It's important to understand that the basis for pipeline management is to maximize your opportunity vs. the time spent doing nonrevenue generating activities. This goes from internal processes to external prospecting.
To maximize your team's efforts it's critcal to realize within the sales process where your teams are spending their time. A simple time study to uncover how a rep allocates their day will help to set the foundation for efficiency.
Below is an example of an average sales reps time spent working with prospects and customers vs. managing internal processes or administrative tasks. This is a real-life example and one that I would use as a baseline for most sales environments. It's daunting at the minimum but most managers would say this aligns with the efforts of their teams.
It is obvious there are large opportunities for improvement that are within the control of most sales executives.
Sales Metrics and Benchmarks
The following framework is the detail I have used historically to not only understand the strengths and weaknesses of my individual seller but also the opportunities internally to improve our process or product.
There are many examples and YouTube videos on this topic and as stated in prior posts, we encourage you to chose the methodology that works best for you and adopt it. Doing something is always better than the alternative.
Sales is an art and a science, we see great sellers in certain markets that manage their customers and the selling processes differently than sellers other markets (ex. New York vs. Seattle). This is the art of success and should be recognized accordingly. Empowering great sales reps to own their pipeline and customer engagement is critical in sales management as most won't replicate all of your opinions on how best to manage a customer.
Pipeline management is the science - given the ambiguity that could represent itself, all sellers should be managing to their conversion at all times.
Leads Your objective with leads is to find a starting place for your pipeline management efforts. Leads represent opportunity whether they are soft or hard.
By understanding your target market, customer segmentation or areas of strength for your product or service will allow you to narrow the scope of leads you are generating.
Lead generation whether through an inside sales team or marketing department should be as pointed as possible toward that identified target market.
Through proper pipeline management and segmentation, this is a constant area of refinement to improve your conversion rates.
Conversion Rates Conversion is your best opportunity to create visibility to efficiencies both internally and externally. Conversion at every level is important.
Lead to Meetings: Understand how the leads were generated, what the vehicle was to contact the prospect, the value proposition, and how you moved the lead to a presentation or meeting.
Look at customer segments, product sets, geography, etc. to start finding correlations to your value and the customer need.
Meetings to Opportunities: If there was a meeting set up, a need was identified. This is great news! It's the next step in measurement with a similar dialogue around looking at correlations between customers and reps. Who pitched and what was the presentation used to move their need to a value-based conversation?
These are viable opportunities that can help the most in identifying how well your sales team is performing or how inefficient your process is. Your prospect has identified a need and if your conversion is anything less than 100%, there is often an opportunity for either coaching or process refinement.
Opportunities to Proposals: This is often the first round of negotiation around pricing in alignment with the value of your product or service. The aggregation of this information will allow you to understand your pricing strategy or the questions you asked prior to the proposal being sent.
Customers at this point have a desire to buy and can only be looking for a reason why not at this point in the process. Clearly stating your value to their company, ROI, efficiencies, and how that relates to the pricing you have presented will be their conditional thought.
If your sellers and solution teams have positioned the proposal correctly nothing should be a surprise but really an iteration of confirmation.
The sales process is very important at this step and should be a constant area of focus for your entire organization.
Proposals to Contracts/Win: For the purpose of this explanation we will assume the contracting process has a 100% conversion rate as by this point most customers have provided a verbal commitment to proceed. Negotiations have completed and it is now an alignment exercise between legal and business unit teams.
Contracting can often be the largest delay in the sales process. Ensuring your sales teams understand the potential pitfalls and clauses that have the largest hangups is critical. Provide flexibility in your contracts and resolution that your sales teams can circumvent through the explanation of your legal documents and SOW's.
This should not be an area of resistance by your company or customers, it should be an alignment exercise in the event your product/company does not perform and formality of the pricing already negotiated.
Be open and honest with your customer through this process and as much legal flexibility you can provide will weigh heavily on your first step to customer alignment.
Managing this overall process with assigned triggers for each next step will give you the initial perspective you need to manage your business. Setting benchmarks for success next to each stage in the process is critical but does vary by business.
Take a close look at customer segments, product sets and where you are finding correlations for success. Each sales rep should be held accountable to deliver on their overall performance and in alignment with your business objectives.
Once you have established the baseline define your Win Rate requirements and how many leads you need to achieve the quota set by each rep. If they are dipping below the assumptions you have made, you now have the guidelines to identify a weak seller or a misalignment in the business.
Focus on velocity Velocity is your timeline to achieve all of the metrics that have been defined. Your equation should be:
Velocity will drive everything from staffing levels to process improvements. Leverage this framework to create an efficiency model that will allow you to accurately forecast. If you have the baseline built and velocity is calculated, you should never miss your forecast. The ability to beat the benchmarks is really the largest opportunity you have to exceed expectations.
This process is about discipline and structure. Creating a scorecard for alignment and managing your teams on the granular aspects of pipeline management is the key to success.
Review the performance of your pipeline on a daily or weekly basis to immediately course correct or monitor key steps that will dictate outcomes.