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With GetAccept, flexibility is at your fingertips to engage buyers in new ways and increase win rates by 75% on your documents.
With GetAccept, flexibility is at your fingertips to engage buyers in new ways and increase
win rates by 75% on your documents.
The sales pipeline is like your team’s mothership with navigation to help you reach the revenue goals. But the ship loses altitude and crashes if you don’t maintain it well. So, spending time on its upkeep is not up for debate. But if you do it smartly, you don’t have to spend much of your precious selling hours on pipeline management tasks.
Instead of haphazardly updating your pipeline with unqualified leads, invest in the right tools and processes to ensure you have the time to sell well.
This article delves into workflow optimizations, rules on maintaining CRM data hygiene, running productive meetings, and many more sales activities you can do better, so you have enough time to focus on selling.
When should the lead move to the opportunity stage?
Imagine the chaos if every rep moves leads across the pipeline on considering different criteria like:
When has the prospect given verbal confirmation that they’ll take a call or when they confirmed by email that they’d attend the meeting?
Or after they’ve attended the meeting?
Or when you move them to the “qualified” stage in your pipeline?
Maybe, once they’ve told you their budget?
Or is it when you’ve confirmed they have a problem?
When exactly does a lead move from one stage to the next? Suppose you consider one factor as qualification, and the rest of your team considers different factors for the same stage. Wouldn’t you have a pipeline full of potentially unqualified prospects that “looks” healthy?
Defining the activities that reps have to perform or complete at each stage ensures that prospects are thoroughly qualified to move through the pipeline. Think of each pipeline stage as milestones in a marathon. You must run along a specific path to cross the milestones and reach the finish point. And the exit criteria are like defined paths that each rep has to take their prospect through to cross every milestone.
To create your exit criteria, track what changes occurred when your now-customers moved down each stage of your pipeline.
What keeps a rep up at night? Once promising opportunities collecting dust in a pipeline stage.
Most probably, it’s because the prospect hasn’t responded in any manner or you have not followed up enough times. We call it a deal rot when a prospect has remained in a pipeline stage for too long without any sales touchpoint.
We all have a million to-dos, phones always buzzing with hundreds of notifications, and a gazillion meetings to attend. So, naturally, prospects will undoubtedly forget that they were part of a demo with you in about 1 or 2 weeks. So, if you don’t proactively follow up once a week to remind them of the value of your product or service, they will simply forget your existence, and your deal will stay unmoved in time and in the pipeline.
Every pipeline is different. The number of stages varies. The prospects change. The sales cycles may be longer or shorter. Start by creating a timeline that best fits your pipeline strategy. If you work with a 3-6 month sales cycle, you could check out the following timeline:
What’s dirty data? Incomplete prospect information, absence of notes after calls, deals rotting in stages without any sales touches, weeding out deals you know won’t move forward, and not updating the tasks for each lead in the CRM. The list goes on. And we’ve all been there, done that. No shame.
But proper documentation of various activities executed by reps is key to connecting the dots on the final picture of why we’re winning or losing deals. When you look back at the pipeline, you should be able to pinpoint if the reasons for losses were within the control or outside of it — was it not enough follow-ups or were the bad prospects not weeded out in time, etc.
Not having a neatly documented pipeline is more than just a neat freak’s nightmare; it bloats your pipeline and provides inaccurate forecasts.
Maintaining CRM hygiene also ensures — albeit indirectly — that you’re giving your customers a great customer experience. Customer service reps can refer to all the conversations representatives have had with their prospects to provide customers with personalized experiences.
What if you didn’t have to manually reach out to every lead who came in through inbound channels? You could start them on a sales cadence as soon as they enter your CRM using automation tools or extensions.
You could save all the time it takes to manually track those who downloaded an ebook or signed up for a demo. Similarly, there are quite a few administrative activities that you could automate between your sales tool and the CRM, which opens up your calendar for more “selling.”
But it depends on the kind of CRM and the sales automation tool you’d use. Some tools are more flexible than others for workflow automations.
You could focus on prospecting and constantly replenishing your pipeline with fresh leads, personalizing your cold emails and follow-up emails.
Pro tip! Here are the top tools to use for different stages of the sales pipeline: invoice management software, lead generation software, contract management software, sales engagement software, and payment collection automation software.
Following up is the gospel truth in sales. If you don’t follow up, you don’t sell. How you engage with your prospects determines the fate of your deal.
So, as your pipeline grows with leads, there will be more and more follow-ups to do for each of them at different stages of the sales process. And there are multiple reps following up with numerous prospects in their ways. They are not just following up. They’re engaging with prospects in their own lone-wolf kind of way. That’s never good news when you want to scale the team or get predictable revenue. If everyone’s doing their own thing, you won’t be able to predict revenue — which is a valuable metric to boost revenue.
