Sales pipeline management is a broad and sometimes daunting subject. But there are some basic guidelines which, if followed, can set your feet firmly on the road to effective management of your own or (if you are in sales management) others’ pipelines.
#1: Don’t enter inaccurate data into CRM.
By this we don’t mean “never make mistakes.” Mistakes happen. But they need not deliberately happen simply from being lazy, careless or “trying to impress the boss.”
It isn’t just for others that you should follow this rule. Data entered into CRM Solution is used to manage your sales. The more accurate the data, the better you and others can manage your pipeline which will result in yours and the company’s future prosperity.
#2: Don’t enter unneeded data into CRM.
Along with entering inaccurate data, you should take care not to consistently enter data into CRM that is in fact unnecessary or unneeded. It just clogs up CRM and whole pipeline management and makes it less useful to sales reps and anyone else who will use it.
This category would also include the requirement for sales reps to enter data into CRM that will not in any way be useful to them later. If there is CRM data needed that won’t be useful for salespeople—an example might be profit margin—this can be addressed by implementing automatic calculations and auto-calculated fields that will render these figures based on data the salesperson does enter.
This can have a broader implication—the CRM solution itself may not be valuable to salespeople. See #4 below.
#3: Make your sales pipeline mirror your sales process.
If a sales process isn’t reflected in your sales pipeline, it means you have two activities going on that should only be one. A sales process is the precise series of steps, followed by the sales force, from lead to close. If the sales pipeline being expressed in your CRM solution does not follow your sales process, that means there are actions a sales rep is taking to accomplish sales that aren’t being recorded in CRM and cannot later be referenced. It can make a sales pipeline very difficult to manage.
Your sales pipeline and your sales process are in fact one and the same. Make sure the sales pipeline expressed in your CRM tool fully mirrors your sales process.
#4: Ensure CRM is actually useful for salespeople.
This is often the most overlooked vital point in sales pipeline management. CRM has traditionally been used to monitor sales rather than enable them, when CRM should in fact make it easier for your sales force to sell.
This point reflects back on all of the above points, but especially number 3 above. When a CRM solution exactly follows the sales process then CRM actually empowers salespeople instead of weighing them down with useless reporting.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re using a CRM solution that is easily adaptable to your sales process. If you’re not, you might consider replacing your CRM system.
#5: Don’t be inflexible within your pipeline management.
A business is a dynamic operation. Markets and economies change. Business and sales strategies shift. Salespeople evolve better ways of selling. You, your team, your sales process, your sales pipeline management and your CRM solution should all be flexible and capable of changing when needed.
When it is discovered that certain types of data no longer need to be entered, eliminate the requirement. When a sales process step is found to be outmoded, get rid of it. Conversely, when a new step is found to be effective, put it firmly in place within the sales process.
Such changes should all be reflected in your CRM solution—which means you’ll need a CRM application that is extremely flexible and able to be changed on the fly. Once again, if you don’t have one, you should consider switching.
Sales pipeline management could never be considered easy. But with these five basic do’s and don’ts, it should be considerably less stressful.
The CRM solution for flexible, effective pipeline management can be found here.