Sales pipeline: how to increase sales by managing it at its best
Sales are the beating heart of every company, and the sales process and project management are crucial to survival of the business.
We cannot think of leaving everything to chance: regardless of the company’s size, what you are selling, or to whom you are selling, managing customer orders and adopting a sales pipeline is essential to the creation of a stable and reliable sales cycle. In fact, these activities enable you to estimate the cash inflow, and help you guide prospective customers along the sales process, by turning them into stable and loyal customers at the same time.
In this article, we help you understand what a sales pipeline is and how to manage it in detail, through vtenext.
The sales pipeline is the set of specific actions performed by the sales manager, in order to move an opportunity from prospective customer, or lead, to paying customer. The sales pipeline can also be represented graphically, to have a clear vision of the sales processes, which are often long and complicated.
However, its main function is supplying an overall picture of a series of Key Performance Index (KPI) for sales, thus becoming a measurement and control tool.
There are various KPI that can be monitored:
- the number of open opportunities/offers, as well as their individual and aggregate values
- the sales potential of each salesperson and the entire team for a given period
- the state of each open negotiation with respect to the sales cycle, and all the actions carried out to involve the lead
- the activities that are still to be performed, to move each opportunity towards the next phase of the sales cycle
- the conversion rate: the percentage of successful offers and offers converted into sales contracts
- the conversion time: how much time has passed from the first contact until the closing of the agreement.
The sales pipeline consists of the following phases:
- Lead: a prospective customer shows interest towards your products/services
- Qualified lead: the prospect data are filled in. The information collected in this phase will help you to understand whether or not the lead can actually become a paying customer
- Proposal/Offer: the economic offer is sent to the potential
- Negotiation: it is the phase during which we try to understand whether or not the sent offer is coherent with the prospect’s needs and budget
- Closing: the lead became a paying customer and the offer has been accepted or rejected
- Upselling/Cross selling: we try to propose our customer either an upgraded version of the product/service purchased, or related product/services.
At the beginning of the article, we have made clear how important it is to create an effective sales cycle, and to monitor it regularly.
Adopting a CRM platform is the quickest and most profitable way to manage the sales pipeline, precisely because it highlights bottlenecks that could negatively impact the sales performance. In fact, observing the pipeline can point out slowdowns during a specific phase of one or more negotiations, reveal delays in responding to leads, or show that the communication process has been interrupted for reasons to be investigated.
Thanks to vtenext, you can monitor your sales pipeline, by managing leads and opportunities.
In the leads registry, you can record all of your prospect’s data, so as to proceed with its qualification. The leads can come from different marketing activities such as exhibitions, newsletters, contacts with the call center, website, or word of mouth. The CRM records the source of each lead (through the ‘Lead Source’ field), in order to evaluate the most effective channels of communication for the company, the return on investments in advertising, and consequently calibrate future marketing activities. It will be possible to sort each lead, by assigning it to the reference person or team.
The leads can be inserted the CRM in different ways:
- by manually importing them
- by importing them from a .CSV file
- by automatically inserting them through a promotional Webform published on your website
- by automatically generating them through an email coming from a specific mailbox (Mail Converter feature)
For each lead, not only the appointments, phone calls, documents sent but also the marketing activities carried out, such as sending newsletters, are managed and shared with the sales team. Thus, the lead can be monitored by the sales team during all the different phases that can turn him into a customer, either through configuration of Kanban lists based on the ‘Lead Status’ field, or through configuration of automatic reports.
Once the lead shows actual interest in your product, it is converted into Account or Contact, by also creating the related commercial Opportunity, a sort of container of all the Quotes, which will bring the negotiation forward.
Once all the leads are managed, those who became orders, and thus paying customers, are easily organized and monitored in the opportunity panel.
Other than collecting the quotes, Opportunities are also kind of a pot for collecting information, in particular the documents and communication between customer and supplier, such as: feasibility assessments, technical documents, approval cycles, estimates and revisions, emails with attachments can also be added, that will remain stored and available for cross- and up-selling activities.
Moreover, it is possible to define two important variables:
1. the PLAYERS, who take part in that specific opportunity, that is the reference to the Contacts of that Account or external co-workers, Partners and Competitors;
2. The PRODUCT LINES, namely the Budget that that specific Opportunity affects in the total, determined precisely by the Product Lines involved. For example, if I sell washing machines and TVs, I will have to reach an annual budget for these two lines, and in the homonymous tab I will be able to view the relative data to each line expressed in currency.
Once the Opportunity has been handled and all the necessary information has been collected, it will be possible to create the first Quote and deliver it to the customer via email, in PDF format.
It will be possible to revise this quote several times, while keeping its history in the system.
Once the customer accepts the Quote, it will be possible to change the sales stage of the quote to “Accepted” , and that of the Opportunity to “Closed WON”, to be able to create specific Reports, and verify the “quantity sold” for each salesperson.
By using the Reports module, it will be possible to verify (by prefixing a little configuration with a process) how many Leads per Agent have been converted into Accounts, per time period. Lastly, it will be possible to see how many opportunities have been assigned to the different salespersons, which sales stage these are in, and possibly encourage the team to close the negotiations that are still open.
Optimize your Sales Pipeline easily