Sales pipelines can be used to track and manage leads effectively. 

You can use it to hit targets quicker, focus on high-value leads and boost productivity for team members. A custom-built and well-optimized sales pipeline that aligns with your business processes can be a great tool in your sales team’s arsenal. 

However, the mere existence of a sales pipeline cannot guarantee sales. 

You need to maintain this pipeline and address any roadblocks to keep leads moving through it efficiently. 

Mastering sales pipeline management is a priority for all top-performing sales teams. 

If you are wondering how to achieve this for your business, refer to the following sales pipeline management best practices that can strengthen your sales process and help you bring in more revenue. But before that, let’s first understand what a sales lead is?

What Is A Sales Lead?

With all the talks around managing sales leads with a pipeline, it is crucial to take a step back and define what ‘sales lead’ actually refers to. 

In simple terms, any business or individual that has the potential of becoming a customer can be referred to as a sales lead for that particular enterprise.

These leads are then qualified based on how likely they are to make the final purchase. 

Once the interest of the lead is ascertained, it qualifies as a prospect. 

There are several means for businesses to acquire leads, including webforms, cold emails, targeted ads, third-party advertising, etc. 

What Is a Sales Pipeline?

A sales pipeline is a visualization of every opportunity’s current position in the sales process. It provides an overview of all the stages that a prospect has to pass through before converting into a customer. 

Besides helping track all the currently available opportunities, a sales pipeline can also help you identify how close your sales representatives are to meet their targets. This makes sales pipelines effective in revenue forecasting. 

Sales pipeline tracking can provide you with the following information:

  • Number of prospects available 
  • Stages of the sales cycle 
  • The churn rate for each stage 
  • Current status of each opportunity  
  • Team performance 
  • Revenue predictions 

Importance of a Sales Pipeline

A well-defined and standardized sales process can contribute to 18% more revenue. 

This brings to light the significance of having a custom sales pipeline for your business. Let’s delve deeper into the benefits that an opportunity pipeline can offer to you:

  • It can help you improve your sales. 
  • Your team can achieve better productivity
  • You can allocate and utilize resources more judiciously. 
  • It can help you identify and focus on more promising leads.
  • You can routinely review your progress and analyze your team’s performance. 
  • You can use the insights to make better decisions for your business. 

How to Build a Sales Pipeline

Since we have established the importance of a custom sales pipeline for any business, we now move on to the more important question- 

How to actually build one for your business? 

While it may come across as an overwhelming job, building a custom sales pipeline can be made easy with clearly defined objectives. 

To build a successful and well-functioning sales pipeline, you need to work with your sales team to get an estimate of the opportunities that you work with and identify key stages of your sales process. 

In order to build a unique sales pipeline for your business, you need to: 

  • Identify Target Buyers

Taking time to define who your ideal customer is can help you create a more functional pipeline. Conduct adequate market research and collect data from customers before moving on with the sales pipeline development process. Learn from your competitors and imbibe their successful practices into your development plan. 

  • Segment the Pipeline

The next step is to define your sales pipeline stages clearly. This can help sales reps understand and use the pipeline effectively. Adapt your pipeline as per your current sales cycle to get the best outcomes from it. 

  • Utilize Data  

You need to take into account how many opportunities your team currently works with. When building your sales pipeline, consider your sales cycle length, average closing rate, and other relevant data. 

  • Define Relevant Metrics

Setting performance goals is crucial to keep things moving forward at all times. Define metrics such as sales and revenue targets to monitor and optimize the performance of your sales pipeline once it is functional. 

  • Establish a Routine

Create a workflow for your team centered around the sales pipeline. This routine can help you meet goals easily. 

  • Incorporate the Right Technology

Invest in a CRM tool that allows you to build, visualize and control your sales pipeline with ease. Go for features such as automation, marketing integration, remote access, etc., to further improve the productivity of your sales team.

