How To Effectively Manage Your Company’s Sales Pipeline

Proper sales pipeline management is imperative for business growth, and it’s often a major priority for business leaders. Without a process for getting people into—and through—the pipeline, the business risks decreasing revenue and not retaining existing customers.

From leveraging social media to using CRM data, there are a multitude of ways to effectively manage your sales pipeline. Here, 15 Forbes Business Council members offered their top strategies for overall customer satisfaction and measuring the successful output of your company’s pipeline. 

1. Think Of It As A Supply Chain

Thinking of the sales pipeline as a supply chain is a great way to understand how each touchpoint is interconnected toward success and is a more effective way to identify fail points or other clogs in the system that hinder KPIs. Break it down into multiple sections and monitor the associated data. Each touchpoint in the sales pipeline requires a strategy to reach the ultimate goal of conversion. – Landon Eckles, Clean Juice

2. Focus On High-Value Prospects

Looking at your sales process, you will notice that it takes the same amount of time to close most deals. Focus your efforts on the best, most sales-ready and high-value prospects. Avoid getting distracted by anything that won’t deliver in the short term. Go all-in on those leads! – Evan William Kirstel, eViRa

Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?

3. Set Realistic Expectations

Like the elections, be sure you know when to call the vote! Based on your business, new sales may mean hiring up or shuffling the team that executes on what is sold. A huge pipeline is a great thing to have, but being realistic on its actual close is imperative. Saying everything is moving to close and constantly bumping the close date can kill a business. – Bryan Jakovcic, Fusion Health

4. Track Your Customer Journey

Utilize a proper CRM that drives the prospect through a nurture and qualification process. This is contingent on the product, service or offer and will vary based on price and objective. By utilizing a CRM, you can track the customer journey, as well as your retargeting, lifetime value and overall satisfaction of the customer or client. – Cody Jefferson, Embrace The Lion

5. Set Clearly Defined Goals

One simple way is to have clearly defined stages in the pipeline. For example, a sales qualified lead, discovery call, demo, proposal and closed-won/lost stages. When you have defined the stages, you can analyze what stages to improve in your sales process while also having a clear forecast of future revenue opportunities. This type of clarity then also helps with forecasting backend fulfillment and customer success. – Marcus Chan, Venli Consulting Group

6. Have Prospects, Not Suspects

The best way to manage a pipeline is to keep it fat with prospects and not suspects. Suspects waste time and are unmanageable. However, once a lead becomes a prospect, the best way to handle it is with disciplined and practiced sales tactics. These include consistent and informative follow-up, precise messaging across all media touchpoints and professionally walking them towards the close. – Steve Alkandros, New England Management Group/AR Property Services, LLC

7. Be Sure To Follow-Up

There is nothing better than a good follow-up. If we learn the difference between a healthy follow-up and not being pushy, we know how to get to closing. Each prospect that shows interest may or may not come with an immediate need, hence healthy follow-up will not only keep you in their ready pipeline but they will also refer your business. – Neha Madaan, Vanator

8. Answer Two Important Questions

Clearly defined stages and review of CRM data is fundamental. The biggest challenge is that the best salespeople are seldom the best admins. If your CRM data isn’t accurate or up-to-date, you’ll still end up with fuzzy forecasts. An easy sniff test with your reps comes from asking these two questions: “Why is this person going to buy?” and “Why will they buy on this date?” The answers drive accountability. – Hilmon Sorey, ClozeLoop

9. Monitor For Inactive Clients

A preemptive sales process creates momentum. On an ongoing basis, we must requalify, update and manage each prospect along the conversion cycle. The tighter the cycle, the greater the close ratio. Once a prospect cannot move forward in any given stage, set a trigger to remove that unmotivated buyer from the live pipeline into an attentive “drip” campaign. Inaction or indecision kills pipelines. – Tej Brahmbhatt, Watchtower Capital

10. Analyze Your Data In The CRM

Clearly define each stage of the sales process, the activities that happen in each stage and the exit criteria required to move to the next stage. Then, on a weekly basis, inspect deals via the CRM to ensure that they are at the right stage, that they have a clear next step that’s in the future and that the right amount of information has been documented in the CRM. – Cory Bray, ClozeLoop

11. Set Up Measurable KPIs

Implement key performance indicators for your sales pipeline like the closed-won ratio, how long it takes to close and how long it takes for a prospect to move throughout the stages. This allows you to measure what is working and what isn’t. – Beth Worthy, GMR Transcription Services, Inc

12. Focus On Relationships With Others

Don’t think of a sales pipeline. Instead, focus on relationships. People matter and I believe if we all take the time to actively listen, show empathy and connect on a deeper level, then we never have to cold call, sell or worry about the sales pipeline. The universe always provides if I am showing up, willing to work hard and being authentic with the important relationships in my life and work. – Beth Jannery, Titan Strategic Communication

13. Move Customers Along The Pipeline

Do some activity to move potential customers along the pipeline, even if it’s small movement, every single day. Not following up because of distractions, malaise, being discouraged or the 100 other reasons we don’t follow up will kill the effectiveness of your pipeline. Truly effective sales pipelines need daily curating, just like a young plant needs attention to grow. – Jason Van Camp, Mission Six Zero

14. Leverage Social Media Stats

Utilize social media to increase the interest of potential retail partners by showcasing engagement with your brand. Feature influencers’ content and media hits on your social media channels, including the number of likes, comments and shares. You will also want to include the actual links in your pitch deck. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

15. Focus On Qualified Leads

Understand qualified leads versus. qualified leeches. Leeches steal your time for free by picking your brain and they will never become bonafide clients. Focus first on filling your pipeline with qualified leads while closing the low-hanging fruit and nurturing the larger accounts that fit your sweet spot. Understand your staffing needs and project out appropriately so your new clients have a seamless entry. – Kevin Coker, Proxima Clinical Research, Inc.