How to map and maintain your sales pipeline
Now that it’s built, there’s a lot more to maintaining your sales pipeline than simply entering details about your daily activities (though that’s important, too).
Here are the four most important actions you’ll need to take to keep your pipeline functioning smoothly:
- Make use of key pipeline metrics
- Monitor and fix unhealthy sales measurements
- Update sales stages as needed
- Help your team manage their individual pipelines
Let’s see how these four activities form the cornerstones of a solid pipeline maintenance plan.
1. Using sales pipeline metrics
Using key sales metrics, like the ones listed below, will help you keep an eye on how your pipeline is performing. Ideally, you should generate figures for your process as a whole and for each separate sales stage.
- Number of deals. Knowing how many qualified opportunities are in your pipeline at any time, and where they are, enables you to determine the health of your sales process
- Value of deals. Adding up the total value of all the deals in your pipeline gives you insight into your potential revenue and whether you’re on track to meet your sales quotas
- Deal size. Dividing the total value of your deals by the number of deals in your pipeline reveals the average size of your sales contracts. From there, you can figure out approximately how many deals you need to meet your sales revenue targets
- Deal close rate. Knowing the average percentage of active deals your sales team closes will help you identify training opportunities and estimate monthly, quarterly and annual income
- Sales velocity. Your sales velocity is how long it takes, on average, to turn a qualified lead into a customer. Knowing how long a deal usually lives in your pipeline before it’s won highlights where sales process improvements can be made
Because every sales professional’s pipeline changes on a regular basis, metrics like these serve as invaluable benchmarks for monitoring current results and predicting future sales trends at any given time.
2. Dealing with unhealthy measurements
Using a dedicated CRM tool will give you access to built-in sales pipeline metrics that you can, and should, review regularly.
Not only will conducting pipeline health spot-checks allow you to track performance measurements over time, but it will also help you to:
- Recognize when a metric is off
- Take steps to correct or improve it
- Evaluate the impact of changes or improvements you’ve made
One common sign of an unhealthy pipeline, for example, is having too many unresolved deals in play.
While there’s a clear benefit to generating as many qualified leads as possible, without an organized, efficient pipeline, many of those leads will stagnate—especially if you’re juggling so many deals that it’s not clear where you should prioritize your time.
When you can see where all your leads stand, you’ll be less likely to miss out on potential sales. The best way to keep your pipeline organized is by cleaning it with three simple steps:
- Pinpoint lethargic leads. Consult your sales velocity metrics to identify leads that have spent more than the average amount of time in your pipeline or at a specific stage
- Decide on the best course of action. Use your best judgment to decide whether or not to remove sluggish leads
- Do a final follow-up. Before permanently removing a lead from your pipeline, get in touch by email to reevaluate their interest. Consider keeping those with potential and adding those without to a list for future follow-up
Staying alert to unhealthy metrics will also help you expose and jumpstart deals that have been stuck at one stage of your pipeline for longer than usual.
3. Keeping your sales stages updated
When it comes to pipeline management, review your sales process regularly, as your efficiency and success can easily be hindered by a pipeline that’s riddled with bottlenecks or a cycle that’s grown too lengthy and time-consuming.
Figuring out which stages work best for you, and adding or removing them as necessary, will streamline your pipeline and ultimately help you convert more prospects to customers.
Tightening up an unwieldy sales process
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when tidying up your sales process is that the longer your pipeline, the more opportunities there are for prospects to change their mind or opportunities to fall through the cracks.
Finding ways to keep your sales cycle as tight as possible without hounding potential buyers will keep more leads from going cold.
You could, for example:
- Research and focus on sales channels that yield the best-fit leads and prospects
- Review the quality and relevance of your initial sales offering or proposal
- Shorten the time between follow-ups
While it’s important to keep your sales process as short as possible, make sure this isn’t the result of cutting out important steps along the way.
Fleshing out an incomplete sales process
Blockages and shortcomings in your pipeline can be the result of failing to include, or not adequately fleshing out, a crucial stage in your sales process.
Reviewing those areas where your deals tend to pile up or fizzle out will help you identify and build out important sales activities that may not be getting the time or attention they need.
An inefficient or unclear prospecting stage, for example, could cause your pipeline to shrink and lucrative sales opportunities to become far and few. Not including a defined follow-up process where it’s most needed, meanwhile, could mean losing the prospects you have.
4. Assisting your team with pipeline management
As a sales manager, it’s important to work with your team to maintain and manage your sales pipeline. Providing your reps with the right coaching and training, or recognizing when they need help, will empower them to manage their own sales cycles.
If your team doesn’t understand, for example, how quickly opportunities typically move through their pipelines, or how much time their leads tend to spend at each stage, they won’t make the best use of their time and resources.
Fortunately, working with the right CRM tool will make it easy for your sales team to see:
- How many open deals they have and which stage they’re at
- Which deals most need their attention
- Whether or not they’re likely to reach their sales targets
Encouraging your sales reps to keep their pipelines clean and teaching them how to get the most from their metrics will give them more control over their quotas and help them stay motivated.