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Pipeline Analysis: A Quick Guide
Knowing how to make sales requires understanding prospect needs, knowing the market, staying competitive, building a quality program that streamlines everyday processes, and many other factors. Above all else, though, you need to know how to sell.
Sales occur within what is known as a sales pipeline: a process or series of stages through which prospects move in order to convert. Each of these stages is marked by a different type of engagement between a potential client and a sales representative. This action or set of actions must be completed to move on to the next stage.
What these actions are or whether any given stage is included in a particular business’s sales pipeline depends on the way that business is structured, what and to whom it is selling, and how management elects to organize the company’s sales division. However it is built, it is the road that turns a prospect into a client and a product into a sale.
Because the sales pipeline is a modular and customizable system, and because markets and demand are always shifting, close and consistent monitoring is vital. Pipeline analysis can help your company track the efficiency of your pipeline and target any areas or stages which are doing poorly for improvement. Reworking and perfecting your pipeline is the best way to ensure success in sales.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the most important aspects of sales pipelines and sales pipeline analysis. We’ll talk about pipeline tracking software and pipeline reports; we’ll examine some of the most common pipeline stages; we’ll offer some tips for increasing pipeline efficiency; we’ll take a look at the big picture and why pipelines and pipeline analysis matters, and finally, we’ll talk about what is pipeline management software and how it can help keep your business thriving and ahead of the competition.
Sales Pipeline Tracker
A sales pipeline tracker can be any piece of software or template or even individual which monitors the status of the pipeline and looks for places or aspects which could benefit from improvement.
Most often, pipeline tracking is done by using an Excel or Google Sheets template or through a CRM suite. All these options keep track of where prospects are in the pipeline, who the sales representative in charge of a prospect is, how long the prospect has been in the pipeline, and other relevant metrics.
Pipeline tracking is used to generate a regular pipeline analysis report. Reports can cover a variety of things, but generally are used to pinpoint stages in the pipeline where deals are stalling or prospects are being lost. These performance hiccups can be a result of a number of things. Perhaps conversational techniques are scaring prospects off. Maybe the lead nurturing stage is being too accelerated. Or it could be that sales reps are having a hard time differentiating their product from that of the competition.
Tracking helps businesses discover and redress holes in their pipelines. Without tracking, the best a company might do to explain deals falling through is chalk it up to bad luck.
B2B Sales Pipeline Stages
Every company structures their sales pipeline a little differently. However, there is a general pattern of sales pipeline stages which businesses tend to follow to bring a prospect to the table and make them convert.
This initial stage consists of making contact with a prospect and prompting them to enter into the sales pipeline. It might involve cold calls, emails, advertising campaigns, surveys, CTAs, or any number of first contact initiatives.
This stage will consist of a more in-depth conversation with the prospect. A sales rep will inform them more about your company’s product offerings and capabilities and demonstrate how they might be good solutions for the needs of the prospect. Analysis and other inquiries will be made regarding the prospect as well: what kinds of sales tactics they are likely to respond to and how likely they are to convert.
If the prospect continues to show interest and wants to move forward with the sales process, they will enter serious negotiations with the sales rep. Prices, special deals, payment plans, and other details will be hashed out at this stage.
If both parties agree to the terms of the sale, it will be finalized and the deal will be closed.
This is just a basic outline, but it is important to remember that determining the ideal structure and sales pipeline stages best practices takes time and effort and order and structure will vary depending on the nature of your enterprise.
How to Increase Sales Pipeline
Success in sales demands agility and adaptation in order to cater to shifting prospect needs and market conditions. As such, businesses should always be looking at solutions for how to increase sales pipeline performance.
As mentioned above, Excel and Sheets templates and CRM software are good ways to track the status of your open deals and forecast closure probabilities. Other data analytics software can also help optimize your pipeline. Demand forecasting software is especially important, as it tracks the changing preferences of target demographics, ensuring lead generation techniques can adapt and remain effective. Software which specializes in competition monitoring is also useful as it can inform you about sales strategies your rivals are using which are seeing success so that you can use them, too.
One of the most effective strategies for how to build a strong sales pipeline is to tailor the conversations your sales reps are having to fit with the preferences and personality of the prospect. Being able to communicate verbally and electronically with the prospect in ways which make them feel confident and comfortable increase probabilities of conversion. This data can be hard to come by, so it can be beneficial for companies to track and record prospect-sales rep interactions for analytic and training purposes.
Marketing Pipeline Stages
One of the more difficult parts of how to build a sales pipeline is structuring and organizing the initial lead generation or marketing pipeline stages. Knowing what order these stages should be placed in or whether each one is crucial to your style of marketing will depend on your own sales intelligence and analytics. Regardless, a marketing pipeline will tend to contain some combination of the following stages and tactics.
This means creating an ad campaign that is eye-catching and placed well enough to reach your target demographics.
The content of the ad must be tailored to generate interest among prospects. It must present the product or service you’re selling as a solution to a need they have and convince them of the quality of your solution.
Introduce a Call to Action
Use a CTA to simultaneously enumerate the benefits of your product and prompt further engagement from the prospect. This will often take the form of a demo or free trial.
Initiate Direct Contact
Once a significant level of interest has been shown on the part of a prospect, sales reps can reach out directly through phone or email.
These stages, more than other parts of the overarching sales pipeline, are interchangeable and optional. The vast multitude of products and markets means that there will be nearly infinite correct and effective ways to attract prospects.
Importance of Sales Pipeline
The value of constructing a sales pipeline and the importance of sales pipeline analysis cannot be understated.
Without a sales structure of some sort, a business might still make sales, but closure and fallthrough will occur randomly, and this sort of disorganization can hold your business back. Having a pipeline structure in place introduces regularity and a more rigorous set of standards by which to measure the performance of sales reps. It can encourage accountability and lends itself more to innovation and improvement.
Pipeline analysis is the means of guiding that innovation and improvement. Using dedicated software allows management to locate weaknesses in the pipeline and work on solutions. Sales pipeline development is vital for the success of a business. The same sales strategies will not work forever, and the best way to increase pipeline productivity and remain competitive in rapidly shifting markets is to regularly rework and rethink the way the pipeline runs. Without pipeline monitoring, you run the risk of becoming outmoded and unable to connect with your prospect and client bases.
Constructing, monitoring, and maintaining a sales pipeline creates the perfect balance between structure and adaptability. For any business looking to boost its sales potential, these should be the first steps.
Sales Pipeline Management Software
Most likely, your business already has some sort of pipeline in place and is looking for the right sales pipeline management software to help you improve upon it and keep it competitive.
Canopy offers a variety of world-class analytic and intelligence solutions which can revolutionize the way you look at your sales process.
Canopy offers prospect analysis and lead generation software which can help you find new leads and analyze the probability of lead conversion. For growing a client base, it’s an invaluable tool.
Forecasting is a vital part of the sales, and Canopy has developed industry-leading prediction software that can track the trajectory of numerous metrics and help you prepare for any challenge and take advantage of every opportunity.
Canopy’s analysis tools are varied and versatile so you can keep track of every piece of data and generate key insights about all aspects of your pipeline. Focusing on the details is the best way to maximize efficiency and sweep the competition.
A pipeline is built on the work of sales representatives. Working with sales teams to train them and help them realize their full potential can pay off in a big way. That’s why Canopy offers personalized coaching solutions for businesses of all sizes and kinds.
Pipeline management should be a central part of every business’s strategy. Try Canopy and see what our cutting-edge B2B sales toolkit can do for you.