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How to Manage a Sales Pipeline for SMBs

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The one thing a growing business needs– above all else– is sales. For small and mid-sized businesses, it’s important to make more sales while operating as efficiently and budget-wise as possible. A well-managed sales pipeline can help you achieve this.

Read on to learn how to manage a sales pipeline for SMBs, the benefits of doing so, and best practices.

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The importance of sales pipelines for small and mid-sized businesses

When operating a small to medium-sized business, it’s crucial to ensure you don’t waste precious resources on things that could be outsourced or automated. And that’s especially important in sales.

That’s why a sales pipeline is a must for small teams. It helps your sales team members understand and execute their next action, understand where the customer is in the buyer journey, and spend more time building customer relationships than doing mundane tasks that don’t push the needle.

You may already have a sales pipeline – whether it’s intuitive or on paper (if you had to choose between the two, definitely get it on paper). You can maximize the potential of your sales pipeline by implementing best practices, which we’ll explore in a bit. First, let’s look at the benefits of having a well-managed sales pipeline for your SMB.

Benefits of a well-managed sales pipeline for SMBs

Taking the time to manage your sales pipeline properly can make a world of difference to your small to medium business. The benefits of a well-managed sales pipeline are numerous, and include:

  • Improved organization and productivity: No more twiddling your fingers and wondering what to do next. When you have an optimized sales pipeline to consult, your team will always know what to do next to lead to the sale and push the needle for your business.
  • Save time and resources: When you understand what tasks you can automate (usually admin-related, tedious tasks), you have the power to automate or outsource them. This means your talented sales reps can focus on what they do best: making sales.
  • Scalability: Your sales pipeline will grow, evolve, and splinter as your business grows. A well-managed sales pipeline can be adapted to your changing needs as you scale your small business into an enterprise organization.

Best practices for managing your sales pipeline as an SMB

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Now that we understand the importance and benefits of managing your SMB sales pipeline, here are some best practices you can start implementing today.

Define your pipeline stages

First things first: if you want to optimize your sales pipeline, you need to understand what it looks like. Your team may already be following an intuitive sales process with varying results. Observe the steps that your sales team takes to close the deal and map these steps.

Generally speaking, the sales pipeline for SMBs usually includes these stages:

  • Prospecting
  • Initial contact
  • Discovery meetings or calls
  • The sales pitch
  • Negotiation
  • Closing, then following up

Your process may differ slightly depending on your business model and the product or service you offer. When you clearly define the stages of your sales pipeline, you get an objective step-by-step sales process that your team can follow, standardized to make it easier to observe customer behavior and sales rep performance.

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101 task ideas for any sales Process

Keep your sales cycle short

As a small business, you don’t want to waste time trying to convert your leads into sales. Likewise, your leads despise drawn-out and tedious sales processes. The longer it takes for a lead to move through your sales pipeline, the more likely they’ll get frustrated and move on to a competitor.

A long sales cycle also means that your sales slow down, along with your revenue. Sales are crucial to growing your company, so making your pipeline as efficient and lean as possible is imperative.

There are a few methods to reducing the length of your sales cycle:

  • Improve your audience targeting: Based on past behavior and preferences, focus on leads that are more likely to buy.
  • Address your leads’ pain points: For example, if your lead has an issue with the speed at which you answer inquiries, find a way to decrease your customer support response time.
  • Automate tedious sales tasks: Do you always send a follow-up email to new leads? Then, figure out a way to automate this instead of having a team member manually send out sequences.

Automate your sales pipeline tasks to suit your business objectives

We touched on it in a previous point, but this bears repeating because saving as much time as possible when growing your SMB is so important.

Look through your sales pipeline, processes, and tasks. Whenever you find a repetitive activity or a task that can otherwise be completed by a robot, then automate it. For example, if a lead performs a certain action that indicates an interest in learning more about your product, you can install a process that automatically moves them through the pipeline. 

And when they enter a new pipeline, you can even automate an email sequence that they receive over the course of a week or two.

It’s important to let your small sales team focus their energy and attention on tasks that a computer cannot do, such as speaking directly to customers or answering complex inquiries and objections.

Review and update your pipeline regularly

Sometimes, sales actions and processes that worked well in the previous year won’t work in the next. 

Or a sales action could be optimized with new technology. 

Or maybe you’re seeing a bottleneck of leads that your team is struggling to move forward with, and you need to troubleshoot the issue.

These are just a few instances that indicate the importance of regularly reviewing your sales pipeline. It’s important to schedule regular reports and audits to check the health of your sales pipeline. Look for opportunities to optimize your sales cycle or update your pipeline to reflect changes in your business model or product.

You can get an accurate view of your sales pipeline performance with a CRM that has reporting and analysis features.

Use a CRM to automate your sales pipeline stages

Customer relationship management (CRM) software can be a lifesaver for managing your SMB’s sales pipeline. CRM software lets you define your sales stages and actions, automate tasks, and review reports on pipeline bottlenecks and sales rep performance.

With a CRM like Nutshell, you can create the perfect sales pipeline that meets your business goals and attracts your ideal customer. Some of the benefits of using Nutshell CRM for your small to medium business include:

In addition, when you use Nutshell, you don’t have to splurge on expensive marketing tools. Nutshell’s native add-ons seamlessly integrate with your system when you want to send email marketing campaigns, build landing pages, and do competitor analysis, among other crucial marketing tasks.

With affordable pricing models and endless customization and integration options, Nutshell is an excellent CRM for SMBs who want to manage their sales pipelines and boost business growth.

Manage your sales pipeline for SMBs with Nutshell

Nutshell CRM is an all-in-one solution with a simple goal in mind: helping your business make more sales.

If that sounds like something you want, sign up today for a 14-day free trial of Nutshell—no credit card or payment info required. 

We’ll get you started as soon as possible with white-glove contact importing, live demos, and guided tours so that you can hit the ground running. Try Nutshell today!

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