As a sales manager, image how much better your life would be if you had access to the following:
- Better forecast accuracy
- Improved sales performance
These elements are important, and delivering one or the other is not an option these days. Both are easy to achieve when you have a healthy sales pipeline.
Avoid the Activity Micromanagement Trap
Clarity on performance tracking, leading indicators, and individual expectations enable sales organizations to achieve successful outcomes, but they don’t guarantee it.
This is not to say activity is unimportant, it is. However, the key to sales performance success is a healthy combination of monitoring activity and sales pipeline.
Simply put, activity plus pipeline management produces better outcomes. The best sales leaders focus more on the strength of their pipeline than just managing activity. How about you?
The Sales Funnel
A sales pipeline is also referred to as a sales funnel. It's best to have prospects in each of these areas listed below and sellers engaged in these sales activities:
- Top of the funnel—early in the sales process when sellers are identifying and connecting with prospects
- Middle of the funnel—sellers discovering problems and opportunities as well as advising
- Bottom of the funnel—closing the deals
A healthy pipeline or sales funnel should not be a mishmash of random customers and prospects. The best sellers and managers are very strategic about their pipelines and focus mainly on activities with the biggest customers—key accounts—and best prospects—target accounts. Additionally, top performers usually have a nice distribution of accounts at the three stages of the funnel.
A good rule of thumb is, nothing in the top of the funnel today usually means nothing to close in the future and missed sales goals. At The Center for Sales Strategy (CSS), we use a CRM and sales funnel from HubSpot. As a seller, I can look at my pipeline and predict my future revenue and income as well as know where I need to focus my activities to build a healthy pipeline and close deals.
10 Ways to Build a Healthy Sales Pipeline
Here’s a list of ten things world class managers do to help sellers build a healthy pipeline and improve sales performance:
1. Employ a lead generation process like inbound marketing and other thought leadership strategies to get prospects to raise their hands and ask for help and enter the top of the sales funnel.
2. Be picky and avoid throwing all prospects in the funnel.
3. Select quality prospects considering dollar potential, access to the decision maker and fit.
4. Sellers should communicate empathy, expertise and problem-solving to open more doors.
5. Conduct research about new business prospects and develop a valid business reason to set appointments to move them in the funnel.
6. Employ a seven to ten points of contact approach over two weeks to pursue new business prospects.
7. Have sales enablement resources handy to address common objections and to move the sales process along—things like sales plays, FAQs, eBooks and case studies (video and written).
8. Listen to customers and prospects to uncover new sales opportunities.
9. Talk about today and outline specific behaviors needed to close business.
10. Make sure proposals include a clearly defined problem—desired business results—and a solution to drive ROI.
Here’s a bonus tip:
11. Meet with top spending key accounts once per quarter to get an update on their desired business results.
The best sales leaders focus more on the strength on the pipeline — NOT the activity!
Additional Resources to Help Your Sales Pipeline:
- Where Most Sales Pipeline Problems Spring a Leak
- Are Long Sales Cycles Messing with Your Pipeline? (Part 1)
- Are Long Sales Cycles Messing with Your Pipeline? (Part 2)
- Friction Between Buyers and Sellers Persists
- The Sales Pipeline is More Important Than Sales Activity