Nearly every firm we speak with says they’re using a sales pipeline as part of their business development process. But they’re really not.
Too many firms think that a sales pipeline is only about what’s at the end of the pipeline (or ‘bottom of the funnel,’ depending on your hardware preference). These firms are concerned only with ‘proposals out in the marketplace’ and the status of those opportunities. And while RFPs are certainly important, focusing on them is a little nearsighted. RFPs are more about the now. What about the future?
The real value of a sales pipeline is to help leadership look at what could be happening in the coming weeks and months… and to react and plan accordingly. A typical sales pipeline reviews all of the steps in the sales process. And within each of those defined levels, which sales prospects are in them and the status of each (as reported on by your sales team).
For example, the steps in your sales pipeline – and you get to define them, based on your business – might be:
- New sales leads
- First conversations
- Follow up conversations
- Capabilities presentations
As a sales manager, think of the insights that this longer-term perspective provides:
- Are we building opportunities for the future by continually adding new names to the top of the pipeline?
- Specifically, what’s happening with each of the companies in the pipeline and what can we do to move them along?
- How long are these prospects spending at each level? If too long, are there problems with our sales process or our sales team?
- If these companies are developing into real opportunities, what are the size of those opportunities and when do we think they might occur? [a.k.a. ‘forecasting!’]
Knowing the answers to these questions isn’t possible if you’re only focused on the very last steps. Additionally, the answers will not only help you to manage your selling efforts, but can also provide a ‘heads up’ to the Operations side of your business – helping them to plan better, as well.
And whether your sales pipeline comes out of your CRM… is on a big white board on the wall… or if you’re keeping one manually, having access to that sales prospect information – all in one place – is a critical component in managing revenue growth.
If you don’t have a sales pipeline tool and want a simple, Excel-based template, click here to download one: https://bit.ly/2Roft1g.
Good luck and good selling!