Lots of leads entering your sales pipeline, yet your sales leave much to be desired? Leads aren’t moving down the sales funnel at the expected speed? Sales reps are busy at all times, yet your business isn’t as profitable as you want it to be?
Beware, sales manager! There are some bottlenecks in your sales process that hinder your sales progress.
In this article, we look at the main areas of concern that impede your sales success and explain how a reliable CRM solution can help to get rid of the problems.
Areas of concern when your sales process is slow
When jotting down ideas for this article, I came to a relatively big revelation: selling is somewhat akin to professional copywriting. It, too, has leads (ideas), sales pipelines (storylines), sales funnel stages (chapters), and the one shared, final goal of landing a deal.
I’ve done a fair share of writing in my life and have definitely faced a couple of dozens of writer’s blocks. Guess what? They’re shockingly similar to sales bottlenecks. So I thought, why not explain how to remove those bottlenecks by drawing parallels?
Strap in, we’re going to look at the key areas within the sales process that can slow down the conversion using writing analogies. Trust me, it’s gonna be a fun ride!
The average time spent in one stage
Every writer strives for perfection and wants to find just the right words to tell their story. However, it can quickly turn into an obsession when no words seem good enough, so you keep rewriting the same sentence over and over again. Unless you move past this block, you risk impeding the whole process and never finishing the book.
So, it makes sense to set a time limit on writing a single sentence/ describing a single idea/ laying out a single scene.
Similarly, you can’t afford to leave your leads in one stage for too long. The more time you spend nurturing leads that aren’t moving down the sales funnel, the less effective and efficient your actions are.
Balance is one of the fundamental laws of every universe, including the business one. For your sales velocity to be at an all-time high, you need to strive for sales pipeline symmetry.
Woah, wait there..! That doesn’t sound realistic, does it? Naturally, you’ll always have more leads at the top of the funnel than at the bottom. Perfect symmetry of a sales pipeline is impossible to achieve. But you can and should focus on ensuring the continuous and rapid movement of those leads on both ends of the pipeline.
As a sales manager, you need to spot leads that remain stuck at the same funnel stage for long periods of time.
There are several ways to do that using a CRM...
- Set automated alerts for when leads haven’t moved stages in X days. You can configure your CRM system to automatically notify you via email or Slack when leads are inert for a certain period.
- Include the average time your leads spend in one stage and all the outliers that take longer to move further down the funnel in your sales report.
Once you spot problematic leads, you need to identify the reason why it’s taking them so long to convert. Ask yourself some questions.
- Do sales reps handle sales objections effectively?
- Do sales reps reach the right audience?
- Do they follow up on time?
- Do they lead the conversation and keep it going?
- Is the lead in question not a priority lead with low chances of conversion?
As you can see, there are many options to choose from, but only one is the real cause of the sales pipeline stagnation.
🍾How to remove the bottleneck🍾
Hold regular sales pipeline review meetings and focus on your lead conversion.
Regular sales pipeline review meetings kill three birds with one stone. They both help to identify bottlenecks in a sales process, find out their cause, and enable discussion of further steps.
Once you know why your leads aren’t moving down the sales funnel at the desired speed, you can focus on developing the right strategy to nudge them towards making a purchasing decision faster.
The quality of leads in the sales pipeline
Every storyline has a starting point A and an ending point B. Every episode in between these two events is the path characters take to get from A to B. It’s essential to only include scenes that propel the story.
One mistake that hinders the process is putting too much effort into writing out scenes that don’t contribute to the development of the storyline. You don’t only lose time, but you also waste effort and inspiration on something that doesn’t impact the final result.
The same way not all scenes develop the storyline, not all leads have high chances of becoming paying customers. A possible reason you’re not driving as many sales as you wish is that you’re focusing too much on lower quality leads, instead of nurturing those that can generate profit.
To liven up your sales process, you need to be able to tell your low- and high-conversion chance leads apart and allocate your limited resources accordingly. Your goal is to reduce the time spent on non-priority leads and nurture the most valuable ones. A CRM can be of great help when dealing with this problem.
🍾How to remove the bottleneck🍾
Develop a robust lead scoring system; automate initial stages of email marketing lead nurturing; reduce the number of touchpoints for low-value leads that don’t respond.
First things first, you need to develop a lead scoring strategy to help you differentiate between high- and low-priority leads.
There isn’t a unified model all businesses can use. A lead scoring system depends on the specifics of the company, the product it sells, and the audiences it targets. Nonetheless, the process of developing a model is the same for everyone.
Let’s take a look at its key steps...
- Identify your ideal customer profile by listing the qualifying criteria, including demographic, firmographic and behavioural characteristics.
- Assign values to each characteristic.
- Set a threshold for the scores to differentiate between hot and not-so-hot leads.
Once you have a model ready, you can configure your CRM solution to assess all the leads entering the sales pipeline automatically.
To reduce the amount of time spent on the non-qualified leads, you can decrease the number of touchpoints and automate the initial outreach by setting up email sequences in the CRM.
For instance, NetHunt CRM allows you to create a Workflow that would send low-qualified leads a series of email drips until they hit you with a response. Once that happens, the system automatically stops the sequence, moves the lead’s stage to ‘in progress’, and sends out a notification to the sales rep in charge.
