The Sales Pipeline is a veritable playground for any Sales Manager, but, many don’t know how to play the game of Sales Pipeline Management.
I’ve become increasing interested to understand how effective Sales Managers are in translating the data in their Sales Pipeline into meaningful actions that lead to more sales.
You would have seen research from CSO insights and the Alexander Group that highlights the percentage of B2B sales professionals reaching full quota.
This trend is alarming & there are many other factors impacting this including:
- B2B Sales Professionals are not adapting their sales approach to the buyers journey.
- Marketing creating low quality insight & misdirect their customer value propositions.
- Sales Managers do not have the skills to effectively control a sales pipeline to drive more successful sales outcomes.
So lets spell it out:
The objective of Pipeline Management is to measure the effectiveness & efficiency of your sales process, enabling you to optimise the time spent in each stage of the sales cycle.
Sales Managers are accountable in your organisation to do that & need to be skilled enough to perform this activity.
It is therefore critical that Sales Managers fully understand what is required of them to have an impact on sales outcomes & deliver on that accountability.
Why do I say Sales Managers don’t know how to “play” Pipeline Management?
Let me give you two statistics that were presented at the 2017 B2B Sales Summit in London that I believe indicate loose pipeline practices in a business:
- 50% of sales time is spent on deals that never close
- 3.2x more sales time is spent on deals that don’t close.
This conversation gave me a real insight on what are the most impactful things a Sales Manager must do to win the Sales Pipeline Management game.
Sales Pipeline Control Points (leading)
- Awareness: You must have an overview of all your open sales and as a result you are able to recognise & guide effort to the right priorities. Not all customers are the same. If you are treating all your customers the same you are failing to target prospects based on their value to your business.
- Assessment: You must know where you are you in each deal. You will have lots of opportunities in the sales pipeline, but feel that you are not able to manage your prospects and sales activities to effectively complete the sales process.
- Contact Strategy: In B2B sales, there will be several different decision makers and influencers involved at some point. You need to be know where each of them are in the buying cycle & what strategy you have to move them through the cycle to the next stage. The likelihood is the more expensive the product or service you are selling, the more complex the buying team gets.
- Strategy to win: Start with the strategy to win this piece of business, then you need to be clear on the tactics you will use to deliver this specific opportunity & then follow with a set of specific actions that move each of these opportunities forward. Take a look at these 6 core strategies to win.
- A clear value proposition: Ensure that you have a strong value proposition. Without it your deal will have a low probability of success & your customer will not see the value of change. Worse they might see the value of change but just not with you.
Sales Pipeline Impact Points (lagging)
- Data Accuracy: Ensure that the accuracy & the quality of the data in your sales pipeline is in place throughout each opportunities sales cycle. A sure fire way to make this happen is by demonstrating to the Account Manager the value in keeping the data accurate by using it in performance reviews & all reporting.
- Win Rate: Know your sales pipeline numbers & knowing what to do to improve them is what will drives sales. What number of prospects do you need in your pipeline to make your quota? What are your rates through each stage of the sales cycle? Where does attention need to be placed to increase your Win Rate?
- Slippage: Have realistic date & time stamps to ensure your sales professionals don’t keep re-stamping stage commitment dates. This messes up the pipeline numbers we just talked about above & shows an unwanted sales behaviour. Using “slippage” data will help you focus your coaching to improve the sales cycle time.
- Stage Velocity: In order to make the right decisions, you need to be in full control of your sales process, know your customer history and how long it takes you to move a lead from prospect to customer. If you don’t have this kind of visibility of your sales pipeline you will fail to shorten your sales cycles. If your sales cycles are too long, the problem could be that you have a “leak” somewhere in your sales pipeline.
- Opportunity Advancement: It’s all about moving the opportunity forward & seeing that the owner of the opportunity is making progress. Is the customer moving closer to making a buying decision and a buying decision with your company. This is a key measure of success.
These Control Points & Impact Points will lead to more successful sales outcomes and make your Sales Managers masters of the Sales Pipeline Management game!
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Steve Knapp is the Founder and Owner of Steve Knapp Sales & Corporate Director in the Association of Professional Sales. With 30+ years of B2B successful sales, sales management and sales leadership experience. Steve created The 5 Principles of Sales Excellence & has used this to drive sustained sales performance in one of the most successful companies in the world. To discuss your sales requirements contact Steve on [email protected]