4 Guiding Sales Principles for Managing Your Pipeline
Managing your sales pipeline can be a daunting task. Whole CRMs have been built around the need for the sales process to be tracked and managed. How can you make handling your prospects and pipeline easier?
Follow these 4 guiding principles of pipeline management to help you get started:
Envision the most realistic, yet best-case version of an ideal pipeline which is based on your own sales ratios and experience. This will help you create a picture of the sales pipeline you need.
Remember to aim for perfection, but keep it realistic to yourself and your industry.
While some sales have extremely short sales cycles, your particular business might have a significantly longer one. Be aware of this when creating your model.
Also, take into account your specific ratios.
If it usually takes you 10 first appointments to close a deal, don’t expect that you’ll be able to cut that number down to 5. Recognize any tendencies you have in terms of perhaps sending proposals too early in the process and be sure to address them in your pipeline standard.
When you look at your current sales pipeline, what do you see?
Can you identify your weakest spots? Is any stage currently empty? Do you have too few first appointments or maybe too many proposals still pending over the average sales cycle length?
Compare your actual pipeline to your ideal version every week. You’ll be able to identify any discrepancies between the two as well as define key areas of strength and weakness to better understand your sales cycle and process.
Be meticulous in your comparison. It could mean the difference between missing and exceeding your goals.
3. Be Tough
The tougher your inspection process, the more likely you will be able to shed the weak opportunities and build a safe and likely path to your goal. Be your own hardest manager and best coach.
Remember: Gently inspecting non-specific goals is like building a paper boat -- no matter how strong it looks, it will fall apart before it takes you where you want to go.
So be sure you have a realistic amount of first appointments in order to ensure an accurate amount of forecasted closes. Stop yourself from sending proposals too soon in the process. Realize the cut off age for when a deal is actually dead. Be meticulous in qualifying to confirm that prospects should even be deemed as an opportunity.
It’s easy to try and be optimistic, but learn to be hard on yourself. The more fastidious you are, the higher your chances of success will be in the long-term.
Learn how to use your pipeline as your decisive sales coach. It might be telling you that you need to change your skills, your leads, your qualifying questions, etc.
Your pipeline is trying to tell you a lot so be sure you learn how to listen. Don’t ignore the lessons it will inevitably teach you.
Maybe you’ll find yourself going back to your model pipeline and making adjustments from time to time. This is completely normal and should be happening as you evolve.
Involve your manager in helping you assess your pipeline objectively. As difficult as it may be, try to remove yourself emotionally and become analytical as you observe what’s actually happening in your sales process. Often sellers believe every opportunity is the “exception” when unfortunately all too often, it’s the rule.
Don’t be afraid to shake things up and try new approaches in your selling journey -- you’ll be able to more clearly identify what works and what doesn’t when you’re willing to experiment.
Use these guiding principles and this particular pipeline management technique to grow, learn, and continuously improve upon your sales process.
About Steve Bookbinder
Steve Bookbinder is the CEO and sales expert at DMTraining. He has delivered more than 5,000 workshops and speeches to clients all over the world and has trained, coached, and managed more than 50,000 salespeople and managers. Steve continuously refreshes his training content to reflect his latest first-hand observations of salespeople across industries and regions. Through him, participants in his workshops and coaching sessions learn the best practices of today’s most successful sellers and managers across industries. Steve understands that sales is a competitive game. To outperform competitors and our own personal best results, we need to out-prospect, out-qualify, out-present and out-negotiate everyone else, not merely know how to sell. Through his specialty programs in Pipeline Management, Personal Marketing, Great First Meetings, 2nd-level Questioning, Sales Negotiating, and Sales Coaching, Steve trains sales teams to master the skills they need to overcome the challenges they face in today’s world… and keep improving results year over year.