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Successful companies use their complex sales processes to accurately forecast future revenue. This is crucial because if a revenue forecast is inaccurate it can mean a huge loss for the company.

A direct relation to better revenue forecasting is better pipeline management. You also need a consistent, repeatable sales model.

Defining sales pipeline management

Sales pipelines are visual representations of where each sales prospect sits in the sales process. They also show how many sales the business will try to close any given week, month or year. It gives a transparent view of how well  the sales team is tracking to meet their sales targets.

The sales pipeline gives a transparent view of the steps taken throughout the whole process from start to end. These steps include:

  1. collecting leads
  2. qualifying prospects
  3. verifying qualified leads into sales prospects
  4. either close the deal, put it on hold or it becomes a lost prospect.

You can tell how well a sales pipeline is going using the following performance indicators:

  1. how many prospects there are in the pipeline
  2. the average size of potential deals
  3. the average amount of deals closed compared to those on hold or lost
  4. the average time it takes to close deals.

You need to manage the sales pipeline to win business for tomorrow while delivering customers to meet today’s sales targets.

Here are some things that can be warning signs your sales pipeline is out of control.

Spending too much time being busy

Spending too much time on administrative tasks takes you away from your core function. While this is necessary, you can spend too much time being busy without being productive.

Pace Productivity, found that salespeople spend 23 percent of their time a week on administration and only 22 percent actually selling. This makes it difficult to move any sales forward. Your people need the right tools for the job, such as the right technology.

Losing track of prospects

If you do not have an overview of all the sales you are working on, you cannot prioritise your clients. In this situation, you risk losing track of your prospects. You need to be able to track where you are up to at each step of the sales process.

Leave administrative tasks until you take care of potential customers. You need to prioritise. It is most important to focus on those ready to buy. Then your next priority is the prospects that are almost ready to buy and then those who have made enquiries in recent days. You want to turn these into future prospects.

Once you have dealt with your clients, do the administrative work.

Deals moving too slowly

Deals can move too slowly when you have too many opportunities to service. Take the time to organise and prioritise each lead or prospect. Follow up each opportunity and ensure you make a date to speak again.

Treat customers as individuals

Treat customers as individuals. People do not like being treated all the same. They are not the same. Some are big customers and others smaller. People expect you to meet their individual needs when dealing with you. When you treat everyone the same, no matter at what stage of the sales process they are at, you can miss out on converting valuable new prospects.

Know how many prospects convert to sales

You need to know how many prospects convert to sales. This will help you understand why some prospects convert to sales and why some do not convert. If you and your team do not know this data, then you are not in control.

This data helps to identify strengths and weaknesses in the sales process. It allows you to put new strategies in place when needed.

These are just a few of the warning signs of having lost control of the sales pipeline. This is easy to fix when you use the right tools for the job. By being able to track the pipeline it is easy to identify the problems and fix them. You have a history of what works and what does not work. Use it as a guideline for the future.So, if you think you are not in control of your sales pipeline, do something to fix it today.

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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