Your sales pipeline is quite literally the thing that keeps you in business. That’s why managing it effectively is so critical.
CRMs provide you with all the data and functionality you need to make sure you’re talking with leads and closing the deal in the most efficient way possible. Plus, they allow you to see the bigger picture and to set strategic goals for your business based on your existing sales pipeline and how you hope to see it grow.
Here, we’ll take a look at six ways to enhance your sales pipeline with a CRM.
1. Don’t Let Leads Slip Away
When you’re juggling all of the many priorities that come with operating a business, it can be easy to lose track of leads. You’re so focused on delivering for your existing clients, that when a lead reaches out to learn more or you don’t hear back from someone immediately after you’ve initially made contact, you quite frankly might just forget about them.
But when you have a promising lead in your sights, you need to remain proactive about reaching out. They have a problem that needs solving and their own deadlines they need to meet, so if you’re too slow in getting back to them, they’ll go with your competitor that was quicker on their feet.
Fortunately, CRMs are a great way to stay on top of all points of contact. You can easily track and visualize when you last spoke with a prospect—without having to hunt through your email inbox or search through your call history on your phone—so that you can make sure you respond to inquiries in a timely manner and are on top of following up with those prospects who have gone radio silent over the last few weeks.
Of course, not all leads are created equal, so there’s value in assessing each lead and deciding how you’ll most effectively divide your time to attend to existing clients while also catering to your most promising leads.
2. Use Lead Behavior Scoring to Focus Your Efforts
There are some leads who will never convert, no matter what you do and how hard you try. You need to wipe those leads off of your radar screen so that you can spend your time wooing those who actually have a shot at becoming clients.
Lead behavior scoring is the process of evaluating your leads’ profile and actions and assigning a score that corresponds with how likely they are to convert. By using the data you’ve assembled on your current client base, you can establish a method for taking an educated guess about the value of a given prospect.
If a prospect shares nine out of 10 characteristics and behaviors with your current client base, that’s someone who could very likely need your services and want to do business with you! If it’s a prospect who only lines up on two of the 10 points, though, don’t spend copious amounts of time and effort speaking with them. They’ll likely never become a customer.
3. Analyze Your Pipeline Data
CRMs are great at collecting data about your current processes and allowing business owners to slice and dice the information in a way that makes sense for them.
You want to track the way your business guides prospects through the first part of their customer journey. What’s working and what’s not so effective?
Once you begin looking for patterns, you’ll likely see some room for improvement. Let’s say you’re a contractor whose homepage has a call to action button inviting prospects to sign up for your newsletter. The newsletter contains lots of tips and tricks on renovating, and when you analyze the CRM data, you notice that the CTA button gets a lot of clicks. But you also notice something else: you’re not seeing a lot of newsletter subscribers taking the next step and reaching out for a consultation.
This information alerts you to an issue in your pipeline and allows you to do a deeper dive into what’s not working. Maybe the newsletter is sent too frequently and so people aren’t reading it, or it’s ending up in spam folders. Maybe you don’t provide a clear next step for readers—adding a big, bold button at the end of the newsletter inviting prospects to reach out for a consultation might get their attention. Or maybe you already have a button there, but prospects are hesitant to do it because they don’t understand the terms of the consultation. When you add language clarifying that it’s free and has no obligation attached, you might see yourself getting some traction.
4. Set Informed Goals for Growth
Putting together an annual plan is a critical step in running your business. But it’s hard to set goals when you don’t know where you already stand. Fortunately, CRMs allow you to see what your typical pipeline is like at the moment and how you can work in the future to improve it.
Take a look at where you stand now. What are your conversion rates? How long is your sales cycle? What is the average deal size you see with first time customers? How many customers come back, and when they do, are they spending more money on bigger and better products?
Using this information, you can identify potential areas of growth. Let’s go back to the contractor example. Right now, you see that a lot of your first time customers are hiring you for smaller jobs like refinishing projects or building decks, and your customer return rate is low. Again, armed with this data you can begin to do some digging into the why behind the issue and then take steps to remedy it.
Maybe what you learn is that there’s a local architect who’s partnered with your biggest competitor, and as a team, they’re going out and winning the majority of bathroom and kitchen renovations in the area. If this is the arena you want to work in, you need to change your strategy. Establishing your own partnerships with suppliers of materials or another architectural firm could help to boost your visibility in this arena. Or maybe there’s a local interior designer who you can partner with and display your work jointly in a big design showcase.
When you know where your weakness lie, you’re able to take a strategic approach to addressing them.
5. Establish a Clear Process for Managing Pipeline
Sometimes businesses that don’t have a CRM in place can become a bit like the Wild West. Salespeople are left to go out and do their thing with little supervision, and you don’t have any visibility into what tactics are working, what’s not effective, and whether or not the sales team is taking the most effective approach to managing their workload.
Once you’ve taken a look back at the aggregate data in your CRM, you’re able to see what exactly is effective and what isn’t. From there, you can establish a clearcut system for dealing with leads.
The best way to find leads and stay in contact with them will vary from business to business. You also want to understand how the sales pipeline functions so that you can be sure you’re providing your team with the tools they need to succeed. Maybe that’s asking your marketing team to create white papers that address concerns prospects often mention to your sales team. Maybe that’s establishing best practices for how frequently the sales team follows up with prospects.
Salespeople often possess traits that would serve them well in any sales position, but every business is different and has their own unique needs and effective approaches.
You’ll want to provide training to your salespeople on best practices for your industry and your business. Maybe they relied heavily on email communications in their last job selling software to tech companies, but here you may have found that phone calls are the most effective way to generate business. Even small tweaks like that can help to improve the overall effectiveness of your sales approach.
6. Managing a Referral Program
We’ve dedicated a number of articles on the blog to the importance of referrals for any business. CRMs can help you to establish the most effective referral program and ensure that you have a steady stream of referrals coming into your sales pipeline.
Using audience segmentation tools to target your happiest customers with offers to join your referral marketing campaign is a great start. From there, you want to use the CRM to group those prospects who are coming to you via referral together so that you can be extra sure you’re providing them with a great experience. These leads are hot because they’ve already heard great things about your business—if you’re able to prove their referrer right, you’re very likely to successfully close the deal here (and maybe even generate future referrals from them)!
A sales pipeline can be an unwieldy thing to manage, and if you’re trying to keep track of your prospects and manage the customer journey without a dedicated tool, things can easily get out of hand. A CRM allows you to easily store, track, and analyze the data that you need to not only provide the best service for each and every prospect, but to more efficiently manage your big-picture business decisions.
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