8 Tips to Drive Better Sales Pipeline Health and Results
January 31, 2018
Sales pipeline management is a popular topic for good reason: A study of B2B companies found that 44% of executives think their organizations are ineffective at managing their sales pipeline, underscoring the direct tie between effective pipeline management and strong revenue growth. To help you excel at sales pipeline management, we’ve searched far and wide for insider tips from the most successful sales pros.
8 Tips for Better Sales Pipeline Management
1. Stick with the Process
Your company came up with a prescribed set of sales steps and explicit definitions of pipeline stages for a reason. This is not the place to unleash your inner maverick and try to carve out your own path. Here’s why: According to a study by Harvard Business Review (HBR), companies with a formal sales process generate higher revenues. Make it your aim to familiarize yourself with your company’s sales process and follow it. If you’re unclear about any definition or expectation, ask for clarification.
2. Be Transparent and Honest
We know it’s not fun to defend low pipeline numbers. But you’re not doing yourself any favors by glossing over the truth. That approach just leads to spinning your wheels, focusing your daily priorities on the wrong areas. Plus, you might initially impress your manager with an overflowing pipeline, but when the months go by and deals fall out or get stuck in certain stages, your boss goes from impressed to frustrated because her projections look bad, too.
Establish a solid foundation by committing to complete transparency and accuracy in your pipeline numbers. Accurate pipeline data helps pinpoint what to work on and where you need help. For instance, if your pipeline is low or full of mainly early-stage opportunities, you might need help with discovery and qualification.
Resist the temptation to falsely inflate your pipeline. Instead, be transparent and get the help you need. You’ll be better off in the long run.
3. Cozy Up to Marketing
Sales reps who pursue B2B prospects – especially as part of a complex buying process – are smart to work closely with their marketing counterparts. In fact, top reps proactively collaborate with marketing to come up with a plan and the right content topics and cadence aligned with buyer personas and the buying process. That way they know the story being told by their company’s content and can pick up the thread when the time comes to interact directly with a prospective buyer. They also share with their prospects the content the marketing team has developed to address every scenario and pipeline stage.
4. Backburner Slow Deals
Top sales reps don’t waste time trying to push a prospect over the finish line prematurely. Start with an ideal buyer profile and only pursue leads that fit your definition. Once you’re engaged with these leads, pay close attention to buying signals. If you’re not sensing any, put those leads aside to concentrate on the ones more likely to buy.
We know it can feel counterintuitive to walk away from leads, but it can certainly be in your best interests. What’s more important: A fluffed-up pipeline or your ability to focus on what really matters, based on what’s actually happening?
5. Show Preferential Treatment
It doesn’t make sense to treat all leads the same, so don’t. It starts by being highly selective about who makes it into your pipeline. Successful sales pros are better at only allowing high-probability deals into their pipeline so that there’s a smaller gap between what’s in the pipe and what closes. Zero in on the prospects who are most likely to buy but also most valuable to your business. When you scrutinize who makes it into your pipeline, you’re able to focus more of your attention on the deals that matter most.
6. Understand Which Deals Are Likely Closers
To spend your time productively, you need to focus on the most promising prospects. You do this by monitoring the close ratio of certain attributes like lead source (i.e. referral, organic, marketing-generated, company type, deal size, solution, etc.). If you have a handle on which attributes make a deal more likely to close and which are most likely to contribute to your goals (i.e. bigger deal size), you can more confidently budget your time.
7. Flush the Pipeline Periodically
It’s easy to think of a full pipeline as a healthy one. But the reality is that a pipeline stuffed full of prospects is clogged. You can only concentrate quality prospecting and sales activities on a certain number of prospects. Spread yourself too thin and you won’t pay enough attention to the most promising prospects while you waste your time on low-quality ones. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to figure out which prospects need to go. If the prospect has been in the pipeline longer than your typical sales cycle lasts, flush them. Go through this exercise once or twice a month to keep your pipeline healthy.
8. Face Your Fears
It’s easy to focus on the activities you enjoy doing. But to succeed, you need to handle many activities, some of which you are bound to dread. Consistently tackle these fears head on and they’ll soon lose their power over you. Better yet, by identifying your weaknesses and getting the help you need, you will naturally become more effective, from your first outreach message all the way to asking for the sale.
As a sales pro, you live and die by your pipeline, so it pays to manage it well. The better you manage that pipeline, the more time you can spend closing big deals and cashing in bigger commission checks.
For ideas on how to fill the pipeline with quality leads, download our eBook: The LinkedIn Selling Tactical Plan.