Sales Pipeline Management: 7 Proven-to-work steps for Sales Managers

Jo White posted in Sales September 17, 2019

Sales success doesn’t come down to just one factor.

You need great leads. You need solid systems in place to cut down time on less productive tasks. You need your team to be agile, proactive, and knowledgeable enough to identify the right solution to offer to the right lead, at the right time.

Managing your sales pipeline, or the process you use to qualify leads and close deals with customers, joins all these factors together into your unified plan for better sales.

Make every action you take more effective by following top performers’ strategies.

Start early

Procrastination can happen to anyone. On the other hand, it seems that putting things off until the last minute happens more often to the middle and lower-end performers. Research shows that average sales performers make way more calls at the end of the quarter - and those calls are almost always less effective than calls in the first two months.

The simple fix here is flip the script!

Commit to starting the quarter with a surge of activity, instead of ending with a scramble for the last few deals. You may find that if other companies fall into the trap of waiting until the last month, you’ll encounter less competition for your target customers’ time and energy.

Keep in mind that a recurring pattern of procrastination can signal larger issues with your sales process or team motivation, so make a note to look for solutions to these challenges too.

Automate where you can

Succeeding in sales means getting comfortable with lots of follow-up. If you’ve got 100 potential leads in the pipeline, and it takes 18 calls to connect with a buyer, that’s a lot of contact to remember!

CRM technology can organize client rosters and help sales teams plan when and how to reach out next. Voicemail automation tools, tech to log calls and dispositions, and list building solutions can also dramatically reduce the time sales employees spend on critical tasks.

Identify the best leads

Not to be overly simplistic, but the key to closing more deals is concentrating on the best leads in the pipeline. Figuring out which leads are the most promising is challenging, but not impossible.

Using the data you collected via tech solutions and automated processes can highlight subtle shifts that an individual salesperson might miss. Check for indicators that a lead is getting warmer, like an uptick in engagement with your emails. You might also want to schedule some extra coaching support for sales employees preparing for important demos or negotiations.

Focusing on the prospects that are likeliest to be customers soon puts your best efforts where they can make the most impact.

Add time for coaching

Your sales team work hard to build connections, qualify leads, and close deals. If you’re not checking in with them regularly, though, you could miss gaps in knowledge or experience that might keep employees from meeting their best potential.

One-on-one coaching, including practicing ways to work through challenging scenarios, is one of the best ways to strengthen each employees’ sales skills.

Pressed for time? Many sales managers are. Hold a group meeting with sales staff to brainstorm solutions for a common challenge. Aim for at least a few more individual coaching sessions than in the last 90 days to gradually incorporate regular coaching into your schedule.

Pace conversations the right way

The overwhelming majority of sales connections happen over phone conversations. Cultivating talent for genuine connection over the phone will make a major impact on your ability to close deals and keep existing customers happy.

First, emphasize listening. Practicing talking points often gets more attention yet listening well and understanding a lead’s concerns is at just as important. Talk with your sales team about the strategies that help them listen more effectively, such as removing distractions and taking notes during a call.

Next, space out questions. It can be tempting to front-load questions, either to gain information quickly or to try to direct the tone of the conversation. The problem is asking too many questions at once can backfire by overwhelming your prospect. Asking questions throughout the course of the call leads to a more natural, give-and-take balance.

Review and refine the sales process

If there was one perfect approach to sales, everyone would do it. In reality, while there are proven guidelines for success, every sales manager has to tweak the details of the sales process to fit their team and their industry. Set a reminder to review your pipeline and sales reports to analyze what’s working and where you can improve.

Look for early warning signs, even minor ones, that could hint at a larger issue. One rough week won’t necessarily throw off the quarter, but a week that turns into a lackluster month could. Catching a faulty technique or missing step early could save you from a much larger sales slump.

Set high, achievable goals

Defining what success looks like is an essential part of meeting your goals. Take time to set clear goals at the individual level and for the entire team.

Goal-setting boosts morale by clarifying expectations. Sales employees may appreciate a chance to weigh in on strategies they’re proud of, or ask for feedback on any concerns. Making goals collaboratively can encourage team camaraderie and help sales managers get to know the team better.

Want even more impact in your sales pipeline management? Turn to tools that work and support you can rely on. The more clearly you can visualize the opportunities already waiting in your pipeline, the better prepared you’ll be to connect with the right leads at the perfect moment.

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