Most sales teams choose to operate as if their sales pipeline is functioning normally, despite clear signs that it isn’t. Even though sales results aren’t totally up to par, they choose not to question the pipeline.
Eventually, tragedy strikes. Their pipeline bursts which causes an overflow of totally preventable problems, such as sales plateaus and pervasive prospect ghosting. Now they can’t afford to ignore their pipeline problems.
Had they made fixes earlier on, this wouldn’t be happening!
Instead of waiting for your pipeline to burst before making changes, you should listen to the obvious signs that something is wrong with it, and then make repairs before it’s too late!
To help you prevent your pipeline from bursting and causing a ripple effect of other problems, I’m sharing 8 signs that your sales pipeline needs repairs. Additionally, I’m also sharing how to make repairs in order to maintain a smooth-running sales process!
Listen to the signs now! Don’t wait to repair your pipeline before it’s too late.
Why Is a Sales Pipeline Important?
A sales pipeline is a sales tool that acts as a visual representation of the selling process. As a representation of the sales process, its primary functions include:
- Organizing the selling process;
- Aligning the selling process with the buying process; and
- Identifying new opportunities for sales growth.
First off, the primary role of the pipeline is to organize the selling process. Without a pipeline, sales teams wouldn’t have a drawn-out roadmap for converting leads into paying customers.
Second, pipelines align a sales team’s selling process with a potential customer’s buying process. Unfortunately, many sales teams fail to consider their potential customer’s buyer’s journey. As a result, they’re never on the same page as the customers.
Thankfully, pipelines align sales teams with their potential buyers so that everybody is on the same page at the same time.
Lastly, pipelines help sales teams spot opportunities for sales growth. As their pipeline gets ‘filled’ with leads, they get a clearer picture of who their ideal customers are and what their needs are. With a clearer picture, they stand a better chance at sales growth, particularly in increasing their revenue goals.
Overall, sales pipelines are just like any other pipeline system: They keep a process flowing smoothly. The best sales and marketing teams always have a fully-functioning sales pipeline in their sales toolbox!
Increasing Your Sales Pipeline Value
When it comes to your sales pipeline, you and your team should strive to consistently increase overall pipeline value.
Pipeline value is a sales pipeline metric that measures how much revenue you could potentially generate if each lead in your pipeline reaches a closed deal.
Pipeline value depends on three factors, including:
- How many leads enter your pipeline
- How quickly leads make it to the end of the pipeline
- The number of deals you close with leads at the end of the pipeline
Of course, to have a high pipeline value, you want to siphon as many leads as possible into your pipeline, get them to the bottom quickly, and get every single one of them to sign a final sales deal.
When your pipeline is running properly like the finely-tuned machine it is, then pipeline value should gradually increase over time.
On the other hand, if your pipeline is broken, then pipeline value will either plateau or decrease over time.
Sales Pipeline Problems Are Worse Than You Think
Because pipelines are a pivotal sales tool, when they break down, other tools in the sales toolbox tend to break down.
For example, if your sales pipeline breaks down, your sales process will fall apart and what could have been easily closed sales deals will be lost.
As I mentioned above, it’s easy to ignore obvious signs that your pipeline is broken. However, doing so will likely result in a cascade of other issues once the pipeline finally does break. So, while it’s easy to ignore the problems now, doing so will only cause the problems to get worse.
That said, you can either make the hard decision to confront your pipeline problems now, or you can wait until the future when they’re even harder to confront. It’s a simple matter of picking your hard!
8 Signs That Your Sales Pipeline Needs Fixes & How to Fix Them
Don’t wait until your pipeline bursts and causes a ripple effect of other business problems before finally making necessary repairs to it.
Like I said, most sales reps choose to believe that their pipeline is working well for them until they can’t ignore the problems with it any longer. Rather than listening to the obvious signs that something is wrong, they choose to ignore them because it’s easier to ignore them than it is to make changes!
Do you recognize any of these 8 signs with your pipeline?
1. Lead Generation Is Regularly Disastrous
At the very top of your sales pipeline is sales lead generation. Not only is lead gen at the very top of your pipeline, but it’s also the most important stage of the pipeline.
Unless you generate new leads, your entire pipeline will remain empty. Moreover, if you’re unable to generate leads, then you can’t close any deals.
Unfortunately, many sales teams cite lead gen as the most challenging stage of their entire pipeline. Although lead gen is quite simple, they find it extremely difficult.
More likely than not, the reason why they find lead gen to be extremely difficult is that instead of using a solid pipeline to organize lead gen, they use a broken pipeline that turns lead gen into an unorganized mess.
Furthermore, if lead generation regularly turns into a disastrous stage, then it’s a good sign that your pipeline is broken. Because if your pipeline was working well, it would keep lead gen organized.
