The Comprehensive Guide to Pipeline Management

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Streamlining your pipeline management process can help you to manage your sales and increase the growth of your business. Start selling more products, faster!

The Comprehensive Guide to Pipeline Management

Simply put, the sales pipeline is a visual snapshot of the entire sales process from generating leads to closing the sale.
It allows managers to keep track of current prospects and forecast revenue. These activities are integral to business success, but applying them in practice can be tough.

To elevate sales performance, the pipeline needs to be three things: carefully planned, put into practice, and constantly monitored.

The good news is that there is a surefire method to make it happen. Pipeline management refers to the process of tracking and handling sales opportunities across different stages. It hinges on the conversion of valuable data into effective sales pipeline strategies.

If this sounds like a lot to handle, that’s because it is. But, don’t worry. Here’s a guide on how to manage sales like a pro and drive them to a close.

Drawing a Pipeline Management Roadmap

The sales pipeline is a visual benchmark for current performance as well as a knowledge pool for future endeavors.

It positions prospects according to the stage of their buying journey. As such, it enables you to find, qualify, and eventually close sales. It brings you closer to meeting your business goal of driving more sales and revenue.

There’s just one problem.

Managing the pipeline is hard work. So, before doing anything else, map out the entire sales process.

Make sure you have a set of standardized, formal sales practices in place. Identify concrete actions team members need to perform in order to move to the next stage of the pipeline. Know what to remove from the system, what prospects to focus on, and what goals to pursue.

Depending on your business specifics, you will divide the pipeline into stages.

Six of the most common stages are:

  • Prospecting/lead generation
  • Qualification
  • Proposal
  • Post Proposal
  • Commitment
  • Sale close

Channeling the Power

Filling the pipeline with leads is the starting point.

This means that customer decision making is our first area of interest. After all, the buying process lays the groundwork for the sales process, and not the other way around. Modern sales managers always have to keep customer needs in mind.

They need to find the problems people face and then address them promptly. This consumer-centric approach lets them reach out to the right prospects at precisely the right time.

Note that you can use account-based marketing (ABM) to figure out who the decision makers are. This tactic requires you to work out an ideal account profile and build a prospects list. The goal is to find a specific group of accounts and target them with personalized campaigns.

Furthermore, modern buyers conduct quite a bit of research before contacting sales reps. Your job is to get familiar with the resources they use and cast your net. In other words, you need to pick your interaction channels.

Across industries, major touch points include:

  • Email
  • SEO
  • Social Media
  • Telemarketing
  • Online Ads
  • Retargeting
  • Content Syndication
  • Direct mail

There aren’t many hard rules when it comes to selection.

Some channels make more sense than others in various stages of the pipeline. For instance, social media and content marketing are great tools in the prospecting phase. They work well in combination with data-backed segmentation of leads.

But, Facebook or Twitter are less effective when catering to an older population that favors print media.

Tools of the Trade

Once you have drawn up the pipeline with all its elements, you can start tooling up.

And when we say that, we mean harnessing the power of modern technology.

There are various solutions that automate marketing and make your life easier. For instance, employing customer relation management (CRM) software is a must. It’s the most efficient method of overseeing and directing sales in a digital age.

Take the example of Salesforce, a solution for customer data management and relationship building. One can use it to export, import, and clean data with a few clicks. And as a cloud-based solution, it involves minimum implementation and maintenance requirements.

Along similar lines, we have suites such as Hubspot. They are fully-featured platforms that integrate sales, CRM, and marketing tools. They automate marketing for lead generation, supercharging your acquisition and retention strategies.

There are also more specialized options to ponder. MailChimp is one of the best email management tools many enterprises use to tailor campaigns. The beauty is it doesn’t require any coding or design experience.

When going about purchasing tools, don’t get ahead of yourself. Falling for the shiniest new solution isn’t the way to go.

Assess the tools for compatibility with the systems you already have in place.

Metrics for Good Measure

Our next chief task is related to establishing the metrics for monitoring the pipeline. This is the key to refining the pipeline based on data and insights you accumulate over time.

The first one to bring to the equation is the sales velocity.

This is the indicator of the time it takes for a deal to move from one stage to another. The longer an opportunity lingers in the pipeline, the less likely it is to convert. Therefore, make an effort to increase this metric.

Take into account total deal volume, size, and revenue. These metrics enable you to boost the number of opportunities, increase their size, and maximize the amount of revenue they produce.

Beyond this holy trinity, some other indicators to consider are:

  • Overall conversion rate
  • Stage conversion ratio
  • Overall cycle length
  • Forecasting accuracy
  • Dollar/account shortfall

Across all metrics, the purpose remains the same. You have to gather data from past sales to understand how to adapt the pipeline for the future. Manage to do better today than you did yesterday.

On Top of the Management Game

Pipeline management revolves around continuous fine-tuning of the sales process.

On paper, it’s a visual abstraction that you have to translate into business practice.

To make it happen, gain a deeper understanding of the customer buying journey. Rely on available data instead of gut instinct. Inform every aspect of the pipeline and streamline processes for clog-free performance.

You should have some success employing the tried-and-tested tools and tactics we presented. But if you fall shy of your objectives, feel free to contact us to make the most of tech tools and channels out there.

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