Few things impact the bottom line for a sales team or individual sales person more than the quality of their pipeline. A superior sales pipeline funneling qualified leads to a mediocre sales person will, on average, achieve better results than a mediocre sales pipeline feeding bad leads to a better sales person. Regardless of where you stand as an individual, or your team stands as a group, building a better sales pipeline will return benefits far beyond the effort you put in. So how do we build a better sales pipeline? Read on and prepare for your new influx of ideal prospects, as your follow these few simple steps.
Before you begin improving your pipeline, you need a firm understanding of one thing: Where your pipeline currently stands. Without an image of your current situation to reference, you'll have difficulty knowing where to make your moves, what's working, and what isn't. Sit down and chart out your current pipeline in its entirety-don't leave anything out. The more data you can add to your understanding, the better. Strain every bit of information from your analytics tools, team anecdotes, everything. You're ready to start when you know your sales pipeline like the back of your hand.
Data and Analysis
Hard data and analysis plays a big role in moving forward with bettering your sales pipeline, so it's important that you give yourself the necessary tools. That means buying new tracking software or tweaking what you have, getting your team members to buy in to logging hard and soft data that can't be tracked automatically, and learning to parse what you're given.
You should be able to tell where bad leads are coming from, where good leads come from, and where things go astray very quickly once you master this. That leads you to the next step:
Big Picture and Little Picture
Your sales pipeline needs to be viewed and tweaked from two perspectives, as the niggling details and the overall shape of your pipeline both contribute greatly to your success. A big picture issue may be the length of your pipeline, how long it takes for a prospect to go from initial contact with the pipeline to sale, and a solution may be cutting superfluous sections of the line (or lengthening it, if there's not enough pre-qualifying happening). A small picture issue may be the language used by a representative or advertising materials along the way that's causing good prospects to drop off over a minor issue. If you've mastered your data collection and analysis, both issues should become readily apparent as you go.
Common Problem Areas
There's one single place that almost all sales pipelines suffer: lead generation. Very rarely does lead generation receive the attention and refinement of process that it deserves, despite being the single most important part of the pipeline. A pipeline that receives bad inputs can't generate good outputs, as a general rule. If it does, then it would offer even greater output with better leads.
The second common error in the sales pipeline isn't observed within the pipeline itself, but after the sale. A rushed sales pipeline will often produce high sales rates-and equally high return rates and levels of negative word-of-mouth. A sales pipeline producing unhappy customers is not viable for long-term profits, so make sure your data collection covers the entirety of the sales cycle, straight through the 'Buyer's Remorse' stage at the end, or your pipeline tactics will suffer.