A Pipeline Should Streamline Lead Generation
Let me be straight-up: If your pipeline is strong, it will streamline lead generation.
On the other hand, if your pipeline is broken, sales prospecting will be nothing short of a disaster.
Remember, the entire purpose of the pipeline is to organize each stage of the selling process so that it’s easy to manage! Therefore, instead of sticking to your broken pipeline, repair it so that lead gen flows easily.
2. Your Pipeline Is Filled With Low-Grade Leads
Not only should a pipeline help you capture new leads during lead generation, but it should also filter out low-grade leads who don’t fit your ideal customer profile and ideal buyer persona.
If you’re regularly finding unqualified in your pipeline, it’s a sign that your pipeline’s lead qualification filter is broken.
By lead qualification filter, I’m talking about the standard for who is and isn’t considered a qualified lead. The standard is set by your ideal customer profile and ideal buyer persona.
Ultimately, having a pipeline filled with unqualified leads creates plenty of problems and presents high opportunity costs that you don’t want to deal with.
Pipelines Should Filter Out Sub-Par Sales Opportunities
Not every sales target is a good target. Just because a prospect is willing to pick up your cold call doesn’t mean that they’re a great opportunity.
Instead of trying to siphon every possible lead into your pipeline, only stick to leads who fit your:
- Ideal customer profile; and
- Ideal buyer persona.
Moreover, let your pipeline’s lead qualifying filter do its job! If it’s not doing its job, then tighten up your filter by getting stricter with your target audience so that only qualified leads can get through it.
By doing so, you’ll end up with a healthy sales pipeline filled with leads who are actually likely to make a purchasing decision, instead of leads who are entirely unlikely to buy.
3. Qualified Leads Regularly Fall Out of the Pipeline
Having a pipeline filled with totally unqualified leads presents high opportunity costs.
One of the worst opportunity costs is having less time to focus on qualified leads. By focusing on many unqualified leads, you suddenly have less time, energy, and resources to put into qualified leads.
As a result, qualified leads often feel like they’re not getting the attention they need and will immediately jump out of the pipeline. Why should they sit in the pipeline if they’re not getting the help and attention they deserve?
Another one of the clearest signs that your pipeline is cracked and needs repairs is that qualified leads regularly fall out of it.
Conversion Rates Should Be High
Contrary to popular belief, if your pipeline is functioning correctly, conversion rates should be high.
Think about it: If a potential new customer gets siphoned into your pipeline and makes it past the ideal customer filter, why shouldn’t they convert into a customer?
At that point, the only reasons why a potential customer wouldn’t convert into a paying customer comes back to mistakes on the sales rep’s part!
Furthermore, if your overall pipeline conversion rates are low, then your pipeline is certainly broken.
4. The Pipeline Leaves no Room for Customization
A recent Salesforce survey revealed that about 76% of B2B decision-makers say that there is a lack of personalization in their buying experiences.
If your pipeline is so strictly defined that it leaves no room for customization, then it’s a clear sign of it being broken. By customization, I mean that the pipeline doesn’t leave you room to cater to where the prospect is at on their unique buyer’s journey.
For example, what is the prospect’s understanding of their pain points? Or, how many suppliers have they talked to before you? Answers to these kinds of questions help you customize the pipeline to fit the prospect’s current state.
With customization, the goal is to make prospects feel like individuals, not numbers on a conveyor belt!
Strike a Balance Between Automation and Customization
Here’s the thing: You can’t customize your pipeline so much that nothing about it is automated. Because when every little piece of the pipeline is customized according to each individual prospect’s buyer’s journey, it’s inevitable that you’ll spend an absurd amount of time targeting each one of them.
Work with your sales team to strike a balance between automatic flow and personalization.
You’ll know that you’ve struck a healthy balance when each prospect goes through the same pipeline process but still has their own unique buyer’s journey catered to.
5. Your CRM Is a Disaster
Your CRM software is a reflection of your pipeline. So, if your CRM is a disaster, then it’s a clear-cut sign that your pipeline is also a disaster.
Technically, both the CRM and pipeline serve the same purpose of organizing and aligning the selling and buying processes. How can you expect to have a messy CRM but a clean-cut sales pipeline? Sure, it’s possible, but it's also very rare.
If your CRM regularly requires a total overhaul cleanup, then it’s a good sign that your pipeline is broken!
Choose a No-Nonsense CRM
Here’s the thing: Many CRM systems are so complex that, instead of organizing the selling process as they should, they actually make it more complicated.
What good is a CRM if it’s only going to make your life more of a mess?
If your CRM is unnecessarily complex, you’re better off using a basic, straightforward spreadsheet to organize the selling process!
Rather than picking one that boasts tons of bells and whistles, opt for the simplest one that does its job: help you stay organized.
