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Bridging the Pipeline Chasm: 3 Essential Elements for Converting Leads to Closed Business

As sales leaders, we place a high degree of focus, energy, and resources on lead generation to keep our sales pipeline full, and of course, flowing steadily. And rightly so, we direct an equally high degree of these same assets toward the other end of the pipeline where – if all goes according to plan – we chalk opportunities up in the plus column as closed deals.

Your success at both the beginning and the end of the pipeline is crucial for obvious reasons. Yet it is how effectively we move deals through the middle of the pipeline that calibrates our over-all level of success.

To build an analogy, the beginning and the end of the sales pipeline are the pillars of the sales process. They are the columns supporting the bridge to revenue. But it is, in fact, the middle of the pipeline where a salesperson must perform their greatest feats.

It is when they must make contact with each lead, gain permission – and schedule – a discovery call, follow-up with those that move on to become prospects, and do all the necessary tasks that turn a prospect into a customer.

The middle of the sales pipeline is the longest span on the bridge to revenue. How quickly we cross it is dependent on how smooth and unobstructed the path is.

CRM is the framework, not the bridge

Reps use the tools inherent in CRM to manage the many sales activities needed to move deals through the pipeline. Therefore, CRM is the bridge for converting leads to deals, is it not?

I propose that CRM, in fact, does not bridge the chasm between leads and closed deals or at least it does not do so effectively. It can stifle the steady progression of sales traffic from point A to point B, because it creates navigational roadblocks like the following.

  • CRM systems are missing key sales resources like relevant buyer messaging and ROI tools.
  • Because of the records-based infrastructure, it takes reps too much time to find the information they need to adequately prioritize and plan their activities.
  • CRM systems do not automate repetitive activities that can and should be automated.
  • Information is not assembled, collated and presented to reps for quick and efficient use.  Reps must piece needed information together from multiple screens.
  • CRM does not facilitate an efficient method for recording call outcomes.

Because of these navigational roadblocks, we have created a productivity chasm for reps that can, and must be crossed in order to optimize revenue. CRM is integral to the sales process. It is, indeed, the framework for the bridge. But its structural components are inherently rigid and inflexible. From a transitional point of view, it does not by itself, span the gaps in efficiency and therefore we’re left with a pipeline and productivity chasm.

There are three essential girders for bridging the chasm. If your reps are to drive more sales they will, at minimum, need functionality that delivers the following:

1. Rapid calling

  • Ready-made call lists
  • Pre-compiled background details
  • One-click Online lead research
  • Pre-filled buyer-specific call prompts and conversation starters

2. Laser-focused Follow-up

  • One-glimpse timeline of past activities
  • Ready-made email and voicemail content
  • Auto-populated list of relevant needs assessment questions
  • One-click view of account and co-worker activities

3. Streamlined Call logging

  • Checkbox-based call outcome documentation
  • Auto-completion of recognized text entry
  • Single-screen location for call logging fields and next-step scheduling

You cannot effectively bridge the gap from leads to closed-deals with standard CRM functionality. CRM provides the essential frame-work, but it does not provide a thorough-fare for accelerating either motivation or movement through the pipeline. By removing the off-ramps, one-ways, and dead-ends, you will have built the straightest line between two points, an expressway from a lead to a closed deal.

Jim Banks is CEO of ShadeTree Technology. Jim founded ShadeTree specifically to address the lack of adoption by sales professionals due to shortcomings of CRM offerings. From 1987-1993, Jim drove revenue for Oracle Corporation in various senior management roles. Jim was VP of Sales at Integrated Project Systems until 1996. He went on to become one of Siebel Systems early employees and held key senior sales and management roles before founding ShadeTree.

Jim Banks is a sales expert, with over 40 years of sales experience. He has watched CRM throughout the years and realized that it still lacked several tools that the sales professional needed. In 2004 he left his job as a Sales Executive and started improving CRM systems for other companies.
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