How To Improve a Sales Pipeline
It is no mystery that your sales pipeline is a VERY important part of your business.
The catch is that 63% of companies have ineffective sales pipelines.
Because they don’t take the time to learn how to improve a sales pipeline.
If you don’t want to be like these companies, keep on reading!
Analyze Your Current Pipeline To Find Inefficiencies
Look at your current pipeline, and figure out what stages are the most inefficient. Specifically, you’ll want to find where your deals are falling off, and why this is happening.
Once you know which stages are inefficient, you will be able to create a plan on how to improve each individual stage. (I cover this later down)
Calculate Funnel Conversions
The conversion rate of your sales pipeline is the percentage of leads who close.
Beyond that, you will also have conversion rates that represent the difference between each stage in your pipeline.
But when calculating your total funnel conversions within your sales pipeline, I am talking about the leads at the beginning of your sales process to the number of deals closed.
You can figure out your funnel conversion rate by dividing the total number of conversions by the total number of leads who enter your funnel, finally multiply this by 100 to make it a percentage.
Another important aspect to calculate is every single conversion rate in between the stages of your funnel.
This will help you understand which stages need your attention.
Pro Tip: Another great aspect of calculating your funnel conversions, is to be able to compare each member on your team to the company average. This allows you to give more personal feedback to each and every sales rep, and to understand what they are good at on a deeper level. (more on this later)
Think past the numbers
Keep in mind that some drop-offs between stages are warranted. Here is an example: if your largest drop off is between the discover to demo stage because 50% of discovery meetings don’t qualify, the demo stage likely isn’t the problem. The real problem is the quality of prospects (the stage before the pipeline).
So before you can decide if a stage is underperforming, ask yourself, “should this be higher?”
And once you have a proper analysis of the stage(s) that need the most work, it is time for the next step!
How To Improve a Sales Pipeline
Just like building a sales pipeline, the key here is to do a ton of activities.
The top three revenue increasing activities are cold calling, cold emailing, and LinkedIn outreach. (Make these your primary activities!)
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of tracking everything that is going on in your sales efforts. This is the only sure way to learn how to improve a sales pipeline.
Consistency is another great aspect to keep in mind. All too often revenue starts to increase and then reps decrease their activity. Don’t do this!
Ability of Each Sales Rep
Each rep has their own skill level that acts as the building blocks of your sales team.
As I mentioned in the ‘calculate funnel conversion’ above, the best feedback comes from understanding the team averages and how each rep measures up to it.
This is because the best way to improve each rep’s skill level is to give them the most specific feedback possible.
Giving blanket feedback to your team will only waste time, not help them to improve.
Here are some metrics from an imaginary sales team.
Psst. This is from our metric analysis template, download it for quick use!
As you can see with these SDR’s, #1 focuses primarily on emails, #2 & #3 are mostly focused on calls, and #4 is in the middle.
This allows me to understand a few things about this team’s performance, but the biggest insight is how reps #1 and #4 have a lower total activity conversion rate. Helping them increase their activity conversion will have a huge impact on their overall performance.
Now that I know which reps need help with one specific task, I can coach them accordingly.
Sales Training Programs
There are two simple questions that will let you know if you need sales training (or any training) for your team.
- Is your team meeting your activity expectations?
- Is there a clear process that your team follows?
If you answer no to one or both of these questions, you want to get that handled first. Training programs are designed to help organized teams that have tracked their efforts and results. If your team does not have a clear process nor expectations, then these programs won’t be as effective.
After you know what exactly needs to be improved, it’s time to consider sales training.
The best programs have these aspects in common:
- Remote support
- Live sessions
In another post, I cover the 10 best sales training programs.
How to Increase the Quality of Your leads
One of the most common inefficiencies in your conversion rate is when the team is targeting the wrong prospects. This decreases the time spent with sales-ready high-value leads.
Imagine this: you have enterprise deals on your prospecting list, but your product isn’t mature enough and doesn’t have a complete product-market fit. The odds of your team closing an enterprise deal is almost impossible. This would be the wrong type of prospect.
I find the best way to increase the quality of leads is to organize my sales dashboard by highest to lowest priority, instead of by date. This allows your team to instantly see which leads are the most likely to increase revenue.
On the other side of things, it is just as important to let go of the dead leads.
It can be frustrating to wave goodbye to a lead that you have nurtured a relationship with over the last few weeks or months.
Although, once they have stated they are not interested, or if they won’t move to the next stage of your pipeline it is best to stop spending time on them.
This takes an experienced eye, but learning to identify dead leads will save you time.
How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle
It is no secret that B2B companies can take a long time to close -- in fact the average time to close a B2B sale is 4 months!
This is a problem because the longer your prospect has time to change their mind or find another solution means the less likely you are to close with them.
The best ways to decrease your sales cycle time is to:
- Reduce time between follow-ups
- Give your prospects more information upfront to reduce their decision making time
Call "lost opps”
One of the lowest hanging fruit of easy prospects to close is lost opps.
Lost opps are when a prospect has seen your demo or had an intro call but never closed. This group of people already knows about your offer and have had some time to think about its benefits.
In a nutshell, these lost opps are the lowest hanging fruit on your list of prospects.
Hire more people
That way you can go sit on a beach in Thailand and drink mai tais all day!
Hahaha ya right, I wish it were as easy as it sounds…
The truth of the matter is that building a sales team is quite difficult and time-consuming.
But once you have a fully functioning team, the results will be astounding.
So to hire the best sales reps, first make sure you know what type of sales rep you are looking for.
The best sales reps are emotionally intelligent and have a high work ethic.
Not only that, they should have a track record of success.
Beyond that, look for candidates who believe they are capable of great things but acknowledge that they haven’t done it yet.
Aside from asking specific sales interview questions, take your top candidates out to dinner to get to know them as a person, and look for past experiences that demonstrate these traits.
Implement tools to boost your team's productivity
Collaboration tools and CRM's are a must for any sales team. Not only that but as your team scales, you will need a stack of tools to keep productivity up.
It is hard to recommend tools without knowing the full situation of your company because each team is a different size with unique problems across an array of industries.
But the most popular CRM’s around are Salesforce and Hubspot.
And the most popular collaboration tools are Slack and GChat.
Be careful though, it is easy to get ahead of yourself and try to use 50 new tools in a single day.
The best way to do this to make sure productivity doesn’t halt is to only add 1 tool to your stack at a time. This gives your team time to figure it out and utilize 1 tool to its fullest capabilities before starting with the next tool.
Execution And Metric Tracking
Once you are confident that you have identified what needs to be improved, and how to improve it, it is time to execute.
Like all areas of business, tracking your inputs and outputs is the only sure way to improve. Because in the future this will allow you to analyze how you accomplished your results and why.
A great way for your team to hold each other accountable is to be able to see everyone’s metrics publicly. Most CRM’s have this option.
Making your metric tracking public will give each team member more motivation to improve.
What Is A Good B2B Sales Conversion Rate?
It is important to pay attention to the B2B conversion rate within your industry. Otherwise, it is just not a relevant comparison.
But to give you an average number to compare to, Salesforce found that “Conversion rate from opportunity to deal is 6%.”
In other words, the average conversion rate of a B2B sales organization is 6%.
I’ll say it again, only pay attention to the B2B conversion rate within your industry!
That’s a wrap!
And finally, the last thing I’ll say is:
Under any circumstances,
There is always a way to increase your revenue, it just takes work.
If this post helped you learn how to improve a sales pipeline, let me know!
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