The sales pipeline is the method of the sales team understanding the abstract concept of the sales process. In layman’s terms, it tracks the flow of your prospective sale from a new contact, to prospect, to lead and hopefully to a fully-fledged customer.
With only 46% of sales reps believing that their sales pipeline is accurate, things aren’t always simple and sometimes contacts are going to drop off along the way. In most companies, this is perfectly normal and occasional occurrences aren’t going to affect the company and cause irreparable damage.
The important thing to understand is; why is your sales pipeline getting clogged? Which part of the process is ineffective and needs unclogging? Clogs in the sales pipeline can occur if each element of the process isn’t working in sync. When this happens, prospects lose momentum, the process slows down, the pipeline become inaccurate and prospects slowly but surely slip away.
As more and more prospects clog up the pipeline, your company will begin to notice the effects on profit. At the first signs of a clog, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Which part of the pipeline needs unclogging?
- Are the sales team wasting valuable time and energy on prospects which will never convert?
- Are there too many processes within your company which confuse the sales process?
- Your sales team are brilliant at finding the opportunities, but are they followed up effectively?
- When do your prospects drop off your pipeline? Do they make it all the way to the end or are you losing the majority of them at a particular step?
There are a number of possible causes for a clogged pipeline and before you rush to unblock it, you will have to diagnose exactly where the problem is. If you have a documented record of each prospects journey, this should be a relatively easy task.
Once you have diagnosed where your clog is, you need to do something about it. Like a blocked drain, the clog will continue to grow until there is a total lack of flow in your pipeline.
If your contacts seem to be getting stuck at the first hurdle, you may wish to reinvent the way they are approached. Start by exploring different avenues; e-shots, blogging, telemarketing, and social media. One reason for a lack of progression may be that you haven’t engaged at the right level. You may be spending lots of time and effort trying to progress this contact, and in the end they aren’t even relevant.
A common clog is that sales reps spend a lot of time and effort trying to push along contacts who drag their feet. It is vital that the sales team are trained to spot the diamonds from the word go. A fast flowing pipeline will emphasise quality rather than quantity, and little time is wasted on tyre kickers. Of course, with enough time and effort, you will be able to push that person along, but will the end result really be worth it? Focus on the leads that really pay off, and progress the others into a nurture pot where they can be worked on in the background.
If your prospect is flying down the pipeline and grinds to a halt halfway down, the issue may lie within your internal sales team. Customer relationship management and marketing automation are both tried and tested methods of not only gaining, but also retaining customers. With 49% of companies increasing their spend on CRM, it shows that it is a key issue in the mind of business leaders. Another issue may be that your sales team have lost sight of the human touch, have they tried picking up the phone and having a conversation with the prospect? You need to carefully look at the way in which you engage with your customers and personalise your approach as much as possible. With a little analysis, training and perhaps a change in the way your sales team work, it is possible to remove the clogs and have a free flowing pipeline.