Sales Pipeline Management: Best Practices

Sales Pipeline is a known phrase in Sales Terminology.

The Sales Pipeline is a great way to measure progress inside sales teams with easy access to data and possible flaws.

Managing your pipeline properly is one of the most effective ways to improve results.

This is a guide to the best practices for managing your sales pipeline.

First off, what is a sales pipeline?

A sales pipeline is a visual representation of a sales team’s progress.

It documents each prospect and where they are in the purchasing process.

You can also see how close each rep is to reaching quota, forecast account development, and other aspects which might be extremely helpful.

You can think of the sales pipeline as a compilation of each prospect’s sales funnel with extra details to visualize where prospects originated from and critical details from your first interaction.

There are many tools you can use to manage your pipeline (we’ll dig into some options below), but using the right tool doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.

It’s really important to have your whole team aligned on how to effectively use the sales pipeline and how to identify possible flaws.

sales pipeline example

Why should I pay attention to my pipeline?

Managing your sales pipeline is key to understanding, analyzing and improving sales in your company.

From each step in the pipeline, you can visualize and compare progress - between prospects and also between reps.

This means you can understand what drove customers to purchase; and when customers don’t, it’s easier to understand why.

This is why sales pipeline management is a vital part of sales enablement and can lead to insightful sales coaching.

Imagine analyzing your pipeline and learning that prospective customers from smaller companies aren’t purchasing your products or services, even though you believe the product is the perfect fit offered at the right price. To understand why these prospects aren’t buying, you can review the scripts in your pipeline to better understand what objectionss prospects may be making. After performing this type of analysis, you may conclude that additional sales training or coaching can solve your problems.

Steps to Perfect Sales Pipeline Management

1) Use the right tool.

There are great options for pipeline software available in the market, but in order to find the right one, you should look for which tool solves your company’s most pressing problems. Even though some tools may be more popular than others, consider your biggest pain points and budget before committing to a platform.

Some options you should consider:

Pipedrive

pipedrive pipeline management
  • Free 30-day trial
  • $12 per month
  • Mobile app available for iOS and Android
  • High-rated customer support

Pipedrive is both a popular and high-quality choice. Its visual, intuitive design is attractive, all the most pertinent information is readily available. This platform is great for small to mid-sized companies. Read review

Salesforce

salesforce pipeline management
  • Free trial available
  • Starting at $5user per month
  • Compatible with iOS and Android

A leader in Customer Relationship Management, Salesforce is another great option . Salesforce also offers solutions for both small businesses and large enterprises. Read review

InfusionSoft

infusionsoft pipeline management
  • Contact for pricing
  • Small businesses specialty

Built exclusively for small businesses (most success cases are from companies with 2-10 employees). Read review

Base

base pipeline management
  • 14-day free trial
  • Starting at $15 per month
  • Compatible with iOS and Android

Designed to work on mobile devices, which is great if you’re constantly on the go. Base is ideal for better for product-focused companies more-so than services-focused companies. Read review

2) Align your pipeline to your customer’s point of view; not yours.

As we said before, your sales pipeline is a visual representation.

The way you organize your process steps and visualize your data is important.

By aligning your perspective to of your customer’s, you’ll be able to better visualize where your best opportunities lie.

sales funnel
When building your Sales Pipeline, use your Funnels as a view into your prospect's process.

3) Utilize the right metrics

Properly defining what analytics are most important will be imperative to getting the most out of your sales pipeline. Using data from successful cases, such as average won deal size and won deal age, you’ll be able to identify what opportunities have the highest likelihood to close and what opportunities aren’t worth your time. Tracking data from unsuccessful cases can also help you determine root causes for unsuccessful closes. Below are a few ways to measure your performance in your sales pipeline:

  • Measure by each rep:

Analyzing by rep will get you updated on their skills.

Some of them might be better at earlier stages, but could be lacking in the later stages,  - or vice versa.

Either way, your pipeline can help in that research.

Effective sales management means understanding sales at an individual level; which starts by better understanding your team members.

  • Measure by value:

The number of opportunities is important, but so is value. Understanding how valuable your pipeline has been is important for effectively managing your progress.

  • Measure by comparison:

Compare your current pipeline to your average one, current month to previous and so on.

You can only know whether things are improving when you put one data next to another.

4) Set your priorities.

Taking from the last item: you have to find out where your team wins.

To set priorities, make sure you always answer these questions:

  • Which deals are most likely to close?
  • Which prospects need a different approach?
  • How long is your sales cycle?

Those answers will help you defining the ideal length for your cycle, new approaches for lost deals and your strike zone.

The strike zone is where you’re most likely to win.

Knowing your strike zone is essential for any company.

Once you’re familiar with it, your reps are more easily guided onto winning deals and your company’s name gets more concrete in that market.

Beware! Your strike zone can change, as markets and technology change as well. While you may be selling perfectly in a certain sector, some other could be even better for you.

Pay close attention to such possibilities.

5) Know your pipeline flow.

Understanding all previous steps is vital to know your pipeline flow.

Your flow consists of:

Opportunities Created > Opportunities Lost

If you guide yourself by those metrics, you prevent your pipeline from shrinking.

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