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When traveling to a new place, you are curious about the entire journey - your focus is not limited to just the starting point and the destination.
The sales process in an ideal world is similar to traveling to a new place. Every prospective lead at the top of the funnel is a unique journey but to the same destination.
But that is rarely the case.
More often than not, sales reps fall into the rut of a pattern. Their focus remains limited only to the bottom of the funnel. The journey in the middle takes a backseat.
This greatly impacts the sales pipeline.
What is a sales pipeline?
Like everything else in business, the sales process is a system.
A sales pipeline is a visual representation of every stage of your sales process.
Every lead has a different pace of moving through this pipeline - some skip a few stages, some take their own sweet time to reach the bottom, and many fall through the cracks!
Why should you look at a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline inevitably tapers at the bottom and draws your focus to the end - the goal of the total number of closed deals.
But it also shows you all the stages through which your leads travel.
The greater visibility you have of the leads at each stage, the easier it is to undertake effective deal management to drive revenue growth and help you close more deals.
Pipeline health inspection is one of the essential activities you can undertake as a manager. It paves the path of business growth and productivity of your sales team by predictably increasing conversion rates.
If you have a sales pipeline, it means your business has clearly defined stages and milestones in the sales process.
A study by Harvard Business Review states that companies that spend at least 3 hours per month inspecting and managing each rep’s sales pipeline saw 11% greater revenue growth than those that didn’t.
Team leaders and managers who discuss the overall health of their rep’s pipeline and coach them to close more deals are productively managing their sales pipeline. They are also the ones who can spot early signs when the pipeline is at risk.
Early Signs That Your Sales Rep’s Pipeline is at Risk
#1 Analyzing Past Trends To Predict Future Outcomes
Most managers and team leaders miss out on the early signs of pipeline risk because they are not looking at the right metrics and data points. We have listed three metrics that are essential to note during pipeline inspection -
- Their goals for a specific time period
- Average sales cycle
- Conversion rates for different stages of the funnel
How will it help?
Backtracking these metrics gives you better visibility on whether your reps have enough leads in their pipeline to meet their respective goals for that stipulated time.
#2 Delayed Closure Of Deals
Is your sales cycle too long?
The sluggish movement of deals across the funnel is one of the biggest roadblocks to improving the conversion rate of your business.
If your reps are taking way longer to move a prospect to the next meaningful stage, or they are constantly missing out on previously decided closing dates, it could indicate one of these two things -
- Your reps are not putting in enough effort to connect with the existing leads in the pipeline.
- A deal is stuck in the early stages of the pipeline. It has shown no progress or movement despite implementing an active communication strategy of calls, emails, texts, and meeting invites.
Maintaining pipeline hygiene by closing out all the cold leads that have been in the early stage for over 6 months will resolve these chokepoints.
Encourage your team to run automated nurture programs for cold leads to reactivate them back in the buying cycle. This lets your team focus on the sales process and ramp up the speed of deal closure by working with active leads.
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#3 Holding Your Sales Reps Accountable
80% of prospects never turn into customers.
Are your reps connecting with the leads in their pipeline? Do they follow a specific strategy? Or are they just calling them once a week and not following up?
Word-of-mouth information when it comes to measuring progress doesn’t work. When was the last time your sales rep made a phone call? When did they last set up a meeting with a prospective buyer?
Data drives accountability.
Looking at the sales pipeline of every rep on your sales team will give you a much deeper insight into who needs to buckle up and requires some coaching. On a weekly or bi-weekly basis, an overview of their sales pipeline will give you an unconvoluted picture of the stages of the leads they are working on.
Visibility translates into a more robust game plan. The moment you see a problem point, that is when you sit down with your sales rep. Ask questions that trigger data-driven responses.
#4 Treating Every Prospect Differently
Does your sales team have a strategy in place to move prospective buyers into the next meaningful stage of the sales cycle?
There are several deals in the pipeline at different stages.
The same strategy will not work for every prospect. If your reps are not taking a different approach for each lead and building a relationship on the side, you will notice leads slipping through the cracks.
Ask them these three questions -
- What kind of activity are they doing to connect with the buyer - emails, phone calls, meetings? What is the frequency of the activity?
- What are the next steps that have been planned?
- Which of these steps has been shared with the buyer?
#5 Focus On Active Stage Pipeline
Connectivity rate is a much-discussed topic for improving sales performance and coaching opportunities. But there are times when your reps have a good connectivity rate but a bad active stage pipeline.
This happens when your reps talk to leads but do not move them to nurture or hot stages.
In your 1:1 Meets with your reps, ask them about the hot deals in their pipeline. If there aren’t enough “hot opportunities,” coach them to create more urgency.
Insufficient data and dependency on sporadic updates and spreadsheets by reps constantly derail you from effectively managing your sales pipeline.
An unhealthy sales pipeline is an unreliable source of revenue. But with the right tech stack and analytics tool, you can focus on the causes of pipeline risk for your reps and make amends before ‘deals’ get out of hand and slip through the cracks!
Minimizing pipeline risk by regular pipeline inspection has many benefits -
- It helps your team focus on the most promising deals
- Chokepoints and blockers are addressed well in advance - saves time by flagging at-risk deals
- Provide pipeline visibility and coaching opportunities for your reps
According to Harvard Business Review, companies that practiced effective sales pipeline management had a 15% higher average growth rate than those that didn’t.
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