We are regularly asked about Client Relationship Management (CRM) systems and their effectiveness. It is interesting to note that many financial institutions or businesses DO NOT have a CRM. And those that do generally complain about the lack of use by their staff.
Ultimately, a CRM is simply a tool to help you manage your customer relationships (existing and prospective), plus relationships with other strategic partners.
When asked about CRMs we generally reply with a question too:
“How do you manage your pipeline?”
We are frequently amazed by the response …. or lack thereof. It seems that very few banks or companies have a formal pipeline management process … and then fail to understand why they are not consistently achieving growth targets.
We have all heard the sales expression “Your Pipe Is Your Life” (or at least we hope you have heard it).
If you do not have “deals” in your pipeline then you are unlikely to grow your portfolio, your business or your career. Consequently, this could have a major impact on your quality of life.
Therefore doesn’t it make sense to build a better pipeline management process so you can keep the customers/prospects flowing and eventually fill your deal bucket.
In fact, if you can build a solid pipeline management process that improves productivity and enables deals to easily flow through, then it is highly likely your bucket will overflow …. which will ultimately lead to the need for a bigger bucket (ie. bigger goals, more support, bigger business, bigger rewards, and bigger career).
So how do you build a better pipeline management process? Consider these simple factors:
1. Capture Connections Not Contacts
Your pipeline is not your rolodex of contacts (do they make them anymore?) or simply a contact directory. There are plenty of tools available for that (including LinkedIn).
Your pipeline should capture customers/prospects with whom you have engaged in conversations about their needs/problems.
By capturing information about people with whom you have made a connection (i.e. shared information that could lead to new business opportunities), you can leverage your pipeline to ensure you continue to build this valuable connection …. or assess whether it is even worthwhile maintaining.
2. Track Activities & Engagement
Too many pipelines simply track deals that linger in “deal limbo” with very little detail about the efforts made to progress the opportunity.
Many deals can be lost simply due to lack of customer engagement activity, including regular follow up …. and I’m not talking about the pointless “check-in” email or phone call.
With pipeline management processes, we like to track all business development activities so we are clear about how we engaged a customer/prospect, how often we engaged them and how they responded.
3. Qualify Your Effort
Does your pipeline management process include dutifully qualifying each connection or deal opportunity to ensure you are maximizing your business development effort and making progress?
When do you decide the connection/deal is obsolete or no longer worthwhile maintaining/pursuing?
What qualifying criteria do you use to ensure that you are making an impact and that the customer/prospect want to continue engaging with you?
4. Review Periodically with a Learning Mindset
Formally review your pipeline at least once a month with a colleague, your leader or a mentor.
Weekly team meetings are not ideal forums to review everyone’s pipeline because, realistically, most people don’t care about someone else’s pipeline. And usually it’s simply a roll call of deals or potential deal volume for the month.
A detailed analysis of your pipeline at the beginning of each month enables you to better determine where you should invest your limited business development time for the month ahead.
It also helps you determine what activity is making an impact, what activity isn’t and, most importantly, what skill development and support needs you require.
Diligently review your pipeline with a learning mindset and you will consistently develop skills, behaviors and beliefs that will significantly enhance the flow of your pipe.
Are you simply cataloging contacts and deals or have you developed a more effective pipeline management process – that incorporates the above elements?
Highly effective pipeline reviews will always teach you something about your connections, your value proposition, your sales process and your business development skills.
Of course a “sophisticated” CRM system can help with all of the above ….. but the level of sophistication and investment is superfluous if you do not have a process for diligently reviewing and managing your pipeline.
Learn to build a better pipe and become obsessed about managing it. You will soon discover/learn better ways to engage your customers and better manage your time that leads to greater success and a bucket overflowing with happy customers.
Start building your better pipe today!
For more career, sales, and leadership advice please contact our coaches
Joe Micallef – Sales Coach – email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (773) 329 0066
Donna Flynn – Career/Management Coach – email email@example.com, or call (630) 624-4319