Suppose you want to go big on the revenue. In that case, you must have a standardized sales process to replicate the sales activities that top performers are executing and ensure every rep is doing the same for every pipeline stage. That’s what will bring in the deals. Replicate, standardize, revisit and repeat.
What tool can help you standardize and scale the best-performing sales process? Sales engagement software. A sales engagement software allows you to send personalized cold outreach and follow-ups at scale, and record all these conversations back in the CRM.
Without regular pipeline review meetings, everything falls to ashes. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not. There should be biweekly, weekly, monthly, and quarterly reviews with the managers and the whole team to discuss the status of deals in the pipeline.
Of course, you can decide which ones you want to have with your team members and which ones should be done between the manager and the rep. Efficient pipeline reviews help AEs stay on track to close deals and spot if any, deals that are rotting at any stage.
During these reviews, managers can help reps improve their pitch or give insight on specific deals based on their experience dealing with similar deals. Top performers can share tips and tricks. But the hitch is, how do you run meetings that are productive for everyone involved?
After all, meetings have a bad rap for infringing upon a person’s ability to do deep-focus work. A survey run by Harvard Business Review authors Leslie A. Perlow, Constance Noonan Hadley, and Eunice Eun revealed that out of the 182 senior managers from different industries, a whopping 71% said that meetings were “unproductive” and “inefficient.”
1. Decide how many times the manager sets up one on one review meetings with the reps and how often. Should it be biweekly or weekly? What would you go over during these meetings? It depends on the size of your team and your business.
2. To instill accountability among all parties involved and to ensure the execution of listed tasks, set up action items for every stakeholder at the end of every meeting. At the subsequent meetings, you could go over the action items of the previous meeting.
It can be easy to feel disheartened over the time it takes to move deals forward in the pipeline. Reps need to understand that that’s okay.
If your prospect is a perfect match for the ICP, you’ve sold your pitch and followed up regularly with valuable information about how they can benefit from using your solution. All you can do is wait. You have to step into the shoes of the buyer here. Buying a business solution takes time. There are multiple people involved in the buying process, like the users, the decision-makers, and in some cases, whole teams whose whole single responsibility is to buy solutions.
So yeah, the to and fro between different stakeholders and evaluations can take time to bear fruit.
Depending on the size of your business and your priorities at the time, you could track a list of metrics that give you an overview of your pipeline health, your sales process, and your sales team. You have to sit down and think over the metrics most important for your growth at the stage and market your business is in.
On the selection of which pipeline metrics to track, Alex Birkett, the co-founder of content agency Omniscient Digital, tells spotio.com, “Since we’re a small agency, we need to guard our time resources most strictly. Therefore, common sales pipeline metrics like response rates or meetings booked are actually not great for us. We don’t have the resources to spend on meetings that don’t convert to sales. So we basically only look at three metrics:
Smaller companies would track cash flows in order to ensure they have a runway of assured revenue, while bigger companies would focus on the number of annual contracts, and renewals, and how they plan to collect them (big payments may be done on schedules).
This is one of the most essential tips to run a tight sales ship. If all the stakeholders are working in silos and simply focusing on prospecting and closing deals at the moment and not doing much to review the lost deals, you might miss red flags or opportunities. We’ll explain.
What happens when you remove a lost deal from the pipeline? Do you just check them into the lost deal vacuum, never to be looked at again? Managers have to concern themselves with this: ‘Why did we lose the deal?’ Put on your deerstalker and start investigating. What lies hidden may be a new opportunity to revisit your messaging, discover a new use case, an untapped market, or even a lack of a particular feature. And the people who’d know best about why those leads didn’t convert are the salespeople who actually talked to them.
It might be difficult to build a process where reps mark the lost reason for each deal, considering they are mostly hell-bent on converting the rest of the pipeline.
So, set up a pipeline within each market segment or geography solely to provide the reason for losing the deal. This encourages a healthy feedback loop within the organization on why the deals were lost.
Various functions in your business, like product, business strategy, marketing, and customer success, are always looking to improve the solution or the messaging and are always in need of market feedback, so what better way is there to collect information from the people who were so close to buying your solution but didn’t. Reps could simply ask the leads for the reason for choosing another solution and note them down in the pipeline.
Keeping your pipeline clean and updated won’t give you benefits right away. They are actually compounding in nature. To start off, you’ll be able to reach out to more people because of access to the correct information, and managers can give the right kind of feedback because of proper documentation of emails and calls. Meanwhile, revenue leaders can dive in with goggles to pinpoint what strategic undoing or revisiting needs to be done.
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