Analyzing Sales Opportunities in Your Pipeline

Sales Funnel (Pipeline)

Are you part of a B2B sales organization proactively looking each week at what deals are in your sales funnel (or sales pipeline)? You probably fall into one of three camps:

A. You have a robust, helpful CRM tool that gives you several helpful reports which you can review each week, and lists you can easily pull up on a just-in-time basis.

B. You have a poor CRM tool, perhaps not cloud-based and it is difficult to use with poor reporting capabilities. Basically you work around this system if you work in it at all.

C. You have no CRM system and use some combination of e-Mail, Excel, Outlook, and/or sticky notes to “track” your prospective sales opportunities.

Whichever scenario you are in, there is hope as long as you are clear on two points:

1. Finding ways to shorten your prospective customers’ buying cycle which brings revenue in sooner is a very good thing.

2. Making improvements in all aspects of your sales efforts should be a critical part of your sales plan.

What to do if you have a very good system in place already: First, be appreciative because a lot of sales teams are still working with sub-par tools. Your goal is to take advantage of the tools you have, and find ways to leverage them and gain knowledge that assists in bringing deals to closure sooner. Most systems are under-utilized because of a poor roll-out and non-existent ongoing training.

Example: Look at how and when follow-up is happening and how it is happening. One company had a sales rep who would only do e-mail follow-up. Once we were able to see a report on how reps were following up, we encouraged this seller to start picking up the phone and engaging in valuable conversations. The result? Two of his deals moved forward, and one closed simply because of awareness and creating a plan of action.

What to do if you have a poor CRM / reporting system: See what you can accomplished with the tools that you have already. Don’t spend selling time researching your dream sales enablement tools. Instead, focus on understanding what sales opportunities you have, and what stages they are in so that you can create a plan of attack to move them forward. It can be very frustrating when you see other companies with other systems in place – especially if they are your competitors. There is a lot of selling that can go on even without great tools – so no excuses in place of getting your job done. If you were hired for sales, that is what you need to focus on. Make a case for what you need, and help build the ROI for it, outside of the normal work day. Learn what your peers and colleagues are doing to enable more sales, better.

If you have the “MacGyver”, (American action-adventure television series that ran from 1985-1992), pieced-together notes about potential customers, on paper, on sticky notes, and in your email or accounting system – you need executive buy-in on a modern system that will help you identify, win, and grow revenues. At the very least, you must know what sales opportunities you and your company have, and you need to set next actions on an ongoing basis. Having a snapshot of what you are working on as a seller is critical to keep you on track, on focus, and motivated.

No matter what system you have, put your top opportunities on a white board on the wall to further motivate you and keep them in your view. You and those around you will know what to focus on this way, and you also post a list of target companies you’d like to make progress on over the next few months.

Visuals can be very motivating. Use them, in conjunction with a great sales system to make your numbers.

Read this post for "3 Productivity Tips for the Sales Pipeline"

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.

Topics: Sales Tips

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