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The sales pipeline is somewhat akin to a medical chart of your ongoing prospects. A visual representation of all potential deals, it shows you what stage they’re in, how they’re progressing, and what steps you’re taking to develop them. This way, you always know how on track you are to meet your goals.

Effective deal pipeline management correlates directly with your close rate. This is why the most successful sales teams hold frequent sales pipeline review meetings. But much like a house plant, you can’t simply look at it and expect it to grow! So here are several time-tested deal pipeline management practices that will ensure your sales pipeline is as fruitful as can be.

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Keep your pipeline up to date

Just like you wouldn’t rely on an outdated computer to carry out critical tasks for you, your sales pipeline should contain the latest and most up to date information. This means taking an active role in deal pipeline management by adding detailed notes when there is a new lead, when a lead has moved forward in the sales cycle, or when a deal is closed. It’s also important to weed out bad data that has become obsolete.

A disorganized sales pipeline can lead to inefficiency and loss of sales. By making sure it’s updated frequently, it’ll be much easier to make timely decisions and steps towards reaching your quota.

Know your sales metrics — and what they tell you

In sales we’re accustomed to following numbers, but the quality of data is just as important. All together the right numbers tell us not just what we’ve done but what our next steps should be. Some useful metrics to focus on are new leads coming into your pipeline, conversion rates, average deal size, and sales velocity

Staying familiar with these allows you to spot bottlenecks and identify dead leads or stages where leads are dropping out. This way you can optimize your sales cycle, predict future results, and ultimately improve your close ratio. If followed carefully, this quantitative and qualitative data will help you not only to close deals but also to move prospects through your pipeline more quickly. In other words: more revenue in less time.

Don’t let your new business pipeline dry up

It’s an easy mistake to make: You’ve hit or are about to hit your quarterly quota. Preoccupied with closing the deals at the end of the line, you haven’t focused on developing your new leads. Come the start of next quarter, you find your pipeline has shrunk.

Prospecting actively is critical for keeping up momentum in the new business pipeline even if there are plenty of deals pending agreement. Bear in mind your conversion rate; if ten percent of leads ultimately make it to closing, you’ll need to funnel that many more into the discovery stage.

Know where a lead is in your sales funnel

In each stage of the new business pipeline your lead is looking for certain information. It’s up to you to know which content to provide to guide potential customers towards negotiations. Imagining your lead intake as a sales funnel is a simple way to master this.

The top of the sales funnel starts off wide. At this stage customers browse a wide variety of content; blog posts, articles, social media posts, infographics, and video advertisements all come under their radar. These generic materials should be easy for potential clients to find or readily available to send to them when you’re asked, for instance, “do you have an infographic detailing the features of this product?”

Moving down the funnel narrows, as once leads understand the product they’ll either decide it isn’t for them or they’ll need more in-depth information in the form of white papers, tutorials, reports, and case studies.

Once prospects have familiarized themselves with the product they enter the third, most narrow section of the sales funnel. It’s time to offer free trials, promos, coupons, testimonials, and consultations. If the leads remain interested after this, they can be funnelled into the negotiations phase of the deal pipeline.

Remember to periodically communicate with your marketing department. If they’re the ones creating material then they ought to be kept in the loop about what kind of information — and in what format — potential customers are expecting.

Create a standardized sales process

Any salesperson knows the profession calls for flexibility and creativity. Understandably, many don’t realize that applying these traits to a standardized sales process actually facilitates deal pipeline management. Think of it as a roadmap toward your sale; you can tweak the trip along the way as needed, but ultimately you’re trying to head in one specific direction.

Some typical repeatable steps for a sales cycle are: prospecting for the new business pipeline, initial contact, assessing the needs of the potential customer, presenting your product, handling concerns or questions, and finally, closing and following up. Tailor them to your pipeline metrics and the prospects’ responses for maximum efficacy.

It also helps to review and improve these processes regularly. As you discover that some methods work well, or as other methods become outdated, you can adjust your roadmap. After all, a reliable sales process means a well-oiled sales pipeline!

Maintain consistent follow up practices

A consistent follow up system is what keeps prospects from slipping through your fingers. It’s considered to be one of the biggest challenges for sales teams: 80 percent of sales require 5 follow-up calls, yet 44% of sales reps give up after one “no”. The best sales representatives will check in with leads regularly until they land their deals. Simple ways to stay on track are setting reminders or using an automated software with sales email templates.

For optimal deal pipeline management, periodically update your sales pipeline throughout the follow up process. Remove prospects that have gone silent, make a note of prospects needing to move back a stage for any reason, such as a change in budget or management, and, of course, mark when leads move forward.

Following up doesn’t end once the sale has been made. Reconnecting with clients might lead to a return customer or a referral, reopening that new business pipeline for future deals.

Simplify deal pipeline management with a CRM system

Sure, spreadsheets and templates can be a feasible option for deal pipeline management when a new business is just starting out, however it is more beneficial to incorporate CRM software. For most companies this has long ago become a necessary sales tool to keep track of the new business pipeline and all corresponding sales activities.

One of the biggest challenges companies face with their sales pipeline is adequate data input. In fact, 91% of CRM data is incomplete.

Savvy sales teams have caught on, though; they’ve found that products like Revenue Inbox, which integrates your Email and Calendar with Salesforce, can easily close this information gap. Revenue Inbox saves all sales-related data to the proper record in Salesforce and can even auto-create standard and custom objects in Salesforce and link data to them. On average, it saves one sales rep 10 hours a week, which let’s be honest, is a luxury all on its own.

Implementing deal pipeline management techniques

As with any project in your personal or professional life, staying on track is key in order to recognize what’s coming your way and which actions to take. To grow your sales pipeline into something useful for you, it needs consistent care. Now that you’re more familiar with methods for deal pipeline management you can become a master of your sales game.

Trends show that some of these strategies are easier said than done — so let Revenue Grid do them for you. Three unique products designed to work in sync will become indispensable for the various stages of your sales pipeline: Revenue Engage to keep your lead balance topped up, Revenue Inbox with its Salesforce and email integration, and Revenue Guide to give you actionable pipeline analytics and help sales reps every step of the way until that deal is closed. Deal pipeline management has never looked simpler.