Sales Pipeline Management: 4 Ways to Close Deals Faster

November 25, 2021

Shawn Parrotte

No business can survive for long without a healthy sales pipeline. It’s what keeps your sales team organized and focused on managing opportunities to close deals. It helps you forecast revenue and business growth and provides insight to drive new initiatives.

No business can survive for long without a healthy sales pipeline. Effective sales pipeline management keeps your sales team organized and focused on turning opportunities into closed deals. It also helps you forecast revenue and business growth and provides insight to drive new initiatives.

Unfortunately, many B2B organizations suffer from ineffective sales pipeline management. And the symptoms of this malady are almost always the same:

  • Sales teams waste time delivering demos to unqualified leads.
  • No one follows up with promising opportunities.
  • High-value deals get stuck.

The outcome is always the same: low close-won rates and slow growth.

Ineffective sales pipeline management can easily morph from an issue that holds your business back to one that actively endangers it. Preventing that from happening requires you to take a proactive stance toward sales pipeline management. Read on for some tips on how this process can keep your cash flows robust and on track to meet your revenue growth targets.

What Is a Sales Pipeline? #

A sales pipeline is a visual representation of your current deals and opportunities. The pipeline shows where leads and opportunities are in the sales cycle, from prospecting and first approach to discovery and (hopefully) closed-won. As a deal moves through the sales stages, the pipeline should become your go-to resource for measuring progress. By contrast, a sales funnel (often conflated with a sales pipeline and with its own set of potential issues) specifically tracks your conversion rates at each stage of the sales cycle.

Your sales pipeline is perhaps your business’ most critical tool, certainly as far as your bottom line and general decision-making go. A functional pipeline — which combines prospecting, marketing, and sales efforts — allows your reps to move leads closer to the sale faster.

Your sales pipeline is also your surest tool for forecasting revenue and growth. As LinkedIn explained it on their blog, “[...] to be truly valuable, your sales pipeline needs to be visible, updated, accessible, and actionable for the pertinent players on the sales and marketing teams.”

What Is Sales Pipeline Management? #

Sales pipeline management is the practice of overseeing and helping to guide all the incoming sales opportunities in the sales pipeline. You’re closely tracking every prospect’s journey in the sales pipeline until a deal is either won or lost. And the insight you get from managing the sales pipeline actively, using the right tools, lets you make critical decisions along the way that can help add momentum to the sales process at critical junctures and push a deal in the right direction.

4 Best Practices for Sales Pipeline Management #

We have some tips that can help you master sales pipeline management. For several years now, our team here at has been focused on helping sales teams make better decisions by uncovering deep insights from their sales conversations. We’ve tried, tested, and uncovered how sales teams can close opportunities faster. Here are four best practices we’ve gleaned through our research:

1. Push the Best Opportunities Forward First # #

It’s essential to be as exacting as possible in identifying which deals have the most potential and should be prioritized. But many sales teams lack processes to do this well. As a result, valuable info about a prospect who communicated a strong desire to progress a deal might stay locked in a meeting transcript, never to be followed up on. Or it could be that sales development reps aren’t qualifying prospects progressively according to product-user fit, buy-readiness, or other vital metrics.

If you can’t spot signals indicating that a lead is going warm, you’ll miss many, many opportunities to sell. Building safeguards that prevent critical information from sales interactions getting lost or missed can help. The platform, for example, lets you record and analyze every customer conversation. Plus, the built-in artificial intelligence will surface the most important insights, delivering crucial information to help close the deal. The result is greater ease in spotting the most promising opportunities, shortened ramp times, and an improved close ratio.

2. Identify Key Sales Pipeline Management Metrics # #

Many companies also lack clear metrics to measure their sales pipelines. They may review the progress of each deal regularly but struggle to track their sales velocity, for instance.

Defining the unique set of metrics that will be most useful to your sales organization is critical to effective sales pipeline management. With those metrics to reference, you can then monitor sales pipeline performance and spot potential leaks or other problems faster. But as a starting point, here are some of the most common metrics you’ll likely want to track:

  • Number of deals in the pipeline at present
  • Number of qualified leads or leads per pipeline stage
  • Average deal size
  • Current win rate (to establish whether things are moving normally or have started stalling)

And what about bespoke metrics you might consider incorporating into your sales pipeline management process? Here are a few examples we’ve seen in use in the field:

  • Number of deals in the pipeline per subscription plan/buyer persona
  • Number of deals featuring multiple POCs, including CFOs
  • Current win rate for deals featuring multiple POCs, including CFOs

3. Make Sales Pipeline Maintenance a Team Effort# #

Your sales pipeline is always evolving, with your team adding new leads daily, moving existing contacts to new pipeline stages, and updating information about deals. That means your pipeline can get messy and confusing, fast. You can stay on top of all the pipeline maintenance by enlisting help from your teams.

