Unplug Your Pipeline: 3 Steps to Effective Sales Pipeline Management

Over the last two quarters, most Microsoft Dynamics Partners have seen IT investments postponed, capital expenditures reconsidered and funded projects reprioritized.  However, new opportunities are still being identified, albeit at a slower rate than at this time last year.

Partners have not seen projects cancelled.

As a result, many Partners have extremely large pipelines full of “on hold” projects.  Successful Sales Managers will find a way to unplug these sales pipelines over the next couple of months, in time to close them by the end of June.

We recommend a three step process to do this.

1. Analyze Your Pipeline

Unless you have an exceptionally disciplined Sales team and process, this is not the time to rely on the percentages to close which are entered in your CRM system.

Our experience is that “80% to Close” usually means that a Sales person has completed a series of steps and may or may not be close to closing the deal. The fact that a proposal is sitting on a prospect’s desk does not necessarily mean that they are one step away from making a buying decision.

When analyzing your pipeline, identify the prospect companies for whom there are real business cases to be made for a new system.  Consider also the financial position of the prospect company and what the impact of the system will be on cash flow.

These are key indicators of which opportunities arise to put a full court press on in these final months of the year.

Remember, also, that there will be Prospects in your pipeline who know that June is Microsoft’s year end and will be waiting for last minute discounts.  These too, are “closeable”, though obviously you want to do so without discounting software or services.

2. Analyze the Sales Strategy Which Has Been Executed Up Until Now

Work with your Sales team members and review what the sales strategy for each targeted opportunity has been.

Do the key decision makers clearly see the value in implementing a new system?

Has a business case for the new system been presented or did we conduct a series of feature function demonstrations without fully appreciating what the impact of them would be?

Does the proposal sitting on their desk articulate the benefits of the system and the impact it will have on key areas such as business optimization and risk reduction?

Have we positioned ourselves as a company who can assist in transforming/enhancing their business or simply as a company who implements Microsoft Dynamics software?

There will be situations where you find the sales strategy executed by your Sales team comes up lacking.  The good news is you can still correct the course.

3. Revise Sales Strategy & Proposal To Create VALUE

It is not too late to go back and build value into the proposals for sales opportunities you believe are closeable by the end of the year.  This includes those companies who are waiting for you to discount.  Some common areas to focus on in an economic downturn are:

Cash Flow –  In difficult times, Cash is King.  Prospect customers will be looking to technology to help  them improve cash flow.  This can be done by assisting them in reducing their DSO (Day Sales Outstanding), increasing DPO (Days Payable Outstanding), reducing Day Sales of Inventory, improving inventory turns and/or decreasing working capital requirements.

Compliance –  This is becoming increasingly important in all economic conditions.  In an economic downturn many companies will be looking to technology to help them comply with financial reporting requirements from the bank.

Improve Employee Productivity –  In normal economic circumstances we tend to resist talking about how software can help reduce the number of employees required to perform tasks.  In difficult times, when there may have already been employee reductions, this is a very real issue for prospect companies.

Leverage Technology in Place –   In an economic downturn even the most early of adopters may be forced to make use of what is already in the place and make investments which incrementally build on existing technology.   This, of course, plays well into the Microsoft Dynamics strategy.

Risk Reduction –  Prospect companies are looking to business software to reduce their business risk. This can take on many forms.  A worthwhile area to focus on is gaining visibility through improved reporting and decision support tools.

So the opportunities are there.  It is up to you, as a Sales Manager, to focus your Sales people on the ones which are closeable in the near future with a strategy which will lead to celebration rather than despair.

– Software Delivered as Promised. No Surprises.

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