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Besides managing contact information and tracking customer interactions, one of the most useful features of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is sales pipeline management. An effective lead-to-opportunity-to-account pipeline maximizes the number of qualified leads that convert into customers. Similarly, inbound lead tracking and management help you optimize your lead capture strategies. With the right tools and tactics, you can gather more leads and target and attract more qualified leads.
What Is Sales Pipeline Management?
When you obtain a new sales contact, it takes many steps to turn that lead into a customer. First, you must qualify your prospects. Once it seems like your connection is a good candidate for selling, you can work towards making the sale. It may start with a few meetings. Then, you’ll generate a proposal and negotiate until you’ve closed the deal. For most businesses, the sales cycle breaks down into six stages, including:
- Make contact
- Build a relationship
- Close the deal
- Follow up with cold leads
Managing your sales pipeline involves looking at all the activities in each stage of your sales cycle and ensuring they are efficient. You can make sure salespeople follow through on their leads using the steps you expect them to. You can also analyze which phases of the sales cycle are most and least efficient at converting customers and where most leads drop out of the process. Besides this, you should understand where your current leads are within the sales pipeline at any given time.
Over time, effective sales pipeline management means that more leads make it out through the other end and sign a deal with your company. It helps you allocate resources, oversee your sales reps, gather more prospects and convert more customers. Companies who spend at least three hours per month managing their sales pipelines see 11% greater revenue growth.
Key Activities in Sales Pipeline Management
Four crucial activities involved in managing your sales pipeline include:
1. Tracking Sales Pipeline Metrics
Tracking metrics related to your sales pipeline lets you know your strengths and weaknesses. Setting goals to improve your metrics helps make your sales pipeline stronger and more efficient. The right metrics can tell you a lot about your leads and sales process. Some data points to consider include:
- Value of your current opportunities: This metric is the amount of money each prospect is likely to spend if deals go through. Compare the value of your current prospective clients over set periods. The goal is to increase the value through more leads or leads who will spend more money with you. This metric also helps you forecast revenue.
- Leads and opportunities by product category: This metric lets you see how many prospects express interest in each of your products. You can also track where they are in the sales cycle.
- Number of deals: See how many deals you have in the works and how many you’ve closed in each sales period. This number lets you understand how healthy your sales process is.
- Deal size: The total value of your closed deals divided by the total number gives you an excellent average deal size. This number lets you know how many sales you need to make to stay on target.
- Close rate: This metric represents the percentage of your active opportunities that close. Your close rate helps you identify opportunities for improvement and training for your sales team.
- Sales velocity: In sales pipeline management, your sales or pipeline velocity is how long it takes to convert a qualified lead into a paying customer. When you know how long your sales process takes, you can identify opportunities to make it faster. You can also catch prospects that are taking too long at certain stages of the cycle.
2. Eliminating Problem Areas in the Pipeline
Once you have a good overview of your sales process and sound data to base decisions on, you can start making improvements. Depending on which metrics you deem most important, you can make improvements over time to streamline your pipeline. It also helps you recognize when metrics veer off course so you can correct them.
One problem many pipelines face is having too many opportunities in progress. If your salespeople can’t handle the current volume of qualified leads, some can fall through the cracks or stagnate. Your pipeline management software can help you identify which prospects are taking longer than usual in your pipeline and what stage they’re in.
With each stagnant lead, you can have your team use their judgment on whether to remove them or help them along. Before removing prospects from your pipeline, you can do one final follow-up. This step gives those with potential the chance to express their continued interest.
3. Updating Your Sales Processes
As your team progresses, and with the help of better data, you’ll discover tactics and strategies that work best for your sales cycle. As new processes prove themselves more efficient, make sure to update your documented sales strategy. Review your standard procedures often, and consider removing the ones that aren’t working. This function of pipeline management involves two processes — tightening up a complicated approach and elaborating on a vague strategy.
The more complicated and long your sales process is, the more chances leads have to drop out. You want to keep your sales cycle running smoothly without making your contacts feel rushed. Here, one improvement could involve focusing on lead generation channels that produce better fits for your product. You could also work to make initial proposals more customized and relevant to individual prospects. Finally, you could shorten the time between follow-up meetings. Sound management and a useful sales pipeline CRM can help you identify which strategies to improve.
Bottlenecks and failed conversions could result from a sales pipeline that’s missing a crucial stage. If salespeople don’t have a standard approach that’s proven itself effective, your leads could go cold when they reach these less-defined portions of your sales process. Look at each stage of your pipeline, focusing on the areas where opportunities pile up or go cold. Identify new sales activities that salespeople should engage in as a matter of policy. For example, including a formal follow-up at a vital decision point could improve your sales pipeline.
4. Helping Your Sales Team Perform Better
Ultimately, pipeline management helps your sales team do their best. As a leader, your strategies and management help them meet their sales quotas. A sales pipeline CRM can give your salespeople actionable data to perform better.
For example, if employees know how long leads typically stay in each stage of the sales cycle, they can better identify leads that are running cold. Forecasting helps them see whether they’re on track to reach their sales goals. It can also help them see which leads need their attention and which are the most important.
Simple Sales CRM Pipeline Management Tools
Sales pipeline management requires you to know what your active pipeline looks like all the time. It’s also helpful to have metrics that tell you what your sales funnel should look like. Simple Sales CRM makes it easy to manage your pipeline. We make all your sales lead and pipeline data visual and accessible.
