Every sales team is always looking for effective ways to improve their sales pipeline. Sales is all about the numbers. The more leads and prospects you can funnel through the pipeline, the better your chance of revenue and conversions get. But improving a sales pipeline is often easier said than done. There are various facets of your pipeline to consider, and you need to make sure you’re focusing on the right things. However, with the right strategy, you can make meaningful changes to your pipeline and optimize it.
In this blog, we’ll be touching on some tips for improving your sales pipeline and maximizing its potential. Read on to learn more.
What Is a Sales Pipeline?
A sales pipeline is essential to any sales team and any business in general. A sales pipeline allows you to get a visual of your entire sales process and understand each stage of the process in greater depth. If you don’t have a sales pipeline, you won’t be able to see where your deals are closed. In general, your sales pipeline should include six or seven different stages.
These stages will look something like this:
1. Prospecting – This is where you find your prospective buyers. It’s also known as lead generation. This will look different depending on what you’re selling. Social media ads, cold calls and word of mouth can all be forms of lead generation.
2. Lead Qualification – Once you have your leads, you need to start finding out which leads are hot. In other words, which of the leads you’ve generated have the best chance of being a potential buyer? This stage requires research to discover which leads are actually worth pursuing. You don’t want your rep to waste their time on leads that will never buy, so this stage is incredibly important.
3. Contact and Meeting – Once you have your best leads compiled, your reps can make contact with them and pursue the sale. Typically, the first instance of contact might entail setting a meeting and a demo of your product. This will allow your rep to build value quickly and draw the prospect in.
4. Proposal – Once the prospect has buy-in and interest in the product, your rep will be able to make their proposal and work toward closing the sale.
5. Negotiation – If the prospect is ready to buy, all that’s left to do is negotiate the final details of the deal. This is near the end of your pipeline, but it’s crucial to not lose your leads during this stage.
6. Closing – The deal is closed and the client receives their deliverables.
7. Follow-up and Relationship Management – This isn’t always considered part of the sales pipeline, but it’s important to look at if your product or service has ongoing deliverables.
That’s a general overview of what your sales pipeline might look like. If you already have a solid pipeline in place, make sure to maintain it. Then you can apply the tips below to start making it better.
Evaluate the Structure of Your Sales Stages
First, take a holistic look at the structure of each individual sales stage and evaluate it. By taking a close look at each stage, you’ll get a better idea of what’s working and what isn’t. It’s much easier to make real improvements when you get more detailed insight into all of your stages.
Remember, your sales stages are going to be unique to your business and the product or service you sell. What works for other sales teams might not be the right solution for you. It also helps to look at how each stage flows into the next. Is the transition from the initial meeting to the proposal a smooth one? Does there need to be more contact beforehand? How are prospects interacting with your lead generation methods? All possibilities need to be considered and analyzed if you want to make the best sales pipeline possible. No stage is more or less important than others. You should endeavor to make each stage as strong and propulsive as possible to guide prospects through to closing.
Identify Leaks in Your Pipeline
One of the best things you can do for your sales pipeline is to identify the leaks. Where are prospects slipping through the cracks most often? During lead generation, you take in a ton of leads and then reduce that number to the best potential prospects. It’s natural to be losing leads at this stage, but in any of the other stages, the goal is to keep the prospective buyer in the pipeline. If you have leaks at your initial contact stage, proposal stage, negotiation stage and especially your final closing stages, you need to see what you can do to prevent those leaks.
Take a close look at why buyers might be dropping out. Ask sales reps what they think the pains points are and their theories as to why these leaks are occurring. Identifying the patterns of these leaks will allow you to make the most accurate fixes so you can keep these leaks to an acceptable minimum.
Grow Your Pipeline With Targeted Lead Generation
We’ve gone over the first two stages of your pipeline, lead generation and qualification and how you purposefully drop a lot of leads in this transition. But ideally, most of the leads you generate will be good prospects. If your lead generation efforts end with you losing the majority of these leads in the qualification stage, it likely means your generation isn’t targeted enough. You can grow your pipeline by making your lead generation more relevant to the buyers you want to attract.
There are a variety of ways to do this, but marketing is going to be your strongest solution to this problem. With targeted advertising, search engine optimization and relevant downloadable content, you can ensure that the leads you’re getting are the highest quality and most relevant to your product or service.
Look for Opportunities to Expand Sales Channels
Another way to broaden the horizons of your sales pipeline is by expanding your sales channels. If you’re able to add new channels to your sales strategy, you’ll open up more opportunities for your team in the process. Of course, adding new channels isn’t going to be viable for every business, but if it’s viable for your business, it’s worth considering.
If all of your sales channels are direct sales, consider looking at some indirect methods like licensing, outsourcing and more. This will give your sales team a more flexible way to sell your products and services and help them bring in even more revenue.
Develop Your Knowledge of Competitor Strategy
Earlier we mentioned how not every pipeline is going to be the same and that you should develop a pipeline that is unique to the needs of your business. With that being said, you shouldn’t discount other strategies entirely. Getting an idea of what your competitors’ strategies are and how they run their sales pipeline can help you tweak and enhance your own pipeline. There may be instances where a competitor has solved a pipeline issue that you’ve had similar problems with. If you’re able to take this knowledge and apply it to your own pipeline, improving in the process, there’s no reason not to do it.
Even if your competitor strategy doesn’t give you any meaningful ideas for your own pipeline, you’ll still get insight into how they operate, and it will give you a new perspective on your own strategies.
Build a Data-Driven Sales Pipeline
Modern technology and sales software has made the sales pipeline stronger than ever. Sales management platforms allow you to track everything, automatically analyze your pipeline and do things that sales teams just didn’t have the resources for in the past. With a data-driven pipeline, you can make every stage of your sales pipeline more effective than ever. All it takes is the right tools on the right platform.