Improve Your Rep's Sales Pipeline Management Skills With These 4 Tips
We all know how challenging it can be to manage a constantly changing pipeline, but it's essential for reps to stay organized to ensure their opportunities are moving forward.
So, how can you ensure that your reps keep their pipeline current? Here are four tips to help them stay on top of their deals.
#1 Set a Clear 'Why' for CRM Updates
Ever since contact management systems offered sales reps the ability to track their opportunities, it's been a constant struggle between reps and their managers to keep the pipeline clean and “update the darn CRM.”
Management wants a pipeline roll-up for better team visibility and to produce accurate forecasts. In contrast, reps are not motivated to waste precious selling time on administrative tasks when they could be closing business.
What may be missing from these conversations is the Rep’s perspective: "What’s in it for me (the WIIFM)?” Having been a sales rep, a sales manager, and a business owner, I see this challenge from all perspectives, and mostly I empathize with the Reps.
#2 Treat Your CRM as a Personal Commission Factory
When looking at the pipeline and CRM, we need to encourage Reps to see it as their own “commission factory.” In other words, the CRM is an assembly line that manufactures revenue and needs to be managed at each stage. At the top are raw goods (leads), and at the end of the process are the finished goods (closed business and commissions).
We need to help sales reps optimize their production line, so it produces more commission. That starts with showing reps the significant benefits of managing their pipeline daily or weekly. The CRM helps to:
- Improve win rates by focusing on the most qualified opportunities
- Be more effective by prioritizing activities and removing “dead wood”
- Saves time with a to-do list of commitment reminders and next steps
- Identifies quota shortfalls early with factored pipeline highlights
- Shows where support may be needed to close deals with velocity and activity level issues.
Once reps see the value of maintaining their pipeline, the next step is a checklist that helps your sales team update the pipeline regularly.
#3 Use a Checklist for a Tidy Pipeline
Modify this checklist to meet your specific CRM requirements and encourage your team to use it. Set the expectation that each item will be reviewed and updated before every sales meeting. If sales reps aren’t paying attention to these details, they may be operating their “commission-generating factory” below the production potential.
To keep a clean pipeline, each week, your sales team should:
- Review every opportunity starting at the bottom of the funnel.
- Prioritize the key opportunities by size, close date, strategic potential, etc.
- Review the stage, days in the stage, and overall age. Is it in the appropriate stage based on the customer’s actions? Is it moving with velocity relative to average deals of this size? Deals stuck on stage longer than the average should be a warning sign that this deal is in jeopardy.
- Focus on the next action or next meeting date. Is there one? Have you identified the next tangible action you’re expecting from the client to show the deal is progressing?
- Check the opportunity amount. Is it based on what you know about the deal? Has it changed as the deal has progressed?
- Review the close date–is it realistic based on the actions and next steps? Have you verified the decision date with the stakeholders? Can you map the steps from where you are now to winning the deal by the expected close date?
The outcome of reviewing the pipeline should be a list of action items to drive opportunities forward. And as a result of the review, reps need to make commitments to themselves and the team, “if the customer doesn’t respond by next week, I’ll disqualify this opportunity or move it out of the active pipeline.” Having a clean pipeline improves the quality of the sales meetings and refocuses everyone on what’s important.
#4 Offer Ongoing Support
Keeping the pipeline up-to-date takes discipline, training, and reinforcement. Make pipeline review a priority discussed frequently in team meetings and one-on-ones. Provide direct feedback if it’s not happening and reinforce why it’s important and what’s expected. Don’t expect radical change or compliance overnight; provide support and coaching to create the required behavior change.
When sales reps view their CRM as their own “commission factory,” they will be more likely to stay up-to-date on their pipeline. Make sure to provide ongoing support and coaching to ensure reps stay on top of their deals and understand the value of managing their pipeline. With regular pipeline reviews and a checklist that encourages reps to prioritize their opportunities, it will be easier for them to close more business.
Are you looking to sharpen your sales management skills and help your team stay on top of their pipeline? Check out our High-Impact Sales Manager program! This program enables sales managers to make more accurate sales forecasts, coach reps to advance opportunities, and unclog their sales pipeline. Click here to learn more about the program and how it can help you and your team.
About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is the General Manager of the Sales Readiness Group, A Part of SBI. He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation, and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.
- Connect with Ray Makela