Best Practices , Sales Operations
May 20 | Blogs
5 Non-Negotiable Tasks When Building a Sales Pipeline
Estimated read time 6 min

Are you trying to build a sales pipeline for your business? Many business owners don’t fully realize the need for a sales pipeline right away. Sometimes, businesses get lucky and see sales come in naturally from conversations and client referrals.

But this is not something you can count on, especially as a smaller business. Relying on “organic” sales and an unstructured sales process can result in leaving money on the table. Because of this, businesses must build a sales pipeline.

What is a Sales Pipeline?

At a basic level, it’s a summary of available and upcoming sales opportunities, and the associated data. It is designed to help managers spot bottlenecks in the sales funnel, project cash flow, and assess the success and failure of sales representatives.

By anticipating revenue, a sales pipeline helps with overall strategic planning. It helps you even out cash flow, adjust sales targets, etc. Additionally, it helps you keep track of where each prospect is in the buyers’ journey and help sales people take the right actions. It’s sometimes used as a synonym for sales funnel, but this is a bit of a false comparison; the sales funnel implies that you need more prospects than conversions, which is not always the case.

Building a proper sales pipeline takes time and effort, and requires the use of the right tools. Salesforce can be one of the key tools you need to build your sales pipeline.

Here are the things you need to do to get your sales process properly organized and move forward:

Analyze Your Lead Sources

How do people find out about your business? Is it through your website? Referrals from prior customers? Email campaigns. Before organizing, you need to understand where your customers are coming from right now so that you know where to direct your attention.

You also need to pay solid attention to conversions, from source to closed won, and understand the levers. For example, increased website traffic may be a good sign, but only if they opt-in for more information or convert into a lead. Knowing this kind of data or what works and what doesn’t work will enable you to build a more robust sales pipeline.

Develop Buyer Persona(e)

Once you have collected enough data, leverage it to inform your approach. Use this data to develop a buyer persona or personae that tells you who your ideal customer profile is. You need to work out where your customers “live” online (YouTube? Facebook?), develop a way to meet them where they are, as well as their business challenges. Then, you can map your solution back to their pain points and how it solves their problems.

What kind of offers and deals do your buyers generally go for? This helps you create and distribute the content and advertisements that are most likely to attract customers like the ones you already have. Also, try to establish why people are choosing you over your competitors. What do you already have that you can highlight, whether it’s location, customer service, or brand.

Define The Stages of Your Sales Pipeline

At a coarse level, this means lead, prospect, customer, repeat customer. However, depending on your industry and product, you may need to be more specific. Another way of putting it is awareness, consideration, and decision.

Awareness may start with the customer noticing your company or it may start with them noticing a pain point and looking for a solution. Which of these things is more common depends on what you are selling, and this may color the kind of advertising you do. If, for example, you sell a pest control solution for a specific pest, most likely your customers are already looking for a way to deal with the pest…and content marketing to showcase how you deal with it is likely your answer.

You then need to see how your sales opportunities fall off at each stage. Ideally, you want the biggest fall off to be at the awareness stage and for most people who consider your product to buy it. After all, just because somebody knows your company exists, doesn’t mean they have a strong need for your product.

Establish Which Leads Generally Convert

Once you have done this analysis, the next step is to look for commonalities between leads that convert. The more data you have, the better, and this is a place where a quality CRM like Salesforce or Hubspot really helps your business. By storing all kinds of data it can help you find common factors that you might not otherwise have noticed. Do you have a cluster of sales in a specific neighborhood? You are probably getting some good referrals from somebody who lives there.

This also includes tracking the actions your reps take at each stage. How important are follow-up emails? Offering demos? By establishing which actions tend to seal the deal, you can train reps to preferentially engage in activities which can help secure a conversion.

You may also find that you need to target specific industries or a certain kind of client. Ideally, you want your reps to be somewhere between 1.5 and 1.2 in their ratio of leads to conversions. That is, you are trying to minimize the amount of time your reps waste on poor quality leads.

Locate & Reduce Friction

Timely responses to prospects are key to ensuring conversion. Thus, you don’t want any friction or bottlenecks in your sales pipeline. By doing analysis, you can establish if there are particular points where a customer is likely to be left hanging or where a prospect is simply not moving from one stage to the next seamlessly.

Then address these by coming up with systems and procedures that speed things up and standardize them, ensuring your reps always know what they need to do next. Reducing friction makes life easier for your representatives and means that customers feel more valued and are more likely to buy…and come back again.

Doing all of these tasks requires the ability to properly analyze all of your sales data. This can be a challenge, but it’s a challenge that’s addressed by using a CRM like Salesforce or Hubspot to support the development of a sales pipeline that will help you improve conversion rates and more accurately forecast revenue.

However, it can be a challenge to use and deploy correctly. This is where Delegate comes in. Contact us to find out how we can help you get the most out of your CRM, and build a sales pipeline that will grow your business.