Pipeline Management Steps for Achieving Sales Goals

Well-run sales organizations have a system they follow, much like a manufacturer of any product. A manufacturer must know the status of their raw materials and completed inventory so that they can stock the stores that purchase from them. At any time, they need to know how much of each product is at what stage in production and delivery. Transitioning to a sales pipeline, a salesperson and their manager must know the status of all their prospects and how many early-stage prospects they have, how many are somewhat qualified and of course, how many are ready to close. Many companies utilize a CRM to help track this or create their own method of tracking their pipeline.

Regardless, tracking and managing a pipeline is an essential skill for sales managers to utilize to achieve sales team excellence and success. How can a manager provide sales forecasts and reach their sales goals without understanding at what stage their prospects are in the sales cycle? But many sales managers do not spend much time on this, thinking that their salespeople are on top of it. Evaluating the sales pipeline is a key step to identifying choke points and problems that a salesperson has in the sales process. These offer critical coaching opportunities for skill development.

Pipeline Management Steps

So, what does it take to be effective at pipeline management? The Pipeline Management Competency measures how thoroughly and effectively a sales manager will manage the pipeline and coach from the pipeline. These are the specific activities effective sales managers do with their salespeople, as identified by Objective Management Group, our sales evaluation partner:

Focus on Keeping Pipeline Full: Appropriately place more emphasis on keeping the pipeline full than ensuring opportunities close, managing specific opportunities, or focusing on non-pipeline-related issues.

Properly Utilize Pipeline Metrics: View the pipeline as more than just a tool for forecasting or reporting, but also a tool for coaching, accountability, and regular review.

Focus on Best Pipeline Metrics: Prioritize pipeline metrics centered around filling the pipeline or moving opportunities through the pipeline, as opposed to quality, quantity, or how closeable opportunities are.

Focus on New or Stalled Business: Do an excellent job focusing on stalled business and generating new business, as opposed to closing business or ongoing business.

Regularly Review Pipeline: Prioritize frequent reviews with real-time meaningful insights into the health of the pipeline.

Spends Proper Time on Pipeline Reviews: Spends an appropriate amount of time to thoroughly review the pipeline.

Pipeline management is when a sales manager can really be additive to the sales process, identifying areas that a salesperson may have missed or skipped. The core point of pipeline management is to ensure that deals don’t slip through the cracks. An effective pipeline review with a salesperson can help to bring to light deals that need attention or more nurturing or a different approach. The ability to have productive pipeline management conversations however, is based on the level of trust and confidence built between a sales manager and their people.

Another critical component of achieving sales team excellence with pipeline management is the utilization of a consistent stage-based sales process. These stages are what should be built into the CRM so that a manager, at any time, can see where all prospects are in the qualifying process. For instance, a stage-based selling system could include these steps: prospect identified, uncovered compelling issues, has time, money and resources, proposal sent, SOW sent, signed and closed. If done well, at each step, a salesperson has discovered more relevant information about their prospect to help progress them through the pipeline funnel. A sales leader can often provide insights based on their own experience or working with other team members to help shorten the sales process.

From Jeni Wehrmeyer, COO & CMO
Anthony Cole Training Group


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