A robust sales pipeline is at the heart of any fast-growing business.
But maintaining it can be challenging. Even a thriving sales pipeline tends to stagnate. This could be made worse by common mistakes right under the nose of experienced sales managers and directors.
Let’s learn more about these mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.
How do sales pipeline mistakes impact your company?
A sales pipeline gives you insight into your core revenue potential. It helps you assess the number of realistic sales opportunities that directly correlate to your business’ health, profitability, and growth.
If you have an inefficient or error-ridden pipeline, you might:
- Lose revenue: Many factors contribute to lost sales when your pipeline isn’t optimized. These can range from bad deals to missing leads, lowering sales for your brand.
- Struggle to set sales targets: Without the right filters for your sales pipeline, some leads may not match your ideal customer profile. In this case, you need to constantly reconsider and revise your goals as they don’t align with your product.
- Dry up your pipeline: You’re more prone to drying up your resources without a proper sales pipeline. The biggest contributors to a dry pipeline are poor quality leads and failure to qualify good leads.
- Lower your sales team’s morale: Morale suffers if your pipeline doesn’t contain high-value deals and your team doesn’t meet their goals or revenue targets. This can become a big problem over time.
9 sales pipeline mistakes to steer clear of
A sales pipeline is a visual snapshot that predicts how your business will grow in the near future.
Companies with a well-stocked sales pipeline and a well-planned sales process saw an 18% increase in revenue growth. Additionally, correcting three mistakes in a pipeline can result in 28% revenue growth. Therefore, ensuring your sales pipeline’s efficiency is paramount and highly beneficial.
However, since it involves many steps and stages, mistakes usually crop up. Here are the most common sales pipeline mistakes.
1. Using buyer intent inappropriately
Buyer intent is a person or organization’s likelihood of purchasing a product or service. A company’s buyer intent can be inferred by examining and evaluating behaviors such as web visits, resource consumption, collateral downloads, event attendance, and more.
A sales cycle can appear linear on paper, but the path to purchase is hardly linear. In a competitive environment and noisy market, customers have hundreds of options to choose from. And buyer intent helps you gain significant insights to figure out if a potential customer is ready to buy or not.
Here’s how you can use buyer intent to optimize your pipeline:
- Analyze existing customers: By analyzing your existing customers, you can identify the key steps that went into converting prospects into paying customers. You can track activities and milestones crucial to their conversion.
- Personalize your approach: Buyer intent can uncover a prospect’s interests and even provide you with details such as who they are and which competitors they’re considering along with your product. This data can help you create a personalized pitch for your pipeline leads.
- Improve your self-service model: Buyers want everything on their own terms. They already have access to information from various sources, and buyer intent data can help you understand what information is critical to converting them. You can use it to further refine your online information quickly and achieve set goals.
When sales teams don’t use intent data for their pipeline, they may just let high-value deals go through. Here’s what you can do to avoid this:
- Study your existing customers and recently closed deals
- Look at their activity, data, and conversations to identify critical signals bringing them closer to their goal
- Use these data sets to determine your intent signals
All of this helps detect leads that are likely to convert, eliminate junk leads, and move cold leads closer to the nurturing process.
Buyer intent provides crucial signals to boost your pipeline. It lets you find the right lead in your pipeline sooner for faster closure and segregate high-value leads from cold leads.
2. Inability to identify the right lead qualification process
Lead qualification directly impacts your sales pipeline’s health. Remember that this health isn’t about the number of leads in the pipeline; it’s about the quality.
The more relevant your lead’s requirements are, the better your chances of engaging a prospect. Therefore, a sales team needs to set up an appropriate lead qualification framework.
There are five popular lead qualification frameworks you can choose from:
- BANT: Budget, authority, need, and timeline. It’s one of the oldest and enterprise-centric frameworks because budget is its top priority. And that’s why many sales leaders believe that customer needs don’t come first.
- ANUM: Authority, need, urgency, and money. This framework flips the BANT framework, and the highest priority is connecting to a decision-maker. Using this framework, your sales team focuses on building customer relationships.
- CHAMP: Challenge, authority, money, and prioritization. It focuses on potential customer problems while presenting a product.