Sales pipeline management should be a team effort, anyway. Reviewing the progress of current deals together will help surface issues and problems that you can then discuss and solve as a group. And by reviewing your pipeline with information and insights from customer-facing calls, the team can uncover or generate new, winning strategies together.

4. Let Go of Outdated Sales Processes # #

Outdated sales processes can create bottlenecks in your sales pipeline. Maybe there’s a cold calling sequence that doesn’t resonate in the current economic environment. Perhaps a well-worn demo format is lacking the punch to convince skeptical executives to take a risk on your product or service. And maybe you’re not compiling sales pipeline reports that provide the high-level feedback your sales enablement pros need to make targeted improvements.

It’s not always easy to identify stale or outmoded sales processes without having deep insight into your sales pipeline. When you gain that insight through more effective sales pipeline management, you can remove bottlenecks and improve sales velocity almost immediately. Even better: You’ll also reinvigorate your sales team by helping them get a better handle on what works and why.

Common Reasons Sales Pipelines Get Leaky# #

Again, a sales pipeline is a critical growth tool. If it’s not healthy, your sales and revenue will suffer. Keeping it healthy includes staying on top of “leaks.” What creates these issues and where do they occur? Here’s a look at some common reasons, by sales stage, that sales pipelines get leaky:

Stage 1. Qualification (or The Discovery Call) # #

The discovery call is when a rep asks a prospective customer questions to determine fit. Unfortunately, and rather ironically, key information collected during this critical process often gets lost. These conversations usually happen over the phone, and it’s difficult for reps to write down important points when they’re focused primarily on engaging a prospect during a discovery call.

Research by our company shows that, on average, only 5% of relevant information from customer-facing calls gets into a customer relationship management (CRM) system, like Salesforce. The most common examples of crucial information that never ends up in the CRM include:

  • Insights about the prospect’s current situation.
  • Competitors mentioned during the call. (In fact, after analyzing more than millions of sales conversations, we’ve discovered that only one-third of competitive deals are marked as such in the CRM!)
  • Expectations that prospects have about a product or service.

Sales managers can be guilty of overlooking their team’s need for tools that relieve the burden of remembering — or even noticing — all the pertinent information from a call. Even small verbal cues during a sales call can reveal a lot about the current state of the sales process. This can include potential deal risk vectors and next steps or follow-ups.

Stage 2. Meeting the Prospect # #

A qualified prospect and the related opportunity gets passed to an account executive (AE). The AE, in turn, meets with the prospect to discuss which of the company’s solutions fits their needs best and attempts to close the sale. But if the AE is receiving prequalified leads from sales development or inside sales reps, there’s a good chance they aren’t getting all the critical info they need to seal the deal because it’s not being collected properly in the qualification phase.

Problems that arise for AEs at the “meeting the prospect” stage typically include:

  • Not understanding the lead’s problem and thus, being unable to prepare fully for the meeting.
  • Talking to the wrong person. Today’s B2B buyers are, in fact, buying committees. They may talk to the potential user — but not the one who can sign the paperwork.
  • Lacking insights that could help them choose the best approach or angle to create momentum during the meeting.

Sales leaders can help their team members — reps and AEs — avoid these missteps by equipping them with tools that can aggregate all sources of information about a client to create a single source of truth.

Stage 3. The Proposal # #

All the information missed in the first two steps will cause problems when your sales team reaches the proposal stage for the deal in motion. But here again, without sufficient insights, reps are likely to recommend inadequate solutions or include too few details to overcome the lead’s objections.

Stage 4. Closing the Deal # #

The secret to closing a deal resides in listening to and understanding the prospect’s concerns. You need to be able to uncover buyers’ deepest needs to succeed at keeping your close ratio nice and high. But once again, it’s almost impossible to do without a centralized way, like what the platform enables, to manage and evaluate insights that prospects provide in every interaction with your business.

Get Your Deals Flowing With Proactive Sales Pipeline Management #

Sales pipeline management is about much more than creating dashboards or other visualizations to help you oversee every sales opportunity through every stage of the sales process. It’s about bringing better technology and practices into the entire sales cycle so that nothing is lost, nothing is missed, and nothing your team does is out of step with the times.

So, fix the leaks to create a healthy sales pipeline, modernize your tools and processes, and watch your deals flow to the close.

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