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Pipeline, Washington, USA

3 steps to easy Pipeline management

Pipeline management should be easy for all involved, both management and reps.

A solid, trustworthy, sales pipeline is the best way to get in control of your company’s performance. 

 

A solid pipeline is also crucial for other parts of the business that are dependant on solid information as a base for their decisions.

It could be recruiting, ordering parts or whatever that is needed to deliver what is in the sales pipeline.

A noisy pipeline on the other hand, with many irrelevant deals, does actually the opposite! It steals both time, energy and risks pushing the company in the wrong direction.

In a worst case scenario it can cost your company a lot. 

 

This is not anything new and also one of the major reasons behind so many directors spend countless hours on excel admin to produce a pipeline/forecast they trust.

There are however ways to get a round these issues and get a pipeline you can both trust and grasp in seconds. 

This article lists the TOP 3 things to think about if you want easy pipeline management. 

 

Step 1 – Split the pipeline in unqualified /qualified deals

The traditional way is to add all your deals to your pipeline, regardless of their status. This is usually because most CRMs only provide one place to put your potential deals.

 

There are a few big problems with this behaviour…

1. You tend to get many deals that just gets pushed forward in time, until someone gets tired of the deal and kick it out of the pipeline

2. You get noice in the pipeline which heavily affects the forecasts. 

3. Sales reps that don’t want to get to much heat because they have nonie in their pipeline tend to stop adding things to the pipeline, until they are certain they get the deal. This can affect the delivery, that have to deal with unplanned deliveries and sometimes they cant live up to the promised expectations since they never got any insights on what deals are closing the coming weeks/months.

 

The best way to get around these issues are to actually split the pipeline in two parts. One for unqualified deals and another for the qualified deals.

An important part of this is also to remove your unqualified deals from your monetary forecasts. This to prevent noice in your forecasts.

 

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Step 2 – Decide the criteria for qualified deals

When you start splitting the pipeline into unqualified deals and qualified deals you naturally get the question: What is a qualified deal, what does that mean for us?

Therefore you should also define very clear criteria for what a qualified deal is. 

 

 

If that is clear to everyone then you can also begin to trust the qualified part of the pipeline on a completely new level. 

The focus for the sales reps in the unqualified part is to, yes, as it says qualify the deals and when the deals is qualified convert them to qualified deals. 

This in itself actually contributes to bring the focus to “qualify a customer” the first time you meet. 

What I have seen when applying this way of working is that it also reduce stress for sales reps. It actually becomes more clear for them how many leads they need to get to get one qualified deal. 

It also makes it easier to “loose” som deals as well, since they did not match the set criteria to become qualified.

 

 

Step 3 – Segment your pipelines / processes

Most companies are actually working with different types of sales internally. Some work with… 

>  Complex long sales cycles (Example: solution sales), 

>  Short sales cycles (Example: additional orders from existing customers)

>  Proactive sales (Often new biz)

>  Reactive sales (Incoming requests)

 

Despite that, the most common way of following up the sales is to apply one and the same pipeline for all.

There are two issues with this…

1. It provides little support to the individual sales reps. You get a diluted process that usually not fit anyone. (Unless all in the team members sell the same product in the same way, regardless of type of customer.)

2. It makes it hard to split the pipeline and get a quick overview of the sales performance for different segments (Geographies, Industries, New biz, Existing biz etc.)

 

The way to get around these issues is to work work different pipelines / processes. A good pipeline should both be easy to use for the sales reps and easy to follow up on for management.

 

Pipeline management for the manager

An important thing with pipeline management is that it is easy to get a quick overview of the sales performance. Both the overview and broken down parts of the pipeline. 

Your pipeline should mirror what is most important for you to follow up on. 

This could mean splitting the pipeline into different geographies, industries, New biz etc. or whatever segmentation that is relevant for your company.

You should of course also be able to easily see the sales performance in a pipeline for different time periods.

Therefore, I recommend you to split your pipeline into different segments that also aggregates the numbers to a high level overview. 

Then it becomes easy to track the performance on both the overview and detailed level.

 

Pipeline management for sales reps

If a process is ment to actually support the person using the process it need to align with how the person can and will work, in reality. Otherwise the process is not a support tool, just another control tool.

This is unfortunately very common in sales. It is also one of the reasons why many sales reps don’t care about the process.

One of the reasons behind this is the fact that most companies apply one unified way of working in the company. 

Since most companies do work in different ways depending on what type of sales they are doing, it is actually quite weird to try to find one common process. It is like squeezing a square through a round hole.

To truly support the reps in their daily work you need to provide them with processes that actually support them. This will make it easier and more clear for them what to focus on to close the deals.

Just sending a quote is not enough. Closing deals is not about sending quotes, it’s about all the things that happen before the quote. 

A good process should target to help the reps to focus on the most important success factors behind winning deals for your company.

Some deals are pretty straight forward and you can more or less do the same thing every time and also in the same order. Then you perhaps apply a sequential process.

In other deals you can’t know the order things are done before you begin, then you should work in a more dynamic way, perhaps with todo-lists on the deal.

In some scenarios you want the process to decide the likeliness for closure and in other scenarios you need to decide the likeliness cases by case.

This means that you might have the need for not just different processes, you actually might have the need for different types of processes.

The pipeline of course need to mirror these different processes, regardless of type.

 

Summary – pipeline management

So, to wrap it up. 

 

To get…

> quick and easy overviews of the sales performance and

> processes that actually support the way you work

…you will benefit from splitting your pipeline in these different ways.

 

It will benefit both management and the individual reps.

I therefore recommend you to think about how you actually work, in reality, and how you want to follow up sales.

Don’t forget that the pipeline is supposed to make your life easier, not harder, for everyone involved.

 

Andreas LAlangas Blog image

 

Andreas Lalangas

CEO & Founder Salesbox

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