In this article, you can expect to read about 5 sales pipeline management tips and best practices and how you can fix your sales pipeline, but before we jump into it, what exactly is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a systematic and visual representation of your sales process. Based on how your buyer journey looks, your sales pipeline stages may also vary.
Sales pipeline shows how many business salespeople expect to close any given week, month or year and how close a sales representative is to reach their sales quota.
Managing your pipeline effectively will make you better at predicting revenue and controlling your sales figures. However, a study done by Vantage Point Performance and Sales Management Association revealed that 44% of executives at more than 62 B2B companies think their organization is ineffective at managing their sales pipeline.
Sales teams that invest their time in defining a structured and formalized sales process are most effective at managing their sales pipelines. In fact, a study by Harvard Business Review found that there is an 18% difference in revenue growth between companies that have a formal sales process and those that don’t.
An 18% difference in revenue growth!
Here are 5 tips to create a profitable sales pipeline:
- Reverse engineer your quota so that you can be successful on a daily basis
- Set up your CRM reports and dashboards with the right metrics and triggers.
- Review your team’s pipelines at least once a week.
- Commit to forecast opportunities for the week/month/quarter.
- Ensure your reps take ownership of their individual sales pipelines.
Tip 1) Reverse engineer your quota so that you can be successful on a daily basis
The first step to managing your sales pipeline is ensuring there is enough velocity at the top of the funnel. For this, these sales pipeline metrics must be at your fingertips:
- Total number of deals in your pipeline—how many open deals do you have?
- Average size of a deal—what’s the mean value of each deal?
- Close rate—what percentage of these deals do you close?
- Sales velocity—how long are these deals in your pipeline?
- Appointment to opportunity ratio—how many meetings turn into opportunities?
Have you worked out how many new opportunities each rep should be producing every day/week/month/quarter to hit their target? We will use whole numbers to simplify the math.
Assuming a rep’s sales target is $100,000/month in revenue and the average deal value is $25,000, that means they need to close 4 deals/month.
With a win rate of 50%, how many opportunities should they be generating each month?
The answer is 8
Now that you have determined this number, you need to make sure the reps understand that this will be measured as a KPI.
Generating New Business Opportunities
Generating new business opportunities is arguably the most important activity that a rep should be doing on a daily basis.
For instance, if your reps’ average win rate from an opportunity to close is 50% that means for every 1 opportunity your rep closes, you need to assume one other in their pipeline is dead.
Most sales managers don’t recognize this and assume that just because their reps have 30 opportunities in their pipeline they can work intently on these and forget about generating new business opportunities. Let’s take this one step further…
A sales rep requires about 3 new appointments to be set to create each new opportunity, as roughly two-thirds of their initial appointments result in the opportunity being unqualified. So, in order to acquire eight new opportunities per month, a sales rep needs to conduct an average of 24 appointments per month, or six appointments per week.
- Stay on top of your sales pipeline metrics.
- Assign individual KPIs for your reps based on these metrics.
- Prioritize setting new quality appointments over anything else.
Tip 2) Set up your CRM reports and dashboards with the right metrics and triggers
Set up your sales pipeline widget—this way you can see:
- % of opportunities in negotiation
- Appointment turnup rate
- Proposal send date
- % of opportunities that have a quote
- Followup task for each opportunity
- Age of the opportunity (sales velocity)
- Average number of activities per opportunity
This widget is absolutely valuable when it comes to pipeline management!
1) % of opportunities in negotiation:
For instance, if you only have 50% of opportunities in negotiation, and the rest in discovery and appointment booked, it’s obvious your reps need more training on the prospecting process since the opportunities aren’t progressing to an appointment or quote. If you don’t have an internal Sales Development (SDR) team, and your reps are highly paid, you may consider outsourcing this function.
2) Appointment turn-up rate:
Keeping tabs on the appointment turn-up rate is also important to identify where your leaky bucket is. The other reason could be inexperienced reps quickly converting leads to opportunities without proper qualification, just to bolster numbers.
You can quickly look into this by listening in on a few calls associated with these opportunities and double checking the quality of the discovery call.
