Last week we looked at why you need a robust pipeline to manage your sales process, from a big picture viewpoint.
Read more: Essential pipeline management
Now it is about really establishing how a well-mapped-out pipeline will function within your sales team’s structure. Here are the first four steps of eight:
1. Where do your leads come from and how do they turn into customers?
Sometimes there are many different touch points required to turn a stranger into a customer, and if there is anytime along that sales journey when a required contact or communication isn’t made, then the sale has less of a chance to make it through the pipeline.
More often than not, this gap occurs when it comes to transferring leads through departments – for example from marketing to sales. A potential customer interacts with the company and appears to be interested in what is on offer, but sales aren’t aware of the contact and they miss out on being moved into the selling pipeline.
This is why understanding where customer leads come from is imperative, and having a robust end-to-end process for how they are managed from being prospects to actual clients is a non-negotiable.
2. Be confident to qualify and cut your losses
The ‘sunk cost bias’ is a slippery slope that traps every sales person at one time or another. And yes, this needs to be a part of the sales pipeline process. Why? Research shows it takes 65 per cent longer for sales people to lose a sales project than to win one – that is a lot of valuable time taken up by a task that doesn’t eventuate into a sale. So you need to have specific criteria set out for when it is time to cut your losses.
Even better, a robust sales pipeline process can assist you to qualify opportunities before too much time is invested. Depending on your product, service and price point, work out what information needs to be collected before moving onto the next stage of the process – for example if you can’t speak to the decision-maker right at the beginning, maybe that means you hold-off on moving forward until you can confirm their interest in your product/service.
3. The magic 8 ball has little to offer sales forecasting
According to CSO Insights, sales forecasting accuracy is below 50 per cent. So basically it can be relied upon as much as a magic 8 ball.
This is where the sales pipeline comes into play – if you have a documented process to follow, that includes milestones which need to be reached (as mentioned in step 2), you can calculate probability based on actual measurable progress, rather than presumptions from ‘gut-feelings’.
4. Know what you do well... and not so well
This is where we refer back to the analogy about water going through a pipe. Some of the joins may allow for maximum flow and functionality, but if you haven’t planned the pipeline correctly, there will be joins where water (i.e. customers) will leak from.
So track your leads through the pipeline and be honest – where do you fall short? When you find where the leak is, it’s time to fix those joins.
To read the next four steps to mapping out your sales pipeline, read our next blog.
If you’re after a solution that can assist you with putting your sales process into an online pipeline, have a chat to us about Membrain.
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