Businesses that rely on actively closing sales must pay close attention to managing their sales pipeline. To ensure a steady flow of cash and the growth of the business, sales prospects must be converted to actual sales as rapidly and successfully as possible. If the sales pipeline is neglected, the company’s growth and, in some cases, even its very existence may come into question.
Reviewing the sales pipeline, while essential, can be a lengthy task for your sales managers. Between meeting with salespeople, preparing for the meetings, and writing up reports based on those meetings, significant time can be spent on the process.
In the past, sales managers needed to perform the often tedious task of creating these reports themselves, either by hand or by printing out spreadsheets that had to be manually adjusted. These reports quickly become obsolete as forecasts are changed and salespeople contact prospects. The result is a continual process of back and forth pipeline updating by both sales managers and salespeople, taking up time that could be better spent performing other tasks.
Sales automation changes all this by automatically updating sales pipeline information as salespeople and their managers make changes. This enables this vital but time-consuming function to be accomplished in a fraction of the time it traditionally took, boosting productivity by allowing your sales staff to do what it does best: sell product. Now, rather than spending time entering data, salespeople can focus on meeting with clients and sales managers can focus on helping salespeople close more deals.
The following are tips for automating the sales pipeline review process.
Begin with Predefined Routines and Filters
When different salespeople and managers base their estimation of what a qualified lead is on different criteria, automating the sales process can be difficult. In such situations, the value of the sales pipeline created by the automation process is diminished by the potential for confusion over the status of the leads measured by the process. Pertinent questions become difficult to answer: are they qualified leads? Is it reasonable to expect them to close in a certain time?
To avoid this issue, assign filtering criteria at the start of the sales automation process. This enables everyone involved to be on the same page when it comes to defining what a qualified lead looks like. When this is the case, the pipeline review process can be standardized, enabling leads expected to close in a certain time to be lumped together for optimization purposes.
Distinguish Leads by Quality
Making a clear distinction between leads that are closeable within a reasonable amount of time and leads that may move into this category at some point in the future is vital. The core of the pipeline review process is to identify the former and analyze how best they can be converted into sales. The following are guidelines to use in this process:
- When automating your sale process, distinguish leads by quality.
- Another aspect of lead quality is the size of the opportunity. Your sales process should identify leads by dollar amount as well as by expected closing time.
- Sales staff should prioritize the larger opportunities. However, beware of what might be called “elephant syndrome,” which refers to the tendency of sales staff to prefer to focus on the biggest deals even though they are generally the hardest to close.
- To avoid elephant syndrome, set up clear criteria for determining what leads should be classified as likely to close soon, taking into account that larger leads typically are subject to greater levels of scrutiny as they make their way through the approval process.
Track Steps to Take by Assigned Owner
Merely tracking leads through the sales process without assigning them to specific owners dilutes the effectiveness of the sales automation process. Each next step should be assigned to a specific owner on your sales team. Centralizing these activities on your sales automation software improves efficiency by enabling all team members to view who is responsible for each lead at various stages of the sales process.
If a step must be performed by a certain team member before the lead can move along the pipeline, displaying this fact in the software can serve to motivate that member to complete their task in a timely fashion. Make sure that your sales staff is aware of their responsibilities when it comes to actively monitoring their tasks in your sales process software and completing those tasks in a timely fashion.
Prioritize Endangered Opportunities
When deals are proceeding smoothly through the pipeline, there’s no reason to devote extra attention to them. On the other hand, endangered opportunities deserve special attention to make sure they eventually become sales. Your sales automation software should identify deals which have failed to progress towards closing as planned to enable your sales team to take steps to turn shaky deals around and get them headed in the right direction.
You can assign different levels to leads representing how much attention they need. A lead that has expressed the intention to buy and simply needs a follow-up call to make sure it’s on track might be classified as a level 1 lead, while a lead that has expressed doubt about making a purchase, after initially expressing the intent to buy, might be a level 5 lead, indicating that it requires immediate attention to bring it back on track.
Enable CRM Alerting for Deadlines and Opportunities
Your CRM (customer relationship manager) system should be set up to provide alerts related to upcoming deadlines and existing opportunities. This saves your sales staff the time and trouble of having to export pipeline data and then add their notes to it and then update pipeline tracking on Salesforce or a similar solution. The system dashboard should make it easy to quickly compile reports based on these indicators. Set these up in advance so your pipeline reviews can focus on identifying opportunities that need attention rather than on manipulating the software to produce these reports. Automating these functions on a single tool can save considerable time during the pipeline review process.
Nuvro is a robust online project management tool that helps streamline your sales pipeline review process. With Nuvro you can gain control and peace of mind over all of your projects, tasks, team members, workload and everything else important to your company. In addition to the project, task and collaboration features found in most PM tools, Nuvro also provides a company dashboard, a team dashboard, team member performance reviews, secure document management, an internal alternative to email and more. Nuvro is perfect for busy teams looking to accomplish more. Learn More…