How to Define a Pipeline Strategy for Financial Services

CRM Financial Services

Want to stay at the top of your game in the ever-changing landscape of financial services (FinServ for short)? You need a flawless pipeline strategy suited specifically to the industry.

With a strong pipeline, you can easily keep track of where every potential deal stands, from prospecting to underwriting and closing the deal.

We’re here to show you how to define yours using a CRM for financial services and in the financial sector.

Consider your pipeline from your customer’s point of view

As salespeople, we look at sales as a detailed process with dozens of touchpoints and activities we need to do. Your customers, on the other hand, just need a solution for a deep pain point.

And because you’re dealing with people’s money, insurance and loans, looking at your pipeline from their perspective is essential.

In their financial services study from 2017, Accenture emphasized a shift of control of customer relationships from financial providers to the consumers themselves. Consumers want to engage with you on their terms, and your pipeline must reflect it.

Throughout the buying process, customers face a series of specific decision points. They reveal new concerns and interests every time you talk to them.

By making full use of data from previous sales conversations and especially their turning points, you can get a holistic view of the customer’s perspective and use it to identify pipeline stages you can apply to your next prospect.

Ultimately, this sets you apart from your competitors who are still trying to dictate the terms of their customer relationships, and increases the likelihood of the customer sticking with you—enabling you to close that deal!

Think about the challenges and opportunities in your field 

Based on a survey of Pipedrive customers, the biggest sticking points across most financial services include moving deals forward, consolidating sales data and spending lots of time on manual admin tasks.

Your whole team needs an easy way to focus on actions that matter. This is where a CRM and a visual sales pipeline management comes in. With it, everyone gains immediate clarity and can work towards the same goals. By using the right tools in the right way, you can ensure that your sales team are always laser-focused on the most important leads and conversations.

By using insights gained from analyzing your customer’s point of view, you’ll probably find that you need an extra stage or two added to the generic pipeline stages, which are usually something like: Lead in > Contact made > Needs defined > Proposal made > Negotiations started.

For example, you might often be dealing with nervous, risk-averse buyers, so your pipeline might need a “reassure buyer” stage.

If that’s the case, this stage will include breaking down and simplifying the legislative implications of the service they’re buying from you. Your actions here could go in this order:

  1. Create a two-page PDF that explains the contract in simple terms and showcases a case study from a similar client who bought the same financial service package
  2. Schedule a 20-minute call or in-person meeting to go through the PDF and answer any new questions
  3. Follow up after no later than five days to move to the next pipeline stage

The clearer you can make your insights, the better. If you’re able to make them visually appealing and connect them to a pain point, your team are more likely to remember them. They’re also more likely to take this on board if they know the impact of each stage on their deals.

Discuss the stages with your team

Consider your pipeline from each team member’s perspective. Are some deals slipping through the cracks? Are there any pipeline stages missing from the picture? Run workshops to gauge the full picture from every team member.

This step matters because your team members will likely spot issues or unclear parts of your pipeline stages that you missed.

For example, they have the most precise insights into how long it takes to draft an investment policy statement, complete authorization, or receive complete account-opening documentation. You can add these insights into the length and number of your pipeline stages.

Your sales reps might have different habits and schedules when it comes to selling, so their perspective on your pipeline stages helps to keep various sales scenarios in mind.

Creating a sense of transparency in the process can help you get the best out of your sales team. 

Regularly follow up with your team to ensure best practice and that any inconsistencies are addressed early on. Figure out how well your sales team are performing right now, and identify how a well-defined pipeline can improve their performance going forward.

It’s also important for managers to determine how each individual member of the sales team is doing and determine where specifically they need help. Checking in to ensure everyone understands the tasks and activity required at each stage of your pipeline segment is equally important.

There’s no denying that the sales environment is high pressure, but by creating an inclusive environment you will make your salespeople feel valued, important and a key contributor to your plans and overall company goals.

Sales stages Financial Services

Check that your proposed stages work in all sales scenarios

List out all of your sales scenarios, including the financial products you sell and all types of prospects you sell to. Don’t be afraid to rename or remove stages as they become no longer relevant throughout this process.

Here are a few examples to get you started, whether you’re looking for a CRM in banking, or a CRM for financial advisors.

If you sell insurance, do your proposed pipeline stages work when selling home insurance, health insurance and life insurance?

If you sell mortgages, do they work for customers who go on to agree to 15-year terms as well as those who agree to 40-year terms?

