Are you unable to track and monitor your leads because of inefficient pipeline management? Or is your sales process not streamlined because you don’t have a sales pipeline management system in place? Either way, not following pipeline management best practices can make your business suffer:
You lose leads and miss follow-ups because your sales process is not streamlined.
You waste time and resources on irrelevant leads and leave out important ones because of disorganized pipelines.
Your sales pipeline is not transparent which makes it difficult to identify bottlenecks and areas for improvement.
You are not be able to track the performance of your sales team, track sales and costs, because of inaccurate data.
All this can lead to a significant decline in revenue. You risk falling behind the competition and losing valuable customers. Especially if you run a startup or a small business; your resources are already scarce and you can’t afford to handle these problems on top of that.
The solution to overcoming these challenges lies in streamlining your sales pipeline. When you have a proper pipeline management system, it’s like having a signboard in a tunnel with multiple pathways.
Without them, you’ll be lost!
In this article, we’ll guide you through the pipeline management best practices to streamline your sales process and how having a good CRM by your side can help you do that.
What is sales pipeline management?
A sales pipeline is a well-structured pathway that guides your potential customers from initial contact to making a purchase. It comprises 5 main stages, representing each step of the sales process: lead generation, qualification, proposal, negotiation, and finally, closing the deal. Depending on your startup, you can increase or decrease these stages.
A good sales process ensures that there is as little lead leakage as possible and maximum number of leads end up purchasing the product/service.
This is only possible through a sound pipeline management system. And sound pipeline management is only possible when you properly incorporate pipeline management best practices. You can track leads, manage prospects through different stages of the sales process, and ensure a smooth transition from one stage to another.
Think of pipeline management as a well-oiled machine that keeps your revenue-generating engine running at full throttle.
What happens when your sales pipeline is not managed properly?
Being a business owner or a startup founder, you are well aware that managing a pipeline is not cherries and pancakes. Without a proper sales management process, things can go wrong, causing serious issues. Some consequences of not having a proper system for pipeline management are:
Sales Pipeline Leakage:
Your sales team will struggle to manage your sales pipeline and prioritize leads effectively because they don’t know which lead is where in the sales process. Heck, they may even get confused and target a deal that has already been closed.
This leads to leads falling through the cracks, getting stuck in a particular stage, or being neglected altogether, causing inefficiencies, confusion, and ultimately lost deals.
There is no centralized system to store and secure all your data and this can result in data discrepancies and errors.
And without accurate data on sales, team performance, and costs, you’ll never be able to pinpoint where you’re making mistakes.
Let alone solve your problems, you won’t even know what they are, leading you to make ill-informed decisions, which will cost your business a lot in the long term.
Poor Lead Quality:
There is no feedback loop between your marketing and sales teams, the marketing team may not be aware of the quality of leads they are generating. As a result, they might focus on quantity over quality, leading to a high volume of unqualified leads being passed to the sales team.
And the sales team will waste their time and resources on these irrelevant leads.
Poor Lead Experience:
Leads expect prompt responses and personalized attention. But with an unorganized pipeline, delays in follow-ups, and unaddressed needs, they won’t get what they want, and will probably never consider buying from you again.
How a good CRM system can get rid of your Pipeline Management problems
Now that you understand the harms of ineffective pipeline management, let me present a solution!
All of these challenges or problems that you face as a startup founder can disappear in thin air if a good CRM for Startup is by your side!
Let’s see how:
Streamlined Sales Pipeline, No leakage:
With a CRM you can create a proper sales process and define stages through which a lead has to go for your business.
For example: Suppose you run a study-abroad counseling business. When a lead enters your CRM, you can classify it as a ‘New’ or ‘Fresh’ lead, when it becomes interested in buying your service, you can mark it as ‘Hot’ or ‘Interested’, and finally when it buys or rejects your service, you can mark it as ‘Closed’ or ‘Lost’.
This way, your sales team can prioritize and target the right leads in the right way. This ensures that no lead gets stuck in a particular stage, or gets neglected.
No lead falls through the cracks because there aren’t any!
Accurate Data, Reliable Insights:
A CRM provides a centralized system to store all your lead data in one place. This means that you’ll be able to get accurate reports on sales, team performance, quality of leads, success of marketing strategies, etc.
And the best part is, you won’t even have to go through the trouble of generating reports, a CRM will do that for you!
With these reports that CRM will generate for you, you can identify what your team is doing right and where it’s making mistakes, and make informed decisions accordingly.
