Sales Operations
February 26 | Blogs
How to Optimize Salesforce to Build Your Sales Pipeline
Estimated read time 6 min

According to Salesforce, “Only 46% of sales reps have data insights on customers’ propensity to buy.” As data becomes more and more crucial to making sales — and making sales efficiently — you and your team need more insight into the data you have than ever before. And Salesforce is built for collecting data.

Unfortunately, wading through all the fields and records can be overwhelming. Trying to use them in all of your sales pipeline stages can get in the way of sales without proper implementation. This article briefly explores how to look at your sales pipeline through Salesforce and optimize it, so it does more work for you.

What Are the Sales Pipeline Stages Your Salesforce Instance Should Focus On?

Every sales pipeline, sales funnel, or sales flywheel looks slightly different, but they all encompass the steps your target market takes from being unfound to being a paying customer. Salesforce identifies these seven sales pipeline stages:

  1. Prospecting
  2. Lead qualification
  3. Demo or meeting
  4. Proposal
  5. Negotiation and commitment
  6. Opportunity won
  7. Post-purchase

If you’re not sure whether this fits your sales process or not, that’s okay. While you can shrink down the number of steps in your business’s sales pipeline, consider sticking to this standard infrastructure at first, then start streamlining the process.

For example, your product may not require a demo or meeting. You can mark it as optional so sales reps can continue to the next page without getting stuck on a too-rigid to-do list.

2 Big Ways to Optimize Salesforce to Build Your Sales Pipeline

1. Focus on the Sales Cycle Speed

You want to provide a quality sales experience for your customer. But despite the cautionary wisdom about not rushing, you want to optimize the process for speed. First, this minimizes the risk that leads will get frustrated or wooed by competitors.

Dragging out the sales cycle also increases your business’s cost by upping the work hours per lead and the number of steps from contact to an opportunity to close the sale.

First, minimize the number of steps it takes to get from start to finish. You can do this by:

    • Building standard operating procedures and definitive deal thresholds. If a salesperson creates a deal with standard pricing, typical contract terms, and no non-standard risks, it shouldn’t have to be approved by anyone but the manager.
    • Creating a route for non-standard deals that only involves the impacted departments. Non-standard agreements need to be approved by more parties, but you can streamline those bottlenecks by deciding the approval parties ahead of time. Legal departments should approve contract term changes. Legal should also have standard operating procedures so the person with the least amount of approval power necessary can sign off. Finance should have one or multiple approvers who can each assess and approve a discounted deal.
    • Automate, automate, automate! Other sales systems and CRMs might have required salespeople to email approvers and stay on top of the deal. But you can optimize Salesforce, so the deal moves into the next approver’s queue as soon as it’s ready, send them an alert, and sit on their to-do list in plain sight.

If you plan out the approval process necessary for any non-standard deal terms and only make the bare minimum of approvals part of the process, there’s less time spent waiting.

Bonus: This speedy process incentivizes salespeople to stick to standard deal terms so they can close a sale, get their commission, and move onto the next lead!

2. Give Your Sales Team Leads & Managers More Power to See Workflow Weaknesses & Bottlenecks

Properly implemented, Salesforce doesn’t just give you the power to see present deals and future customers coming in the pipeline. It’s also an excellent tool for reflection and making your sales department stronger. Unlock this capability with better dashboards and auto-generated reports for your sales managers.

Build a Better Dashboard

Many corporate users either don’t utilize Dashboards, leave it in its default form, or push customization to the bottom of their to-do list. But an adequately organized dashboard can let you know if your team is on-target at a glance.

You can reconfigure dashboards to show metrics at the top of the page (ideally with a chart for ease of use). This above-the-fold content can even be customized to show geographic regions (which regional managers need) or total quarterly metrics for closed and open deals (which the VP of Sales should see every time they open Salesforce).

Under that, you can list out some of your most useful reports (which we’ll cover next), so you never have to search for detailed data.

Next, you can even push the details of your most frequently used report to the dashboard page. If you manage a team of five salespeople, you can see their quarterly revenue, last activity, and more.

Lightning reports make it easy to drill down to just the details you need, so you can check up on your reps from your office laptop or on your phone as you’re walking over to them.

Run, Reports, Run!

As interactive as Salesforce is, it’s ultimately a database full of three-dimensional spreadsheets. Every field is a data point that can be viewed and compared against fields in other record types or even against unrelated fields to pull out key insights. Use automation to have new reports generated every day as a way to get a glance at your day at the start of the morning.

You can even trigger reports to generate if a deal is sitting in the queue for too long, too many deals in the pipeline have an excessively high percentage discount, and more.

Sales managers should see these reports frequently without having to generate them:

      • Open deals
      • Deals that have stalled over two days with the same approver
      • Deals over a certain ACV or TCV (so you can monitor critical quarterly deals)
      • Open opportunities that have sat unclaimed or unattended to by your team
      • Reports that flag common errors. If your team has a habit of doing the dates wrong or skipping over fields, you can catch those mistakes before the records close

Also, think about reports that extend past narrow or traditional views of ‘sales responsibilities.’ Remember, the seventh stage in the Salesforce-recommended sales pipeline focuses on post-purchase actions. If a high-paying customer gets terrible customer service, they are much less likely to renew and be the easy win you might have been relying on in the future.

So add some non-standard reports to your daily or weekly views, such as customer service tickets stuck for [too many] days unresolved. In fact, according to that same Salesforce 360 blog, “66% of sales teams track customer satisfaction (CSAT) as their top KPI, edging out “team quota met” (65%) by a small margin.”

Pro Tip: For the first one or two months of the new year, auto-generate a report that catches someone accidentally starting a service term in the previous year. It’s a simple mistake, but it can bog things down later. Having to struggle through internal audits down the line will slow down your sales pipeline.

Get the Experts to Optimize Your Salesforce So You Can Focus on Sales

Each of these improvements will make a salesperson’s day easier and more productive. But setting up the reports, workflows, and dashboards in the first place is a different story. Instead of building up your resources through a costly process of trial and error that eats into your selling team, bring in a partner to get it done right without interrupting your quarter.

Contact our team at Delegate for fast, expert implementation and customization.