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6 Sales Pipeline Management Best Practices

Managing your sales pipeline is critical to the overall amount of success that can be achieved. Many pipelines have been left untouched for years, often treated as a sort of Holy Grail that is religiously worshiped because of past successes. What is unfortunate about this fact is that only small adjustments are often necessary to achieve huge results.

If you’re looking for a way to improve the sales process, then it might be time to adjust the sales pipeline. Here are some best practices from today that can be easily applied to the designs that brought about yesterday’s success.

1. Change That Pipeline into a Funnel.

A sales funnel is more applicable to the way business is run today. Instead of creating a vertical or horizontal path that attempts to get leads from beginning to end, the funnel helps to qualify leads with every step through it. It begins with gaining personal information about each lead, emphasizing the marketing component of the sales process. As qualified leads become accepted leads, the sales portion begins and focuses on opportunities, forecasts and then closing the deal to get revenues.

2. A Bigger Picture Needs to be Emphasized.

In the sales pipeline, many leads only receive attention when they are actively engaged. The moment they disengage with the sales process, they are discarded. Some businesses might ask for feedback about why someone has left the pipeline, but there is no active effort to bring people back. Once a sale has closed, there is rarely any engagement to bring that successful lead back to the beginning of the pipeline to repeat the process. A bigger picture that incorporates those who leave the pipeline and why so they can continue to be engaged will provide better opportunities.

3. Marketing and Sales Need to Work Together Instead of Independently.

The problem that most sales pipelines have is a gap in the journey that usually gets created between marketing and sales. The marketing efforts attempt to pass along sales leads that aren’t sales-ready. The sales department contacts these leads, sees that they aren’t yet sales-ready, and so they hand them back to marketing for nurturing. Both areas can do better. Sales can do more nurturing and marketing can take more time to make sure a lead is sales-ready. Fill in the gap and the pipeline won’t leak. This is where lead scoring can really help.

4. Sales Opportunities are Beneficial, But Also Over-Rated.

Sales opportunities can help to spur some interest within the pipeline, but they can also cause a lot of problems. Many people enter into a sales relationship with rose-colored glasses on. The benefits of the relationship are focused upon and any problems are ignored. Prolonged sales can actually reduce sales opportunities and create problems with future revenue development.

5. Buyer Advancement Must be Part of the Process.

Although it is normally seen during sales opportunities, any pipeline management focus can become self-serving instead of customer serving. The entire reason why a sales pipeline exists in the first place is to make sure that the leads have every opportunity to keep advancing through the process. Don’t focus on the efforts of the salesperson and the specific activities that might be mandated for them. Focus instead on the needs of the buyer and how to advance them to the next development stage.

6. Marketing Automation Has its Place, But It’s Not Where You Think It Should Be.

Many uses marketing automation during the initial contact process. The content drives someone to request more information and the automation then guides that person towards the sales pipeline. This is the most critical time of the process. It is where the personal touch is most necessary. If you wouldn’t automate the closing process, why would you automate the opening process? It is in the middle where automation makes sense. By automatically tracking actions and scoring them, marketing can hand over hotter leads that can result in better sales.

Many sales pipelines are based on providing leads information they want to read or hear. There isn’t authenticity to the process because the focus is on making money. When the focus is shifted to creating relationships with a guided journey through the pipeline, better results can be earned. It also creates a better opportunity to create repetitive revenues. Use these best practices to better manage your pipeline and you may just be able to clone your best customers so that everyone experiences more success.

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