It’s 2018 – we live in an era of advanced business technology and powerful IT solutions. But for over 40 percent of sales reps, the approach to managing, qualifying, and progressing leads remains almost entirely manual. We’re talking whiteboards, spreadsheets, and even pen and paper notes to record how their deals are progressing. Doesn’t this seem like a wasted opportunity?
If your organization’s sales pipeline process is still dependent on these dated methods, you’re potentially losing out to competitors who use more sophisticated tools, while expending less time and energy. The automated sales pipeline process can revolutionize how you convert leads into customers, and it’s easier than you might think.
In this post, we’ll explain why you should consider an automated sales pipeline process. To achieve that, we need to pin down what that process really entails.
What is the sales pipeline process?
The sales pipeline process will vary from one company to the next. Nonetheless, most sales pipelines follow some common steps:
- Awareness: At this point, marketing and sales work closely to generate leads
- Interest: At this stage, sales will begin meetings and send relevant content to targets
- Decision: Sales may need to make final presentations
- Purchase: Negotiations over pricing are discussed and contracts finalized
At all these stages, the sales department will want to keep in close communication with potential customers, sending out relevant emails and content.
Why the sales pipeline process is broken
The manual sales pipeline is one of the many broken processes holding large and small businesses back. So why do so many sales teams still depend on outdated methods? Reasons include:
- Belief that their company’s sales process is not complex or large enough to need automating – or alternatively, that it is too large for automation to help
- Perceived expense of sales pipeline process automation tools
- Belief that their sales process does not fit in with the technology
- Resistance to change
All these reasons are cause for skepticism towards software claiming to automate the sales pipeline process. These concerns are understandable.
Risks of not automating your sales pipeline process
- Everything is held in your sale teams’ heads
Every lead, every conversation, and every interaction must be remembered. This means there is no transparency, no ability to track the progress of leads, and it is very difficult to stay in touch with clients if the sales contact quits your business or is away on leave.
- People forget things
Even the greatest sales professional will forget things at some point. This could be forgetting to call back an account to review progress, forgetting to send an important email, or forgetting to post out a brochure or sample.
- No metrics for you to understand what is happening
At your sales pipeline review meetings, it can often be very challenging for your head of sales to truly understand how your pipelines are progressing. Everything depends on individual employees being honest and transparent – it’s very difficult to truly assess how close you really are to finalizing deals.
In short, failing to automate your sales pipeline process creates a lack of transparency over the true state of your sales pipeline. Ultimately, that puts you at more risk of losing potential sales.
So, what would an automated sales pipeline process look like?
An automated sales pipeline process
Suzie, a leading member of your sales team, specializes in long sales for large engineering products. An automated sales pipeline can significantly help her. Let’s see how:
Suzie receives an email from a potential client requesting a brochure for one of your popular products. She sends him the brochure and asks to schedule a call. The client doesn’t respond right away.
Three days later, Suzie receives a notification from your automation software to contact the lead again. She does this, and he expresses interest in setting up an initial call. After the call, your sales automation tool alerts her to relevant content she can send the lead – she chooses to send over a couple of case study documents as a result, which impresses the lead.
The following week, Suzie contacts the lead again, and they agree to meet up for a sales presentation. Before her meeting, the sales automation tool alerts her to print out specific brochures she can take along as leave-behind collateral that can be circulated inside the target’s organization.
At the end of that week, Suzie attends her sales pipeline review meeting. She can describe every contact with the client – and her manager can see every interaction she’s had through a centralized dashboard.
Suzie’s sales automation tool helps her estimate how close the client is to closing, so she can follow up with another sales call and begin to discuss pricing. While on the call, she can send a discount approval request to her manager from within the software, which appears as a notification on his screen. He gives her the ‘thumbs up’ and she can close the deal there and then.
For automation software that includes document generation, a contract is automatically generated, meaning Suzie only needs to fill in a couple of specific details before sending to the lead for digital document signing.
As this example shows, an automated sales pipeline process means that all the steps towards closing a deal are faster and more efficient, reducing the likelihood of mistakes ever happening.
Sales teams are increasingly automating their sales pipeline processes. Find out how Nintex can help your organization do the same here.