The 5-Step Plan to Better Manage Your Sales Pipeline

By Hanna SmolanAugust 11, 2015

Goal: To estimate the upcoming sales you’re aiming to close, which eventually becomes your sales forecast. These estimates can be compiled based on gut instinct, assumptions, and best guess. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, but other times these numbers can be extremely detrimental to your business; meaning your company can be understaffed, have an overabundance of materials or inadequate inventory.

To combat this occurrence, a smart business will create and track clients and prospects in their sales pipeline. And the smartest way to do that is with a CRM application, which helps eliminate the need for manual spreadsheets, helps you measure closure rates of potential sales and then analyze the results to help enhance your sales pipeline.

Here’s a step-by-step process and some tips to help effectively manage your sales pipeline. If you follow these steps, your sales pipeline will turn over leads in no time!

1. Find Your Prospects
It’s safe to assume that contact centers (and any other business) may know a potential client or could be referred to a client. What happens when you don’t have any potentials or warm leads?  You can make relationships through cold calling, social media, networking meetings, even word of mouth. There are endless possibilities and places to find leads. But first, utilize a lead capture form so that you can gather information from prospects who visit your website and click for more information. These forms can be solid gold for your business, especially since these are warm leads that can be passed onto your sales team for immediate action. Leads generated through forms have contacted you directly and expect you to reach back out to them.

Second, scour LinkedIn and professional databases for potential leads. The next step is to reach out to these prospects so you can start to build a relationship established on mutual interests.

2. Identify the Real Potential
Your team should be dialing for dollars, above anything else. Ask them to obtain critical information including potential total sales and volume from these prospects. These leads will hopefully know how much they plan to spend in the next weeks, months and years. You can also glean information about their purchasing habits. Do they prefer to buy everything from one vendor or partner? Are their purchasing decisions based solely on price?

You also need to gauge their intent to follow through. How serious is the prospect?

3. Identify the Decision Makers
In most cases, purchasing decisions are left to key executives, but that person isn’t always your contact at an organization. To avoid a potentially awkward conversation, let the client know that the purchase could represent a significant expenditure and would require executive approval.

It’s also a good idea to involve the person who will be using your product the most. They can be one of your biggest advocates on the inside.

4. Follow-Up!
Follow-up is critical. In whatever manner is easiest or most effective for your sales personnel, document all actions you agreed to complete in your CRM, with a description and estimated date of completion. And of course, complete these actions accurately and within the agreed timeframe. Use every touch point as a discovery opportunity: learn their hot buttons, understand their pain points, and ask for the sale!

If your prospect eventually gives you the dreaded ‘no’, at least take the time to find out why. A lost sale shouldn’t be discouraging; it’s actually a great opportunity to find out how you can improve your company’s strategy for the future.

It’s also crucial for companies to set aside a specific time every month (or however often you like, depending on average sales cycle) to review. Managers can bring in lunch, review the data with their teams and make any progress on high-level decisions. The teamwork will encourage your team to hold themselves and each other accountable.

5. Measure and Analyze Results
Each prospect entered into the CRM should be tracked by the results of your forecasting; especially closure rate and accuracy of your dollars and volume. Again, accurate sales forecasting optimizes business planning and cash flow. But don’t let all that hard work go to waste! Always look for ways to make improvements to your strategy and then put them into action. Sharing the “do’s and don’ts” with your team members is extremely beneficial to every individual.

What are your tips for effectively managing your sales pipeline? Share with us in the comments below.

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