Managing an efficient and productive sales pipeline is paramount to regularly closing sales and keeping cash flowing into your business. Proper sales forecasting is not a brainless activity and requires forethought and preparation. Assigning prospective deals to the wrong stage of your pipeline or not moving deals quickly enough through the process can result in skewed data and false expectations for cash flow. We’ve put together 5 of the biggest mistakes sales teams can run into when managing their pipelines and how to avoid them.
- You’re not in touch with decision makers – It’s important to get the eyes and ears of more than just one person within your prospective customer, but make sure at least one member of the team reviewing your product or service is in a position to make purchasing decisions. Focus on being familiar with the timeline of the decision makers. You might want to close this month but, unbeknownst to you, the purchaser does not foresee actually buying until months down the line. By involving yourself with the right people and becoming aware of their timelines, you can adequately allocate sales resources and attention in the right areas.
- You haven’t qualified the prospect – A good sales team will want to get a lot of leads and sell the product or service to everyone they can. But moving qualified leads into your pipeline means more accurate sales forecasting and less wasted effort on prospects who don’t meet your company’s definition of an ideal customer. In order to qualify your leads, certain steps have to be taken. For example, learning the size of the company, qualifying their budget and buying timeline, and educating the customer about what you sell and what services you can provide. These are just a few of the steps you should be taking to ensure that you and the buyer are on the same page and ready to work together towards a deal.
- You’re not managing your sales stages efficiently – Proper sales forecasting requires a pipelines with stages. As deals move from stage to stage, the probability to close increases and your expected sales amount increases accordingly. Sales staff should know how to keep each stage adequately filled with deals moving through regularly. A problem that we’ve seen very often is that there will be plenty of leads, but these leads are not moving from the lead stage into the prospect stage. Define your stages to adequately predict a customer’s readiness to buy. A good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system will provide reports to sales staff and management about the status of opportunities in the sales pipeline. Make this process as transparent as possible to avoid clogging the pipeline.
- You’re relying too heavily on one or two big deals to meet your forecast – Putting all of your eggs in one basket is obviously not the ideal course to manage your sales forecasting goals. Losing that one deal can mean not meeting your forecasted sales revenue for the period. At that point, your other leads and prospects have been neglected and may have lost interest or purchased from a competitor. Focus on deals of all sizes in all stages in your sales pipeline and you’re far more likely to be closing regularly and meeting your sales goals.
It’s tempting to take shortcuts but doing so can cause overconfidence. Have a concrete sales process and maintain conservative forecasts and you’re far more likely to keep deals flowing through your pipeline and meet your sales forecasting goals.
Looking for more information about how to manage your sales forecasting goals? Contact Business Solution Partners to speak to an implementation expert today!