Your Sales Pipeline – How Can You Manage It More Effectively?

A sales pipeline does nothing more than provide you with an analysis of the demand for your product or service. It’s the management of the pipeline that helps improve close ratios and drive more revenue.  In order to properly manage the sales pipeline you need an effective system that can properly display where each opportunity is in the sales cycle. This results in the ability to more accurately predict monthly or quarterly revenue.

Lead Management

To get started a good CRM system will help you identify if a lead is highly qualified or unqualified by asking a few simple questions:

  • Do they have a need for my product or service?
  • What is their budget?
  • Have you identified the decision maker?
  • How soon would they need the product or service? (The likely length of the sales cycle)

By answering these questions you can immediately determine if there are some key pieces of information you are missing.  Without this knowledge you could spend a lot of time on the phone or writing up proposals for a prospect that is not a qualified opportunity.  Lead scoring is critical to make sure your sales team is spending their valuable time on the most qualified opportunities and not chasing tire kickers.

Sales Management

Then comes the sales pipeline management. Sales cycles traditionally have several steps and may takes weeks or months until a decision is made.  Managing each stage of the sales cycle is critical to ensuring that you are on top of every new opportunity. This is key to improving your win-loss ratios. You must nurture and care for each qualified opportunity.

CRM software programs are designed to manage the sales process and provide two critical components that impact the efficient management of a sales organization.

First — CRM software demands the implementation of an automated sales process. These are the steps associated with selling your product or service from the minute you talk with a new prospect to the day a decision is made.

Second — analytical reporting and business intelligence.  This enables you to see where each sales opportunity is in the sales cycle, enabling you to take a proactive approach and improving your chance of winning the business.

CRM Sales Reports

CRM software programs that focus on sales management often include very good sales reporting such as:

  • Where the lead was generated from?
  • Was it converted to a new sales opportunity?
  • Is the opportunity moving through the sales process as anticipated?
  • Did we win or lose the sale?
  • What was the dollar value of the sale?

Tracking and effectively managing your sales pipeline is essential to the growth of your business. Without a good sales tracking system highly qualified opportunities can simply fall through the cracks causing you to lose business you could have won if you were properly managing your sales pipeline. The good news is that there are many good affordable sales management and sales tracking software systems that automate the entire sales process and help manage the sales pipeline.

CRM Software Without Limits

3D Bar Graph MeetingWhat’s the difference between low end CRM offerings and the ones that truly provide value?   It’s significant if you know where to look.

Smaller companies typically have two business challenges — data consolidation and generating new business.   Some use contact managers or an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of customers, contacts, notes and e-mail. And when it comes to lead management, sales opportunity management and generating accurate monthly forecasts, well forget about it.

To address their pain these companies typically look for low cost solutions that offer basic contact management and a monthly forecast. There are a lot of pretty good low cost ones and even some free ones to look at.   The problem here is that these companies are missing the big picture when it comes to the value CRM software can provide to their business.

CRM is all about capturing, tracking, managing and sharing vital customer information throughout the organization, but every business is different and has unique requirements. As a result, the “one size fits all approach of low cost CRM software programs limits what you can do and the return on investment you can realize from these programs.  If you are really looking to improve how you market, sell and provide services to your customers you need a CRM solution that offers a higher degree of flexibility.

And here is the good news.  There are plenty of these available for just a few dollars more than the low cost guys.

Robust CRM software programs provide you with flexibility to tailor the system so that you can capture unique information about your customers, then analyze the data for improved sales and customer service.  Top rated CRM solutions like Commence CRM also allow you to rate or categorize your customers based on how valuable they are to your business — by profitability or potential for growth as an example.  You just don’t get this level of business intelligence with low end CRM solutions.

Smaller businesses also tend to have a difficult time recruiting experienced sales managers and well-trained sales representatives. As a result, they often do not have a formal sales process in place for lead generation, lead qualification, or for efficiently managing the sales process.  Poor management of the sales process results in the following:

  • Delayed follow-up on potential new sales
  • Sales representatives chasing tire kickers instead of highly qualified opportunities
  • Business opportunities that fall through the cracks
  • Inaccurate sales forecasts

Having the ability to implement a sales structure may be the most critical component to the success and survival of small businesses.  To achieve higher close ratios and revenues you need a CRM system that delivers this capability plain and simple.  To learn more about implementing the right sales structure for your business download our free CRM best practices eBook from the home page of our website.

Image by Scott Maxwell on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Sales Best Practice #3 – Has an excellent working relationship with the boss

A best practice for sales people by guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

By Dave Kahle

two businessmen shaking handsThe best salespeople understand that their company has assembled a collection of resources into which they can tap in order to further their sales success.  One such resource is your sales manager.

Now, I understand that the quality of sales managers varies tremendously.  Some salespeople view their sales manager as a liability. That is unfortunate.  But that is not the point.  Regardless of your opinion as to the competency of your sales manager, you still must work with him/her.  And that means that you must have a working relationship with that person.

