Streamlining your sales pipeline management is one of the best things you can do for your company. The cleaner your pipeline is, the easier it’ll be to manage. And the easier it is to manage, the more deals your sales team will be able to close. Here are some sales pipeline management tips to help get you going.
Your company’s sales pipeline touches every stage of your sales process. It not only helps you keep track of where a lead is in that process, but also provides your sales team with a way to estimate how much money you’re projected to make.
However, it’s not enough to recognize the importance of your sales pipeline; you have to manage it too. Like any tool in your kit, you have to make sure your sales pipeline continues to perform like a well-oiled machine. Let it sit for too long, and your sales forecasts will grow cluttered and inaccurate.
To help you streamline your sales pipeline management process, and ensure that you always have a crystal-clear view of your buyer’s journey, we’ve put together a few tips for you.
1) Define the Pipeline
Far too often, companies will refer to their sales pipeline interchangeably with their sales funnel or sales forecast. While they have similarities, these are very different things. For example, HubSpot explains how sales representatives use pipelines “to keep track of where prospects are in the sales process and the appropriate actions they should take.” Sales forecasts, meanwhile, show salespeople “how closely they’re trending to goal and how to prepare.”
When it comes to sales pipeline vs. sales funnel, the difference can be a bit harder to pin down. Both terms refer to how prospects move toward a sale, but a pipeline is specifically about what a buyer does during the sales process. In contrast, a funnel tracks the conversion rates that occur during the sales process.
Before you can get into sales pipeline management, you need to make sure your company has a consistent definition of what the sales pipeline is. “Because sales processes differ from company to company (and even product to product),” HubSpot says, “your sales pipeline should be unique and reflect the typical buyer’s journey.” Which brings us to our next sales pipeline management tip:
2) Make It Your Own
Every company is different, and what works for one may not work for another. While you can certainly learn from, and be inspired by, other companies, your sales pipeline needs to be specifically designed for you and your company’s needs. In the same way that Luke Skywalker needs “an elegant weapon from a more civilized age” for his quest, so too does your company need a personalized tool to help it on its journey to success.
When you’re designing your sales pipeline, you might want some help (Luke didn’t learn the ways of the Force on his own, after all).
This is where HubSpot CRM can help. “Whether you have an established sales process or you’re starting from scratch,” the tools HubSpot’s CRM provides will make it easy to create the ideal pipeline for your sales process.
Like you can see in the image above, HubSpot’s sales pipeline management tools allow you to “Add, edit, and delete deal stages and properties without help from IT, and push deals forward by assigning tasks to your team. Then drag and drop deals between stages when they’re successful.”
3) Keep It Clean
It can feel counterintuitive to adopt a “less is more” mentality in the world of marketing. More prospects means more sales, right? Not always. When it comes to sales pipeline management, you need to prioritize the warmest leads (the people most likely to close). And sometimes, this means letting go of leads who aren’t going to do business with you.
Our friends at HubSpot say it like this: “Periodically cleaning up your pipeline is key if you want an accurate sales forecast. That’s because most forecasts use an opportunity’s stage to determine how likely it is to close -- not its age.” If you let cold leads stick around for too long in your pipeline, they can siphon resources and attention away from the sales-ready leads just waiting for that final push.
Successful sales pipeline management takes time, so don’t try to rush it. HBR reports that companies who spend at least three hours a month managing their sales pipeline “saw 11% greater revenue growth than those that spent fewer than three hours per month.” Salesforce conducted a similar survey and found that spending at least four hours a month managing the pipeline “realized 14 percent greater revenue growth than those that spent less than one hour per month.”
The bottom line is this: if you want your sales pipeline analysis to lead to positive results, you have to keep it clean. Letting outdated or no-longer-interested leads clutter the pipeline will slow down your sales process and keep you from closing deals with the right people at the right time.
4) Use The Right Tools
Keeping your pipeline clean and organized is great. So is having a clearly defined pipeline process. But if you can’t track the progress, and diagnose the health, of your pipeline, then all of those best practices won’t be of much use to you. Thankfully, HubSpot (and its many intuitive integrations) can help you do just this.
With HubSpot CRM, you can “Use your sales dashboard to check on progress toward sales quotas, monthly trends in key sales activities, and the overall value and health of your pipeline.” This will give you complete visibility on your sales team’s performance, what your deal forecast is, help you identify blockages in your pipeline, pinpoint which leads are most sales-ready, and track how many deals you've closed to-date.
Here are just a few (of the many) of our favorite HubSpot sales pipeline management tools (that all integrate with the HubSpot CRM):
- Drift: This tool is designed to help you increase website conversions, better connect sales and marketing, and allow your salespeople to respond to website visitors via live chat from their email or Slack.
- VOIQ: For the first time, you can automate your sales calls in the same workflow you use to automate your email, chatbots, and other channels. This integration is highly customizable, so it can fit right in with your brand’s tone and voice.
- Vidyard: With this tool, you can send personalized videos directly to prospects via email. And since it integrates with HubSpot CRM, you can track views and clicks too.
5) Train Your Team
If you want to streamline your sales pipeline, then you’re going to need to have a sales team who knows how to manage it. According to HBR, over 60% “of executives admit their sales managers have not been adequately trained in pipeline management strategies and techniques.” Which is downright tragic, because HBR also reports that companies who train their salespeople to manage the sales pipeline “saw their revenue grow 9% faster than those that didn’t.”
Success doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time, patience, and training. If we want to close leads and maximize ROI (or face down Darth Vader himself), then your sales team “must complete the training.”
With these sales pipeline management tips on your side, you’ll be well-equipped to create, curate, and maintain a pipeline that’ll meet the needs of your company and its customers.