Increased Collaboration, Quality Leads:
It will increase collaboration between your marketing and sales teams, increasing the quality of your leads.
For example, any changes made to the lead status in the CRM are visible to everyone, so if for example, when a new set of leads enter your CRM and the marketing team marks them as ‘Extremely Important’, your sales team will know how they should approach this set of leads.
Your sales team can also mark these leads as ‘Irrelevant’, this will help your marketing team identify their mistakes and replan their strategy to get more relevant leads the next time.
This ensures that efforts are not wasted and the quality of leads is maintained.
Personalized connectivity, Happy Leads:
This is the whole point of a CRM- to optimize customer relations to the highest extent.
With a good CRM, you can:
- Schedule important follow-ups and get reminders to never miss connecting with important leads.
Make and record calls to understand the needs of your leads. This way, you’ll know what they want, and you can personalize your connection accordingly.
Send personalized messages via Email or WhatsApp to make them feel valued
This is just a glimpse into what a CRM is capable of! In the following section, you will get a deeper understanding of pipeline management best practices and how you can incorporate a CRM into your business to apply those practices.
8 Sales Pipeline Management Best Practices
Incorporate these pipeline management best practices into your startup or business to manage your sales pipeline the right way.
1. Define a Clear Sales Process:
Every business operates through a sales process that is unique to its functioning. The sales process of an insurance company will be different from the sales process of a SaaS startup. Even two SaaS Startups working in the same space will likely have different sales processes.
Defining a clear sales pipeline will solve the majority of your pipeline management problems: there will be no lead leakage, no confusion among marketing and sales teams, the quality of leads will be maintained, you will be able to track and monitor the behavior of both your leads and your team, right leads will be targeted, and everything will be done in an organized manner, saving you a lot of time and resources.
Let’s see how to define your sales pipeline:
Map Out Your Pipeline:
Break down the sales process into distinct stages that align with your customer’s buying journey. Common stages include lead generation, lead qualification, product demonstration, proposal, negotiation, closing the deal, onboarding, and follow-up.
Define Clear Criteria for Each Stage:
Establish clear and specific criteria for moving leads from one stage to another. For instance, what actions or behaviors indicate a lead is qualified for a product demo? What qualifies a lead to move from negotiation to closing the deal? Etc.
Involve Sales Team in Process Design:
Involve your sales team in designing the sales process. They are the ones who interact directly with prospects and customers, and their experience is valuable in creating a practical and effective process.
Communicate and Train:
Once the sales process is defined, communicate it clearly to the entire team. Conduct training sessions to ensure everyone understands the stages, criteria, and expectations.
If you apply this practice properly, most of your pipeline management problems disappear because streamlining your sales process forms the basis fr the other pipeline management best practices mentioned in the following section.
2. Use a Customizable CRM:
Using a customizable CRM like TeleCRM allows you to adjust the platform to match the specific requirements and stages of your sales journey.
You can optimize the system to align with the specific needs of your pipeline, rather than forcing your sales team to adapt to a CRM with rigid pre-loaded features.
Let’s see some of the ways a customizable CRM is useful in managing your pipeline:
Custom Lead Status:
Let’s consider a company with a 5-step lead qualification process: Interested, Hot, Cold, Closed, and Lost. While an average CRM will give a few fixed lead status options, a customizable CRM allows you to add any number of custom lead status options depending on your industry and requirements.
It accurately displays how you do business.
Now you can ensure that your tasks are done on time, have gotten a happy customer, and boosted your sales.
To keep in touch with your leads, you need to send 10s and 1000s of emails or messages every day, and most of these interactions are repetitive. Typing personalized messages every single time for the same purpose is not feasible, and that’s where custom templates can help you.
For example: When a lead questions you about a feature of your product or service, you have to type and send a message to answer their query. If another lead has the same question, you will have to repeat the whole process again.
But in a Customizable CRM, you will only have to create a template once which you can just select and send if that question pops up again.
Now you don’t have to worry about manually writing the same repetitive messages to interact with your lead. Saving you time, effort, and frustration.
Suppose you run an insurance company. You would want to know how many of your leads are married, are smokers, have diseases that your insurance company covers, sort your leads on the basis of the policies they are interested in, and so on and so forth.
In a customizable CRM, you can capture all of this information by adding criteria, or lead fields, as we call them, in the CRM system.
