Sales & marketing

How do I manage my sales pipeline?

Having a sales pipeline is important if you want to future-proof your business. Knowing what business is coming in or when to follow up with leads helps you get a fuller picture of where you’re at. It also helps you recognise when you might need to ramp up business development.

But, do you really know what a sales pipeline is?
Are you managing yours as well as you could?

What is a sales pipeline?

Your pipeline is a visual representation of where various prospects sit in the sales process. In other words, how close are they to closing a deal with you? At a glance, you should be able to see how many new leads are coming in, who is nearly ready to buy and who you need to follow up with.

You feed prospective clients through the stages of your pipeline, ending when they purchase from you. Your stages may look something like this:

  • Initial contact
  • Qualification of lead
  • Meeting or phone call
  • Proposal sent
  • Close

It may also be true that prospects move backwards in the process at different points. For example, a new contact could be qualified and proceed to a meeting where problems come to light and you decide they are not the best person to be speaking with. They could put you in touch with a colleague, with who you would again meet and qualify before sending a proposal.

Communication can be complicated, and things can take time, but by updating the info at each stage, your pipeline serves as an easily accessible snapshot of your current opportunities.

Top tips for managing your pipeline

1. Choose your pipeline stages carefully

While all clients will need something slightly different from you, your pipeline should represent a set of stages through which most people move.

Of course, you will get the odd client who wants to buy straight away, or who moves backward and forward between meetings and proposals more times than you would like. But, by laying out your process in as universally appropriate way as possible, you find it easier to place prospects and compare them to one another. 

2. Follow up

You could have the most beautiful pipeline to look at, but if you fail to use it to follow up with prospects, it won’t translate into revenue. Not only does the pipeline serve as a snapshot of your business opportunities, it should also remind you to chase up business or pick up old leads. 

3. Keep it updated

Each time you speak with a prospect or send out a proposal, you must update your pipeline. Use a CRM system to keep on top of what you’ve done and set tags or reminders for follow up actions. If you let your pipeline or CRM get behind, you’ll end up forgetting to call someone back or chase up a quote.

Being disorganised could lose you a lot of business, cost you a lot of money and potentially damage your reputation. Staying on top of where you’re at, however time consuming it may seem at the time, will benefit your business in both the short and longer-term. 

4. Decide how you’ll measure success

Your pipeline and your sales plan should work in tandem. Goals and targets in your monthly, quarterly or yearly sales plan inform how you measure success and how you will draw information from your pipeline.

Define the metrics you’ll use – i.e. the percentage of leads converted – and pull that information out of your pipeline at the end of each month. Then you can quickly and easily see if you’re on track for a successful year and adjust accordingly.

5. Regularly review and clean up your pipeline

Everyone has prospects in their pipeline who, for whatever reason, stall and are unlikely to end in business for you. It may be that they’re just not the right fit for you, or their circumstances have changed and they no longer need the service you discussed with them. If you’re doing cold calling, you’ll start off with a lot of prospects, the majority of which won’t progress past the first stage.

If you leave all those people in your pipeline, it makes it much harder to see the good prospects and can skew your data over time. Put a regular date in your diary to go through your pipeline and clear out any dead leads.

Originally posted 2022-10-05 12:04:39.

Julie Futcher
The Business Bulletin

Don't miss out...

Enter your email address to ensure you receive the next edition of The Business Bulletin as it is published.

How do I manage my sales pipeline?

by Julie Futcher Time to read: 2 min