Cleanliness is next to Godliness, isn’t that what they say? OK, that might be a bit much in the world of sales, but a clean sales pipeline is definitely next to your success.
A very astute sales professional I once knew carried with him the following mantra, “Doing business without making a profit is like eating soup with a fork – sure, you’ll be busy, but you’re going to stay hungry.”
In the world of sales, ensuring that you keep a clean and well-organised sales pipeline removes the fork from the equation and rewards you with a very deep spoon with which to enjoy your meal.
But what is a clean pipeline? To put it succinctly, a clean pipeline is one that is well organised, uncluttered with deals going nowhere, offering clear insights into your present and future projections, and one which is keeping a concise and detailed track of all communications, ready to offer a clear overview at a moment’s notice.
So how do we go about ensuring that our pipeline is clean and well organised? The following are five quick tips that might just help you to eliminate the fork from the meal:
Be sure that the stages of your pipeline clearly solve the problems which you need to address. Sales pipelines – and by the same end – sales cycles rarely run smoothly. The funnel can get clogged with pointless deals which are in a hurry going nowhere, deals which waste valuable sales time and money.
For that reason, it’s vital to thoroughly inspect your sales management CRM at least once a week – and even more regularly if possible – in order to identify existing or potential bottlenecks. If a lead has the appearance of going nowhere, then you’re most likely right, it probably is going nowhere and needs to be sorted and stored where it really belongs – in the bin, or at the very most, on a callback list for the future.
Critical analysis as to the real prospect of a lead needs to be undertaken. Will they buy or not? If you think the answer is no, then you’re back at the fork and soup feast and the lead needs to be dumped. Be 100% sure that the design of your sales stages are the correct ones for you, and that they can manage your sales activities in the correct manner; every time.
Keep things moving
Use your sales software to keep the process moving. Schedule follow-up connections, be they calls, emails or personal visits – using an intelligent Sales CRM such as Teamgate this whole process is fully automatable.
You can also set your CRM to ensure that any potential leads which have been a hogging a berth in your sales pipeline for too long are dealt with in the correct manner – binned or coaxed further towards the sale. Not only does this process save time, it also stops good leads from being swept under the carpet and becoming lost in the pipeline.
It’s good to talk
To fully understand the chances of qualifying a lead to a deal depends on the sales person fully understanding the needs of the lead, and the time it may take to qualification. To do this really effectively you need to communicate in a clear and productive manner.
You need to ask the right questions, at the right time; the key elements of healthy sales management. The better the conversation with your prospect the better you will understand the reality of their needs and the legitimate chance of progressing the lead through the stages of your pipeline.
To do this more easily the best salespeople tend to have a more organised and cleaner pipeline, with clearly set goals managed by effective planning and concise diary keeping.
If you think that your prospects may exceed the period of time which you’ve allocated for your normal sales cycle, a healthy conversation may be able to clear this up and shift the process along. At the very worst you will know exactly where you stand in real time.
Make success a habit
If you do something on a regular basis, it becomes the norm, and as a result becomes easier. That’s why cleaning up your sales pipeline and being an effective sales manager gives you the habit of being successful. A habit worth keeping, I think you’ll agree.
Schedule time – daily or weekly, whatever works best for you – to organise the pipeline in your Sales CRM. It’s easy to say, but sometimes more difficult to do, however, we all know it’s true, if you’re prepared for success then success is prepared for you.
It’s advised that you pencil-in at least 20 to 30 minutes per day to organise your CRM with tasks such as checking future appointments, backfilling information, recording thoughts and sales ideas and staying ahead of the posse. It’s a habit worth sticking to, and ultimately makes your sales life more productive, and may even offer you extra free time in your private life. Now that’s worth being organised for.
Take time to ask yourself the following questions:
- Are all my notes logged in the correct place?
- Is my Sales CRM fully up to date?
- Are my follow-up calls and meetings correctly logged?
- Are my stages up-to-date, clear, and easily readable in the system?
If you’re having trouble keeping up to date with your pipeline, don’t overlook the possibility that your whole pipeline may need to be rethought, rebuilt and modernised to suit any changes in your current sales process.
If it’s not moving it’s dead
Stagnation is the mortal enemy of a sales pipeline. For this reason, it’s in everyone’s interest to match your pipeline with the needs and expectations of your prospects and leads.
If you know what your prospects expect to be the next stage in the pipeline it becomes far easier to avoid any choking blockages which can stall the whole sales process. It’s up to you to know exactly each step required to make the deal possible.
If you have any doubts, ask your lead what they expect to happen next in the process, and keep tabs on these steps for the next time. It makes sense to know that Mrs. A has passed stage W, and now requires X to follow Y in Z space of time.
A stagnant sales pipeline is nothing more than an address book sitting on a desk and doing nothing to help you sell. Keep it clean, and keep it moving and you’ll reap the rewards. After all, who wants to eat soup with a fork?