows team members to establish if a lead is dead and to remove it from any sales pipeline.
As mentioned earlier, all leads are good leads, but it’s equally important to understand when a lead isn’t a lead anymore. Regular culling of dead leads will ensure that time and energy isn’t wasted on a prospect that is so cold it’s practically a glacier.
Clean Up Your Leads Regularly
It’s easy to get bogged down by all the leads piling up, but there’s something to be said for keeping up with prospect data and doing it often.
Cleaning your leads regularly can help you identify your top prospects so you can focus on those with the highest potential of closing. It also helps cut through the excess noise and gives you a clearer vision of what you need or want out of an opportunity.
If you want to make your sales pipeline the effective success it should be, then taking the time to clean up your leads is essential.
Provide Sales Pipeline Analysis
Having a strong sales pipeline analysis is key to succeeding as a seller, allowing you to stay organized and on top of your current and prospective customers.
With careful tracking, you’ll have a better overview of where potential business opportunities lay and quickly spot any areas which need improvement.
To get the best results, set aside time to routinely assess your pipeline performance, make changes based on insights you uncover and fine-tune strategies that are not producing the desired outcomes.
Being familiar with your selling metrics means that you can understand how effective your tactics are for each engagement cycle and use that information effectively to grow your business.
Regular Internal Pipeline Review Meetings
Regular internal pipeline review meetings are a chance to delve into the areas that can make your sales business more effective and keep you on track with your sales goals.
- Take advantage of them by taking a deep dive into your current and upcoming prospects.
- Look for trends in customer interactions.
- Review key performance indicators.
- Set realistic goals and motivate yourself.
It’s all about the efficient use of time. Make sure to capitalize on this dedicated time for strategic thinking and analyzing so targets can remain within reach.
Measure relevant Pipeline Metrics
The best salespeople and teams dedicate time to assessing and taking control of pipeline metrics. Measuring these metrics gives valuable insight into how well current sales practices are doing.
Knowing what KPIs are important and tracking them regularly will go a long way; everything from the number of leads, quotes given, and converted clients should be taken into account. Knowing which metrics actually serve a sales process is just as valuable as having metrics in the first place.
Provide Highly Tailored Content
When a salesperson takes the time to provide tailored content to a client, it shows them that they are being cared for, which can be incredibly useful in the long term. It might take a bit of extra effort when crafting individualized materials, but it’s worth it.
Studies have consistently shown that giving customers personalized content results in better engagement. Sure, some of the basics remain the same with all customers, but take some time to tailor offerings; give them information or advice that is relevant specifically to their individual needs while also keeping in mind industry and market trends.
Not only will this make them feel heard and valued, but it will also increase their trust in your services and potentially encourage repeat business.
Ensure All Sales Reps Are Managing Their Leads Consistently
To ensure that a sales team is reaching its maximum potential, it’s crucial to ensure the leads they manage are consistently following the same process. Having a systemized and organized approach to managing leads not only makes things easier for sales reps but helps provide insight into how they are performing and where any gaps may be.
By providing access to each rep’s lead pipeline, company leaders can pinpoint areas of improvement far more easily than without. This can range from helping sales reps tailor their approach to different prospects or understanding which lead sources work best for the company.
Always Follow Up
Following up is an often overlooked step in a sales pipeline that can be a great way to remind clients and customers of available services. It ensures that they know that you are available and passionate about helping them.
This will, in turn, create great relationships between clients and sellers. As a client, friendly and consistent follow-ups go a long way towards making them feel looked after and heard, so try setting up reminders for yourself every week or two to reach out with an update or just to check in.
You will be surprised at how successful this can be when it comes to building loyalty with your clients.
What is Sales Pipeline Management?
Effective remote sales calls require more than just being able to close a deal. It also involves having a good understanding of Sales Pipeline Management. This is the process of tracking every customer in a sales funnel, from initial contact to final purchase.
By plotting out each stage of the customer’s journey, it’s easier to manage their expectations, keep track of any additional data and update sales reps across all teams.
Good sales pipeline management enables salespeople to stay organized, and on top of all customer interactions, so they do not miss out on anything.
What Are The 5 Stages of a Sales Pipeline?
Increasing sales as a remote seller can seem daunting, but breaking up the process into the five basic stages of the sales pipeline will help make it more manageable. Below are the five main stages, along with some helpful things to keep in mind when going through each one.
1: Initial Contact
Whether working remotely or in person, the first step to becoming an effective salesperson is making great initial contact. Most experts agree that first impressions are hugely important, so make sure to start strong.
The first contact with a lead can sometimes be the defining factor on whether or not a customer will choose to buy a product or service. It’s integral to make sure that this stage of the sales funnel is not only welcoming; it also needs to be consistent for each lead.
This is also the time when more information is better. During the initial contact stage, capturing valuable information, like the reason a lead has made contact, can greatly assist in the next stage.
This is a time when active listening is a valuable skill to hone as it helps to gather information while also leaving the potential lead feeling like they are being listened to and taken care of.