6. Sales Team Members Don’t Know What to Do & When to Do It
Do your sales team members regularly run around like chickens with their heads cut off not knowing what they should be doing?
If so, it’s another clear sign that your pipeline is broken.
A good sales pipeline helps organize the selling process. Now, if the pipeline is doing its job of keeping the selling process organized, then why would team members not know what they need to be doing? Don’t you think that, with all the stages of the pipeline outlined, they would know what needs to be done and when?
Of course, you would think so!
Therefore, if your team members waste a lot of time instead of getting actual work done, it’s another clear sign that your pipeline is unorganized and needs fixes.
Delegate the Different Sales Pipeline Stages
Once you’ve reorganized your pipeline so that it is more clear-cut, the next thing you need to do is delegate. Specifically, delegate the different stages of your pipeline to individual team members to be in charge of.
For each different stage, have a different team member lead it.
For example, have one team member manage the final sales pitches while another team member manages lead qualification.
Let Team Members Own Their Pipeline Stage
Would you believe me if I told you that some sales leaders tend to be overly controlling?
More specifically, sales leaders micromanage their team members instead of delegating and then stepping back.
Resonate with you at all?
If so, take a moment to put yourself in your team member’s shoes... How would you feel if your sales manager was looking over your shoulder all the time? While you have nothing to hide, wouldn’t you feel as if you’re not being trusted as the professional you are?
If you’re like most people, then you’d certainly feel as if you’re not being trusted, and as a result, you might not do your best work.
Part of being a leader is learning when to let go. It’s about learning how to set sales goals and then entrusting your team members to reach them. If they don’t reach them, then the floor is open to reassessing, but until that point, it isn’t very fair to always be looking over their shoulder.
Bottom line: Organize your pipeline, delegate its different stages, and then step back to let your team members take over!
7. Your Pipeline Includes a Free Initial Proposal
How often does this happen to you: After siphoning a new lead into your pipeline, they almost immediately hit you with, “Send us your proposal and we’ll get back to you.” Thinking you have them in the bag, you spend hours putting together a proposal, send it to them, but then get hit with radio silence. You even follow up several times, but the prospect has seemingly disappeared into thin air.
Although the vast majority of conventional pipelines include a stage for free proposals, the hard truth is that proposals crack the pipeline in half.
Because the moment you send out a free proposal to a new lead is the moment you lose control of the sale. The moment you lose control of the sale is the moment the pipeline breaks in half.
Unless you are in control, leads will never make it to the bottom of the pipeline for a closed deal.
Free Initial Proposals Cause You to Lose Control
Why is it so bad when leads are in control of the sale?
The hard truth is that leads don’t know what’s best for them. By that, I mean they don’t understand exactly what their pain points are and how to solve them. If they did, then they would have solved them already!
Therefore, if the lead is in control of the process, nothing good can come out of it because they don’t know what’s best for them.
Letting the prospect be in control is like letting a two-year-old pick out what they want to eat for dinner: They’ll take forever to make a choice, and the choice they will make probably isn’t even good for them.
Instead of handing control of the sale over to prospects with a free proposal and resultantly cracking the pipeline in half, just stop handing out proposals altogether!
In place of the free proposal, spend more time asking leads in-depth questions about their pain points. That way, you stay in control, the pipeline stays intact, and the lead makes it all the way to a closed deal.
8. Your Pipeline Has More Than 4 Different Stages
Finally, are you one of the many sales reps who follows a five, six, or even seven-stage sales pipeline?
If so, then it’s a given that your pipeline is broken. The hard truth is that the longer your sales pipeline is, the more broken it is.
The longer your pipeline is, the longer your sales cycle is. The longer your cycle is, the less likely prospects are to make a purchasing decision in your favor.
Because, the longer the cycle is, the less likely you are to be in control of it. And nothing good ever happens when the sales professional isn’t in control!
Rather than spending months on end trying to close deals, shorten your sales pipeline to less than 4 steps and keep as little time between each step as possible.
For guidance on resetting your pipeline, you can check out my basic 3-step selling process!
Furthermore, repairing your pipeline is a matter of shortening it. The shorter and sweeter the pipeline is, the stronger it becomes.
Final Thoughts on Making Repairs to Your Sales Pipeline
Letting your sales pipeline burst is a choice! You can choose to ignore the signs that something is wrong with it, or you can choose to step up to the plate and make changes before it’s too late. And as one of your most valuable sales tools, I suggest not letting things get to that point…
Sadly, most sales professionals would rather let their pipeline burst so that they don’t have to confront their obvious pipeline issues.
Are you going to be like most salespeople who let things get that bad before taking action? Or, will you be the salesperson who uses a broken pipeline as an opportunity to improve your overall B2B sales outcomes?
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