Managing and monitoring your sales pipeline is key to the achievement of your stretching sales targets.
This book presents ideas for managing the “leaky funnel” – and argues that sales success can be achieved when businesses map their pipeline, identify hotspots for fallout, plug the leaks and quickly “recycle” and incubate prospects who don’t initially convert.
This excellent sales book is written as a business novel – as a result, it’s a highly accessible read that’s packed with sound business principles. It follows Sue Hunt’s journey as the new CEO at HardBits (a fictional company and a leading supplier of plastic beads). Sue has been hired because of her ability to “think like a customer”, with the hope that this new approach will be able to turn around HardBits’ performance and remove the barriers that are preventing the company from finding new customers.
HardBits has been struggling in a commoditised market. Declining prices and the challenge to differentiate, means HardBits is looking for a new approach – and the board hopes Sue can identify the solution.
The book takes a detailed look at pipeline management and, through Sue’s journey, reveals how a firm understanding of the sales pipeline can be the start of real change within a business.
Below, I've summarised four important lessons that I took from the book:
The key argument contained within this book is that businesses should manage their sales pipeline from a customer-centric position.
This means you need to develop a sound understanding of the buyers’ journey as well as be able to identify and understand your customers’ pain so you can position your company’s offer as a solution.
And given the change in consumer behaviour, this totally makes sense. Consumer buying patterns have shifted as a result of the availability of information online - and social search has made it easier than ever to get independent referrals and reviews. As a result, prospects are often extremely well informed BEFORE they get in touch.
Plus, because you can’t tell a customer when it’s the right time to buy, it’s crucial a clear understanding of the journey, context and decision-making process of a typical prospect shapes your sales methods.
Macfarlane also argues for greater integration between marketing and sales to ensure these essential business functions are more sensitive to the way customers buy.
In particular, he suggests marketing should focus on attracting more highly qualified leads for sales teams to follow up and nurture. In turn, this will translate into increased performance because salespeople are not wasting their time talking to unqualified leads, with no interest in, or need for, the products and services you sell.
Successful selling requires a carefully mapped pipeline that takes into account the buyers’ journey.
In addition, that pipeline needs to be manageable and measurable. That’s because once you can analyse the effectiveness of your sales process, you’re then able to predict future outcomes, and implement improvements to enhance your results.
A key benefit of measuring and monitoring your pipeline is, you’re able to identify where prospects leave your sale pipeline (leak). In turn, you can then implement strategies to reduce the leakage AND recycle prospects. In turn, this should lead to higher conversion rates.
Richard Young is Bullhorn CRM’s Director of CRM Sales, EMEA. Richard has built an in-depth knowledge of the CRM industry based on over 20 years of experience. Richard has worked with a diverse range of companies including WPP Group, KPMG, McKinsey & Co., Royal Bank of Scotland, American Express, HP and Mercedes-Benz.
How do you manage your sales pipeline? What tools do you rely on? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.
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