It can be difficult to go from wondering “where are my sales going to come from this month” to knowing “based on my recent sales activities, I’m on track to close three deals in the next 14 days and meet my goal.” Part of this transition comes with developing and managing your sales pipeline.
This shift can be accomplished by one simple spreadsheet, and by following the following five steps for successful sales pipeline management.
1. Make a List of All Your Leads and Prospects
If your sales leads are swimming around your desk on scraps of paper, in text messages/emails, and in your head, you’re wasting time and energy to keep up, when you could be making predictable sales on a regular basis.
Organizing your sales opportunities in one place gives you clear insight into whether you’re currently working enough leads to make your sales goals. The pipeline spreadsheet you just downloaded has columns you can customize for your own business. The first step in this guide is to enter one lead per row.
2. Assign Each Sales Opportunity a Projected Forecast Value
Each lead that you’re working is interested in solving a specific problem and has a budget range they can spend to solve this problem. Based on what you know about each lead’s needs, their budget, and the price of your service or product, fill in the template with the forecast value for each one. See the graph in Step 4 (below) for an example.
3. Customize the Pipeline for Your Sales Stages and Assign One to Each Opportunity
Your leads go through a customer journey to reach the point where they’re going to make the buying decision. By going through the sales process from your experience, you can identify the trends 80 percent of your leads follow on this journey to becoming customers.
By analyzing this journey, you can define your own personalized sales stages and the probability of a lead ultimately converting to a customer for each given stage.
For example, if you know that 25 percent of the leads that complete a free consultation ultimately hire you, then your spreadsheet should have a sales stage called “Free Consult Completed,” which has a 25 percent probability of close. Here are some generic sales stages included in the pipeline template you downloaded (see above). You can change these sales stages and probabilities to match your own process.
For a great resource on analyzing your customers’ decision-making processes, check out Snap Selling by Jill Konrath.
|Sales Stages||Probability of Close|
|Initial Contact Made||10%|
|Free Consult Completed||25%|
|Negotiation / Review||90%|
It’s important to evaluate each lead and assign it a stage based on where the lead is now in your process. Update the template to reflect this information on each row and enter the month or quarter that you expect to convert each lead to a closed sale.
The COVID-19 (or Any Other) Disruption
Your customer’s journey may be sidetracked by the global pandemic, and for some, it may be changed permanently. When uncertainty arises for any reason, the customer journey adjusts to the special circumstance of the person involved and their ability to manage the unfamiliar risks they face.
If you find some clients in this situation, you’ll want to revise the customer journey you’re used to tracking and include the new forks in the road your customers now face.
4. Add Up the Weighted Forecasted Sales Values
With your leads organized in your pipeline spreadsheet, each with an assigned sales stage and probability of close, you’re ready to add up the numbers to see if you have enough sales activity going on to meet your sales targets.
For example, if your sales goals are $50,000 for the month of June and you have six leads in your pipeline with a chance of closing in June, your weighted average forecast value suggests that you may be a little short of goal even though the total full value of these opportunities equals $100,000. You’re currently on track to close $32,250.
|Prospect||Projected Forecast Value||Sale Stage||Probability of Close||Weighted Forecast Value||Expected Purchase Month|
|Lead #1||$10,000||Initial Contact Made||10%||$1,00||June|
|Lead #3||$15,000||Initial Contact Made||10%||$1,500||June|
|Lead #4||$5,000||Face-to-Face Meeting||25%||$1,250||June|
|Lead #6||$30,000||Proposal Presented||60%||$18,000||June|
|Lead #6||$10,000||Negotiation / Review||90%||$9,000||June|
This information is powerful because it informs where you should focus your sales activities and time to have a better chance of meeting your target. Knowing what you know about each opportunity, you can either focus on moving Leads #4, 5, and 6 to close as quickly as possible or you can look to add more leads if you know that one of these is going to push to a later month. If you aren’t sure, your next step is to get on the phone to talk to your primary contacts to see where they stand.
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5. Develop a Weekly Sales Success Plan
With this holistic view of your sales targets, pipeline with opportunities, and probabilities, schedule a weekly 30-minute sales meeting to determine the most value-added sales activities that can be done during the week to bring you the most value.
Make sure to update the pipeline in real time as you work the leads. By investing in this accurate information, the more robust your sales stages and processes will become, and when you’re ready to move to a CRM software solution, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that you can achieve sales goals with confidence by moving away from organized chaos with your sales information and managing your pipeline with a consolidated spreadsheet. By structuring your sales processes, you’ll save time by working efficiently, know exactly what to do to make your numbers, and grow your business on a consistent basis.
Belinda DiGiambattista is a serial entrepreneur, business coach, and outsourced financial controller and can be found at www.belindadi.com.