Sales Pipeline Management Gets a Boost from Computing Power

A well-stocked pipeline is critical to growing your business and generating revenue. It sounds simple enough, but most sales reps know how much there is to keep track of on the journey from prospecting to lead generation to nurturing and (hopefully) closing the deal.

Settling for poor pipeline management is like keeping track of your parts inventory on a single flat shelf: things get mixed up, lost, or mislabeled. It’s a mess that takes time to sort out and detracts from production. Just as there are many solutions to organize parts, like bins or adjustable racks, there are many ways to keep your pipeline organized too.

For manufacturers, combining sales and lead generation with computer technology keeps the pipeline orderly, efficient, and productive by following these principles:


Sales Pipeline Management

Optimize Your CRM and/or Marketing Automation

Customer relationship management databases (CRM) and marketing automation platforms (like Hubspot and others) are common tools in the B2B sales process. But to get the most value for your investment you have to align them with your sales cycle. Both can be customized to reflect the stages, terminology, and metrics important to you. They also include features that facilitate nurturing for lead generation, pre-scheduled follow up with templated emails, and tracking prospect engagement so opportunities don’t slip through the cracks. In short, the better defined your sales process is, the more value a CRM or marketing automation tool has.


Keep Track and Keep Up: Structuring Data for Effective Nurturing

Everyone knows the sales journey is not always a direct path from A to B. In fact, it may take weeks or months and several interactions via different channels (e.g. email, website, phone) for a prospect to progress to lead status. When you think about the various types of interaction you typically have with prospects, it’s clear there really isn’t a good one-size-fits-all way to follow up with them. Multiply this by the number of prospects out there and it’s challenging to keep track of each account, contact, and timeline.

Marketing automation tools streamline this process. They let you add, tag, sort, and mix and match prospects into structured lists you can work with easily.

Each of the following examples can be associated with a strategic nurturing activity to reinforce the relationship and encourage a prospect to take the next step, for example:

Prospect Interaction Automated Nurturing Process

Scanned their badge at your trade show booth

Acknowledge their visit, send a link to a demo video

Spoke with you on the phone

Set a reminder task notification to call them again in two weeks

Last purchase was 6 months ago

Send an email thanking them for past business and a link to your new catalog

Attended your webinar

Send a download of the webinar slides and an offer for a consultation

Process engineer downloaded a whitepaper

Ask if they have questions on the whitepaper and send a demo or ROI calculator

Opened three or more emails from your drip campaign series

Email with directions on subscribing to your blog


Based on your defined sales processes, decide what categories your records fall into and how you want to handle each category, then let the database do the tedious work like keeping track of dates, tasks, and email addresses.


Prioritizing Prospects and Using Your Time Wisely

Sales reps need the ability to quickly identify those who are uninterested and shift their status to a lower priority category. Prioritizing in this way leaves more time to focus on the leads with the most potential. The first step is defining terms (e.g. can your team agree on what a lead is?) and advancement criteria. At the same time, identify the clear indicators that while a prospect may have some interest, they’re not worth pursuing actively.

These are the foundation on which you build your CRM database, not the other way around. You determine the stages and criteria that drive lead generation and the computer platform keeps things organized and managed. In sales or manufacturing, relying on a tool’s default settings, or failing to learn the ins and outs of how it operates, keeps it from working as effectively as it could.

All of this is especially important if you’re engaged in a time- and resource-intensive calling campaign. Building the stages, statuses, and criteria into your database helps you save time and call strategically: following up with those who have shown some interest, proactively gathering and documenting business intelligence, or conducting “voice of the customer” surveys. Update each record with your calling notes and status changes so you have the full backstory before you reach out again.

The Three Cs of Data

In part fabrication, your finished product is only as good as the components that go into it. Consider an automated welding workstation. Each component must be prepared to the correct dimensions in order to fit into the welding fixture correctly. If they don’t fit, weld placement and joint alignment may be off, resulting in a scrapped part.

Sales and marketing data work on the same principle. Data is everywhere, and while it contributes to objective decision-making, the quality of the data use is determined by the quality of the data you put into your CRM. Useful data has these characteristics:

    • Clean
      • Periodically check for and resolve duplicate records.
      • Verify that tags, categories, and statuses are assigned to records correctly and that they still reflect your needs and how you want to manipulate the data.
      • Establish rules for data entry (e.g. will you set up a new account for each of a company’s locations or add to the main account?).
    • Complete
      • Some data is generated automatically (e.g. records of downloads and bounced emails), but it can also be augmented with notes from calling, additional contact information, company background, or other details.
      • Create records for all prospects, not just the leads. automated nurturing features make it easy to reach out at a future point and it’s much easier to find them in a database than trying to remember what email folder you moved their message.
    • Current
      • Update contact info, references, and business intelligence information as soon as it’s gathered so data is up to date.
      • Build a one-stop shop for prospect information. Add notes and update account info so that everyone who uses the database can find the info they need, such as:
      • Inside sales knows there is a new purchasing agent to work with.
      • Customer service knows this customer has a history of slow service.
      • Marketing can see they just added a new location.
        • Inside sales knows there is a new purchasing agent to work with.
        • Customer service knows this customer has a history of slow service.
        • Marketing can see they just added a new location.
        • Outside sales can find the change of address and phone number quickly.
AdobeStock_242196040 2 [Converted]-01

Metrics and Visibility into the Sales Process

Design and run reports and dashboards based on data in CRM or marketing automation software to quickly visualize progress, success, and sticking points in campaigns. These create pictures into the state of your pipeline to address questions such as:

  • How are prospects distributed through pipeline?
  • Where are we losing the most prospects?
  • Is time to close getting longer or shorter?
  • What marketing channels having the best response (opens, clicks, downloads, views, etc.)?
  • Does sales activity pick up or slow down predictably each year?
  • Is our standard nurturing schedule paying off in terms of time-to-close?

Sales reps and management may have a feeling or a sense about these, but data shows you definitively, reinforcing some suspicions and correcting others. Reports and dashboards show you where to take a closer look.

How you approach filling and managing your pipeline is the difference between lost opportunities and getting the most out of your prospecting efforts. Computing power plays a big part, but if your CRM and marketing automation tools aren’t up to the task, you could be wasting time scrambling instead of selling. We can help – please contact us.

Sales Resources

Mastering The Pipeline Gridiron eBook Cover

Mastering The Pipeline Gridiron



What You Need to Know Before

Creating an Inside Sales Team


Trends, Tools and Techniques for

the Modern Sales Process


Get Our Latest eBook, "Is Your Client Facing Team on Track?"

Sometimes in sales and marketing things go along great – until they don’t. Other times you know something’s not working quite right, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is.

Both are signs it’s time to take a step back and assess the situation. A closer look at your people, processes, and technology, and how they work together (or don’t) may reveal invaluable clues to problems and possible solutions.

Assess ebook cover



Our Partners

Hubspot Gold