How much attention do you really pay to your sales pipeline?
B2B sales can quickly get overwhelming, even for seasoned sales executives and their teams.
Juggling and keeping track of multiple accounts, allocating and optimizing your resources (budget and people), keeping a finger on the pulse of your team’s performance ... the list goes on. Before you know it, you find yourself making projections and assumptions that compromise your revenue targets.
According to this Harvard Business Review Study, there’s an 18% difference in revenue growth between businesses with a well-structured sales process and those without it.
An effective sales process requires a sharp focus on sales pipeline creation and effective management thereof. With a robust sales pipeline in place, you’ll side-step unwelcome surprises that can disrupt your sales process while adding a layer of accountability and transparency.
So, let’s consider the steps to success.
What is a Sales Pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a visual representation of your sales process. It shows the different stages a prospect goes through in their purchasing journey to ultimately becoming your customer.
The pipeline approach to sales makes it crystal clear at what point a prospect is in the sales cycle, in the transition from being just a lead to becoming your customer. Sales pipelines shed light on the total number of open deals and details regarding their conversion status.
If you’re a sales manager, a robust sales pipeline will allow you to eliminate the guesswork from your sales process. It gives you a snapshot view of the overall effectiveness of your sales process and your team members' performance. No flying blind when it comes to tweaking your sales strategies and allocating resources. You’ll have all the data you need at your fingertips.
A clear and coherent sales pipeline also allows salespeople to save time and prioritize their accounts without missing a beat.
While the stages within a pipeline will vary from organization to organization, most B2B sales pipelines will include the following basic phases:
- Prospecting stage – finding prospective buyers that fit your buyer persona
- Qualifying stage – sorting your leads into prospects (those most likely to buy) through a lead scoring process
- Contacting – first meeting with a prospect
- Relationship building/proposal – making a prospect comfortable and building trust before sharing your solution/service
- Closing – asking for a sale, handling objections, making concessions, and closing the deal
- Retention – making sure your customers are happy and nurtured in preparation for further sales offers
The best sales pipelines are data driven. This is where sales pipeline software comes in.
What is Sales Performance Management Software?
Sales pipeline management software are tools that help businesses plan their sales pipeline, keep track of the prospect conversion process from prospecting to sales close, identify inefficiencies, monitor sales reps’ performance, and pay incentives promptly.
These tools allow you to visually plan your sales territory priorities and quota allocations in alignment with your go-to-market strategy.
Sales pipeline software is designed to help you stay on top of every deal. It breaks down your sales pipeline into stages, giving you the visibility you need to effectively nurture leads and assign them a value based on your pre-set prioritization criteria.
Benefits of Sales Performance Management Software for your Sales Pipeline
SPM software includes features ranging from those that help you plan territory and quotas to monitoring deals and processing incentive compensation to true sales performance management.
Let’s take a closer look:
There’s a good reason why the first stage of a sales pipeline is also commonly referred to as “prospecting.” A great lead is “gold dust!” By applying rich customer data and records to identify your most strategic prospects, you can create a database of potential high-value customers. The ability to access historical customer data and view past purchasing history will alert you to customers who are due for purchase renewals.
The Age of Discovery
As your sales team follows up on leads, schedules meetings, and gets to the heart of a customer’s needs, much of that nervous pen-twiddling can be eliminated through the smart use of SPM software. With a territory planning solution, you can ensure that the correct resources are focused on specific areas at the right time. Using this functionality in tandem with a quota planning gives you peace of mind that your team is heading out into the field with a realistic number of leads to pursue.
Qualify – What’s the Deal?
The qualifying and evaluation stage involves both the customer and sales rep putting their cards on the table and starting to talk about offers. Confidence can only take a salesperson so far, which is why it makes sense to leverage the capabilities of sales pipeline software to back up the pitch. With accurate current and historical product sales figures at their fingertips, they'll be able to show the customer how well different products are performing and who is using them. They can back up their assertions with real-time data and easy-to-understand dashboards and analytics.
A Decent Proposal
During the intention and proposition stages of the sales cycle, both the customer and sales representatives seek a win-win outcome. Sales managers want peace of mind that the deal won’t be derailed, that the sales rep is still on track to close, and not losing motivation. SPM software gives everyone the level of visibility they need. It allows them to post queries from the field, stay connected, and ensure all parties are aligned with the wider sales strategy. The result? Sales managers can better manage their people’s performance and gauge their level of commitment.
Deal or No Deal
After all the legwork, everything in sales ultimately comes down to closing the deal. Sales pipeline software allows you to reap the benefits of fair and robust compensation scheme solutions. The satisfaction of getting a client to sign on the dotted line is that much sweeter if the sales rep has instant visibility of the associated commission and bonuses. On the other hand, should negotiations fall flat, supervisors can use sales performance management software to establish if there are any performance issues with an individual, whether there might be unfair quota expectations involved, or if the outcome was a result of poor territory management.
After the Honeymoon
Once the euphoria of the sale is over, you still need to deliver the product and maintain customer loyalty with a view to securing ongoing business. The sales pipeline may appear complete, but the funnel of opportunity needs to flow back to the beginning in preparation for the next cycle. Regular reporting and access to accurate customer databases help to maintain a healthy customer relationship. They also aid in territory management, ensuring that you don’t mistakenly try to conquer the same place twice. Meanwhile, the compensation plan solutions embedded in SPM software ensure your team remains fairly remunerated and therefore motivated.
Take Your Sales Pipeline to the Next Level
SPM software isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have tool for any sales team that wants to close sales faster and with ease. The holy grail of a sales pipeline is the data it holds. To boost sales, you need to turn this data into actionable insights.