In layman terms, one may call it predictability but in the world of sales professionals, there’s a key process around which their goal-oriented lives usually revolve. Yes, we’re talking about sales pipeline review.
But before that, let us understand more about sales pipelines.
What is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a comprehensive visual snapshot of your opportunities in different stages of your sales process. It is essentially a specific set of steps taken during a customer’s buying journey. This visual representation of your deals helps you keep track of every deal’s status as it moves through your pipeline.
What is a sales pipeline review?
A sales pipeline review is to identify possible opportunities and deals that a sales rep can successfully convert to revenue closures within a specified period, typically a month or a quarter. This means predictability for leaders in the organization.
In the Sales Development Representative’s (SDR) world, a pipeline review is to review how many cold accounts an SDR can get and successfully convert them into an opportunity. An SDR is also responsible for the approximate value of deals that are brought in, as this generates sales pipelines for Account Executives.
Importance of sales pipeline review
A sales pipeline review gives an organization in-depth understanding of where the organization is heading financially. This, in turn, helps the leaders forecast growth of the organization.
Sales pipeline reviews help organizations:
1) forecast sales for the month/quarter/year (for senior leaders)
2) understand the depth of prospecting into every account (for first line managers)
In the course of conducting a pipeline review with their team-members, SDRs will get insights into:
- Accounts/Brands they are prospecting into, to successfully create opportunities to sell
- Personas they are likely to speak with in the given accounts
- Products likely to be pitched
- Their understanding of the prospects’ businesses
- Content/collaterals to be used for outreach and follow-ups
- No. of meetings they have for the month
- No. of Sales Qualified Leads and the Pipeline to be generated for the month
How to conduct a remote sales pipeline review meeting
Now that most companies have been working from home, review meetings have been remote and so have the sales pipeline reviews.
For conducting a remote sales pipeline review, I would strongly recommend you to understand what works for you and the team—there is no hard and fast rule and, like most things, this is subjective too!
Here are two ways of doing this:
1) Team huddles – An SDR commits their forecast for the month.
2) Conduct 1-on-1 meetings
I follow both methodologies and both seem to work. It is also important to notice how your team responds to either of the models. In option 1, I keep it specific only to deliverable and in option 2, I understand prospecting of the SDR in-depth and understand his/her forecast for the month accordingly.
I conduct team huddles thrice a week and 1 on 1 skip level meetings once a week to ensure we are on the same page.
What sales metrics to track in a pipeline review
Sales metrics are important indications of future revenue. The ability of the team to meet their targets depends on the sales metrics they are able to achieve. Some of the metrics my team shares with me during pipeline review meetings include:
- No. of leads qualified as on date with pipeline value
- No. of meetings scheduled for the month – 1st level and 2nd level discoveries
- Positive conversations from which likely meetings are to be created for the month
The above metrics help me understand the MQL to SQL conversion rate. Positive conversations may or may not lead to a sale, but depending on the conversation, these prospects can be nurtured and converted into customers, so I keep track of these with my team members.
Challenges in conducting sales pipeline review meetings
Here are some challenges due to the current crisis—I have always been a fan of in-person discussions. At times like these, apart from prospecting skills and an eye for numbers, a crucial element are people skills.
How well do you understand your team?
How well do you understand the pattern of your team-members?
These are important clues that help us in our reviews. Understanding each and every team member and their patterns, be it the trend of results over months or the trend of forecasting, helps in forecasting for the management.
Some of my team-mates call me a compulsive positive thinker since I find the opportunity in every challenge: the way I look at the challenge in today’s situation is that we have an opportunity to build people skills, and skills to understand people better while managing teams remotely.
How to make your sales pipeline review meeting productive
To summarize, here are some ways you can conduct a productive sales pipeline review meeting:
- Schedule the meeting on your rep’s calendar– You should take the initiative and set up regular meetings with all your reps and also schedule group calls to ensure everyone is on track to achieving their targets.
- Set context/agenda for the meeting– Many phone conversations get sidetracked and lead to a loss of precious time. Before the meeting begins, always set the agenda and run the meeting on a point-by-point basis.
- Hold space for your team-member – This means, let your team members speak and share their experiences, and as a leader be very curious and genuinely interested to hear what your team members have to share.
- Stick to the agenda – There are chances that the meeting slips into other discussions. Be mindful and aware of the conversations and stick to the agenda, which will help both parties and in case of team-huddles, the entire team. In case you have to stop a conversation, be respectful and assure the individual that you would talk in detail about it and you’d have to restrict the discussion to the agenda in the interest and respect of time. And, when you promise to take up the conversation post the discussion, make sure to do it. This builds trust and reliability.
- Be open for discussion – Most times, there are differences of opinion in a given situation. Understand that each person speaks from their experience and perspective—there is no right or wrong. Give space for discussion and respect each other’s view. If you have a disagreement, put the solution ahead of personal ego.
How can a CRM help in organizing a pipeline review?
Having worked in a very conventional sales environment, which meant endless amounts of notes and Excel sheets, I definitely enjoy the comfort of a CRM software and a dashboard such as Sisense and Power BI where data is available in a few clicks.
Here’s a CRM helps in tracking sales pipeline reviews:
- Set Targets-Set targets for your team like number of meetings, sales qualified leads, pipeline value, number of deals, etc on a monthly or quarterly basis.
- Record Sales Activities– CRM also helps in understanding the efforts of a rep by tracking the number of calls made, nurture emails sent, demos scheduled and meetings set up.
- Track Metrics– Track important sales metrics like deals in the pipeline, average deal value, deal closures, etc that can readily be made available in the reports dashboard.
- Forecast Revenue– Pipeline captured through the CRM is the only single source of truth. By tracking metrics, predict deals that will close that quarter and predict cash flow.
On that note, with the right tools, right mindset, people skills and data, sales pipeline analysis and sales pipeline review meetings can be made useful, effective and productive even while staying remote.