- MEDDIC: Metrics, economic buyer, decision criteria, decision process, identify pain, and champion. MEDDIC focuses on creating value for prospects by understanding their unique position and decision-making to serve them best. It’s a highly successful framework for large and enterprise-scale companies.
- GPCTBA/C&I: Goal, plan, challenges, timeline, budget, authority, negative consequences, and positive implications (C&I). It’s a three-part framework developed by HubSpot’s sales team to qualify leads by understanding if the prospect could truly benefit from a product or service.
3. Neglecting lead nurturing and segmentation
Lead nurturing is critical to a healthy pipeline. It can be an effective tool for your prospect’s journey when done right. Nurturing leads enables you to share relevant content and product information that might persuade an uninterested prospect to contact you and try your product.
Yet, many high-growth companies don’t take it seriously. Many sales teams are unaware that lead quality could be improved through targeted nurturing and segmentation.
Here’s how you should approach lead nurturing:
- Follow a framework to qualify your leads based on their activities, needs, and challenges
- Segment them as hot or cold based on the lead qualification score
- For your cold contacts, use relevant data platforms like G2 to understand their requirements
- Share relevant content, have multiple touchpoints, follow up promptly, and personalize your communications based on this data
By doing this carefully, you breathe life into your stale or low-quality leads and move them into your pipeline to convert them into active buyers.
4. Inappropriate pipeline tracking
One of the most common sales pipeline mistakes is tracking the wrong sales metrics in your pipeline.
Sales teams collect a lot of data that can impact a sales pipeline, which is great. But they often don’t know how to parse this data in terms of relevance and actionable insights. This results in an unrealistic forecast, an increase in bad leads, and more lost deals. So make sure you start with the right sales metrics.
Here are the key metrics your team should focus on:
- Sales cycle length
- Opportunity win rate
- Average deal size
- Deal profitability
Sales cycle length
Your sales cycle largely depends on two factors: the value your product offers and your potential customers. By tracking your average sales cycle length, you can evaluate each team member’s performance and determine how long it would take to win or lose a deal.
Opportunity win rate
Knowing your opportunity win rate can help you understand how many prospects will realistically convert out of a given total. It’s a glimpse into your team’s effectiveness that enables you to identify and highlight the areas in your sales process to improve.
You can calculate your win rate using this formula:
Win rate % = (Number of deals won / Total number of opportunities) x 100
Average deal size
Your average deal size is an incredible sales pipeline metric for forecasting gross sales. It helps you:
- Determine if your products are reasonably priced
- Indicates how much your customers are willing to pay for your products
- Identifies which prospects could be targeted based on their budget
Deal profitability is another important metric for your sales pipeline. It tells you your average profit if you close a deal with a prospect.
To calculate deal profitability, subtract acquisition, legal, and operational costs from the total billed to a new client. Many brands also deduct salaries, session expenses, and other costs to get a more accurate measure of business profitability.
5. Not recording appropriate opportunity data
Having a large number of deals in a sales pipeline is encouraging. However, the problem is not having any data on these deals. Many deals are lost due to a lack of sales intelligence. And this also applies to thriving pipelines.
When a lead enters a pipeline, the primary concern is getting as much actionable information as possible. You can do it in three ways:
- First-party data: First-party data refers to the data collected through tracking your prospects’ behavior and web activity or initial sales calls, pre-sales calls, and more.
- Second-party data: Second-party data is commercial data that other companies collect. These companies generally fall into the sales intelligence category, and their business model revolves around collecting highly accurate data. You can purchase these records to gain more potential information.
- Third-party data: You purchase third-party data from external, not primary sources. These are data aggregators pulling data from various online sources. Think Google for sales.
You can better understand your prospects by including second and third-party data sources in your opportunity data. This prepares you and your sales team with a personalized pitch from the first email or call.
Start with buyer intent and technographics.
As discussed earlier, a company’s buyer intent can be inferred by examining and evaluating behaviors such as website visits, media consumption, inquiries, and more. On the other hand, technography is the profiling of organizations based on their current software stack, technology usage behavior, and software adoption or rejection.
Essentially, technographic data gives you information about your target accounts’ software and tools. It powers you up with insights into which accounts are most likely to become your customers based on the derived knowledge.
