5 Best Sales Pipeline Management Practices

01-29-2019

What is pipeline management really about?
The term pipeline management gets thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean in practical use? In short, its how you go about keeping your sales process running smoothly and growing predictably. Strong pipeline management is an extremely effective way to increase your revenue as it keeps your team performing at their maximum level and allows leadership to continuously push their sales process forward. This article is a list of the five best sales pipeline management tips that every sales executive should use.

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1. Fall in Love with Pipeline Metrics

Rule number one is to fall in love with the pipeline management metrics. Without a strong foundation of data, you’ll never be able to scale with any kind repeatable success. Teams that are data-centered and love letting the numbers guide them will see greater success in every role on the sales team, from sales representatives to vice presidents. Here is a list of basic sales pipeline management metrics that should be common knowledge across your team:

  • New leads by source
  • Conversion rate of every deal stage
  • Average Closed-Won Deal Size
  • Average Sales Cycle Length by stage
  • Total # of Open Opportunities by rep

Even with just these basic pipeline metrics your sales managers will be equipped to spot deal risk and coaching areas. Your reps will always be able to understand the quality of their pipeline and forecast their performance more accurately. Lastly, your executives will be able to see the impact of sales process initiatives by having a clear baseline across all major areas.

 

2. Regular Sales Pipeline Reviews

Pipeline reviews meetings are your chance to understand life on the front lines. The critical insight your sales reps and front-line managers have is absolute gold, especially to sales teams that are just starting to catch their groove and are looking to double down on growth.

However just as with actual gold, it usually takes hard work to mine. Treat every minute of pipeline review time with the highest respect and be ready to aggressively set the tone for what level of communication you expect. Short answers and generalizations are not going to cut it here. Learning how to run sales pipeline meetings that are both engaging and electrifying will pay off for your revenue growth big time.

 

3. Focus on Improving Each Deal Stage Individually

One of the biggest advantages to breaking up your deals into stages is so that you can focus on improving each individual part of the journey. Instead of thinking “ABC – Always Be Closing” you should be thinking “ABI – Always be Improving”.

Compare your rep’s conversion rates in each stage monthly and have the best performer of each stage talk about what they do in that specific stage. You’ll be surprised how often small things such as “I always send a meeting scheduler link included with our X email just in case” are actually hidden gems of repeatable best practice. Remember, if all your reps increase conversion rates by just 5% in two early deal stages, it can potentially result in up to a 50% increase in the total number of deals closed.  

 

4. Keep Your Sales Pipeline Extremely Clean

Treat your pipeline with the same love and care as you would a brand-new Ferrari. Stalled deals are the dirt and grime of your sales team and sales reps are usually hesitant to clean them out because “it still COULD close”. This quickly clogs up your pipeline, makes it difficult to know where you are actually at, and reduces your rep’s ability to focus on the right deals. Therefore, commit to cleaning out your pipeline every month, learn the anatomy of stalled deals, and keep your sales process engine running at maximum effectiveness.   

 

5. Create Role Specific Sales Playbooks

All sales reps and managers can benefit from having an up-to-date sales playbook. It’s proof that your process is repeatable and acts as the first line of aid to your team when they feel challenged. Tips, tricks, and techniques that have worked in the past are all extremely valuable tools for increasing the performance of your team across the board. It’s not only for sales reps either, front-line sales managers should have their own playbook as well that focuses on helping both the deals and their reps.

During your regular pipeline reviews, make sure to bring up the playbook as a topic every time and give people the chance to provide feedback on the tactics inside. Ask which were used since the last review meeting and what the result was and then ask if there is anything that should be added or changed.  Your playbook also increases the sales process compliance of your sales team, as it prevents people from going rogue when they feel like they have hit a wall.

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