Effective sales pipeline management lets you track sales activities, optimize your processes, improve reps’ productivity, and ultimately grow your revenue. In fact, a well-maintained sales pipeline can even get your team through uncertain economic times.
But that’s easier said than done. We talked to a ton of experienced sales experts to find their best pipeline management secrets to help you get started. Read on to find out what they had to say.
What is sales pipeline management?
Sales pipeline management refers to overseeing, managing, and optimizing the sales activities involved in moving prospects through your sales pipeline.
Often, poor pipeline management leads to situations like:
- Prospects staying in different stages of your sales cycle for far longer than they should
- Reps not having enough qualified prospects to meet their quotas
- Poor time estimates for when deals are likely to close
All of these issues result in pipeline anxiety, demotivated reps, and poor sales. With effective pipeline management though, you can guide prospects smoothly through your sales cycle, which helps generate more revenue.
Sales pipeline management best practices
From creating processes, consistent messaging, and following up with warm leads, here are 9 expert-recommended sales pipeline management tips guaranteed to guide your sales ship through turbulent economic seas.
1. Create processes
Well-defined processes guide sales reps in the right direction to consistently close deals.
“Having a streamlined process with accuracy for bringing on new business, will let you see the bottlenecks in your team’s qualification process,” adds Elias Diaz, the Director of Sales at Virtudesk.
In fact, processes show bottlenecks in not only the qualification stage of your sales pipeline but in various other stages such as prospecting and closing deals.
“It also allows your company to have a better idea of where it stands from a revenue perspective,” Elias notes.
2. Prioritize ready-to-convert leads
“You should focus on the most high-value, sales-ready leads, and avoid getting ‘distracted’ by those that won’t get you any business,” suggests Garrett Yamasaki, Founder of WeLoveDoodles.
Doing so lets you intelligently budget your time to move sales-ready accounts through your sales pipeline.
An effective way to prioritize accounts? Ask yourself the hard questions — a hat tip to UserGems’ Sales Strategist, Krysten Conner.
In a LinkedIn post, Krysten noted, “Asking ourselves hard questions about our deals is no fun. But hard questions give us better answers.”
In doing so, they save you from chasing the wrong leads. Here’s how asking the hard questions has helped Krysten:
What’s more, UserGems’s Account Development Manager, Sara Angell, recommends prioritizing your efforts to close more deals — specifically during uncertain times.
“Look at your most likely prospects. Those who you connected with in the past, look at who’s engaging with you currently, and look for your companies’ champions who have moved onto target accounts,” explains Sara.
That said, an important caveat to prioritizing likely-to-convert accounts: don’t forget other leads who show the potential to convert down the line.
WeLoveDoodles’ Garrett Yamasaki echoes the same. “Don’t forget about the other low-potential buyers since they could become valuable customers in the future once things go ‘back to normal’; however, I do think you should clearly label them as ‘not a priority’ so your efforts don’t go to waste during times [when] every minute and penny counts.”
3. Invest your time wisely
“Use your time as if it’s your most valuable asset because it is,” UserGems’ Sara Angell recommends.
The CEO of GemPool, Michael Lantry agrees. “The key thing to managing a sales pipeline is how you allocate your efforts and time. What % of time should you spend generating fresh leads and identifying prospects for the top of the funnel versus engaging the leads down to closing deals?”
“In an uncertain environment, like during an economic downturn, a disproportionate amount of time should be on lead generation. This should be around 70% of your time,” Michael comments.
“This is critical as things can change quickly, and you need to start understanding trends. For example, which parts of your market (like industries or domains) are spending money, and which ones are struggling? E.g. If you sell recruitment services to the tech market, are fintech companies doing more right now than eCommerce companies or MedTech companies?”
Sara also shares other needle-moving sales activities that you should be dedicating your time to. For instance, spend time “personalizing your messages, leaving thoughtful voice messages and outreach emails, and interacting thoughtfully on social.” Also, dedicate time to following up with leads.
In short, “Being ruthless with your time is what is going to help you through the uncertainty,” says Michael.
4. Build relationships with customers
Satisfied customers can bring in business even in a weak economy — reducing churn, sending referrals your way, and even taking up cross-selling opportunities.
In fact, recent HubSpot research shows that 56% of salespeople get leads from customer referrals. The best part? 66.5% say leads that they get from customer referrals tend to be of the highest quality.
The takeaway here is simple: commit to building relationships with your existing customers.
“In times of economic instability, it’s important to understand your customers’ needs and concerns, and to be able to adapt your sales strategy accordingly,” agrees Eyal Worthalter, Utimaco’s Vice President of Global Solutions Sales.
“One way to do this is to regularly check in with your customers and ask for their feedback. This will not only help you understand their needs, but it will also show that you care about their business.
“The most important function that a Revenue Leader needs to prioritize in times of uncertainty is that of Customer Success. Ask your CSR or post-sales team to organize 1:1 or check-ins with each and every single customer (if your organization size and number of customers permit this). CSR check-ins not only will reduce the usual churn/cancellations that occur during economic uncertainty but ensure it might uncover additional opportunities for upselling or cross-selling new products.”
