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Managing your sales pipeline

Leigh House
Varley Street
LS28 6AN

Every sale you make has an origin, it may have come from a website enquiry, a referral, someone you met at networking, via a social post, even an ad in local press, or a hard won enquiry from a cold call that you have first researched … in fact everywhere you network or post content is a potential source of leads.

When I started out in sales we didn’t have the benefit of the many fantastic online tools (Yes, I’m old) Research was limited Yellow Pages! Adverts were either local press or industry specific publications, if budget was good we could maybe consider National Press or a billboard! To measure ROI we had to manually record the source of every sale, to find that source there were no analytics tools, it was simply a case of asking ‘where did you see our advert’ as, of course, sales were either face to face or via the phone.

History lesson over, thankfully technology has come to the rescue of the sales team, much as the CRM is one of the most hated tools of the modern sales department, it is also the most vital, not least because it is how you manage your sales pipeline.

However simple you want to make it your sales pipeline is your lifeline, the journey from no sales to smashing targets, those who understand this are already on the fast track to sales success.

You will of course treat each contact, in your pipeline, differently, it is important that your sales pipeline is aligned with steps to a sale:

  1. Awareness – They know you exist
  2. Interest – They like what you do
  3. Intent – They like and need what you do
  4. Consideration – You have presented, now they are considering purchase
  5. Decision – They buy or they don’t
  6. Client – They are now a client
  7. Client Management – They move in to a managed position, customer service takes over – Look for referrals and ensure retention

Let’s start with some basic rules to observe before you embark on creating your winning pipeline:

Know your Sources

However you are going to record data you must always know the source. Every good CRM will have a field for source, if you are using a spreadsheet (Which in line with GDPR, you really shouldn’t be) then make a column for source and complete this for every single record you enter. This is invaluable for monitoring ROI, how much do you spend on networking, does that convert in to sales, what % of your overall sales have you made from that event? How much do you spend on paid social, is that producing the return you need? It is not enough to simply mention ‘paid ads’ you need to record which ad, where it was placed, what key words. Don’t just record ‘Networking’ detail the actual event, so when you analyse your expenses over a year you can measure if the return is worthwhile, it would also be good to take in to account, not just the fees for an event but the time and cost of travel and your time in attending.

Agree terminology

This might seem obvious but it is important that everyone in your team is aligned in terms of what to call your leads at every stage. Here are some of the terms we use with our clients:

  • Cold to research – If you have bought some data or scraped from Google
  • Prospect – You have ascertained they could have a need for your product / service but not yet reached out – This is ‘Awareness‘ in the sales cycle
  • Warm Lead – You have engaged – This is ‘Interest‘ in the sales cycle
  • Hot Lead – You have presented – This is ‘Intent’ and ‘Consideration’ in the in the sales cycle
  • Client – This is on completion of a sale – ‘Decision’ in the sales process
  • Keep in touch – We use this for those who are interested but ‘not right now’ maybe they are in contract elsewhere, here is where a CRM is invaluable as you can make notes and set a task to call back at an agreed time


Create a strategy for managing your pipeline

When planning sales activity your sales pipeline is your ‘go to’ for both managing your time and for providing a snapshot of where your business is both now and in the coming months.

A useful exercise is to understand your typical sales cycle, look back over a previous period, understand how long it takes your business from initial enquiry to sale, this will also help you to understand how many leads are needed in each level of the pipeline.

So, if the cycle is short you need to focus on keeping a good flow of leads coming in cold and in the prospect stage, if your sales process is longer or more complex then focus on moving from warm lead to hot lead. Word of warning, don’t let activity tail off towards the latter stages of the cycle, clearly this is the most important, don’t let that sale slip by for the sake of topping up the cold prospects.

If you would like to know more about how your sales pipeline fits in to your overall sales strategy, you can book on to our Take our Sales Pipeline Scorecard or contact us to discuss your specific needs.

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