How to Improve Your Sales Pipeline: 5 Common Problems Solved

unhealthy sales pipeline

Improve your sales pipeline by tackling these 5 common problems.

A recent study found that 44% of business executives believe their company is ineffective at managing their sales pipeline. That’s an eye-popping number of leaders who aren’t confident that their sales process is delivering its full potential. That’s also a lot of missed opportunities and revenue. 

If, like them, you’re looking for ways to improve your sales pipeline, this article is for you. We’ll review 5 of the most common problems sales teams face, as well as what it takes to resolve them. The goal here is to help you improve the health of your pipeline and increase your sales.

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1: Undefined workflows & processes

When the sales process hasn’t been clearly defined in terms of starting points, workflows, or outcomes, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to manage, let alone optimize. A healthy sales pipeline needs structure, and that starts with identifying the stages of the sales pipeline

Within each stage of the sales pipeline, there will likely be at least one workflow: a starting point, work, and an end result. These also need to be sketched out in order to understand how a successful outcome is achieved.

For example, delivering a proposal to a prospect is a common stage of a sales process. The workflow may look something like this: sales presentation completed, document created, document approved by sales manager, document delivered to client, document signed. 

Workflow management tools are designed with this type of  problem in mind: to help bring structure, control, and visibility to the workflow or process. Visual elements such as dashboards and Kanban views, rules, automations, forms, and templates all help create and enforce the boundaries that bring consistency to the process and help managers track the progress of leads as they move through the funnel. 

2: Difficulty or delays when changes are needed

At some point, every sales pipeline or process requires modifications or updates. For example, this could mean revising fields on a form, adding a new phase to the pipeline, or removing a layer of approval. It might even be as simple as creating a new dashboard or view for your data.

Sales management tools that require a developer or IT team to make even small changes can cause delays that create frustration for the sales team and opportunities for competitors.

No/low-code tools provide more agile options that allow sales managers and citizen developers to adapt elements of the process quickly and easily, often through a drag and drop interface. 

3: Process or workflow silos

A typical sales pipeline includes a range of subprocesses (such as approvals or signature capture) and connects with other business activities such as marketing and customer success/support. When these processes are managed in multiple tools or spreadsheets, data sharing and reconciliation become difficult if not impossible. 

Process silos can be avoided by using management tools that have the flexibility to either 1) manage and harmonize multiple processes simultaneously 2) integrate with other tools and applications.

For example, the sales team likely receives some qualified leads from the marketing team. If these two teams aren’t using a unified source of data, smooth handoffs between the teams may not be the norm. 

Another example: if the sales team uses spreadsheets as their primary means of tracking prospects, it may take extra time and effort to update those sheets with information from email, calendars, LinkedIn, etc. Integrating these data sources improves the sales experience for both the sales team and the customer. 

4: Excessive manual processes

Much of the work in a sales pipeline is either repetitive or routine, which means that it is consuming time that could be better spent prospecting, qualifying leads, or building relationships with customers. 

Emails, notifications, document creation, and approvals are some of the elements of a typical sales process that can be automated.

5: Unmanageable information

Sales data has a tendency to get messy, especially when processes aren’t standardized. With different sales reps asking different questions and using a range of methods to capture and organize information, the results are fragmented and unstructured. 

Bringing consistency to sales data can be as simple as using standardized forms, organizing forms into portals (to make them easy to find), and implementing rules and conditionals that guide your sales team to ask the right questions.

For example, a rule can prevent a prospect from moving to the “qualified lead” stage of the pipeline unless certain information has been entered. Think company size, industry, and decision-maker contact info. Using a process management tool that integrates data from multiple sources can go a long way to improving the quality, consistency, and accessibility of your sales team data. 

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