Sales management systems and sales administrators serve the institution, not the individual; they help in making management, not sales decisions.
Pipeline management is a salesperson’s nemesis or ally. Pipeline management refers to a system that tracks every sale, at every stage, from initial contact with prospective buyer, all the way to its completion (a close) and after-sales service. Religiously observe it, and you are a rolling stone of closed sales; ignore it, and stagnate from gathering moss.
Why it’s called a pipeline
The choice of the word pipeline borrows, quite aptly, from, well, a pipeline; say, of water. No matter how many bends it has the water will flow; the straighter it is of course the easier and faster the water flows; however, any leak reduces the pressure within and therefore speed of flow. Any movement upwards means the flow is slowed down and if the incline is too steep may require a boost by a pump. This means extra effort and cost. If there is an irregular inflow, an airlock will manifest. Removing it slows the flow and also means extra effort and, if acute, extra cost of hiring a plumber. A sales pipeline is no different. Only it is sales activities that flow through it. However, all the challenges are the same. Airlocks, leaks, inclines, bends, slowing down, speeding up, erratic flows, the need for pumps and plumbers are metaphors for lost sales opportunities, problematic sales, spending less time with buyer and more with the screen, or travelling from point A to B, and seeking help from peers, customers or sales manager to remove an ‘airlock’.
The problems with a pipeline system
Admittedly, it is not a simple task creating a sales pipeline and many contacts fall through the cracks. To resolve this challenge, some companies have invested in systems, even though this is still not a panacea to pipeline management. As with any system, GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) applies.
The vast majority of companies, however, simply can’t afford them and yet their salespeople must still have a pipeline and manage it effectively if they are to thrive. Sales administrators can help with this and many do. As with sales management systems though, sales administrators in practice tend to primarily serve the institution, not the individual; they help in making management, not sales decisions. The two are not necessarily aligned and, in fact, the former can compromise the latter. “Ignore that sale”, the manager says. “It’s not coming through.” The objective system many show that but only the progressive seller understands the subjective ‘system’ which ultimately determines success or failure of the sale. Effective managers take both into consideration by engaging the seller, or the buyer, to get a feel of things before passing judgment.
Unfortunately, unchecked, the system can become a salesperson’s crutch. “I am waiting to see what management says about the sale,” is a sign of absconding responsibility and inevitably losing the sale.
Progressive sellers use the system as the sales report they detest doing. But they stay ahead of the sale, sensibly defending its position in the pipeline irrespective of what the system says.