Magazine article CRM Magazine

Your Sales Pipeline Can Make You or Break You: Good Pipeline Management Requires Clear Thinking and Knowing When to Cut a Deal Loose

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Your Sales Pipeline Can Make You or Break You: Good Pipeline Management Requires Clear Thinking and Knowing When to Cut a Deal Loose

Article excerpt

IT HOLDS many keys to the success of your business; CRM implementation teams and sales teams spend countless hours evaluating, customizing, and reporting on it. Yet many organizations continue to struggle with what the sales pipeline represents and how to use it to determine what opportunities exist and how to convert them. With all the buzz about artificial intelligence, sales is still people dealing with people in the process of exchanging goods, services, and dollars.

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Pipeline management is a tricky combination of how and where people spend their time, with limited resources, to win business. How do you influence the behavior of the sales team, which must carry out the marching orders? Those of us who've spent time in the CRM trenches understand that you need to change the way people think before you change their behavior.

Let's look at some of the more common challenges, and how you can effectively use CRM as a strategic weapon in the quest to deliver your revenue goals:

Pipeline structure. In many instances companies view the pipeline as a linear process and do not account for the various types of deals that should have distinct milestones. When charts and dashboards are rendered for sales team members or executives, the visuals don't drive much in the way of thought.

In reality, there should be stages for each unique sales process, and the structure of those stages should be defined by both likelihood and priority. Too many companies have an elongated set of steps, and front-line personnel end up concentrating more on going through the motions of the pipeline than zeroing in on the right deals.

Pipeline bloat. This is the most common problem with sales organizations and CRM systems today. Sales and marketing teams spend a lot of time defining opportunities and the requisite steps to reaching conclusions. But they often don't define a process on how to effectively disqualify or eliminate deals that sales reps will never win.

If you can't tell what the last action was on a deal, or what the next action should be, kill the deal. If you haven't met with significant people in the target organization in the past 30 days, kill the deal. If you don't have a strategy written down on why you will win the deal, kill the deal.

Organizations that are disciplined about scrutinizing deals have consistently been shown to outperform competitors. …

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