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tips for sales pipeline management
8 Valuable Ways to Increase Sales Cycle Speed
Here are 8 ways to accelerate closing pipeline sales:
1. Score Your Leads.
Evaluating leads as they come in will help accelerate your sales pipeline. If a lead has a serious interest, an immediate need for your product or service, as well as the authority to make a decision and allocate the budget, it’s a well-qualified, high-scoring lead and should be ushered into the CRM pipeline immediately.
However, spending time on leads isn’t enough to accelerate the sales pipeline. You need to spend your time with the right leads. That way, you avoid jamming the pipeline with deals that aren’t ready. Putting qualified leads that are actually expected to move through the process will also increase your forecasting accuracy.
Jason Jordan of Vantage Point has done extensive research of sales metrics and wrote Cracking the Sales Management Code. Jordan emphasizes the importance of training reps to qualify customers before adding them to the pipeline. The pipeline will be tighter, he says, but will generate more sales. When only quality opportunities in the pipeline, “[Your sales reps will] spend less time chasing junk and more time actually working on real deals,” Jordan explains.
2. Nurture the Leads that Aren’t Ready.
Don’t clog up your pipeline with leads that aren’t ready to buy. Create a separate list of casual browsers and those who don’t expect to purchase in the foreseeable future. These are the clients that should be seen as leads that need to be nurtured. This speeds up the pipeline sales because it allows reps to focus on the well-qualified leads.
Studies have found that 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales. This practice slows down the sales process because sales pipeline tracking is difficult when unqualified leads are entered into the mix. The same study explained that only 27% of those B2B leads will actually be qualified.
But don’t despair if not every lead is a quality lead. Lead nurturing produces 20% more sales opportunities.
3. Have a Well-Defined Sales Process
Early in the sales process, your business should identify potential pain points, obstacles which may prevent the sales. Jordan’s research has shown that companies with a well-defined sales process show 18% more revenue than companies with an informal sales process. Your sales process, says Jordan, should mirror your buyers’ process. Each step in the sales process should show incremental commitment.
To define a good sales process and gain incremental commitment, sales managers need to commit the time to discuss the pipeline with their frontlines.
4. Manage the Pipeline with CRM
Along with a well-defined sales process, sales managers need to carefully manage the pipeline, an activity which is more than simply looking at daily or weekly reports. Jordan says sales pipeline management is looking at the sales pipeline and asking ‘what can I do differently today to win more deals?’
5. Coach Sales Reps
Using CRM reports to understand and analyze data gives sales managers the information needed to coach. Good sales coaching ISN’T passing a sales rep in the hall and saying, “How are things going?” Good coaching ISN’T saying, “Let’s get out there and make more sales” (even if it’s done in an enthusiastic voice). Good coaching IS drilling down into the CRM pipeline reports with your reps and planning specific steps for each deal in the pipeline.
6. Spend More Time with Customers by Reducing Email Time
The average person checks their email 30 times every hour. While a fast way to communicate, emails are also a time vampire, sucking away precious time that could be spent with customers. Jill Konrath, author of three award-winning books on selling says composing and answering emails can take up nearly 28 hours per week.
Sales are made when reps spend time with customers instead of on administrative duties. To spend less time on email, train your sales department to schedule specific times to check and respond to email. It’s amazing how many more deals salespeople can close when they actually spend their time selling. Streamlining the email processes speeds up your sales cycle by freeing up time to focus on the deals in the pipeline.
7. Spend More Time with Customers by Reducing Staff Meetings
he most critical asset you have in your organization is your salespeople’s time. Time is the only asset that is limited,” says Mark Hunter. Hunter wrote the book High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price. Hunter explains how productivity is gouged by too many meetings. He explains that one of the most significant changes an organization or a salesperson can make is to increase time spent with clients. Recommending measuring the time spent either on the phone or face-to-face with a client. Hunter states that this metric should increase every quarter and every year. As a way to continue to measure that client goals are being met.
8. Automate Where Possible
Look at the various stages of the CRM pipeline and decide which tasks can and should be automated. Automating sales activities help in both lead scoring and in improving the sales process, ensuring that leads are not ignored or forgotten. When automating lead nurturing activities such as email campaigns and follow-ups, users have shown a 14.5% increase in sales productivity. Now sales reps can spend more time concentrating on well-qualified leads.
Accelerating the sales pipeline process is about knowing which leads to enter in the pipeline and which leads to nurture. Accelerating the sales process is also about defining your company’s sales process, coaching reps, and managing the pipeline. The other key to achieving the sales cycle speed you’re after is in finding time-saving ways to help reps have more face time with their customers.
Use the tips mentioned above to improve and quicken your sales process. Harvard University estimates that over 25% of sales cycles take 7 months or longer to close. Keeping that in mind, do not get discouraged if the process takes too long, continue to hone and improve the cycle to get to your optimal productivity level.