Do they work equally well for first-time homebuyers as well as seasoned investors? With a CRM like Pipedrive you can set up different pipelines for different products, so you don’t necessarily need to rely on the same stages.

However, cross-selling is big business in financial services, as many financial institutions rely on repeat customers buying more than one product. Just make sure that, if you do intend to cross-sell financial products, you follow the regulations (unlike Wells Fargo, although this is an extreme example).

Once you have a list that covers the majority of sales scenarios your reps face in an average month, dive into role-playing these sales situations with them. The more you play out these conversations and potential objections, the better you’ll be able to identify specific areas where a pipeline stage is missing or needs to be removed.

This will also get your team to commit to the pipeline stages you’ve defined together—instead of forcing a process on them that they had no say in.

Revise the stages if they aren’t working

Your pipeline stages should be chosen to help you move deals easily through them and identify bottlenecks in your sales process. They also serve as a clear visual overview of where each lead is in the sales process and forecast the deals you’ll close and revenue you’ll win.

However, it’s important to revise your sales stages a month or two after you’ve defined them. Let’s say your pipeline for insurance products currently consists of these stages:

  • Target (early days, the lead has not yet been contacted)
  • Contacted (you’ve called or emailed your lead and they’ve potentially become a prospect)
  • Meeting agreed (you’ve agreed an agenda and a date in the diary)
  • Proposal sent (you’ve submitted a formal proposal with insurance policy terms)
  • Buyer reassured (you’ve sent a simplified policy breakdown and answered all their questions)
  • Close (time to get their signature on the bottom line)

After a month or two of working based on this pipeline, your reps have noticed that some leads get stuck in the ‘contacted’ stage. It takes them a while to agree to a formal meeting. Perhaps many prospects are saying that they have had negative experiences with insurance sales reps in the past, so they struggle to see the value in talking to you.

To tackle this issue, you can add a pipeline stage after contacting the prospect and before setting up a meeting: Value delivered. It could include a personalized video from you or an educational ebook that showcases your deep expertise on their financial situation.

Another scenario could see a delay after ‘proposal sent’. Perhaps your salespeople aren’t explaining the product as fully as possible. This isn’t uncommon: according to a survey, 72% of US adults find insurance language confusing.

You could add a pipeline stage after the proposal has been sent to schedule a call where your salesperson (or potentially someone in the product team) answers any of the prospect’s questions.

By updating your pipeline after your and your team’s initial experiences, you can keep tweaking it so that deals move easily and predictably through, increasing your team’s productivity and focus and, ultimately, their close rate.

Leads financial services

How long does it take to go from lead to customer?

CSO Insights revealed that 27% of salespeople say a long sales cycle is one of the biggest barriers to sales effectiveness. 

How long does it take your sales reps to work a deal? Also known as sales velocity, this helps you understand and improve the speed at which your sales team closes deals.

As a result, you can better forecast sales for all your financial products and your company’s revenue for any given timeframe. This helps teams across the company make decisions based on real data.

Why would you increase the sales velocity of your team? It’s simple: the less time your reps spend per deal, the more deals they can get through the pipeline over the same amount of time.

A well-defined pipeline will help your team close deals faster in two ways:

  • You’ll notice the common stages where prospects ask for “some time to think about it”. Ask yourself and your team: how many times does this happen, and in which pipeline stages?
  • You’ll know when it’s time to mark the deal as lost. The earlier you can do it, the sooner you can focus on prospective deals. Ask yourself and your team: in which pipeline stages do your prospects typically indicate they don’t need or want your financial product? What questions can you ask to be sure of this?

How long should a lead be at each pipeline stage?

After gauging the velocity of the entire deal, it’s time to consider the length of each pipeline stage.

In their 2018 Insurance Outlook report, Deloitte identified outdated application and underwriting processes among the key challenges for life and annuity insurers, costing them time and money.

It is taking customers too long to apply for life and annuity insurance products, and it’s taking underwriters too long to write up their policies.

Whichever financial product you sell, however, there could be pipeline stages that are slowing down your strategy.

Look at your pipeline stages and identify:

  • Points where regulations, procedures, tools and legal processes might prolong the pipeline stage
  • Stages where your leads could go quiet and show no activity

From here, list actions in each of these stages that you can take to ensure the deal doesn’t fall through the cracks. 

Can you simplify your application process and break it down into less complex terms for your customer? Which questions can you ask to identify they’re not losing interest, but are simply overwhelmed by the process or have some objections? List the answers you’ll want to hear in order to move them to the next stage.