3) Proposal send date:
To track when the next activity was completed or booking, viewing the date when the proposal was sent is key.
If we go through a rep’s pipeline and see that a proposal was sent to an opportunity and the follow up was booked only 5 days later without any explanation such as a board meeting to decide on approval, we can quickly jump on the opportunity and call them back to try and get a decision quicker or uncover any potential objections.
4) % of opportunities that have a quote:
Another metric I have on a different widget shows the % of opportunities that have a quote, broken down by rep.
According to an article written by the experts at SalesHacker, you always want to be having at last 65% of opportunities getting a proposal, otherwise, how does the customer know your pricing?
Obviously, this doesn’t mean sending out a proposal randomly to every opportunity! The goal is to have a discovery call, where you uncover a business case for your product and follow up with a proposal right after.
5) Followup task for each opportunity:
It is absolutely essential that every opportunity has a future task or next step associated with it in the CRM.
If your reps aren’t adding the next step to an opportunity, the deal is as good as lost! To make it easier to view “at risk” opportunities, we designed a dashboard for both the managers and all the reps individually so that they there’s quick visibility into any opportunities without a next step.
6) Age of the opportunity (sales velocity):
The age of the opportunity is another crucial indicator of whether or not you’re going to close.
If the average age in the negotiation stage is 10 days but the opportunity has been sitting there 15 days and there are no notes detailing the decision-making process, and the customer isn’t picking up the phone, it might be worth sending a personalized email! Using a video message is a good example of how to do this.
7) Average number of activities per opportunity:
An activity in this instance being an email or call. Some CRM systems will automatically calculate this where others will track the process a bit more manually.
With this metric, you can easily see which opportunities haven’t had enough attention and probe into why.
It could be that the customer doesn’t need a call until Q2 and there are notes on the account pertaining to this fact. Alternatively, it could be that it’s merely been forgotten! In which case, as a manager, you can jump on this “at risk” opportunity and ensure it’s followed up on.
Tip 3) Review your team’s pipelines at least once a week
Once you have the right metrics and triggers in place, it’s essential that you sit down with each rep at least once a week to question every opportunity in their pipeline.
Pay special attention to those opportunities which seem to fall behind your typical sales velocity in each stage. These will stand out because of the fewer number of activities and future tasks associated with it.
You can also assess the health of your larger sales pipeline based on these metrics and triggers. Doing this first thing on a Monday morning is best and will give each rep a clear focus for the week.
Each review with a rep may take an hour and the whole process might spill over to Tuesday. As long as it’s done consistently on a weekly basis, it can free up your remaining time to listen in on calls and influence the sale.
- Set up weekly meetings with reps to assess individual sales pipelines.
- Monitor the larger sales pipeline based on the metrics and triggers you track.
Tip 4) Commit to forecast opportunities for the week/month/quarter
Once you have a good understanding of your team’s pipeline and have confidence in the status of each opportunity, you can start committing the opportunities which have the likelihood of closing within your next targeted period.
Assign a close date to each of these opportunities within your CRM. Depending on your sales cycle, have it set up to go into a weekly, monthly, or quarterly forecast.
Having this accurate forecast is a failsafe way of staying relatively stress-free as a sales manager since you have the confidence of what’s coming in and what isn’t.
This then gives you time to find the missing money to hit quota, launch an incentive or deliver short burst training sessions to plug any areas for improvement!
Tip 5) Ensure your reps take ownership of their individual sales pipelines
Add these metrics to your rep’s dashboard:
- Opportunities with no next step.
- Overdue opportunities.
- Overdue tasks.
The number of opportunities in this report should ideally be below 20 at all times. If it goes above 20, they’re most likely switched-off inbound leads.
This accountability ensures that at least 20-30 mins each day, your reps are working on calling back ghosted and stuck opportunities or ones that don’t have a next step to try and get them back into play rather than just barrel through new leads that are better off managed externally to ensure a rapid response.
From a manager’s point of view, having all your reps’ metrics in one place makes pipeline management a breeze, saves you at least an hour a week, and sets you up for a more predictable, profitable sales pipeline!
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