Getting deals to move through the pipeline towards final [successful] close is THE role of sales people. In our experience the more you align the sales stages [your sales process] with those in the clients buying process the better will be the velocity of your pipeline.
Imagine for a minute that you have a number of sales stages through which a sales person should take the opportunity from opportunity creation to won. Then imagine that the sales team actually do follow these stages towards closing opportunities rather than skipping a number to won or lost. Many sales people do not fully adopt sales stages and this perhaps says something about alignment, or lack of, with how customers buy.
Why have sales stages in the first place?
They are a good way to capture best practice, the “what needs to be done” for successful closure of an opportunity. In today’s world they are often developed into more structured sales playbooks and other tools to make the sales person objectively question their position on a given opportunity (our Deal Sheet Application is a good example of a tool to help salespeople see where they are objectively).
They provide a useful measure of the progress of an opportunity through the pipeline for sales management. It also allows managers to see where deals are not progressing through the pipeline and offers a great tool to measure effectiveness of the sales team.
What can you do to improve it?
- Consider who your customers are. Segment them appropriately based on how they procure the services you might offer them.
- Understand their buying process (see some info here to help) and capture, discuss and share this.
- Review your sales stages against the buying process and is their a good fit? If not, change it to reflect how the customers buy in this area of your business.
- Track the progress of opportunities in the pipeline objectively
- Capture the key elements of qualification into your qualification approach.
- Develop resources to help sales people at each of the sales stages (a playbook) to engage customers in a more consistent and effective manner.