Buyer intent gives you a holistic view of a prospect’s propensity to buy, while technographics data gives you insight into a company’s technology. Technical data allows sales reps to search for competitors in their prospect list and gauge how quickly their product will integrate with competitors’ offerings.
6. Not automating the follow-up process
Most of your prospects won’t buy from you right away. That’s the nature of B2B lead generation and sales. And more often than not, it’s the follow-ups that do the job. But many salespeople don’t take proper action after a meeting or presentation. Sometimes they make a call or two, and if the prospect doesn’t answer, they mark the deal as lost.
It takes an average of five follow-ups to close a deal in your favor. But are sales reps willing to do five follow-ups every week with all of their prospects? Unlikely.
One rep may be speaking to 10 prospects each week, and 50 follow-ups per week will take up a lot of their valuable time. This is where automating follow-ups comes in. Automation is fairly simple. All you need to understand is the approach to take based on your goals and workflow.
Prioritize your prospects
When you start automating, you need to break down your prospects into:
- High value and large accounts
- High velocity and small accounts
You can create even more segments, but this is one of the most common ways to get started. Both of the above personas require a different aftercare and maintenance regimen.
For example, a high-quality account requires you to customize the automation from start to finish, while for high-speed accounts, you can create reusable templates.
Personalize your messages
Just because you automate your follow-up process doesn’t mean you can’t personalize it. You can use these data identifiers to personalize your messages:
- Use-case and industry tags
- Prospect goals
- Budget tags
Additionally, you can create various personalized messages to follow up and nurture your prospects.
Always add value
A good follow-up is an email or phone call that helps a reader or listener take away valuable information for the present or future. This “value” can be in the form of case studies, demos, blog posts, and more.
This is the easy part. Once you follow all other necessary steps, you can choose a suitable platform to create and launch automated follow-up sequences. All you need is to create a sequence for your prospects after the first contact and use an appropriate sales automation platform to target your follow-ups.
7. Using a cookie-cutter sales approach
Are you still planning the first meeting with your prospect without understanding who they really are? A cookie-cutter approach discourages prospects from exploring your product.
Consumers do 60% of the work before landing on your website and reviewing you or your competition. They know what they want, and you should too. By taking a personalized approach to outreach, you’re more likely to make a meaningful first impression from the very first call.
To personalize, you should:
- Use all your data sources to gather information about your prospect
- Employ a lead qualification framework to identify their pain points, budget constraints, and challenges
- Leverage the data collected to create the right reach or first touchpoint message
By personalizing your first touchpoints, presentations, and meetings, you signal to your prospect that you care about solving their problems and aren’t just there to sell a product or service by any means necessary.
8. Ignoring existing customers while chasing new ones
It’s common knowledge that existing customers are more valuable than acquiring and managing new customers. Salespeople often assume that converted leads are no longer part of the pipeline, but that’s far from the truth.
Sales and customer success teams should work together to build a dedicated pipeline of existing customers and nurture those relationships, rather than chasing new customers.
Existing customers are familiar with your product, and your team is well acquainted with their needs and challenges. With the right information at your fingertips, your team can provide customers with better services and products that cater directly to their needs. And because you address their challenges head-on, they’re more likely to choose to upgrade or continue a relationship with you.
9. Lacking clarity on short- and long-term pipeline goals
A strong sales pipeline has ironclad short-term and long-term goals, and you need to differentiate between them. Shorter goals help you optimize your pipeline in real time and understand what your long-term goals should be.
Think of it this way: One of the long-term goals for a sales pipeline is a sales forecast, and you can only achieve this if your short-term goals or monthly goals are met.
Your long-term goals are like the North Star. So what can you do to achieve them? Focus on improving your short-term goals. And as they improve, you automatically find yourself getting closer to your larger goals.
Recognize, realize, rework!
Recognizing that your sales pipeline isn’t ironclad is the first step to building a better one. Even the best-performing teams know that constant monitoring is the key to peak performance. When you recognize your mistakes, you move toward your goals.
A well-thought-out sales strategy is a good place to start if you’re not quite where you want to be in your sales process.