2: Lead Qualification
Lead qualification is a key part of the sales process. Knowing what leads to research and focus on can make all the difference in achieving success as a salesperson. To put it simply, this is the stage where a salesperson or team can take a look at the leads they have and decide which ones are worth spending more time on.
Some good questions to ask during the lead qualification are things like: Will this lead actually result in a sale? Do they have a need that your product or service meets? Are they in the right financial bracket?
Good lead qualification involves finding those leads that are most likely going to be converted into a real sale and focusing on them so that minimal time is wasted chasing after dead-ends.
Once a lead has been qualified, the next step is to provide them with more information about products or services that can solve their problem or alleviate any pain points that prompted their initial contact.
In the modern world, leads are bombarded with information at every waking moment of the day, so it’s important to make sure any sales pitches are well-thought-out, engaging, comprehensive and easy to understand.
During this stage, the way information is presented can make or break a sales pitch, so it’s important to stand out. Visual aids can have a huge impact here, and finding a way to make this accessible to potential leads is important.
Using screen-sharing software can really help to give a competitive edge here, especially if it’s easy to use and doesn’t require the lead to download and install specific files.
Make sure to include space for questions the lead might have. This helps to build trust with customers and ensure that they have understood all the information they have been given.
Coming up with compelling proposals to potential new clients is one of the most essential components of effective selling. Crafting a proposal that takes into account a target customer’s needs and how your offering will meet their requirements is key to securing new agreements.
Throughout this stage, it’s important to take the time to develop a persuasive summary of any offerings that will grab the attention of the lead. Identifying a return on investment is critical in convincing leads that your offering will be beneficial to them, even if the major ROI is just peace of mind.
The basic idea here is to show them that not only do you have the solution to their problems, but you are also the best person or company to provide these solutions.
Crafting an effective proposal involves detailed preparation with the intention of gaining long-term benefits for both parties.
While all stages of the sales pipeline are important, this is probably the most rewarding one. In order to get to the closing stage, all of the above stages need to have worked well, and, generally speaking, if the four previous stages are like a well-oiled machine, your sales pipeline stands the best chance to get to the closing stage quickly.
It’s important to take the time before closing the sales to exploit any potential opportunities to increase the sale amount, customer loyalty and satisfaction and hopefully create long-term relationships that will become the bread and butter of your business.
Always remember that the easiest way to close a sale is to focus on providing practical solutions that meet the customer’s needs. They have a problem, and you need to show them that you have the best solutions.
What Are The Main Challenges of Pipeline Management?
One of the main challenges many companies face is not having a steady stream of prospects flowing into the pipeline. If these prospects are sourced through outbound activities (calls, emails, LinkedIn messages), and there is not enough inbound and lead nurturing, then pipeline management is always going to be difficult.
When leads are hard to source, you need a way of nurturing those that aren’t ready. Chances are, a good 80% or more of leads, even if they’re qualified, aren’t going to be ready to purchase straight away. Even if it means waiting a few weeks, automated email marketing systems need to be in place to nurture them.
Those aren’t the only challenges that salespeople and managers face when it comes to pipeline management.
1: Rose Tinted Forecasting
One of the most serious and common-place failings of sales teams and managers is the assumption that every, or nearly every, the prospect is interested and qualified and ready to go-ahead.
Spoiler alert: they’re not! If only every prospect was, that would make forecasting and planning revenue (and for sales agents and managers, working out when commission/bonuses will be paid) so much easier.
And yet, too many salespeople view prospects through a rose-tinted lens, assuming the most positive and timely outcome. So when a prospect takes longer to make a decision than expected, or falls out the pipeline altogether, this can cause forecasting problems for teams and managers.
2: The Sales Trap
The flip-side of this is what sales expert, Colleen Francis calls the “sales trap”. Too much effort going into managing existing prospects, instead of making sure new leads were flowing into the pipeline.
A dry quarter could follow a busy one, which again means there is an unhealthy element of urgency when agents are trying to cultivate new leads. Making sure your pipeline is always healthy and growing is the most effective way to combat this.
3: Poor Qualification Process
When leads aren’t properly qualified, sales reps can be placing leads in the pipeline that aren’t really there. A prospect might have expressed interest; but do they need the solution?
Ask the following questions when qualifying leads:
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- What has prompted you to solve this problem?
- What happens if it isn’t solved?
- What kind of timescale are you looking to implement?
- Who needs to sign off on the budget?
- What do you personally gain or lose if this is solved, or isn’t solved?
- Based on what we’ve talked about so far, does our solution solve this problem for you?
It requires both hard work and organizational skills to be an effective salesperson. Utilizing Sales Pipeline Management is the most efficient way for sellers to stay organized, prioritize tasks, and measure progress.
Understanding each stage of your pipeline helps you identify which strategies are working, what needs improvement, and how likely potential customers are to convert. All of these tips combined will help you craft an effective sales process while understanding the needs of prospects and clients throughout their journey.
Now that you have insights and knowledge into the importance of managing your pipeline turn it into practice and cultivate your own personalized workflow.