Those with some sales experience know that sales is a numbers game. But how come sales results change so much even after you’ve defined your sales stages and calculated your conversions? How do you tell if your pipeline is healthy? Besides the obvious question (Am I hitting my sales target?) here are five key questions to ask yourself:
1. Do I have enough prospects at each stage of the pipeline?
A healthy pipeline will have prospects at each stage. It may sound obvious, but if you focus all your activities on closing deals in the later stages, without filling the pipeline at the beginning, you’ll be left high and dry once those deals have closed.
I like to know that I have deals in each stage that can realistically be moved onto the next stage, and keep the pipeline moving. How much is enough? If your stage-to-stage conversion rate is 50% then “enough deals” is based a ratio of 8:4:2:1 for each stage. You can use the sales pipeline calculator to find the exact numbers for you.
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2. Is my pipeline moving?
A pipeline needs to flow. If a deal stays too long at one stage, chances are it’s not going to progress or close. Take a hard look at the deal and either qualify it or move it to a separate nurture stream.
If deals stay in one stage longer than you expect, it’s time to sort them out. Move any deals that feel “lukewarm” into your nurture stream, leaving behind deals that will continue to flow through the pipeline. Don’t waste your time on deals that look like they’ve stalled.
3. Do I have enough leads at the first stage to hit my target?
The top of the funnel is no one’s favorite place to be working – we all want to be closing deals. But the top of the funnel requires special attention. Back in my active sales days I developed some habits that helped me keep my funnel topped up. My early stage was called “ideas” – these were people whom I had yet to contact but thought I had a good proposition for. I kept a list of these and jotted new ones down when I thought of them. I liked to keep this list topped up – at least 20. If a qualified lead came in as a referral, great. If not, I had my own list I could tap into.
4. Do I know which deals to focus on?
I know I won’t close every deal in my pipeline. I’d like to think I could do that, but experience tells me otherwise. Some salespeople have a scattershot approach and chase everything that moves. The best salespeople set qualification criteria and rigorously apply these at each stage. They know which deals to focus on and have a better idea of how many are likely to close and how many will drop out at each stage. Qualify, qualify, qualify.
5. Is my pipeline accessible and up to date?
A healthy pipeline should be open and visible to everyone in the sales process. You must keep it up to date and regularly review it – or it’s worthless. I’ve found there’s often an added benefit to having a central view of the sales pipeline – a bit of healthy competition within the team. It also means the team can leverage other people’s connections, if needed.
If your pipeline is visible across your business, there are fewer places to hide any failure to update information or keep on top of deals. Check out Pipedrive if you don’t yet use sales management software. It sports a handy sales dashboard among other things.
Attending to sales pipeline health is equally important. After all, a healthy business depends on a healthy pipeline. If you can answer yes to the majority of questions above, chances are you’re in pretty good shape.