The sales pipeline is the lifeline of any business, so keeping it clean and efficient is essential for success. Therefore you need to be aware of any mistakes which could prevent your pipeline from providing the best results. These mistakes then need to be addressed right away to prevent them from damaging the business’ chances of survival in the competitive market.
Here are ways to improve your sales pipeline for a smoother sales process:
1) Design a more efficient system for qualifying prospects
Your pipeline will start to shrink when the pace of prospecting slackens. This often happens when businesses become complacent after having achieved some benchmark that was previously set. This complacency can lead not only to the cessation of prospecting but also to the cessation of professional development in salespeople. For example, according to HubSpot data 59% of these professionals admit that they stop changing once they have found a practice that works for them.
As a result of such practices, the business might meet its sales needs this month and, maybe, the next. However, somewhere down the line you will face a shrunken pipeline and won’t be able to fix it quickly enough to avoid losses. This is because you’ll need to start on prospecting and converting leads from scratch.
One of the most important things to do then in order to keep the quality of your sales pipeline is to design an efficient system for qualifying prospects. It is imperative that you monitor every pipeline stage and make sure active growth is happening at every step along the way.
2) Stay in touch with prospects using an efficient follow-up system
Making a sale once isn’t a thing to be satisfied with. Every expert in the sales business will tell you that getting your customers to make a repeat purchase is much easier than nurturing new prospects.
But if you don’t develop an efficient follow-up system as well as stay in touch with your customers, you risk losing your good leads. The go-to method that the majority of businesses use is email marketing, which is very efficient.
To achieve better results, you need to think creatively and use a variety of methods for staying connected as well as reconnecting with your leads. One of the more efficient practices that often gets overlooked is sending postcards.
Unlike an email, this tool won’t be discarded to the bin without being opened. You will also benefit from the nostalgia induced by actually handling a postcard. The message you include on it must be short and focused on creating a positive association with the brand, rather than on making a sale directly. Better still, businesses today don’t even need to spend money on a design as there are lots of pre-made postcard templates available on the Web.
Other methods of staying in contact with your leads that you should be using include:
- Phone calls
- Social media
- Sending out informational packages or invitations to webinars
Your follow-up strategy must prioritize frequent and consistent contact, but do use a variety of methods to increase your chances of reaching leads. For example, use emails twice a week, social media every other day, and restrict phone calls to 1-2 times a month with postcards restricted to special events and holidays.
3) Update and clean up your pipeline regularly
Is your pipeline efficient every step of the way? Or is it full of dead leads, which waste your resources and prevent you from making an accurate sales prognosis?
One of the biggest sales pipeline mistakes is allowing it to get messy. Therefore, you need to revise and clean up your pipeline regularly. The most basic steps for pipeline clean-up are:
- Identifying and removing “old” prospects (they’ve been with you for more than the average sales cycle).
- Sending out “sales breakup” emails for the last time before removing the prospect from your pipeline.
- Keeping all your data up to date (improve your analytics software if necessary).
The most important rule is to monitor your pipeline constantly and address all “stuck” prospects fast. You should also have a major revision once or twice a year to adjust your pipeline to your evolving business’ needs.
4) Figure out the best metrics for your pipeline
You can assess how well a pipeline performs only if you use the right metrics to make this assessment. Otherwise, analytics will be useless and without a detailed analysis, you won’t be able to identify the pipeline’s weaknesses.
The most important metrics for a sales pipeline are:
- Number of deals
- Sales velocity
- Value of the pipeline
- Average size per deal
Out of all these, the velocity is the factor which determines the “health” of the pipeline. The formula for calculating pipeline velocity is:
Number of deals x average deal size/length of the sales cycle
Your priority should be to increase the velocity.
5) Cut your pipeline if needed
Poor pipeline management equals an inefficient, messy, and under-performing pipeline. And when your pipeline is too big, management issues are guaranteed. In this case, you will also be wasting time and resources trying to convert people who are completely uninterested. You might score a couple of sales, but it’ll be a waste of money in the end.
Use specialized tools to analyze your pipeline and see if cutting out underperforming parts is wise. CRM software will allow you to do this. But don’t rush the process as you should optimize one area at a time to achieve the best results.
As can be seen, the biggest pipeline mistakes can be avoided or fixed quickly through efficient pipeline monitoring and management. Thus it is the people responsible for sales pipeline management within the company who have the most power over it and who need to be specifically trained to identify and address any issues on every level.