Do you know how many deals your sales team is working on? How many prospects are qualified? What about the number of RFP responses and proposals your team is putting together?
If not, your organization needs to put effort into building a strong pipeline for your sales team.
What is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline, also called a sales funnel, is a visual representation of the stages of an organization’s sales process. It lets sales teams track buyers’ process through the purchasing process; potential customers are moved from one stage of the pipeline to the next as they move deeper into the sales process. For example, when a prospect is qualified, they’ll move to the next stage.
Pipelines help salespeople understand exactly where their deals are in the sales process at all times; they can tell when a deal has stalled, how many deals are in the pipeline, how much those deals are worth, and what your team needs to do next to move each prospect to the next stage.
Tips for building a strong sales pipeline
While you can technically create a pipeline by listing out the steps in your organization’s sales process and calling it a funnel, that’s not quite good enough. Your sales organization needs a strong sales pipeline, filled with solid leads that can be quickly moved from one stage to another by your sales team.
- Make sure leads are constantly entering the pipeline: Reps are often working hard on the deals that are already in the pipeline, but it’s important to make sure leads are always coming in, and sales can’t necessarily count on marketing to fill up the funnel. It’s important to have a proactive plan in place for how new leads will enter the pipeline.
- Make your pipeline visible to the entire organization: Don’t silo your sales pipeline away; you might be surprised at who other people in your company know. Some of your co-workers in other departments might have relationships with the prospect you’re trying to sell to.
- Flush the pipeline every once in a while: An unhealthy pipeline is sometimes filled with customers who aren’t moving because they’re never going to buy. Maybe they’re too polite to say no. Maybe a hopeful rep thinks that if they just call one more time, they can make a sale. Drop those folks from the pipeline and go after people who will actually buy. You can touch base with your cold leads later.
- Know how many leads you need in the pipeline at one time: You don’t want too few deals in the pipeline, but you also don’t want too many. If you have an overstuffed pipeline, that can cause its own problems, like sales teams who are either overworked, or think they don’t need to generate more leads because there are so many prospects in the funnel. Those prospects, however, aren’t necessarily solid deals. Do the math for your company, and know about how many deals you need in the pipeline to make your sales numbers.
- Use sales enablement tools to automate parts of the process: It’s important to strike when the iron is hot when you’re selling. By using automated tools, you can keep deals moving briskly through the sales process - even through stages that might take a bit of time, like proposal writing or responding to a request for proposals (RFP).
How RFP automation plays a role in the sales pipeline
Responding to an RFP or writing a sales proposal can be a time-consuming task for a sales rep, especially if your organization doesn't have an in-house bid team. It can even take a while if you do have a team of writers; an RFP response needs to be meticulously put together, and often requires input from many different departments. This can take time, meaning the deal can stall in the pipeline.
RFP automation uses technology to automate certain parts of the proposal creation process, so your writers can quickly pull together an initial draft that can then be tailored to the specific prospect and their deal. By automating certain parts of this process, a sales rep can save time and instead concentrate their efforts on the pieces of the sales process that require the most time, energy and creativity, like interacting with customers.
Ombud, for example, combines content collaboration, project management, and machine learning to streamline the creation of sales documents like RFP responses, security questionnaires, sales proposals, statements of work, and much more.
Interested in learning more about Ombud’s RFP software? Request a demo here.