That way, you can switch to personalised communication after the lead has already shown some interest in your product and is more susceptible to active nurturing.
However, the best way to reduce the amount of time your sales reps spend on nurturing low-quality leads is to reduce the influx of such leads into your sales pipeline altogether. There are a few decisions to make to deal with low-quality lead generation and accelerate your sales...
- Revise your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) to better understand the audience segment you need to target.
- Reconsider the sources your business uses to fill the sales pipeline with leads. There are plenty of different sources of leads and approaches to lead generation.
- Make sure data is clean and complete. You can’t effectively qualify a lead if you don’t know much about them.
The average number of non-money making tasks carried out by sales reps
When a writer creates a multi-dimensional universe with numerous plot lines and complex characters, a well-developed story plan needs to be developed. It’s essential to map out all the key events and profile all the different characters, traits, and relationships.
However, if you get stuck on producing overly detailed plans and updating your journals after every completed scene, you risk spending way too much time on the book. So it makes sense to delegate the administrative tasks to a helper.
The book isn’t going to finish itself. Tangible progress is only possible when the writer is actively writing. So, perhaps, your business isn’t driving as many sales as you wish because your sales reps aren’t actually selling?
According to Inside.com, sales reps spend only 37% of their time selling.
The rest is wasted on non-money making tasks that could be delegated to dedicated software. As a sales manager, you should know exactly what your sales reps are busy with, whether or not they are meeting their quotas, and how they’re carrying out their tasks.
The best way to stay informed about your sales reps’ activities and progress is to build monthly sales team activity reports.
If your CRM data shows that sales reps aren’t meeting their quotas or aren’t as productive as you’d like them to be when it comes to landing deals, it could be because they don’t have enough time to spend on selling your products...
🍾How to remove the bottleneck🍾
Automate administrative work and repetitive tasks.
Spare your sales reps of ineffective, boring, repetitive tasks that rob them of an opportunity to bring more profit. Don’t make them waste their business hours on administrative tasks. Instead, make use of your CRM system and let the software do the hard work for them.
Here are just a few of the tasks a CRM system can automate for you...
- Data entry
- Data enrichment
- Activity logs
- Sales reporting
- Lead generation
You can even set up automated email sequences to nurture leads and automatically change their stages based on their response to nurturing.
The average approval time
Editing is key. It helps to weed out any semantic and grammatical mistakes writers make when writing the first draft. However, if communication between the writer, the editor and the publisher is poor, it can also be a hindrance to the writing process. Sending the drafts forth and back for edits and approvals takes time that could’ve been spent on more productive things.
It’s vital to establish a direct line of communication to minimise the response and wait time.
Similarly, sales isn’t a monologue. It’s a continuous conversation that involves multiple people on two sides. It’s only natural that - like in any conversation - pauses occur in between responses.
It’s okay for responses to take some time, but there’s a fine line between a short halt and a series of breaks that accumulate over time, pushing away a deal indefinitely. Especially if the salesperson causes those breaks. Leads aren’t used to waiting and, granted that they have options, will not hesitate to choose competition over you if you stall on the response.
🍾How to remove the bottleneck🍾
Set up automatic notifications; create an automated follow-up sequence.
There are several ways in which a CRM can help you animate your sales by reducing the average approval time...
- If you’re waiting for approval of a contract, quotation, or invoice, you can integrate the appropriate tools with your CRM system and get automatic notifications once the action is completed.
- You can set up an automated follow-up sequence to remind the lead about yourself and convince them to take action faster.
- Automate tasks for other departments.
- If you depend on a member of another team to take action once a lead moves down the funnel, set up automatic notifications to increase the speed of inter-team communication.
The average win rate
If you’re ghostwriting for someone, you need to ensure that the finished product matches client expectations. This becomes possible when you discuss the task in detail beforehand and stick to the agreed plan.
Finally, if everything seems to work well yet your sales process is still slow, take a look at the very bottom of your sales funnel. Is it looking a little bit crowded?
If there’s a pandemonium of leads at the very last stage of your sales pipeline - chilling there - hesitant to make the final decision and make a purchase, you need to look at the ways to improve your win rate.
🍾How to remove the bottleneck🍾
Work on developing more detailed contact profiles; pay attention to your customers’ needs and pain points; craft high-quality sales enablements; review your sales objection handling techniques.
Usually, the reason leads don’t convert into customers is that they don’t understand the value of your product, don’t need it at the time, or don’t have the funds for it.
All of the aforementioned are common sales objections, and if your sales process is stagnating, you might want to review your sales reps’ sales objection handling technique.
To successfully handle objections, you need to personalise them… No matter how good our templates are. To do that, you need to have a detailed lead profile and an entire history of your interactions logged in the CRM system.
You’ll be able to tell exactly what your lead’s pain points, needs and wants are. Subsequently, with more detailed records, you’ll have a better understanding of what sales enablements to offer to convince your leads to buy from you.
I’ve used all the writing tips and produced this article. Now, it’s time for you to apply the newly acquired knowledge and accelerate your sales process.
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