A Basic Guide to Building a Sales Pipeline For Your Sales Process

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Sales Pipeline describes an approach to selling, whose foundations lie on the underlying principles of the sales process.
In other words, it’s a more visual and organized way of tracking prospects through their buying journey.
How can you go about building a sales pipeline without cold calling/ emailing and getting constantly ignored or stalled? Is just hoping that you strike gold by doing the above-mentioned calling or emailing or even both enough?

I’ll give you 4 ways you can get prospects and go about building a Sales Pipeline

1. Previously Lost Deals

Now Let’s agree, we usually don’t focus on what’s lost. We just usually let it be and rather focus on the deals we won. Yes, they have said ‘No’ once, doesn’t mean they’ll say it again. Maybe the circumstances weren’t right then, maybe there was no need back then. Nothing lasts forever. Go in with that in mind. What’s the worse that can happen? You’ve already heard a ‘No’ from them once( or probably more) before.

2. Networking

Who doesn’t like networking? Meeting new people, people from all walks of life. But here I’m not talking about that sort of networking. We live in a time where everything is on the world wide web, even networking. So I’m talking about networking online. If the prospects are on LinkedIn or Facebook groups of your niche. Get in touch there. But by all means, don’t try to sell right away or even later. Talk to them, interact with them. If they like what you have to offer interaction-wise, they’ll find out about you.
There are 3 kinds of people-
1. People you know
2. People your people know
3. People you don’t know
Getting in touch with the people you don’t know is always a task. Networking makes that possible.

3. Content

Closely related to what you offer online via networking is content. The content that you post on your website/blog/social media. They all count. Start writing, write about what you write best, write about what your readers(and prospective customers) want to read about. People are always curious, they always have questions. Don’t let the questions go unanswered. Once they get their answers, they’ll always be a curiosity of the source. Voila! your target will come looking for you. This is where your inbound marketing strategy takes center stage.

4. Referrals

Referrals are the best. This works both ways. You ask existing customers if they know someone who’d benefit from what you have to offer and since they know about your service as well as the product. They are more likely to get you in touch with someone who’s the right fit and on the other side. Getting in through referrals is always a good thing. It’s like going to a party and not have to fight your way in, while the bouncer is going to guard the door as if his life depended on it.
Along with this, there’s one more thing and that is- Lead Nurturing. Something a lot of Sales Reps don’t focus on. Most of the leads are less likely to become customers. The number that converts is relatively low. Nurture the leads, stay on top of things, stay in touch. So when they really are considering to buy, they’ll come to your eyes closed.
Want to know how many deals you’re likely to close this month? It’s a good idea to align your sales process with the sales pipeline.
It’s also best advised to have a sales process of about 5-7 steps as more than that is likely to look disorganized and clumsy, now that’s going to be more counterproductive than productive.
Whether you go the traditional way or other ways of building a sales pipeline. They have some stages that can really help you along the way.

Sales Process

1. Initial Contact

This is at the prospecting stage. There has been an initial contact whether it’s via email, over the phone, attended a webinar conducted by you or got access to your gated content. So this will be your first official contact with them. If the initial contact goes well and the prospect shows some interest they get moved along to the next stage. If not, we can always get back to them at a later date.

2. Qualification

After the initial, prospecting stage comes the qualification stage. In this stage, you check if the prospect is likely to be a customer in the long run or not. If they have the need and value for the product or service you are providing them with. This also includes checking whether they have the budget for it or no. If the prospect now turned into a qualified lead checks all the criteria on the list. You schedule a meetup with them to discuss further.

3. Meetup

This stage involves scheduling a meetup and actually meeting up. This meeting is again going to be beneficial to the both of you. If they agree to the meeting, they are definitely interested or have some level of interest and all they need is a little nudge. While they are committing their time to you, you can walk them through what’s coming next. If the meetup goes well you know what to do next. Send them a proposal.

4. Proposal

If the meetup went well (let’s hope it did) at this stage you will send a proposal to buy your product and hoping that the person going to oblige. Now the number of meetings may vary from case to case, person to person. The proposal doesn’t just restrict to purchasing of a product or a service. This might also include converting a free trial of something into a full paid one. If they like the proposal and agree to the pricing and other such details. You have reached the end. Almost reached the end. You proceed to the next and the final step.

5. Close Deal

This is the final stage of the sales process with this stage the prospect turns into a customer as he purchases the product or service. Now, this is a full-fledged commitment between your now customer and you. This is where you as a sales rep, close the deal. Something you target for, from the very beginning of the sales process.
These aren’t all the steps of a sales process but the most used and apt ones. But do follow up. A lot of sales reps don’t follow up and lose out to repeat customers. Follow up with people who have said no as well. Like mentioned earlier, previously lost deals can be your new customers under the right circumstances and the right time.

