11.17.21 | Operations Chat
What is a pipeline?
A pipeline is a visual snapshot of a company’s sales and business development lifecycle, including all active and closed opportunities. Developing a pipeline allows a business to easily review and monitor each lead, identify, and pursue new prospects, and run a more efficient and successful sales effort. Without a well-organized and managed pipeline, prospects may be overlooked and new business may be lost.
Having an effective pipeline equates to having an accurate and real-time sales forecast. An up-to-date sales forecast allows businesses to accurately understand the stages new business opportunities are in so they can develop and execute an effective strategy to successfully secure them. Tips to help launch and maintain a productive pipeline and business development process include:
- Having a dedicated customer relationship management (CRM) system will help streamline and institutionalize the process throughout the organization. Maintaining one main system to enter client and prospect information and track new business opportunities allows access to the most-up-to date information as well as promotes collaboration and information sharing. For this information to be timely and accurate, all employees should be able to enter and access data from anywhere enabling all sales professionals/employees to have insight into the clients and prospects being pursued and secured.
- Encouraging all sales professionals/employees to participate in the process and accurately report and update their new business opportunities through your chosen CRM system will help enhance the accuracy of your reporting and forecasting.
- Hosting bi-weekly or monthly pipeline virtual/in-person meetings to discuss active opportunities will help hold opportunity teams accountable. These meetings will also increase collaboration and strategy development as well as result in new ideas on how to procure new business or cross-sell to existing clients/customers.
- At the meetings, discuss opportunities that have been inactive for a prolonged amount of time. Doing this will likely prompt opportunity leaders to either remove a stale opportunity from the pipeline, creating a more accurate pipeline, or follow-up and re-engage with prospects.
- Being proactive, but not annoying, throughout the pursuit can help demonstrate your value proposition more effectively. Client/customer facing professionals are typically always busy and may not have time to regularly follow-up with prospects or update their opportunities in the CRM system. Proactively reaching out to opportunity leaders can help keep an open opportunity moving through the sales cycle as well as ensure that the pipeline is accurate and up-to-date—providing a more reliable forecast for an organization’s management team.
- Involving younger professionals in the pipeline and pursuit process is essential to their development as well as the development of an organization’s future sales function. Junior professionals, especially those new to your organization or industry, have less experience and tend to have a smaller network than more experienced professionals, so the business development and pipeline process may be foreign to them. To familiarize them with the process, experienced professionals should take them to prospective client meetings and encourage them to attend pipeline meetings and industry events.
- Leveraging success stories to promote cross-selling to existing clients/customers can result in significant growth for an organization. Setting up a proper pipeline and maintaining it through regular meetings will enhance awareness of specific products or services that people have successfully sold to clients. Learning about these successes can assist sales/client-facing professionals in identifying other existing clients that may also benefit from the services or products sold to the prospects discussed during the pipeline meetings.
- Sharing relevant content with prospects on the pipeline is imperative. Doing so can potentially reinvigorate conversations that have gone dark. Sharing pertinent information throughout the pursuit will not only keep your organization top of mind, but also demonstrate your company’s knowledge and expertise in the industry. The content may also allow the prospect to realize that they may need additional services not originally discussed.
- Setting-up a meeting to review the proposal with the prospect in real-time. Odds are other competing firms are submitting a proposal as well, thus, reviewing the proposal with the prospect will allow you to address any questions or concerns immediately and highlight the company’s hallmark features. Additionally, it will demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction and availability, which are key during client/customer engagements.
- Following-up with the individual that referred the potential business to your organization, as well as the prospect, may be helpful if the prospect goes silent after reviewing the proposal with you. Since, they referred the opportunity, they may have important information they can relay to you.
An effective pipeline report and process can drastically change and improve a company’s sales and is a simple step towards the development of a more efficient business development function. An accurate depiction of a business development pipeline will enhance strategy, collaboration, and overall success. Incorporating some or all of these tips can help your company do exactly that.
Matthew Greco is a Berdon LLP Marketing Associate working on numerous firm-wide business development initiatives, such as conducting research on prospects, their industries, and competitors. He works with senior-level marketing professionals as well as practice leaders to help execute various aspects of industry-focused business development plans, including event coordination, content and business development. Matt is also responsible for helping to maintain the Firm’s InterAction CRM database with the most up-to-date and accurate information.