5. Stay consistent even in tough economic conditions
Another critical tip for managing a sales pipeline is being consistent.
"As far as managing your sales pipeline in an uncertain environment or unstable economy goes, there really isn’t anything dramatic that should be done differently,” Matador Capital’s CEO and Founder, Jeremy Mercer shares.
“You keep a steady pipeline in an uncertain environment and economy by making cold calls, following up on your prospects, and continue pushing deals forward just like you would if the market was hot,” Jeremy concludes.
6. Visualize your customer journey map
Visualizing your buyer’s customer journey helps sales reps understand leads’ stage-specific struggles and what they’re thinking and feeling.
In turn, this information assists reps in many ways such as allowing them to lead with empathy — building trust with potential buyers and sharing only relevant content with them.
Similarly, at Girokonto.io, Lisa Dietrich shares, “A visual customer journey map helps us better understand what potential customers are looking for when they enter our site so that we can provide customized solutions that address their specific needs.”
No wonder Lisa comments, “Our team swears by the importance of creating a comprehensive customer journey map.
“We use this visual representation to understand the sales funnel from start to finish, identify areas where prospects may be losing interest or dropping off, and develop targeted strategies to re-engage them.”
BankingGeek’ Founder and CEO, Max Benz also commends the potential of mapping each step of the customer journey. In Max’s words:
Max also suggests using “Clear and accurate reporting to track key metrics like time spent in each stage, close rates, and revenue generated at each stage. Having this insight will help managers make more informed decisions on how best to optimize their sales pipeline.”
7. Always follow-up
Although following up seems like a no-brainer pipeline management tip, it’s often among the tasks reps put on the back burner.
Austin Kreinz, the CEO & Founder of Atomix Logistics, however, notes that it’s essential to always have a pulse on a lead.
“In practice, that means not only following up often to keep in contact, but to ask the right questions to understand the true likelihood of closing the specific lead.”
As you follow up, it’s critical you don’t come across as pushy as that can turn away even interested prospects. To this end, it’s essential to space out follow-ups. And to utilize friendly and approachable language when following up but at the end of the day, it’s our responsibility to stay top of mind for our prospects,” writes Austin.
Find yourself neglecting to follow up with leads? “Block time daily for follow-ups — give yourself enough time to make them meaningful,” advises UserGems’ Sara Angell.
8. Prioritize sales and marketing alignment
Sales and marketing team alignment is the secret to creating and sharing engaging content that’s relevant to leads in different sales pipeline stages.
Put another way, when the two teams work together, they can generate, nurture, and close more high-quality accounts.
Vito Vishnepolsky, the Founder and Director of Martal Group shares sales and marketing alignment as the best tip to “ensure your processes are lean and efficient” during economically challenging times.
According to Vito:
9. Use the right sales pipeline management tools
At Girokonto.io, for example, Lisa Dietrich shares, “By leveraging technology and analytics tools such as predictive modelling, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and big data, we have been able to accurately assess customer needs and trends and anticipate future outcomes. This enables us to quickly adjust our sales strategy if needed, helping us stay ahead of the competition.”
- “Tier out my accounts and contacts. Which companies are A accounts, B accounts, and so on. Same with prospects. From here I can tailor specific messaging and content to send to them.
- Use UserGems Meeting Assistant tool to automatically capture data from calendar meetings and push those into my CRM.
- Ensure that my sequences are properly filled with prospects that fit my ideal customer profile (ICP). For example, using UserGems Account Tracking solution, I can easily add additional prospects at my specific target accounts that fit my filtered criteria for the specific sequences.
- Manage my opportunities. How can I help my AE multithread opportunities for higher success and engagement? Who do I need to follow up with?
- Create and push closed-lost opportunity prospects or prospects who asked me to follow-up into a nurture sequence which will drip over a long period of time.”
In short, Kenny explains UserGems “plays a major part in ensuring I’m reaching out to the right people, in the right accounts, at the right time.”
Optimize your sales pipeline today
To wrap it up, effective sales pipeline management boils down to creating and sticking to your processes consistently.
Make sure you’re investing your time in meaningful activities such as nurturing sales-ready leads, following up with interested accounts, and building relationships with customers.
Most of all, make things easy for your sales team by leveraging the right pipeline management tools. UserGems, for instance, can help you track customer job changes so can reach out to new target accounts via warm leads.
It also auto-updates contact information, giving you daily updates on who you’re meeting alongside notes on the role they hold in the target account and whether they’ve met someone from your company before.
So what are you waiting for? Take UserGems for a spin and improve your pipeline management today.
UserGems is a pipeline generation software that helps revenue teams generate and protect revenue efficiently. With UserGems, companies can track and automate outreach when their champions change their jobs, and capture the buying groups to find the warmest path into every account.
Companies like Mimecast, Greenhouse, Medallia use UserGems to reach their revenue goals, quickly and efficiently.