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How to Get Your Sales Pipeline to Flow And Grow
Managing your pipeline lets you catch tiny problems before they become big.
How do you build a healthy sales pipeline?
We touched on this earlier, but you find out if someone is a good fit for your product by qualifying the lead. The sales rep’s job is to then qualify those leads, meaning to figure out which ones are worth pursuing further. Each company will have different criteria for what counts as a good lead, with many companies even using a lead scoring system to prioritise leads based on how likely they are to purchase. For example, at Salesforce, our lead scoring system is powered by artificial intelligence to automatically prioritise leads based on CRM data.
Common questions you should ask when qualifying leads:
- Does this lead have a need for our solution?
- Do they have a budget for our solution?
- Is this lead in a decision-making position?
These questions are important as you don’t want stagnant leads clogging up your pipeline and throwing off your sales forecast.
"Ask the right questions," says Cian Mcloughlin, CEO at Trinity Perspectives. "Intelligent and ongoing discovery questions throughout the sales cycle, coupled with active listening, objection handling and problem-solving skills are key to hitting your forecast. You’ll be judged on the quality of the questions you ask, so ask great questions!"
Lead nurturing uses a strategic plan for figuring out what buyers find valuable throughout their relationship with your company, and then delivering it to them at the appropriate time. By delivering personalised content at the right time, you can incentivise the buyer to continue the relationship until they have enough information to make a purchasing decision.
There are multiple ways to accomplish this, but a common one is email nurturing. It’s cost-effective and easy to automate with email marketing tools like Pardot. You can send leads relevant content, whether it’s blogs, videos, white papers, or e-books, and email marketing tools allow you to track how long a prospect is engaging with the material.
Other forms of nurturing can include direct mail, follow-up calls, or social media marketing. No matter how you do it, it’s important to keep the water warm with consistent follow-up and outreach since prospects typically won’t make a purchase during their first interaction with you.
Guiding prospects down the pipeline until they’ve become customers is known as conversion. For each interaction you have with a prospect, be thinking of next steps. Focus and persistence are key when it comes to moving the conversation forward. Follow up, ask for feedback, and make use of a CRM so you can supervise prospects at each stage. If you’re in a position to do so, you can also offer discounts and incentives to give prospects a nudge.
Much of what happens at the end is decided by what you do at the beginning. If you’ve laid successful groundwork in qualifying and nurturing leads, this third step should flow naturally.
How do you evaluate a sales pipeline?
Now that you know how to make a healthy pipeline, how do you check to see if you’re doing it right? A good pipeline will have high sales velocity, a short sales cycle length, and a high conversion rate. How can you get a handle on these metrics? Well, keep reading because data points like these can paint a clear picture of where your pipeline is at.
A pipeline needs accurate data on prospects in order to be meaningful. This data can change minute to minute, which is why it demands constant monitoring. By tossing dirty data and adding updates whenever a new lead comes in or a prospect progresses to another stage, you’ll keep your pipeline well-oiled. At Salesforce, we use dashboards in Sales Cloud to visualise the pipeline and see which stage deals are in.
How do you work with reps to improve the sales pipeline?
Your CRM should be your best friend when it comes to measuring and managing your sales pipeline, but don’t underestimate the importance of frequent communication with your reps. While maintaining clean data in your CRM is critical to a healthy sales pipeline, pipeline reviews are just as important.
Regular pipeline reviews, when managers and reps discuss the status of pending deals one-on-one, are usually a source of dread. But sales teams should instead see reviews as an opportunity to realign goals (if necessary) and get additional coaching. When properly done, pipeline meetings can accomplish several things:
- Create a system of accountability for both sales reps and sales managers
- Establish action items and deal priorities with a specific timeline
- Confirm the exit criteria for every pipeline stage
Most importantly, managers have to practice empathy and patience in order to build trust with reps. This allows reps to better learn from mistakes, improves morale, and ultimately boosts productivity.
“As a sales leader, perhaps your number one job is to identify areas of friction in the sales process," says Mcloughlin. "You know the type: slow pricing turnaround, lengthy legal delays, generic tender responses that take too long to prepare. Removing these kinds of obstacles will automatically speed up sales and make a huge difference in the lives of your sales team.”