Millennial woman with brown hair and glasses wearing a black blouse looking at her desktop computer monitorAs a classic case of failing to see the forest for the trees, many businesses neglect the management of their overall sales pipelines in favor of short-term strategies they believe hold higher value.

Meticulous self-reflection and maintenance carry numerous benefits, and using your newly found insight will help to correct the subtle inefficiencies weighing your company down. Here’s what to look for when exploring issues, as well as how to create, manage and if necessary fix a sales pipeline.

What Is a Sales Pipeline?

It’s wise to understand the details when attempting to create, manage or fix something.

A sales pipeline generally refers to every section of your business’ sales process. When you encounter a new opportunity, it will advance through each stage depending on the actions you take to propel it forward. Each company will vary in its approach, but you need to ensure yours is sustainable, accessible and, most importantly, useful. A good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can be crucial to an effective sales pipeline.

What Are Some Important Stages of the Sales Pipeline That Can Be Improved With a Good CRM?

Here are some examples:

  • Lead assigned: One of the most damaging things to a sales pipeline is bad lead distribution. If your leads don’t go to people who can make the most use of them, they’re wasted. You need a process in place where once a lead is assigned, the salesperson who receives it can indicate that they accept the lead right away. If they do not feel that the lead is a good match for their skills, they can indicate it right away so that you can reassign the lead quickly to a salesperson who can make better use of it.
  • Trying to make contact: Once a salesperson has acquired the lead, the goal is to convert that lead as quickly as possible. That starts with making contact with the lead. If the salesperson makes immediate contact, great. They should indicate it in the system so that the company knows it’s a lead someone is actively working. If the salesperson is unable to make contact, they must persist. The salesperson should make at least seven attempts to connect with the lead. There should be a way they can log the time of each attempt, what they did and what the result was.
  • Following up: After contact is made, follow-up is extremely important. The first follow-up will usually be an email outlining what was discussed, what the lead liked about the interaction and what the next steps should be. If the follow-up does not lead to an immediate conversion, at least two additional follow-ups should be attempted at least once by phone.
  • Qualifying prospect: Once you’ve secured the lead’s interest, you can make sure that they’re a qualified potential customer, after which you can set any meetings, approve any budgets or submit any proposals necessary. Once everything is approved, you can mark the lead as a win, and the company will know to begin a relationship with this customer.
  • Lost customer: If a lead is lost, it’s important to have a system to indicate the status of these dead leads, such as repeated attempts to contact with no success, no way to contact, contacted but never followed up, contact information incorrect or product not a good fit.
  • Scoring leads: In addition to these functions that Customer Relationship Management software can help you organize, we can also score leads as Hot, Warm, Cool or Cold for your convenience.

What Are Some Common Sales Pipeline Mistakes?

A broken sales pipeline can be the result of various factors, including but not limited to:

  • Ignoring Your Sphere of Influence (SOI): Sales teams in many environments focus heavily on generating new business, often forgetting the people who helped to build their progress. Acquiring new customers can cost up to 15 times more than keeping an existing one, depending on the industry. Remember that 92 percent of buyers trust referrals from people they know, meaning there’s a great incentive to reaching out to well-established customers and personal contacts.
  • Treating Customers Generically: Despite the rapid automation and streamlining of marketing practices, customer service remains a critical aspect of business success. Getting complacent with people and expecting them to move through your pipeline at similar rates will set you up for poor sales and perhaps even bad reviews, which can seriously affect lead generation. Gather information whenever possible and ensure that each customer receives treatment that recognizes their unique qualities.
  • Chasing the Wrong Leads and Failing to Nurture Existing Ones: At times, companies lose touch with which leads create the best opportunities and spend time and money on prospects who don’t yield the expected reward. Losing money on these failed efforts will seize up your pipeline and trickle down into other aspects of your business. Often, companies with this problem also allow established leads to fade away without capitalizing on their interest. Gathering better information and setting goals with team members will benefit the process — it will all help to warm up leads and bring them along gradually before converting them into sales.

So, how do you clean up your sales pipeline? It will start with going back to the drawing board and coming up with a stage-by-stage procedure that addresses glaring problems. There is no one-size-fits-all panacea, but you can at least move forward by utilizing a general formula.

You’ll see tangible results by identifying the issue, considering its causes and possible solutions, and then finalizing a plan that aims to alleviate the consequences. Various resources and tools will aid you in successfully executing a change.

LeadMaster Will Provide Tools to Help Create, Manage and if Necessary Fix Sales Pipeline Issues

Customer relationship management (CRM) software can play a significant role in managing your sales pipeline and create comprehensive, revealing data sets you can apply in a bevy of scenarios. LeadMaster has specialized in the development of CRM software for decades, and our solutions have earned praise for being practical, easy to use, affordable and customizable to your needs.

Contact us today to speak with our customer service team about the issues you wish to work on. Our experts will point you in the right direction!