Read More: A 5-Step Guide to Building an Unbeatable Sales Pipeline

Stages of a Sales Pipeline

One of the sales pipeline management best practices is to divide your pipeline into clearly defined stages. While the pipeline stages may vary for each business, they generally fall under the following broad categories:

  • Prospecting 

The first stage is to identify leads that would be interested in your business. You can attract attention to your business through marketing campaigns and other means of lead generation. 

  • Qualification

You need to score the leads by analyzing their needs and intent. Find out if they have a specific problem that your product can solve. Lead qualification is important to help your sales representatives pay more attention to hot leads. 

  • Contact 

51% of people believe that timely response from sales representatives improves the overall experience.

Once you have qualified the leads, you need to initiate contact with them as soon as possible.

  • Negotiation

After ascertaining the lead’s interest in your business, you need to schedule meetings and deliver your selling pitch. This stage involves negotiating the terms and conditions to close the deal.

  • Deal Closing

This is the last stage of the sales process, where you mark a deal as won or lost. Even after the deal is closed, you need to keep an eye on the account to discover opportunities for making a repeat sale. 

What Is Sales Pipeline Management?

As crucial as it is for sales teams to have a standardized pipeline, so is its effective management. 

But what does this management entail, and what significance does it carry? 

A pretty straightforward answer to this question is efficiency and longevity. 

Just building a sales pipeline would not bring enough profits to your company. You need to continuously strive to improve the sales pipeline and optimize it to see noteworthy results in the long run. 

Sales pipeline management refers to a set of practices used to manage all available opportunities in your sales pipeline to keep it healthy and functional. 

Managing the sales pipeline can help your team identify stages that require more attention. It provides you with an estimate of how close your team is to achieving sales targets. 

Read More: Sales Tracking – 7 Best Practices for Small Businesses 

12 Sales Pipeline Management Best Practices

Sales pipelines, if used efficiently, can accomplish a lot for your business. 

Increased revenue, more productivity, and enhanced conversion rates are just some of the many advantages of a healthy sales pipeline. 

It can also help you steer your business in the right direction for the future by getting a clear view of how your sales process functions currently. 

Here are the 12 sales pipeline management best practices that you can use to manage your sales pipeline efficiently – 

1. Pay Attention to Pipeline Stages

To keep a close eye on your pipeline, you need to divide it into stages that match your sales cycle.

However, there is no fixed blueprint for what should your sales pipeline consist of. The stages of a sales pipeline should only be determined after careful consideration and consultation from your sales team. You can customize your pipeline to reflect your sales process by including custom opportunities, fields, or stages. 

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2. Perform Regular Cleanups

When it comes to a sales pipeline, more doesn’t equate to better.

Just having more leads in your pipeline cannot warrant more sales. You need to pay attention to how qualified these leads are to make the purchase. This can help you devote your time and resources to leads that carry more value. 

Regular cleanups of your sales pipeline to drop dead leads and prioritize high-value prospects can help you gain more efficiency. 

3. Measure Relevant Metrics

Tracking numbers related to your sales pipeline may seem like a daunting task, but it’s one that carries immense importance. 

To get a comprehensive picture of your pipeline and its performance, you need to set and track relevant metrics. This can also be beneficial for more accurate forecasting.

Some of the metrics that you can monitor for your sales pipeline include: 

  • Average deal size
  • Number of opportunities
  • Conversion rate
  • Sales cycle length 
  • Pipeline velocity 
  • Conversion rate for every stage
  • Time spent selling  

Measuring these metrics can help you keep track of your performance and find ways to improve sales pipeline growth. You can identify stages that take up the most time or leads with a longer than average sales cycle to make better decisions moving forward. 

A sales CRM tool can help you track any metrics of your choice and gain valuable insights with sales pipeline reporting.

Read More: 6 Powerful CRM Reports to Run For Driving Sales

4. Offer Documentation & Training

Your sales manager and representatives need to have a clear understanding of the sales pipeline and how to use it optimally. 

Clearly defined user roles, case studies, documentation, and training can go a long way in sales pipeline management. When your team is well aware of how to work with the sales pipeline, they can leverage it for improved sales performance. 

Along with onboarding training, you also need to offer refresher training from time to time to help your team stay updated with the new developments.

