To make sure you achieve your company’s sales targets, managing and monitoring the flow of your sales pipeline is essential. Your sales may suffer if you don’t maintain and fix actual or potential blockages in your sales funnel. When under pressure to achieve targets, salespeople often concentrate their efforts toward the back end of the funnel to try to close as many deals as they can. Unfortunately, this can result in prospects being neglected during the process which can keep them from getting anywhere near to the point of sale.
Stages of Your Sales Pipeline
Your sales process (or pipeline) is a ‘systematic, repeatable series of steps’ that map out and track interaction with prospects from their first point of contact through to a close.’ How many stages you choose to implement will depend on your company’s particular needs. However, these should be kept to a minimum to avoid over-complicating procedures. A model consisting of five stages is considered sufficient to meet most business’ needs: prospect; qualification; proposal; follow-up; close.
- Prospect – when someone first contacts you, whether via email, telephone, website, etc. or included in your database, they become a prospect (or lead).
- Qualification – you research and qualify your customer’s needs and their intention to buy, e.g. do they have the budget to make a purchase? Are they a ‘good fit’ for your service or product?
- Proposal – once you know more about your prospect and know what they are looking for, you make an offer. In essence, you let them know you can provide a solution to match their requirements.
- Follow-up – as the saying goes, ‘don’t let the grass grow …’ a follow-up email or telephone call will help to nudge prospects towards deciding to purchase. Never push, but don’t lose a prospect because you didn’t try either.
- Close – you have made the sale, and your prospect has become a buying customer. Keep communications open for repeat custom.
Monitoring, Tracking, and Evaluating
If you’re not achieving you sales targets, it’s important you know why. Do your salespeople have the right skill-set? If not, offer training. Are you flooding your pipeline with prospects in the hope of landing at least some sales? This strategy could be flawed as you may waste time sifting out non-viable leads. Perhaps you need to tweak your model? Or, is it the right time to grow your pipeline?
These are only a few questions you should be asking to achieve sales. One thing is certain, though – if you don’t maintain the momentum that keeps your tunnel traffic flowing, sales will suffer.
Using customer relationship management (CRM) tools can help you to identify potential blockages and leaks, and allow you to act swiftly to tackle problem areas. Such tools can also help you to monitor and track customer interaction automatically, so you know the state of each relationship at any given time. Information gathered from your pipeline can help you to forecast sales revenue and help you to develop your company’s future sales strategy.