Sales pipeline is the technical term for all processes that enable sales, right from gathering the preliminary details about potential clients down to making an actual sale. If mapped properly, it helps a business visualize and plan the sale processes so that sales success is realized and returns are maximized. So for any business, being in charge of its sales pipeline is critical to its growth and profitability.
But how does a business identify that their sales pipeline is not being managed right in the first place? Here are some signs to look out for.
- Administrative tasks seem to be bogging down the sales team
Carrying out administrative chores and documentation are necessary evils practiced across departments in all organizations to improve accountability and traceability. However, when they take up so much time that little time is left for the sales team to do their actual job, which is selling the products, it is a clear indication that something is going wrong.
Having the right CRM softwares, tailor made for sales CRM processes would reduce the load on the sales team and give them more space to concentrate on the sales part of work.
- Deals don’t move through the pipeline as fast as they should
There are a lot of opportunities in the pipeline and the market is growing. But what if a business is unable to carry forward the prospects through each step and close enough number of deals as it should be doing?
Each opportunity has to be nurtured till it can come to fruition! With potential clients, follow-up is absolutely necessary so that they stay with the business through each stage of the sale process. This requires forward thinking and planning. Before every sales meeting is wound up, the next meeting should be scheduled with a clear agenda in place. Also, the sales team should unfailingly present for every meeting all the details and deliverable that were promised in the last one. Such a proactive approach would not only speed up the process but also assure potential clients the genuineness of the business.
- The sales pipeline management is unaware of the number of open sales opportunities
Unless the sales team knows about the open sale opportunities, it won’t be able to pursue them. Priorities cannot be set and long-term plans cannot be made. Lack of timely follow up would obviously result in prospects going cold, not to mention the poor impression it would give to the potential clients. Further, resuscitating a lost opportunity would take up far more time and effort than finding a new one.
By providing regular updates and reminders, good CRM softwares will help the sales team be up-to-date on opportunities.
- Every client is treated as equal
Fair as though this may sound, it is not the most practical approach for businesses to take. Some clients give smaller, more frequent business, whereas some may give large bulk orders but intermittently. There may even be regular clients with whom up-selling or cross-selling opportunities exist.
In today’s dynamic business world, a single approach for all will not yield maximum results. Only by understanding each of the customers, their individual behaviors, expectations from the products and value to the business can the sales team broker the right deal with them to maximize profits.
- There is no new client to replace a lost deal
An approach based on current requirements alone may be what the management believes in. Sales forecasting is either not done or the results are ignored. But what will happen when a client who had brought in a large business suddenly leaves? Or what if there is a sudden change in the client’s requirements?
By predicting the possible hiccups and opportunities that lie ahead in the pipeline, a business can be better prepared. Long-term plans made based on realistic sales forecasting helps businesses remain dynamic.
- The sales team doesn’t know who the key players in the client’s company are
Business to Business (B2B) sales often require multiple meetings and pitching products and ideas to several teams within the potential client organization. The sales processes get tougher and more complicated as the value of the sale increases. It is easy to lose track of the client team members and heads during these intense interactions.
If the sales team doesn’t recognize the decision makers within the first few exchanges, it risks spending time and effort talking to the wrong people. In turn, this causes unnecessary delays at the cost of profits.
- The sales team does not function as a cohesive unit
A sales team that is unaware of each other’s activities and progress end up functioning as a chaotic mismanaged entity. The miscommunication between employees would result in the some prospective customers being followed up on multiple times and some being completely ignored.
With no client history to refer back to, each client will be forced to listen to the same set of information and respond to repetitive queries. It can irritate or confuse the prospects and be a deal breaker. In addition, time and effort that can be spent on pursuing other clients or taking the sale process forward gets wasted.
- Client data is not centrally maintained
Some businesses fail to understand the importance of maintaining sales and client data at a central location in an organized manner. What happens here is that if a team member leaves the firm or is absent, the sales team struggle to find the relevant details regarding existing or prospective clients and the status of sales processes with each of them. It disrupts the smooth functioning of the sales pipeline and hurts the business’ relationship with its customers.
It is very important to have a proper system in place that helps the sales team maintain and update all lead data. Up-to-date CRM software would be an ideal tool for this.
- Sales cycles take up too much time
When it takes too long to close a sales cycle, everyone involved gets de-motivated and frustrated. It not only wastes time and effort, but also can jeopardize deals that are nearing closure. The most common cause for such a problem is a gap in the sales pipeline.
A CRM software will give an element of control over the sales cycle. It can help a sales CRM team understand the client, their past relationship with the business and the general timelines that each sales cycle takes.
- There is no detailed sales history data to refer to
When the sales team is busy pursuing leads, tracking opportunities and taking steps to clinch deals, regular record maintenance often gets ignored, especially that of the leads that didn’t yield results. One may ask why businesses should maintain data about sales failures. But knowing what exactly led to a failure is as important as knowing the reasons behind success.
If sales team does not have access to a detailed sales history, it cannot decide which the winning approach is in comparison with the rest. Sales team will have to rely on guesswork rather than solid evidence to formulate its strategy.