This way you won’t have to store and keep track of this data in messy Excel sheets or PPts.
You can change the roles and responsibilities of your sales team from the application itself. For example, it can help you to:
a) Change the role of a salesperson (caller) to that of a manager or admin or vice versa.
b) Decide who can view and make edits to a workflow.
c) Re-assign the most important leads to your most trusted caller/s.
d) Change the ratio of lead distribution among your team members.
This level of customization ensures that your team doesn’t have to compromise with their sales processes, allowing them to manage your sales pipeline more efficiently and ultimately convert more deals. Most teams do use tools of some kind of tool, but you need to ensure that you follow this pipeline management best practices and get a customizable CRM that fits with how you do business.
3. Regular Pipeline Reviews:
You’ll never be able to solve your problems if you don’t know where they are in your sales pipeline. So it is important that you regularly review your pipeline. It is one of the most crucial pipeline management best practices that you MUST incorporate into your business. It helps you identify:
Where your leads are getting stuck in the sales process
What’s the stage that most of your leads go through smoothly
Where they are losing interest and dropping your product or service entirely
You will not only figure out problems that need improvement but also pinpoint what you are doing right and use that to set future targets.
Let’s see some of the ways that’ll help you review your pipeline:
Sales Cycle Length: Track the average time it takes for a lead to progress through the sales cycle and convert. The shorter the cycle, the higher the efficiency of that stage.
If your lead takes relatively more time in a certain stage, that stage needs improvement.
Lead Source Performance: Evaluate the performance of different lead sources to identify the most effective marketing channels.
Your sales process will not convert irrelevant leads in any way. Identify the source with the highest conversion rate and structure your pipeline around that channel.
Seek feedback from your sales team: Your sales team actually works on the ground, ask them about what works and what does not, to get a better picture of your pipeline’s effectiveness.
4. Lead Scoring:
Lead scoring is basically rating your leads based on their likelihood to become a customer. You can rate your leads on any parameter you like.
The main purpose of rating your leads is to prioritize them appropriately on the basis of how interested they are.
For example, a SaaS startup offers a free trial of their software. Leads who sign up for the trial and actively use the software during the trial period receive higher scores and inactive leads get lower scores.
Now this doesn’t mean that inactive leads are irrelevant, they need to the targeted as well but high priority will be given to active leads.
And a lead score will help the sales team know which lead is more likely to buy your service.
In this example, we rated the leads based on their activity in the free trial, there are unlimited ways for you to rate your leads. You can rate based on
- How they interact with your sales reps on call
- How much revenue they are likely to generate
- How effective a lead source: lead source with higher conversion history receives a higher rating
Normally, your sales team would have to rate your leads and store this information in Excel sheets or other software. So every time you need to connect with them, you would have to open the software, check the rating, and then call. Hectic, right?
TeleCRM can help you rate the leads and interact with them from the same place.
5. Focus on Lead Nurturing:
Lead generation is already difficult for a Startup, but it’s only the first step. A lead is not going to become a paying customer after the first interaction or even the second interaction. Your sales team will have to spend time with leads who are not yet ready to make a purchase.
You can do this by staying connected and properly answering their questions and concerns. We know it can be frustrating but that is the only way you can convince your leads to purchase the product from you.
Let’s see 2 ways you can increase connectivity with your leads:
When your send a message to your lead that is specifically meant for them, you give them the impression that you understand their problem and are actually trying to solve it. So even if they don’t purchase your product immediately, they are bound to, sometime in the future.
It is important that a particular lead be approached by a single sales rep. Because your lead will definitely not feel a personalized connection every time a different sales rep talks to them and they have to explain their problem again and again.
Share valuable content like blog posts, industry insights, exclusive guides, video tutorials, etc.
This is a CRM function that automatically sends messages to leads without you having to do anything. So for example, you can design an automated workflow to send an introductory message whenever a new lead enters your system. Now whether your sales team is online or offline, the message will be sent automatically. This way, you can ensure that no lead is left untouched even when the sales team is not working or slacking off!
6. Regularly Monitor the performance of your sales team for better pipeline management:
You will not be able to check the effectiveness of your pipeline if you don’t monitor how your sales team is performing.
They have the most significant role out of all your teams- generating revenue. So you need to track the following metrics in order to evaluate your sales team:
Conversion Rates: Measure how many leads convert into paying customers. Now check the number of deals closed to that of the total deals. A higher win rate indicates the team is performing well and you can give a tap on their shoulders.
