Knowing how to properly sustain and manage your sales pipeline can make or break your sales career. As salespeople, we psychologically want to add low percentage deals to our pipeline to make us feel like we are doing our jobs. This is a big mistake and one of the big factors in salespeople failing.
Managing a sales pipeline is harder than it seems as it’s more about your ego and willing to let go than anything else. When we do our demos and your prospects are excited yet they suddenly go silent, it can be hard to move on because you are emotionally set on closing that prospect.
You are never going to sell 100% of your pipeline and I’ve heard from various salespeople that only 1 out of 9 deals will close out of your sales pipeline. That means the more potential deals you have the more you will close.
The following approach can help guide you through effectively managing a large sales pipeline.
The best way to effectively view your sales pipeline analysis is to have hyper qualified prospects in your pipeline. You should only put prospects on your pipeline who are hyper qualified and committed to taking the next steps in moving forward. If you have secured an appointment, that does not mean you should add it to your pipeline.
Qualified pipeline leads to revenue, so you want to put only prospects who have been internally approved to move forward or in negotiations to get approved to move forward. The approval stage means high percentage deals closing.
By having prospects who have agreed to a meeting or scheduling a discovery call are great starting points but not something you should add to your pipeline yet. It’s extremely important to slow down the process and really focus on qualifying prospects and finding real buyers.
Remember, it’s very easy to think that you can close 8 of your deals in your pipe because they were so receptive and excited about your product. Be ready for a reality check.
This will really hurt you in the end, because as mentioned before it psychologically feels great to have a large amount of prospects excited about your offerings. Be prepared for fall outs in your pipeline. This can be handled by properly qualifying your prospects and getting next stage commitments.
In order to have a proper qualification process, it’s important to have your discovery game down cold. They say opening is the new closing? well I believe discovery is the new closing because an effective discovery call can give you important indications on if the deal will move forward or not. Effective discovery calls are one of the most important touch-points regarding properly managing your sales pipeline.
In order to sustain your pipeline you need to get the cold hard truth. That means when you are going further down the funnel with a prospect, you need to get the truth about there situation. Are they willing to move forward? Is this something they can use? Is this something they would like to add on? Ask those hard questions and get the truth about their situation and where they’re going.
Once you’ve qualified a prospect, you need to dig down deep and get that answer from them. Whatever answer they give you will help you effectively manage your pipeline. Once you take someone out of your pipeline, it’s key that you immediately add another prospect to the pipe to sustain your growth.
Asking questions is a key component of qualifying a prospect. There’s questions for engaging a prospect and there’s questions for qualifying a prospect to move forward. Once you have been working and helping a prospect for a while, to get the truth means the are gloves are off. You have been dancing with the prospect for a while and it’s time to really get the truth and find out if you have a buyer or you don’t. If you don’t, you have to learn to move on.
Another common problem I see with sales reps in regards to managing a pipeline is fear of rejection. Having a potential deal you are excited about walk away sucks, because you thought that was a sure fire commission check and now you have to make up for it. Rejection will always be a part of sales but you have to train yourself to be numb to rejection. You have to expect the unexpected as anything can happen as things move further and further down the funnel.
Rejection comes along with the job. If rejection is something you have a hard time with than sales might not be the right profession for you. Practice on not getting emotionally involved with your deals and learn to quickly move on.
Following up is the key to maintaining and accurately predicting your pipeline. When you are evaluating your pipeline weekly, set up a follow up sequence for each prospect in your pipeline management system (CRM) or calendar. Try setting up a sequence that mixes the
- Social Media
- Face to Face Visits
- Direct mail
Because you’re at the point of the funnel where prospects may not respond immediately, they may still be evaluating your service or product so it will take numerous follow up attempts to get the truth about their decision.
Since the prospects on your pipeline are further down the funnel, develop a more aggressive cadence. You need to find out what there situation is internally and where they are at in terms of making a purchase.
Stage 1/Stage 2 List
while tracking your pipeline, it’s important to have lists segmented by stages of the sales cycle that the prospect is in. Stage 1 list would be active prospects that have given all the proper qualification signals and Stage 2 would be active agreements out for review or agreements that are going through the internal process. Segmenting your lists can help you determine and possibly predict your conversion/closing rates from your sales pipeline.
Another key aspect of the sales funnel process is not to force the deal. Have patience and stick with your follow ups. Some prospects will stall and some prospects will be busy, so it’s key to have patience and let things play out.
We all want to close as many deals as possible but we also need to think about keeping the relationship. There is a debate about helping first before selling or selling before helping, but there’s that fine line where you want to continue to support your prospect. Helping prospects always wins. You will close the deal eventually, you just have to live another day.
In the end, you have to understand your prospects situation.
You are going to hear tons of scenarios such as we don’t have the budget to justify the cost, or for some reason they will have to hold off for the time being.
You can push out your objection handling arsenal, but sometimes your not going to be able to change there current situation, no matter how good your objection handling is. This is where patience comes in, you have to be okay with deleting deals off your pipeline and having the patience to continue helping and providing value for your prospects until they are ready to move forward with you.