9 Capabilities Sales Teams Need to Optimize the Revenue Pipeline

All inspired and resourceful reps that expect or intend to blow past their quota start their day in the same dedicated manner. They ask themselves two fundamental questions:

1. “What should I do today?” (Prioritization)

2. “What do I need in order to do it?” (Execution)

Regardless of the size of their territory, whether they are inside or in-the-field, are new to the organization or are tenured, all reps must ask those two questions, without failure or excuses. Indeed, analyze your high performing reps and you’ll inevitably find they are highly proficient in both prioritizing and executing on activities. On the other hand, reps that prioritize correctly but execute poorly, or that execute well but prioritize poorly, will surely generate less than optimal results.

CRM systems are thought to provide the needed functionality to help reps prioritize and execute their tasks. And they do-to a degree. For instance, CRM systems are excellent at storing discreet bits of data like a scheduled phone call, or a note from the last conversation.

They can remind reps about specific follow-up such as when to call, what was said last, and what the required next step is. Unfortunately, they are far less effective when it comes to managing the entire spectrum of follow-up across a multitude of prospects, needs and sales stages. Prioritizing and executing on follow-up is a process and all processes require a streamlined flow of events to operate efficiently.

The Conundrum

CRM, the core system used to manage daily pipeline follow-up, is not designed well for the full spectrum of follow-up required. For instance, you can see all opportunities, all tasks, or all leads as discreet entities, but it is cumbersome to connect all the dots.

Time is Money

Using CRM’s built-in functionality to manage follow-up requires far more of the rep’s time and effort, (the very definition of inefficiency) than is ideal. If reps are expected to qualify and convert the maximum number of leads into opportunities, and ultimately, to move the most forecasted opportunities to a close, they will need to optimize their pipeline follow-up. This is what we refer to as pipeline follow-up optimization.

With CRM, reps can record activities, look up a contact, enter an opportunity, and then forecast it. But again, from a complete wide-angle perspective, those are discreet off-the-radar activities. When data is presented as visually disconnected entities across multiple screens, it is the equivalent of giving hikers a list of trails, mountains, rivers, and way-points, with each represented on its own map. Until the hikers can merge the maps together to devise a cohesive plan of action, they cannot plot a course nor execute well enough to get to their destination efficiently. And as a manager, you are unable to help or support their endeavors to any significant degree because you lack the unified data you need.

About all you can do is ask your reps, “Where are you now?” and “What is your plan to move forward?” Need I mention that neither of those questions even remotely qualifies as a ‘managerial’ solution?

How to start

Assess what sales team capabilities are in place today, and which critical capabilities are missing. The following checklist should help you get a good head-start.

Sales  Team Capabilities In Place Needed Not Needed
1.        Reps know what’s needed for each prospect in  the pipeline and which are the highest priority each day.
2.        Our Reps know what questions are apt to  build a prospect’s interest so they’ll engage in a conversation.
3.        Our CRM system helps reps accomplish their tasks  faster – it doesn’t slow them down.
4.        Reps know the most effective combination of  voice messages and emails for optimized response rates.
5.        Reps can easily access a list of the most  frequent objections and the best-practices for handling them.
6.        Reps are able to complete a high-volume of  calls without sacrificing call quality or compromising desired call outcomes.
7.        Reps know what qualification questions to  ask and consistently ask the right questions based on who the prospect is i.e.  job title, industry, etc.
8.        Reps know which leads are associated with  which campaigns and who should be called first.
9.        We know the likelihood of a prospect  converting to a closed deal based on the way they’ve answered specific  questions.

If this list isn’t perfect for your situation, or it doesn’t adequately reference the specific elements or criteria inherent to your business or industry, take a moment to consider exactly what your essential objectives are, and whether or not you have the capability and the right tools in place. No matter what your list contains, the point is to do the exercise so that you know what direction to head. The results will not only illustrate just how streamlined your pipeline follow-up really is, but more to the point, they will indicate the critical coordinates required to get you to your ultimate destination-optimal sales revenue performance.

Incite: to stir up or provoke to action