You can monitor win rates for individual sales representatives to recognize top performers and provide targeted training for those who need improvement.
Lead Response Time: Keep track of how quickly your team responds to leads’ inquiries. Faster response time leads to better lead engagement and conversion rates.
Use automation tools to ensure prompt follow-ups and personalized responses.
Lead Interactions: Is your sales team properly interacting with your leads? Are they satisfactorily answering lead queries? Have they even interacted with the lead? Have they been following up with the leads? These are some of the questions that need to be answered as well.
With TeleCRM, you can accurately track these metrics by creating customizable reports.
7. Continuous Training for the Sales Team:
Your sales representatives are the ones who convert deals for you. Therefore it is absolutely essential that you train them to adapt to changing market environment to maintain a competitive edge.
But first, you need to figure out where they are making mistakes. You can use a sales team tracking app for startup like TeleCRM to measure the performance of your sales reps.
And once you know where they are lacking, you can train them in the following ways:
Organize Workshops: Organize workshops that cover a range of topics, including sales techniques, product knowledge, customer psychology, and negotiation skills.
Tailor the content to address specific challenges faced by your team.
Role-Playing Sessions: Conduct role-playing sessions to simulate real-life sales scenarios. This allows your sales team to practice different approaches and receive constructive feedback. This helps them to improve their negotiation skills and build confidence.
Coaching and Mentorship: Pair experienced sales representatives with newer team members to provide mentorship and guidance.
Feedback Mechanism: Establish an open feedback mechanism where team members can share insights and suggestions for process improvement. Encourage a culture of continuous learning.
Online Learning Platforms: Leverage online learning platforms that offer sales-specific courses and certifications. These platforms provide flexibility for team members to learn at their own pace.
Call Recording: In TeleCRM, you can record calls made by your sales team. The recorded calls of your most successful callers can be used as training material for new members or existing members that need improvement.
Apart from training, you need to constantly monitor their perform
8. Leverage Automation for increasing the efficiency of your Sales Pipeline:
Automation reduces manual effort and time spent on repetitive tasks. It allows your team to focus on other more important aspects of your business like improving your sales numbers, overlooking your operations, handling your finances, etc.
Also, automation minimizes the risk of human error; your team might forget to follow up on time, send messages to leads, fulfill routine tasks, etc.
Automations are triggered by specific events or actions. These triggers can be a variety of things, such as a new lead entering the CRM, a customer completing a purchase, or a certain amount of time passing since a previous action, etc.
For example, when a lead fills out a contact form on a website, it can trigger an automation to send an automated message response on WhatsApp.
It is one of the most convenient pipeline management best practices because it takes all the manual work away from you.
Some of the most common automation that TeleCRM and other top CRMs give are:
Your sales team is constantly busy making calls, well at least hopefully.
So they don’t have the time or capacity to remember each and every follow-up they need to make. They might miss out on connecting with an interested lead.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, your team can design automation to get reminders. The reminder can be about a follow-up call, about receiving new leads, a reminder for when the rating of a particular lead is updated, etc.
This way, your sales team will complete their tasks on time and you wouldn’t have to scold them for missing follow-ups!
Lead Assignment Rules:
You can change the person handling a lead or leads based on specific events. Suppose the status of a lead is changed to ‘Hot’, this means that the lead is extremely important. So you want this lead to be handled by your best sales rep to ensure that the lead purchases your product.
Or suppose a deal has been closed and you want to transfer this lead to your support team to assist them.
Now these are repetitive situations and with automation, you can carry out these tasks automatically. It saves you the manual effort that you would have otherwise spent on completing these tasks.
Lead Scoring Automation:
Implement lead scoring automation to prioritize leads based on their engagement level. Let’s say that your lead is actively interacting with your chatbot on WhatsApp and you want to update the lead’s rating on their level of engagement.
Now doing this manually every time a lead interacts with your WhatsApp chatbot is not feasible.
With automation, you can directly create a condition to automatically update lead ratings.
You can take your startup to the next level by incorporating the pipeline management best practices mentioned in this blog.
But these practices are not confined to just startups, if you’re a small business, an established company, or an MNC, these pipeline management best practices are followed by everyone!
Also, if you’re not using a CRM, this is your queue to use one. It will make managing your pipeline 100 times easier.
If you’re confused about which pipeline CRM to choose for your business, you can view the other articles we have on our site,
Or, you can contact us directly!