By Megan Hottman, Brand Evangelist
One of the services we specialize in is outbound lead generation. We provide thousands of qualified leads to our clients on a daily basis. One of the activities that drives the demand for our services is pipeline management. In most organizations, sales pipeline management is an activity owned by the Sales VP or Director. We partner with those individuals to assist them with keeping their sales pipeline as full as possible – ensuring they are in a position to achieve their sales goals every month.
That got me to thinking about what makes up a healthy pipeline. I think there are 6 key things that B2B sales reps and their managers should focus on to ensure a healthy pipeline.
First, it goes without saying that a pipeline full of opportunities feels SO much better than a sparse or empty sales funnel that won’t generate the revenue required to hit quota. However, as you’ve likely experienced with yourself or your peers, less is often more. The idea of quality over quantity certainly rings true when it comes to a healthy pipeline. The ultimate goal should be a pipeline with a high percentage of well qualified opportunities that move methodically from stage to stage, through the funnel to close. The consequence of a poor-quality pipeline not only impacts you, but it creates a nightmare for management as they spend their time working though inaccurate forecasts and wrestling with what is truly a good funnel representation.
Control is essential
To manage a pipeline effectively, you need a level of control. This requires a process and definitions that make sense, including a clearly defined target audience, and set criteria for what constitutes a ‘good prospect’ as well as definitions for each stage. Having established clear qualification criteria, you can then move prospects in and out of the pipeline appropriately. This helps make sure that time and effort is spent towards the right opportunities.
Process, process, process
Stick with the process. Why do I say that? A study by Harvard Business Review found that companies with a formal sales process generate higher revenues. Most companies have a very explicit sales process with definitions for a reason…this article would absolutely support those reasons. Intimately familiarize yourself with that defined process and stick to what works. If you are unclear or need help, just ask.
A healthy pipeline should be open and visible to everyone. You must keep it up to date and review it regularly. Pipeline reviews aren’t fun however not being real with yourself and others on what your pipeline really looks like is a terrible idea. It may initially keep management off your back but that will without a doubt catch up with you. The last thing you want is an inflated, very unattainable forecast where nothing ever closes. You’ll make yourself look terribly incompetent.
Make a commitment to yourself right now, that this year you’ll have complete transparency and accuracy in your pipeline numbers. Keep in mind that this data can help illustrate where you may need help at in the process. If your pipeline is full of several late or mid stage opportunities for instance, there is probably room for you to invest time in working on qualifying and discovery.
Have a reality check with yourself
Don’t waste your time trying to push a prospect to close too soon. Consider what you may be leaving on the table? Are you targeting the right buyer profile and if so, are you making headway with qualifying and moving them from stage to stage? If not, recalibrate and focus on the leads that are most likely to buy. No one wants to walk away from leads but holding on to those that aren’t the “right” leads to begin with is just a complete waste of time. Spend your time concentrating on the prospects who are most likely to buy and will be the most valuable to your business. When you begin to really scrutinize the prospects that make it into your funnel, your attention will be focused on the deals that matter most.
Prospects at every stage
A healthy pipeline will have prospects at each stage. It may sound obvious, but if you focus all your activities on closing deals in the later stages, without filling the pipeline at the beginning and nurturing those in earlier stages, you’ll be left high and dry once the later stage deals have closed.
A pipeline needs to flow. If a deal stays too long at one stage, chances are it’s not going to progress or close. Take a hard look at the deal and either qualify it or move to the appropriate stage. Don’t waste your time on deals that look like they’ve stalled.
The bottom line is that as a sales professional you live, breathe and die by your pipeline and forecasts. It’s critical that you invest the time to manage it well as it will increase sales performance as you’re spending time on the right opportunities.
Other Articles You Might Find Interesting:
5 Keys to Writing a Successful B2B Telemarketing Script
Megan Hottman is a Brand Evangelist for Quality Contact Solutions. Megan’s experience includes working as an outbound telemarketing manager for a Fortune 100 company for many years. Megan has been both a client and an employee of QCS, so she knows first-hand the quality, productivity and passion the team brings to work on a daily basis. As Brand Evangelist, Megan is a freelance contributor to our website. You can reach Megan at https://www.linkedin.com/in/meganehottman/