5. Align Sales & Marketing

Collaboration and synchronization between your sales and marketing team can pave the way for your business’s growth. 

Both the teams have to work closely and define what qualifies as a good lead. This can help your business get access to qualified leads and not waste any time or attention on leads that have minimal chances of conversion. 

Alignment and efficient communication between sales and marketing can help you nurture sales leads easily and bring in more revenue for your business. 

6. Conduct Reviews

One of the most effective pipeline strategies is regular maintenance. Your sales pipeline needs to be reviewed and modified routinely. These reviews can help you identify if your sales pipeline aligns with your business objectives. This can also help you achieve more accountability for team members. 

With a pipeline review, you can identify any possible roadblocks in your flow and address them to keep your pipeline healthy. It also offers the opportunity to ensure that the data is updated and accurate.  You can get rid of stalled leads during these reviews. 

7. Speed Things Up

The speed of the sales cycle can have a considerable impact on your sales performance and conversion rate. You need to shorten the decision cycle for the leads by following up with them on time. However, this does not mean that your leads need to be inundated with follow-ups constantly.

Identify all the areas where you can shorten your sales cycle without making it a nuisance for the prospects. Follow-up with them routinely and ensure that you eliminate any unnecessary delays from your process. 

8. Include Relevant Content 

In this day and age, calls and emails just won’t make the cut on their own. You also need to offer additional information about your business to increase your sales. 

This information should be personalized according to the buyer’s journey stage and personal preferences. Such supplementary content can help guide leads towards conversions by answering their questions and providing detailed information about the product or service. 

9. Automate Processes 

While it’s easy to follow up on time when you only have a handful of leads, the problem arises when you have to work with a large number of leads. 

This is where automation can help. 

By automating emails and other activities, you can ensure that you reach out to prospects at the most appropriate time. Automation can maximize your team’s efficiency and help you meet targets with ease.  

10. Keep Data Updated

For a seamless performance of your sales pipeline, you must ensure the accuracy and credibility of the data being fed into it. Up-to-date information can prevent your sales operations from going haywire. Everyone in your team needs to stay updated with any changes in the pipeline to avoid any discrepancies.

Since your sales pipeline is constantly changing, it can help to maintain notes for individual leads to keep the information updated and reliable.

11. Identify Bottlenecks

Identifying and eliminating possible blockages in your pipeline is necessary for improving its performance. Use data gathered from sales pipeline analysis to find out which stages need to be better optimized.

To keep leads moving through the pipeline smoothly, you need to ensure there are no hindrances. Find out the stages where you lose the most deals and take the necessary steps to address this problem. 

 12. Use the Right Pipeline Management Tool

The effectiveness of your sales pipeline comes down to the type of technology that you use to manage it. 

Businesses that still choose the conventional route and track their sales with a spreadsheet will only find it to be cumbersome and inefficient. 

CRM tools can prove to be powerful pipeline management solutions by allowing you to customize, track and manage the pipeline according to your needs. 

You can use a CRM tool to sort through your deals, generate reports, automate tasks and share data across the organization instantly. With a mobile CRM sales pipeline, you can get access to sales data anywhere, anytime. 

To learn how to utilize a CRM like BIGContacts for optimizing your sales pipeline, check out this video:

Optimize Your Pipeline for Better Sales Growth 

Not paying attention to your sales pipeline and its efficacy can result in sales and revenue loss. 

The 12 sales pipeline management best practices mentioned above can help you gain better control over your sales data and utilize it to drive more conversions. These practices can help you focus on sales pipeline growth and consequently boost your profits. 

With a consistent sales pipeline management process, you can close more sales and gain more revenue. It can also allow you to make accurate forecasts and work towards achieving these goals. 

However, to achieve all of this, you need to have the right technology at your disposal. 

With a sales pipeline management system such as BIGContacts, you can gain actionable insights into your pipeline and use them to improve your sales performance. 

Remember- the more control you have over your sales process, the higher will be your revenue generation. 

Do you want to make more sales?

BIGContacts is the #1 contact management software & CRM to close more sales.