Managing pipelines – Tips for Sales Managers

Asking your team what’s happening with this customer and where are we at with a given client can be hard, especially when you have a variety of personalities within your team. We all have that sales agent where every single customer they have is a red hot prospect, but turns out few of them are or the person who doesn’t want to “jinx” their pipeline by telling you if they are going ahead or not!

A lot of people these days rely on a CRM to help them manage pipeline and improve forecasting but no CRM can take the place of a good sales pipeline conversation, here are a few tips that you can use to take control and improve your forecasting.

1. Establish the size and age of someone’s pipeline and split this down into more manage-able chunks – if someone has been on your going ahead soon list every month for the last 6 months they aren’t going ahead soon but should be moved down the priority list to revisit later.

2. Give your team a framework to help them prioritise their workloads, I often find traffic lights work well – hot is Green and having given verbal signals and is in progress, Amber is warm prospect i.e. has given positive signals you quoted more than once quote or verbal or written cues around products and pricing. Red is less then 50% confidence in going ahead no verbal cues and you one you wouldn’t bet your house on going ahead anytime soon.

3. Ask you teams for a forecast, how many times have you asked your team how many sales they are expecting today and they give you a random number with no logic behind it as if the sales gods are willing them to have a good day. If you can discuss forecasts daily but ideally you should get these from your team at least once a week and check in at the middle of the week on progress – forecasts should be based on number prospects in their funnel i.e. how many Greens, Ambers, Red’s in their pipeline.

The best way to establish your forecast is in your sales meeting – often the team committing to this publicly will help give you confidence in the result, especially if you also have a weekly debrief where you revisit forecasts.

4. Inspect what you expect – Pipeline Catch ups in the week – inspect your teams’ pipeline or CRM tools – is what they are telling you a reality or a pipedream?  You need to coach your teams on forecasting as much as you do on their physical skills: how effective are their notes? Are they meeting their call back or even arranging call backs for prospects? How is their external content? For example, do e-mails represent your team and brand as you would expect?

5. Coach your teams – the best way to get closer to your teams’ pipelines is to coach in the work, observe their face to face meetings, listen to their calls and the strength of their close. Above all, make your feedback timely and relevant, if you can increase your first time sales resolution pipeline catch ups become quicker and easier!