Yes you can. But there are good reasons to use the pipeline metaphor in sales. As for us, we feel that our success (or failure) is more accidental if we were to go without it. Sales can still be made, sure, but the whole process tends to slip out of our control. But when we arrange all our not-yet-finished sales into a pipeline, it gives us the best chance to achieve the sales results we dream of.
For our preference, we define sales pipeline as “deals in the making that we have decided to keep an eye on and control as much as we can, in order to close them and make money”. Let me point out here that for us, sales pipeline management is a factor of self-initiative and taking control. So, the first question is how much do we want to sell, and the second question is how (fast) we want to get it done.
Pipeline Forces Us To Be Clear and Makes Things Clear
We have grown to like two things that come from working with sales pipeline:
- Sales pipeline forces us to know exactly which steps would take us to a sale. It is always crucial for success to know how you are going to get there. So, instead of having our deals in the making in “top-down” manner as a list, we arrange them to spread from left to right. We would have this imaginary track of sales going from left to right and 3 or 4 most critical route-points on it (“Meeting Arranged” > “Needs Discovered” > “Proposal Presented” > “Contract Sent”, etc.).
- Sales pipeline gives us the best feedback about how far we are from our desired result and how many extra deals need to be found. Anyone who has given a look at a pipeline full of deals with expected monetary value knows how honestly and clearly it shows how much money one will make.The left side of the pipeline marks the start and right side the end of the sales process. So, we’d have a deal near the right end (“this one’s almost home”), a couple at the beginning (“these we just started with”) and some in the middle of the track (“these we have made some good progress with”).
Selling Never Ends, There’s Just A Bit More Fun With Pipeline
So we keep selling, asking each other questions like “What’s in your pipe?” or “How far are you from getting this company to be our customer?” With deals arranged like this, we like that we see instantly how far we are, and what are our chances of generating the desired amount of sales and cash.
We are in control, and we can take initiative at any time - by adding new opportunities to our pipeline, taking extra care of deals with highest probability of coming through, shaking up deals that seem to stagnate at one stage for too long, and so on.
This is why we like sales pipeline.
Now that I’ve outlined some of the benefits of thinking about sales as a pipeline, some of you might want to know what’s the best way to do that. There are many options:
- When you are working solo and deal with 10 potential customers at a time, any text file or good old flip-chart paper will do just fine. Simple and fast.
- When you have 2-3 people selling and more potential customers to work with, then a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Docs will be more convenient. Still simple, customizable and rather fast.
- When you have tens and tens of potential customers to deal with and many salespeople working to get sales made, it would be a sin not to try out Pipedrive. This is why we created it - to be as simple as pen and paper and much better than a spreadsheet.