So you’ve built a sales pipeline. How will you manage the sales pipeline?
How effective is it? How many leads are qualified versus unqualified? How many leads are converting into customers?
Not tracking these metrics to manage your sales pipeline is like buying running shoes but never going for a run. The shoes will not run by themselves. They’re a means to help you achieve your goals of losing calories and becoming fit.
Similarly, a sales funnel is a means to empower your salespeople and sales leaders to increase the conversion rate of the leads. Your salespeople should approach the end-to-end selling effort in a planned manner in order to achieve this outcome.
Here are the five stages of a sales pipeline and how your people can manage them, especially in an environment as complex as a B2B sale.
Stage 1: Opportunity Assessment
This stage gives the salesperson insights into the opportunity or potential of the prospective sale.
When the salesperson gets the lead, he must collect information like the customer context and needs, the customer’s organization, the competition, and other factors. This information can come from an online search, annual reports, probing the customer, marketplace gossip, and more.
Without full information on potential customers, it’s impossible to plan how to handle the sales process for the opportunity.
Stage 2: Qualify the Opportunity
This stage lets the salesperson figure out whether the opportunity is worth pursuing.
When salespeople compare the collected information against clearly defined criteria for the target audience, they align with your company’s market strategy and also become experts at collecting relevant leads.
Without formal criteria, your salespeople might try to sell to anyone resulting in undesirable outcomes like returned goods, poor collections numbers, and wasted time and effort.
Stage 3: Strategy Formulation
This stage enables the salesperson to work with their sales managers or by themselves to form a strategy on directing the opportunity from the start to the end.
Such a strategy involves identifying the prospect’s pressing needs and aligning the selling activities with different stages in the customer buying process, and also figuring out how to present the company’s offering better than those of the competition.
With such a strategy in place, salespeople can anticipate what customers will need, the questions they might ask, and how to effectively maneuver their objections. But without such a strategy, the salespeople will struggle to show the product’s value and will try to sell by saying things like “best quality” and “lowest price.”
Stage 4: Strategy Execution
This stage involves executing the strategy according to the plan.
This is not just the role of the salesperson but the entire organization because the salesperson will need support from other resources like marketing, finance, operations, and more to carry out their respective duties in managing this opportunity.
The way the entire organization functions in this process contributes to the customer’s experience and creates an impression in the customer’s mind, not just about the salesperson but also the organization.
As with all strategies, the execution matters more than the planning.
Step 5: Review and Analysis
This step enables the salesperson to refine the strategy implemented and make it more efficient and effective.
No strategy is perfect. Every sales call will present new learning to your salespeople. (If they’re not learning, it should be a red flag for you.) An analysis of the strategy between the sales team and his manager (during and after the sales process) will bring more aspects to light that could require a course correction or create an opportunity for improvement.
This final stage circles back to Stage 1, meaning that the five stages of a sales pipeline are essentially a circular process. Salespeople should continuously work on them to figure out how to increase the lead-to-customer conversion ratio.
Technology can enable a business to become more efficient and effective. But it cannot run the business by itself. It’s important to know how your sales pipeline is functioning and keep iterating to improve it.
Would you like our help in developing an effective and customized sales pipeline for your company? If yes, you can connect with us here.