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Four ways sales and marketing teams can perfect pipeline management  



Regardless of sector, product, or service, navigating today’s challenging business environment demands a sustainable flow of sales. In order to achieve this, a robust and measurable sales pipeline is vital for both sales and marketing teams to succeed.  

If managed well, sales pipelines can provide clear snapshots of information, such as the most impactful sales activities, deals that are likely to close in a specific timeframe, prospects that need further nurturing from marketing, and how close sales reps are to achieving their quotas. Despite this, more than half of managers* state their effectiveness in managing pipelines is poor or neutral.

John Cheney, CEO, Workbooks, provides practical pipeline management tips to enable businesses to optimise lead generation, qualification, and nurturing processes, and ultimately boost sales and marketing success.

  1. Identify profitable prospects    

Adopting a data-driven approach to pipeline management is crucial. By identifying the right metrics, leads can be intelligently scored and qualified, helping sales and marketing teams to prioritise prospects more effectively. Both teams should agree on an Ideal Customer Profile, which can be used to rate leads. In addition, demographic and behavioural information can inform priorities, allowing reps to invest their time in prospects that are most likely to convert and quickly identify those that need further nurturing by marketing. Close collaboration between the two teams will maximise value.

  1. Remove unresponsive leads from the pipeline

Teams shouldn’t be afraid to drop dead leads in order to streamline the sales pipeline further. This prevents reps from wasting time on deals that are never going to land, and highlights where further engagement is needed from the marketing team. By using sales data and metrics, teams can identify unresponsive leads and remove them from the pipeline. With additional support from marketing, reps can focus on the priority prospects and colder leads can return to the pipeline at a later stage.  

  1. Collaborate, review and evolve    

Taking time to regularly review processes enables sales and marketing teams to fine-tune the sales pipeline and improve engagement at each stage of the process. This includes condensing the sales cycle to maximise the chances of deals closing. As well as demanding more time and resources, longer sales cycles bring increased risk of the prospect being approached by a competitor or backing out of the deal.                                         

To avoid this, and to improve the process, it is important that businesses constantly review and test core activities at each stage. What is the purpose of each activity? Can unnecessary steps be eliminated? For example, testing processes could highlight that prospects would benefit from more detailed information early on. The cycle can be fine-tuned in response and future prospects will progress through the pipeline faster.

Close collaboration between sales and marketing is also vital to ensuring each team can have an impact, maximising their respective contributions to the process. With agreed definitions and strategies, sales and marketing teams can work together to benchmark performance, further streamlining the sales cycle.

  1. Improve visibility with CRM

Pipeline management tools enable businesses to effectively track leads and prioritise follow-ups. A customer relationship management (CRM) system provides visibility of where each lead sits in the sales pipeline and the journey to date, offering vital insights for both sales and marketing teams.  

This 360-degree view of each prospect, starting from the first engagement and covering the complete customer life cycle, provides invaluable insight into how leads progress through to close. Equipped with this knowledge, sales and marketing teams can identify the most effective activities to continually improve the sales process, ultimately increasing profitability and accomplishing shared goals.

John Cheney is a Software-as-a-Service pioneer, having launched one of the first SaaS companies in the late 1990s. A successful entrepreneur with more than thirty years of experience in the IT industry, he is now the CEO of Workbooks.

*Vantage Point Performance and Sales Management Association, Creating Value In Sales Pipeline Conversations