Pipeline management is an extension of customer relationship management (CRM). A sales team uses this process to forecast sales, manage its time, and ultimately make additional sales. The more objective a sales team is in managing the sales funnel, the more accurate the measurement.
The pipeline management process might begin with reviewing a company’s products and services to determine the sales potential of each product and service. This analysis might help the sales team learn where small changes to the products or services could increase the team’s ability to sell more of each item or service. During this phase of the process, the sales team might work with the engineering team or other members of the company to implement the product changes that the company as a whole deems necessary to improve sales.
Review of the lead generation process might come next. The number of sales leads the team needs to generate in order to close a certain number of sales is an important measurement for the sales team. The sales team might review the process of how it creates interest in the company's sales offerings to attract potential buyers of those products. Once the interested parties become a part of the sales funnel, the sales team usually determines how to properly manage those leads to make sales to as many leads as possible.
Forecasting expected sales and revenue from each sale is usually the next step in the pipeline management process. Members of the sales team must estimate how strong a given lead is and what products and services the lead might purchase. Using a software tool to make these forecasts based upon historical information generally allows the sales team to make a more accurate forecast. This step in the pipeline management process is frequently the most difficult, due to inaccuracy in the estimation process.
As the sales team moves throughout the sales process and into CRM, members must analyze the data collected throughout the process. The data elements will help the team see issues and patterns in the process. Once the issues are understood, the sales team may develop a plan to work around those issues and close the sale. The team may analyze the patterns within the process to find what has worked well and repeat the same steps with other leads in order to close the sale.