Building a Sales Pipeline
Questions not to be missed in a sales process

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Now let’s look at some of the Sales Pipeline Metrics to consider(usually)

1. Total Number of Leads

This is basic. This is the first metric to focus on as this is likely to tell you how much revenue your business is going to generate. As basic as this metric is, it is just as arduous because you have to keep in account a lot of things.
Such as-
a)Number of visitors to the website
b)Social likes and shares
c)Subscribers to the blog
d)Sign-ups for lead magnets and events
A combination of the above and some more factors will get you the total number of leads.

2. Lead to SQL Ratio

This metric helps you segregate between the leads that are likely to be deals and the ones that just don’t have the potential. How do you get the Lead to SQL ratio?
Just calculate the number of leads over your quarter( or whatever time frame you have chosen) and then calculate the number of SQL over the same period and then multiply by 100.
There you have your Lead to SQL ratio.

3. Close Ratio

This metric calculates the average percentage of deals that you win. Just make sure your close ratio isn’t too low. If your close ratio is consistently low even if you have met all the other requirements, it’s time to give your value proposition a revising.

4. Sales Cycle Length

This metric is mainly used in the initial stages of a sales process where it calculates the amount of time it takes for a lead to move through the sales process from the initial contact to the sale. This metric is essential and the sales cycle length is directly proportionate to the sales pipeline velocity.
Building a Sales Pipeline can be done manually using Excel sheets, you can find the templates for the same on the internet or you can use a CRM instead for a more refined, organized and automated process.
Here are a few more Sales Pipeline Metrics to consider
As long as you have gotten your sales pipeline, you have your results. Whether you go the other way or align your sales pipeline with the sales process. A sales pipeline is instrumental for your revenue generation. The metrics just aide you along the way. A sales pipeline should be entirely dependent on your business. So try not to go for a generic one. Make it as original as you can. Almost like it has its own personality.

Sales Pipeline Size

Let’s give your self a ballpark figure of deals for a year. Now you can go about making your pipeline either monthly or quarterly. Over here let’s go quarterly.
Let’s assume the ballpark figure is 12000 deals per year going about it quarterly would make the target 3000 deals every quarter.
Now let’s say the no. of sales reps in your company are 30. If you divide the 3000 deals of every quarter among the 30 sales rep, then every sales rep will have about 100 deals to get every quarter.
Now that you have the target for every sales rep for the quarter. You have a better idea of the pipeline size.
Determining the sales pipeline size differs from company to company. It depends on the company size, the efficiency of the sales reps, their closing rate, the resources available, the customers and so on.

Sales Pipeline Management

Building a Sales Pipeline is something everyone focusses on but how much emphases is laid on management? Everyone wants to manage their sales pipeline efficiently. Sales pipeline management is keeping a track and organizing your prospects so that you reach your targets at the end of the quarter or the year. By managing the prospects, you have an idea which prospects need more focus and where so you can reach your targets.
Here are a few protocols that can be inculcated in the management process for maximum efficiency and also results.

1. Automation

Automation makes life easy. It’s all about. By automating repetitive tasks, you make more time to work on areas that are in dire need of attention. Also using a CRM can help you see where the prospects/leads/customers are on the buyer journey.

2. Prospect Data

It so happens that a lot of times sales reps don’t tailor the pitch, they go in with a general pitch that may or may not be what the prospect is looking for and more often than not they get a resounding no and then they give up. Collect more prospect data, tailor the pitch to suit their needs.

3. Communication

Having effective communication across your sales team and also the company is always going to be beneficial. Communicating what you are expecting out of the sales reps will help them better achieve their targets.

4. Feedback

Feedback is essential, it will always provide you ways to improve and have a better conversion rate. Getting the feedback from the customers also helps you analyze where are you with reaching your goals and targets. Not just quantity-wise but quality wise.
One of biggest mistakes that we are likely to make with our Sales Pipeline is let it narrow down and how does that happen? By losing out on leads. A lead not being interested right now doesn’t mean he won’t be interested the next quarter or the one after that. Don’t let your next quarter’s pipeline dry out. If there are a lot of leads in one stage doesn’t mean they’ll all convert in the next stage. Similarly, having less no. of leads in one stage doesn’t mean loss. You never know your closing percentage can we way higher at this stage.

About the author

Afshan Fatima

Afshan incorporates her knowledge of psychology and literature into sales and marketing through writing. While she is not blogging she reads books ,counsels people and bakes brownies.

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