Pipeline Management is hard work - but also extremely rewarding
Most companies run pipeline management - though it is done in a number of different ways. The first time I came across pipeline management was in the mid 90’s. We had a US based vendor who insisted that we kept them informed on a weekly basis of number of leads generated though various marketing activities, number of inbound and outbound calls, number of quotes, sales numbers, type of products sold ect.
Why did they need all this information when revenue went up year by year?
I remember being slightly irritated. Why did they need all this information when revenue went up year by year? Didn’t they trust our business decisions? After months of tracking I realized that within our team we had different perspective on the activity level and also on results. Our outlook depended on who picked up the phone, fax or received emails from customers. The tracking helped us understand what activities we should do more or less of. Without realising it we had a sales funnel with conversion rates and insights to where in the sales process we as a team and as individuals where strong and weak. It was fantastic!
Today I still meet companies who are struggling with pipeline management and I still met Account Managers who believe that customer information and future sales should be stored locally in an Excel sheet on his or her hard drive. I also meet companies who realize that they need an accurate pipeline in order to steer the business. I have implemented pipeline management more than once and I always found that I end up focusing on the 5 elements below:
A shared system accessible by all employees who are client facing. Most companies use a CRM system such as SalesForce.com, Microsoft Dynamicsor SAP CRM
A code of conduct explaining in detail how we expect each functions to use and store customer data
Bi-weekly pipeline meetings between sales rep and manager, manager and director etc. The meeting focuses on past weeks activities, future sales opportunities and what supports is needed to be successful
Leadership demand for accurate data available in one shared system and at all times accessible
Persistence, persistence and more persistence. The above only works if we live and breathe pipeline data from one data source. We have to drive data quality up and build a data foundation that we can rely on
Driving an accurate sales pipeline is hard work but also extremely rewarding. The upside is that we reduce internal communications. With an accurate pipeline we can estimate sales for the coming period. We know which stage each sales opportunity has reach, we know who owns the account and who the supporting team is. We understand where in the sales process we have challenges and where we are strong. We have the best foundation for budgeting future sales. We can plan activities and corrective actions before it is too late.
Just imagine the amount of time saved collecting this information!
Just imagine the freedom we are given when customer data is available and transparent!