In my tenure as a salesperson, I had eight sales managers.  Seven of the eight were solid and experienced with good people skills – an asset in front of any customer.  One was incredibly pushy and alienated every customer with whom he spoke.

If you are fortunate enough to have to a manager who brings additional resources and strengths to your customers, good for you.  By all means take advantage of that.

If, however,  you believe your sales manager doesn’t have that kind of capability, then do what you need to do to limit his/her exposure to your customers.  Find the strengths that he/she does possess, and seek ways to utilize them.  That doesn’t mean, however, you should disrespect, belittle, or ignore your sales manager.

You are an employee of a company, and therefore you have a moral and legal obligation to be a good employee, and to respect and interact positively with your manager.

An excellent working relationship with your boss will strengthen your sales ability, prevent unnecessary stress, and make your life easier.

It may take time and effort.  But, having an excellent working relationship with your boss is one of the best practices of the best.

If you’d like to dig deeper into this best practice, and if you are a member of The Sales Resource Center™, consider Pod-34: Ethics for the Professional Salesperson, and Nuggets N-96: Integrity; and N-215.

Image by Wirawat Lian-udom on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.  Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, and visit his blog.

Copyright MMXII by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved.

3 Most Common Mistakes when Choosing a CRM

Almost Bull's Eye...With the vast choice of Customer Relationship Management software available, it is easy to get overwhelmed and make a decision that is not right for your organization. There are three common mistakes made by organizations that lead them to select CRM software that may not be the best fit for their business.

  1. Failing to examine the issues within a business that create the need for a CRM solution. Exposing problems within an organization can be difficult, especially when the business is small. If you are the owner or part of the management team it can be even more difficult to acknowledge problems as they began under your watch. This can lead to major problems and voids in the business being disguised or down played. The key is to catch problems as they begin to form and before they become a part of the businesses process. This will save you time, money and your customers’ loyalty.
  2. Choosing an easy fit solution, which does not actually address the problems they have discovered. Although CRM solutions are becoming more advanced and offer more features and functionality, it is no use to an organization if it does not address the needs, and tackle the voids and problems in the organization. The solution needs to fill a void in the company’s processes and repair a problem that exists, rather than focus on processes that are already successful.
  3. Failing to clearly define the goals of the CRM system before implementing it. When a CRM system is installed it is normal for the business to alter some of its goals as new functionality brings new ideas. However it can often happen that some of the original goals of the business are forgotten with the distraction of the CRM software. If an organization regularly changes it goals then it is impossible to track how successful the implementation of the CRM system has been. A CRM system cannot be viewed as successful if the objectives that led to its selection have been changed once it is implemented.

These are very common mistakes that can occur when choosing customer relationship management software. Now that you are aware you can avoid them and find the perfect CRM system to suit the needs of your organization.

Image “Almost Bull’s Eye…” by Mr. Sandman on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Is Management to Blame for CRM Failures?

Get Motivated By Value Not Price

The CRM software sector is in a bit of disarray. There was a time not so long ago when companies would select CRM software products based on the value and return on investment they felt they would realize from the solution they chose. Smart businesses were well prepared and engaged CRM solution providers with fully documented business requirements, a deployment preference (i.e. on premise or hosted online CRM) and were keen on fostering a business relationship where the vendor played an important role in the implementation, training and ensuring the proper utilization of the product.

But that was then. Today, at least in the small to mid-size business sector, it appears companies are just not as well prepared as they should be. As a result, many small to mid-size enterprises are selecting CRM software solutions based on price instead of value.

Perhaps this is the reason why more than 70% of CRM software implementations in the SME sector fail to get properly implemented and utilized.  This number makes sense if companies are selecting business solutions based on price rather than value.  This problem is easy to understand because the CRM software sector is viewed by many as a commodity sector where every solution is pretty much the same.

If you feel this way then price becomes the only differentiator and cost becomes the overwhelming factor.

Management Failing to Engage

As a sales representative selling CRM software, I often get amused at the calls I get each and every day from the SME community looking for CRM software. Here are some of the questions I get.

  • We are looking for a CMR system”. What does yours do?
  • How much does it cost for a complete system?
  • Do you charge any extra fees?
  • Is there a contract?

When you get these types of questions you know right away that the poor person asking has no idea what the company’s business objectives are or what a CRM system does.  They have simply been asked by their management to search the internet and find a few good CRM software solutions. To an inexperienced person, the best CRM system is a low cost one. So who’s to blame here?  Management is.

If the executive management team has not taken the time to document their specific business requirements and inform their staff of their objectives, how can they expect the staff to recommend or select the best CRM solution for the business?

What typically happens is that they end up with some low cost solution that they can use and pay for month to month. And if they are not happy with how it works of what it offers they can simply terminate their use.

But is this the proper path to addressing their business requirements and improving how they market, sell and provide service to their customers?  Of course not.  So what do you do if your company places you in this situation?  Perhaps I can help.  The attached link will provide you with an informative white paper called “Don’t Make a CRM Buying Mistake: 7 Points to Consider Before Selecting Your CRM System”.  Take a few minutes to review it. You’ll be glad you did.