I have read a plethora of articles and blog posts recently on the subject of pipeline management, whilst it will never be an exact science, it really is not that complicated.
Imagine a bath filled with water, almost instantly the water begins to evaporate or can slowly seep through the plughole. Over a period of time the water level reduces and the temperature drops! The only way to keep the water level high and the water hot is to turn on the tap and continually refill it.
Equally, you want to keep your prospects â€˜on the boilâ€™ by actions that continuously warm up and consolidate your relationship with them. You certainly donâ€™t want all your efforts to go down the drain!
The moment you contact a qualified prospect you are committed to the time consuming process of ongoing discussions, and have created a real opportunity to convert potential business into actual sales. This is often referred to as â€˜pipeline businessâ€™ because the more progress you make, the higher your probability for success.
The ability to leverage your probability for converting potential business in your pipeline is a vital part of the sales process and helps to focus your mind onto getting each prospect to the next milestone. Speed of follow-through is really important because it helps to create a momentum that consolidates your relationship with potential new customers.
The following suggestions can help you accelerate your prospects through your pipeline, and increase your probability for winning more deals:
* Agree the next steps with your prospect, and ensure that you are clear on the actions that will take you to the next milestone and closer to the sale
* Before agreeing any actions with your prospect, ask yourself if these actions are leading you towards a sale. If you canâ€™t see the tangible reason for completing an action then you could find yourself in a never-ending situation of fruitless discussions that dilute your results
* Send an acknowledgement and confirmation of agreed actions to your prospect within 24 hours if possible. This conveys professionalism and provides another layer of reassurance for the prospect
* At the end of every telephone call and meeting with your prospect, agree a specific time and date for your next contact. Lots of your valuable time can be wasted trying to get in touch with a busy buyer!
A well-managed pipeline helps to improve the consistency of results achieved and creates a platform for more accurate sales forecasting. If pipeline management is not an integral part of an organisationâ€™s sales process, this can result in a number of problems including; longer sales cycles, reduced forecasting accuracy, inconsistent and unpredictable sales performance, declining win-rates and an inability to pinpoint reasons for decreased results.
You canâ€™t manage what you canâ€™t measure, and if you canâ€™t measure your pipeline then you canâ€™t improve your productivity. There are a number of Key Performance Indicators (KPIâ€™s) that can be measured, monitored and managed to ensure achievement of sales targets:
Example Key Performance Indicators:
Pipeline Opportunities: These should be measured in value and the number of opportunities in the pipeline
Opportunities by Milestone: Once these milestones and their different probabilities of closing have been calculated, these figures ensure greater accuracy of forecasting
Average Deal Size: This ensures better focus on larger deals and ideally will increase steadily each year
Sales Cycle Time Shortening: This can have a huge impact because of the cumulative â€˜saved timeâ€™ available for prospecting.
Profitability Margins: Can be tracked to ensure that there is sufficient contribution to enable ongoing account handling.
Conversion Ratio: The number of opportunities won and the % of pipeline potential converted.
Hope that all helps – you see, it really doesn’t have to be that complicated, does it?
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Tomorrow, “getting it” – do you really get it, or are you in it for what you can get out of it?
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