Building Effective Sales Pipelines for Remote Teams
Remote work has transformed the way we conduct business, and connect with existing customers and potential leads. As this shift towards remote teams continues to dominate workforces, sales teams are faced with new challenges.
Whether you're a seasoned sales manager looking to adapt your existing pipeline or starting from scratch, this guide will provide you with a roadmap and best practices for building an effective pipeline as a distributed sales team.
What Is a Sales Pipeline?
When building a sales pipeline for a wholly remote team, it can be useful to go back to basics.
A sales pipeline is a diagram representing how prospects move through each stage of your customer journey, from the very first contact with your business to completing a purchase. In practical terms, these pipelines are usually depicted in the columns of a CRM dashboard.
Prospects move through a sales pipeline by completing certain actions and meeting certain qualifications. The precise stages of the sales pipeline will differ from one organization to another, and prospects can move through its stages at a different rate depending on factors such as the urgency of a given deal or their level of interest.
Aside from giving sales reps and managers a clear idea of how successful their work is, a functional sales pipeline often serve as a cornerstone in how managers forecast a business’s future revenue.
How to Build a Sales Pipeline for Remote Teams
Designing a sales pipeline for a remote sales team calls for the incorporation of proven sales principles, as well as careful adaptation for the demands of modern remote teams. Here are the key steps needed to build a sales pipeline that will serve your remote team well.
Step 1: Review or Map Your Sales Process
Whether you have a more general sales process already in place or you’re starting totally from scratch, building your pipeline should begin with thinking about your sales process, understanding its strengths and weaknesses, and thinking about how this translates to a remote setup.
List the key stages in your sales pipeline, such as engagement, qualifying, meeting, educating, and closing deals with prospects. Consider the strengths and weaknesses in the process that you’re starting with, and how you might be able to optimize these phases for success.
Next, think about how these phases can be consolidated with the major challenges and opportunities that come with remote work. How can tools like video call and IM software, shared calendars, document and collaboration tools and more make the process easier or harder, and how can your sales team adapt to these?
Step 2: Identify Your Ideal Target Accounts
Next, have a conversation with your fellow leaders and wider sales team to identify the kinds of customers you’re selling to. Consider things like the customer’s business size, how exactly your product offers them value, and the kinds of positions your primary contacts at the business are going to hold.
A relatively small proportion of your customers will be responsible for the majority of your revenue, which is why it’s important to identify your ideal, highest-value target accounts and ensure that your time and resources are being used efficiently.
Step 3: Map Out Your Lead Generation Strategy
The next phase in building your remote sales pipeline is to create a lead generation strategy that’s tailored to your ideal target accounts.
This can cover a rich spread of different lead generation techniques depending on where you’re planning to find your customers, such as email campaigns, social media marketing, content marketing, SEO, and more.
However your strategy forms to suit the needs of your business, it’s essential to make sure you have a good balance between active and inbound marketing so that your sales reps are supported by more passive forms of engagement with your audience.
Step 4: Find a Remote-Friendly CRM Software
The capabilities of CRM software can make or break any kind of sales team. However, finding one that works for you becomes even more important in a remote setting, particularly in their capacity to provide effective collaboration no matter where individual reps are based.
As you shop around and demo different CRM platforms, try to form a list of features that cater specifically to remote teams, such as collaborative pipeline management, reporting and analytics, and ease of use.
It’s also important to look into tech support guarantees, especially if your team is going to be spread across different time zones.
Step 5: Map Out Your Sales Pipeline Stages
With your target customers and your sales process and workflow clearly defined, your next task is to define the steps required to convert leads into paying customers.
For each stage in your sales pipeline, ensure that there are clear, measurable requirements that your whole team can understand with ease. This will facilitate consistent and reliable tracking and forecasting, which are especially important to guarantee in a remote work setup.
Understanding How Sales Pipelines Differ Based On Your Industry
At this stage, it’s a good idea to review your plan so far, and consider how well it meshes with the requirements of your industry.
Though the core principles of building a sales pipeline are universal, certain nuances can require you to make tweaks to maximize your chances of success. If you’re dealing in high-value products, then your sales cycle might be longer than lower-cost products. If you’re trying to sell in a B2B service provider space, then you may need to rely more on conferences and networking events than digital marketing for lead generation.
While there’s no need to try and fix what isn’t broken, launching a sales pipeline that isn’t suited for your industry can mean serious issues further down the line. Take some time to review your plans and the nuances of your industry before moving any further.
4 Best Practices for Sales Pipeline Management
Once you’ve implemented your sales pipeline for your remote teams, here’s four best practices for managing your sales pipeline on an ongoing basis:
1. Have Clear Criteria for Each Stage: Managing remote workers has plenty of advantages, but it can also increase the possibility for communication breakdowns and mistakes. To keep everyone on the same page, make sure the stages of your pipeline are defined by objective, measurable criteria that’s communicated to all members of the team.
2. Review Pipeline Data Regularly: There are going to be a lot of variables in your sales pipeline, and errors or inconsistencies can go a long time without being noticed in a remote working setup. Ensure that your pipeline data is being reviewed regularly to maintain accuracy and pipeline integrity.
3. Use Progressive Lead Qualification: Nothing sits still in the world of sales, and that includes the criteria you should be using to qualify the leads in your pipeline. Be sure to continuously evaluate the quality of leads in your pipeline, as well as the scoring and qualification system you use to ensure you’re focusing on leads with the highest potential for conversion.
4. Foster Collaboration: A typical sales environment can encourage reps to adopt an overly independent work style, especially when they’re working remotely with limited face-to-face time. Make a point to encourage collaboration via regular pipeline reviews, cross-specialism discussions, and the sharing of insights. Aligning your efforts like this will lead to a more cohesive culture and reveal more opportunities for process improvement.
Build Your Office-Defying Sales Strategy
Remote working setups can present a number of challenges for sales managers, but building a great pipeline will give your team a core mainstay which will foster consistency and effective collaboration.
We hope this guide helps you to build a reliable pipeline that fits the nuances of your industry, and serves your unique needs as a business.