The Pipeline Management Best Practices You Need to Know

February 23, 2021
sales pipeline management
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Lead generation is one of the most important best practices when it comes to effective pipeline management.

In fact, according to independent research group CSO Insights, over 46 percent of sales reps report a lack of qualified leads as the number one barrier to sales effectiveness. 

So, how can sales reps make sure they’re prioritizing lead generation on a consistent basis?

Alex Moore, a senior account manager at Vungle, does so by blocking time off on her calendar each day to focus solely on this specific task.

Moore also said that by developing a more personalized approach to her outreach, she’s seen not only an improved response rate but also a more personal relationship with newly acquired leads. 

Built In San Francisco connected with Moore, along with sales leaders from KeepTruckin and Primer, to learn more about how their lead gen strategies keep their sales pipelines flowing. 

 

Kathleen Clem
Senior Sales Manager, Commercial Sales

According to Senior Sales Manager Kathleen Clem, keeping notes updated at KeepTruckin, a fleet management platform, ensures more accurate forecasting and a better customer experience. 

 

What’s the single most important best practice you follow when it comes to pipeline management? 

Always updating your next step notes! Specifically “who” you are going to talk with, “what” the agenda/purpose of the call is, and “when” this next step will take place. In order to maintain control of the sale and drive it forward, I’ve found establishing the next steps with your prospect or customer, and being logged in your customer relationship management (CRM), are imperative.

 

What’s one improvement you’ve made to your pipeline processes over time, and what impact has that had on your work?

Calibrating which fields are most important to keep updated on the opportunity and making sure you and your account executives are aligned on expectations. It’s allowed for better transparency and relationship-building with my reps, and longer-term, it’s allowed for more accurate forecasting and efficiency because you are more in touch with what is realistic to close and there is less checking-in with your reps.
 

Establishing the next steps with your prospect or customer, and being logged in your CRM, are imperative.”


What’s a best practice you follow for monitoring your sales pipeline over time and keeping it clean and up to date?

Having weekly pipeline review meetings with the team. Each AE comes prepared with an updated CRM and ready to speak on their progress from the week. We can help strategize if a deal is stalled, not updated properly or if we’ve lost control of a sale, etc. It helps to get ahead of any foreseeable obstacles with a deal or shore up what an AE is forecasting for the month and quarter.

 

Bruno Sota
Commercial Sales Executive

In his tenure at machine intelligence company Primer, Commercial Sales Executive Bruno Sota has learned to kill opportunities earlier in the sales process, thereby making projections more realistic. What that looks like day to day is creating a ranked list of tasks that will get his leads closer to a buying decision. 

 

What’s the single most important best practice you follow when it comes to pipeline management? 

The ultimate goal of pipeline management is to shrink the time from prospect to close. Every day there is something you can do that at best can push a deal further down the pipeline and, at worst, build urgency (whether that be with the prospect or internally) to remove a bottleneck. For me, it is starting every morning by stack, ranking the most important things I can control that day and acting immediately on the tasks I think will get an opportunity closer to a buying decision.

Usually, that starts with the lowest hanging fruit, who are the people that owe me a decision/update that day. It is easy to reach out to someone if you already have a verbal or written commitment from them to do ‘X’ by today. I have no problem leaning on my prospects or internal teams if they know they owe me something. From there, I will think more strategically about how I can pull other ongoing opportunities toward a buying decision. That usually means emailing prospects for a “quick check-in” to see what value they have seen in the trial so far, or asking for a confirmation of timeline and priority for ongoing conversations.

 

What’s one improvement you’ve made to your pipeline processes over time, and what impact has that had on your work?

Kill opportunities early. Or better yet, don’t even let them become an opportunity until the prospect is insisting they have the budget and a critical need to evaluate our products and services. A critical mistake I made early in my sales career was being far too optimistic about a prospect just because I could imagine a way they could benefit from what I was selling. I would have happy ears (hearing what I wanted to hear) and try to push them through proof of concepts and trials. This would (artificially) inflate my pipeline with prospects who either were never going to make a purchasing decision in the near term or weren’t even qualified to make a purchasing decision.

Now, once I have spoken with a prospect and they understand our value proposition, I gate the ability to further evaluate us. I make sure they know that it costs us valuable human resources and time, plus the opportunity cost, for us to provide them a trial, so we need them to confirm that at the end of the evaluation period I will be asking for a purchasing decision. If they have a compelling need they will agree to those terms. If they cannot commit, then I don’t even open the opportunity and make a plan to reconnect down the road.
 

Kill opportunities early.”


What’s a best practice you follow for monitoring your sales pipeline over time and keeping it clean and up to date?

I really love the Kanban view of opportunities in Salesforce because, in just a snapshot, I can see what aspects of my pipeline need the most attention. Is the top of my funnel empty? Do I have a disproportionate amount of deals in procurement? Am I spread too thin with opportunities in a trial? A healthy pipeline will quite literally resemble a funnel shape, and the Kanban view allows me and my management to know if I need to add more prospects or trim the fat.

 

Alex Moore
Senior Account Manager

At adtech company Vungle, Senior Account Manager Alex Moore practices all-encompassing pipeline management by setting aside time every day to find new leads and creating more personalized outreach that creates trust with potential clients from the get-go. 

 

What’s the single most important best practice you follow when it comes to pipeline management? 

Never slack on new lead generation! It can be so easy to focus solely on nurturing your top funnel deals and ensuring those close. But you can’t have a healthy sales pipeline if you don’t have any new leads coming in. It’s important to constantly be prospecting new leads and sending follow-ups to existing ones. I’ve set up a process where I have time blocked off on my calendar every day to focus only on new lead generation. While it may not provide instant gratification, you’ll thank yourself in a month when you have a healthy pipeline full of new leads.

 

What’s one improvement you’ve made to your pipeline processes over time, and what impact has that had on your work?

Developing a more personalized approach to my outreach. This is something that not only improved the response rate of my outreach, but also helped me start developing a foundation of trust with new prospects right from the beginning of the relationship. It also helps me understand clearly and quickly what the prospect’s needs are and why Vungle is the advertising solution for them.

While the scalability of your outreach is important, it’s also important to be targeted and purposeful who you reach out to and with what you bring to their attention. This not only helps you work more efficiently, but it lets the prospect know you’ve taken the time to research their company. It lets them know that you care.

 

While prospecting may not provide instant gratification, you’ll thank yourself in a month when you have a healthy pipeline full of new leads.”

 

What’s a best practice you follow for monitoring your sales pipeline over time and keeping it clean and up to date?

Just as I have time on my calendar blocked off for lead generation, I also set aside time each week to review my pipeline: add in any new opportunities, update any existing opportunities that should move to a new stage and remove any old opportunities that aren’t moving forward. Reviewing my pipeline on a regular and consistent basis helps me avoid having to spend hours playing catch-up later on, and it also gives me a clear view of how I should be prioritizing my opportunities more generally.

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