With these questions and answers, your reps will know better how well their deals are progressing, the actions to take in each pipeline stage, when and how to follow up, and when to drop the lead altogether (and move onto a better one).

Which tools will help you efficiently manage your pipeline?

Everything we talked about up to this point is hard work. But that doesn’t mean you have to do all of it manually or all the time.

With these tools, you can automate repetitive tasks, manage your pipeline, and invest your time in relationships with your prospects. We’ve handpicked these tools specifically for financial services sales—and they all seamlessly work with Pipedrive, and with each other!

Kixie

Kixie is a phone solution that lets sales managers automatically keep track of calls their reps make.

In conjunction with Pipedrive, Kixie automatically syncs your deals with incoming and outgoing calls, so your sales team can have all the prospect information at hand.

On the flipside, sales managers can use lifetime call recordings to coach their agents and consistently improve their sales call techniques. In fact, 31% of people find it important to interact with a real person when getting investment advice.

In other words, monitoring and improving the way your team speaks to their prospects can make a huge impact!

Lemlist

What if your reps could personalize images and videos in their cold emails? With Lemlist, they can.

Money is an incredibly personal topic, and generic statements hardly perform well when your prospect has never heard from you before.

Selling insurance? Add a video or an image that connects real-life situations with insurance packages.

Selling wealth management? Personalize your email with a visualization of what a 401K program can look like in 30 years for your prospect.

With Lemlist’s integration with Pipedrive, you can engage your prospect with something that’s relevant and meaningful, increasing your chances of moving them into the next pipeline stage.

Klenty

You know how important it is to regularly follow up with your prospects and clients, send them regular updates, and track how engaged they are with you. But you also know that takes time… lots of it.

With sales engagement platform Klenty, you can automate these processes, so your customers can feel confident about their finances and you can scale your sales efforts.

Klenty is easy to integrate with Pipedrive and lets you import and export your contacts between the two tools.

Pipedrive Klenty Financial Services

Plecto

One study found that when you’re able to vividly picture your end goal, you’re more likely to achieve it than people who make weak connections with their goals. Your financial sales goals are no different.

In other words, you better have your sales goals front and center at all times if you want to turn them into reality.

With Plecto’s real-time dashboards, which can be linked to Pipedrive data, you can do exactly that. From recurring revenue to customer lifetime value, you can adjust your daily actions quickly, instead of waiting for big-picture weekly or monthly reports.

Xero

Xero is among the most powerful financial tools on the planet, and it will simplify and automate many of your tasks, from invoicing to cashflow.

Many financial services have integrated Xero into their own services, such as getting transactions into their customers’ Xero dashboards automatically.

When you integrate Xero and Pipedrive, you can create invoices from your Pipedrive deals, get updates on their status, and have a real-time view of your cashflow without involving your accountant.

Asana

A study by KPMG revealed that financial regulations made project management vital to all organizations. For financial services sales, compliance is essential.

With Asana, you can achieve exactly that. Asana is a project management software that helps your sales team, as well as the rest of the organization, to track progress and hit targets.

When integrated with Pipedrive, Asana creates new tasks when deal’s status changes in Pipedrive, so nothing ever slips through the cracks.

Slack

Slack enables immediate communication between team members on current deals. This means you can quickly provide feedback and assist your sales reps when they’re faced with a challenge.

With Pipedrive’s Dealbot for Slack, you can keep relevant team members up to date on the progress of a deal, as well as make it easier for your team to celebrate success.

For more on how these tools help your business, especially when integrated with Pipedrive, real our financial services sales stack article.

Conclusion

Ultimately, a healthy pipeline is crucial for a successful sales process. And, to manage that pipeline, you need a CRM, whether you’re in banking or looking for a CRM for financial services.

It’s more important than ever for financial institutions to adapt in order to stay ahead in the field and not get left behind in a notoriously competitive industry. 

By following this process and involving your team in it, you will create a healthy pipeline. This will make it easier to fill it with high-quality leads, move them through your sales process easily and hit (and exceed) your sales quota.

You’ll also be able to anticipate objections, as well as bottlenecks specific to selling financial services such as legal requirements and compliance.

You’ll no longer see these as obstacles because they’re now part of your well-defined sales process. You now know what to do about them and how long each step will take. As a result, you’ll go into your sales conversations more confident and get loyal customers as a result.

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