If you’re a CEO or lead a sales team, you’re deeply invested in improving your top line. And we’re willing to bet that at some point along the way — maybe that point is now — you’ve looked at your inbox, your weekly sales report, or your sticky-note-covered laptop monitor and said to yourself, “Something isn’t working.”
But how do you identify what isn’t working so you can start to close more deals?
Well, good news: There’s a process for that, starting with straightening out your pipeline.
The sales pipeline is an organized look at the steps your buyers take as they move from initial contact to customers, and it’s one of your best tools for understanding how, where, when, and what leads to a successful conversion — as well as where there’s room for improvement. Let’s dig In.
Step #1 : Define your stages.
Before you can make any tweaks to your process, you need to map out and define your sales pipeline from first contact to close and identify any key milestones along the way. For example, a typical sales pipeline moves from lead generation through lead nurturing, marketing-qualified leads, sales-accepted leads, and sales-qualified leads on up to closing the deal — and following up post-sale. Your pipeline may have more stops, or it may have fewer; either way, it’s important to identify the major turn posts customers will pass so that you can continue to refine the journey.
As an example, let’s use an imaginary SaaS startup for yoga instructors, Yoga Magic. At a high level, their purchase stages look like this:
NEW OPPORTUNITY > GATHER MORE INFO > DEMO > DEFINE NEEDS > PROPOSAL SENT > FOLLOW UP > CLOSE DEAL
So, once you’ve mapped out each of your customer touchpoints, now what? It’s time to dig a little deeper to make sure you’re making the most of your process.
Step #2: Know your numbers.
What are you measuring in your current pipeline? How are you using those measurements? Implementing benchmarks and identifying key performance indicators can help you use your sales process as one way to gauge your success — but it’s important to identify which metrics you should track in order to collect the most useful information for honing your process.
Let’s take a look at your numbers over the course of a quarter, at each stage you mapped in your pipeline. If your pipeline looks like Yoga Magic above, you would want to gather data for the following:
- How many new people/prospects do you get last quarter?
- Of those people, how many match your ideal customer profile, and you would call a qualified lead?
- Of those qualified leads, how many were you able to secure a meeting with?
- How many proposals did you send out?
- How many deals did you close?
Answering questions like these can unlock the “how, where, when, and what” we discussed earlier that can help you better understand what leads to conversions — and where your potential customers might be dropping out of the funnel.
Step #3: Look for the drop-offs.
Once you start looking at each stage of the pipeline, you’ll begin to see what we call “drop-offs,” wherein leads fall out, or opportunities that look like no-brainers might not close after all.
This is where you start to build change. You’re looking for places in each stage of your pipeline where the numbers drop dramatically. It’s those drop-offs that are your signal that something’s not right with your process.
If you already know your process is off-kilter, and are looking for help shoring it up quickly, we can help.
And be sure to check out Part 2: Identifying the cause of drop-offs in your pipeline, where we share our favorite troubleshooting tips that can help you spot opportunities to revamp your process and boost your sales.