While many CRMs are complicated and hard to use, ours is powerfully simple. By eliminating the confusing and less-useful “bells and whistles” features, we make your sales pipeline more manageable. This also saves you money. Focus only on the metrics you care about and start making your sales team more efficient with Simple Sales CRM. Our sales pipeline management features include:
- Custom sales pipeline design: Whatever your sales pipeline looks like, our software can accommodate it. Add your sales stages and all the documents and activities required at each phase. When your leads start traveling through the pipeline, you can easily see what stage they’re in.
- Lead, opportunity and account management: Simple Sales CRM helps you manage your contact relationships as potential customers travel down the pipeline. First, inbound leads appear in the initial stages of your pipeline. After initial meetings and lead qualifying, a prospect may prove to be a potential client. Your sales team can then upgrade a lead to an opportunity. When they sign a deal or become a paying customer, upgrade them again to an account. You can also mark any opportunity as “won” or “lost.” This system works for both B2B and B2C sales environments.
- Opportunity stages and probabilities: Once a lead becomes an opportunity, they may go through several stages of your sales cycle. Here, you can set custom opportunity stages depending on your sales process. You may need one initial meeting, analysis, a product demo meeting, an official proposal and final negotiation. At each stage, you can set a probability that an opportunity will complete each step. In general, probabilities are lower towards the earlier stages and get higher as you move through the sales cycle.
- Task management: At each stage of the sales cycle, your sales representatives must complete specific tasks to move the prospect to the next step. You can create custom tasks, alongside due dates and reminders, to make this process more efficient. For example, at the proposal stage, you may need to draft a proposal, have it reviewed, send it to the prospect and then make revisions. In Simple Sales CRM’s project manager, your team can perform these tasks as expected and on schedule.
- Opportunity value tracking: When a lead turns into an opportunity, you can enter an estimated value for the deal. If you want, you can even input estimated low and high values. This data aids pipeline management because your team can compare opportunities. A lead that will potentially spend more could be more valuable to your company and result in a higher commission for your sales rep. Knowing which prospects have the highest value can help you make better decisions on where to allocate resources.
- Reports and charts: Simple Sales CRM offers many reports and graphs you can use to gather pipeline metrics. The combined sales pipeline report lets you see the dates where pipeline progression occurs. Get an overview of when a lead becomes an opportunity and when opportunities become accounts. This report can help you establish average sales velocity within your sales pipeline. You can also track leads, opportunities and accounts in progress by salesperson and by product category. With the help of custom fields, you can generate even more reports to meet your needs.
Sales Lead Management and Tracking Tool
One of the signs of a healthy pipeline is many leads coming in. It’s as critical to manage your sales leads as it is to manage your opportunities and accounts. To better manage your leads and ensure a steady flow of incoming prospects, you need the right data. You should know what channels bring in more leads and, more importantly, where your most qualified candidates come from. When the rest of your sales pipeline is efficient, those leads can become opportunities and accounts without blockages or bottlenecks.
Simple Sales CRM offers comprehensive sales lead tracking. First, you can mark where each lead comes from. Did they fill out your website’s contact form, speak to you at a trade show, or call your company directly? If your contact form has a “where did you hear about us?” field, you can learn even more about where your leads come from. Find out if potential customers hear about your business through a friend, an internet search or an ad. Then, mark it all down in Simple Sales CRM for further analysis.
By tracking all your lead sources, you can begin to establish metrics. First, see what channels bring in the most leads. Use lead scoring to rank leads as either cold, warm or hot and determine where your best sales prospects come from. Once leads graduate into opportunities and you assign a value to each, you can identify which lead-generation channels bring in the most valuable clients.
Simple Sales CRM Capabilities
Simple Sales CRM offers several inbound sales lead tracking and management capabilities, including:
- Contact information storage: When leads enter Simple Sales CRM, you can store detailed contact information on each prospect. Besides phone numbers, emails, websites and addresses, you can also keep notes about the contact. Any comments you add can help your sales reps personalize their discussions and meetings to the individual.
- Lead assignments: When leads come into your CRM, whether manually or automatically, you can quickly assign them to a salesperson. Assigning an owner lets the contact populate in that salesperson’s Simple Sales CRM account, under the “leads” tab. By distributing leads as soon as they arrive, you can usher more of them into your pipeline before they fizzle out. Salespeople can get in touch sooner and start qualifying them.
- Custom lead source fields: Knowing where your leads come from is essential for improving your sales pipeline. Every business has various lead sources. Some come from digital ads or internet searches. Others come from in-person meetings or referrals. When you track where every lead comes from, you can determine the best sources to focus on for lead generation.
- Lead scoring: Your salespeople have the option to mark prospects as “cold,” “warm,” or “hot” in the lead tracking system. This notation helps them remember which leads are worth their attention.
- Web to lead contact form integration: In Simple Sales CRM, it’s simple to input contact information manually. It’s even easier to have contacts auto-populate from your web contact form. In Simple Sales CRM, you can build a custom lead generation form with fields for the information you want to capture. From there, the system generates a piece of HTML code you can easily add to your website. When any prospects fill out the form, their contact information arrives in Simple Sales CRM automatically. You can then assign them to a sales rep right away, improving sales lead management.
- Social media tracking: Simple Sales CRM integrates with social media platforms to help you generate more leads. By searching for relevant terms, you can identify potential prospects to reach out to. You can also see what your current prospects are saying online and use that information to nurture them into sales-ready opportunities.
Try Simple Sales CRM for Free
Simple Sales offers a powerful yet easy-to-use sales pipeline CRM for small business owners like you. Our goal is to make your sales pipeline more efficient and your sales lead tracking more manageable. We do that with CRM software that’s simple and straightforward, yet powerful enough to handle the data you need. You can get it all for a low monthly fee of just $15 per month, or even less for an annual plan. To start taking control of your sales pipeline, test out Simple Sales CRM for free for 14 days.