Landing a sale is hard work, and an unoptimized sales pipeline makes the process both more difficult and more susceptible to potential hazards. Inconsistent documentation and rigid systems handicap salespeople or, worse, give them an excuse to go rogue and put together their own sales assets. In either case, your business suffers. A pipeline process that slows your salespeople down will lengthen the sales cycle and, in the worst cases, jeopardize sales. And if your salespeople feel compelled to create their own sales assets, the potential for inconsistency skyrockets.

The Big Idea: Controlled Flexibility

To keep your business safe from these risks, ensure the most efficient process, and deliver the best customer experience, you need a sales pipeline process that is both controlled and flexible. Control allows you to maintain consistency, compliance, and brand integrity. Flexibility enables your salespeople to tailor the process and documentation to the situation at hand.

Control: Standardization

Consistency is a critical element of your sales pipeline. Internally, it provides the framework for a sales process that can be easily and efficiently replicated across your organization (no need to reinvent the wheel for each pitch). Externally, it provides a seamless and consistent customer experience. Standardization also greatly reduces the risk of human error. From brand messaging and service offerings to contract terms and pricing structures, standardizing your sales materials eliminates the need to worry about anyone misrepresenting your offers or making promises your company can’t keep.

Flexibility: Personalization

On the flip side, you don’t want to stifle creativity entirely. After all, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t always work. Implementing a sales enablement solution that gives your salespeople a fast, easy way to personalize sales materials ensures they are fully equipped to address the specific needs of any pitch or sales conversation. Being able to customize and personalize presentations, proposals, and contracts within the constraints of pipeline standardization gives you the best of both worlds and a better chance of winning the business.

Control: Automation

In addition to helping ensure your salespeople don’t get mired in busywork, automating key parts of the sales pipeline process provides important checks and balances. Automated workflows that respond to pre-defined triggers can, for instance, alert specialized team members when a project requires their attention, reclassify a deal, or remind a salesperson to follow up with a particular prospect. In each of these instances, automation lightens the salesperson’s workload (so he or she can focus on relationship building instead of paperwork and project management) while also guaranteeing that all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted according to official procedures and protocols.

Efficient Pipeline, Healthy Business

While the customer conversation begins well before your sales team presents the first proposal and extends far beyond the signature on the first deal, pipeline activities represent a crucial turning point in the company/customer relationship. Getting those initial interactions right not only makes or breaks the initial deal, but also wins or loses you the lifetime value of the opportunity. A sales pipeline process that balances control with flexibility gives your sales team and your whole organization an edge that can make a big difference to your long-term bottom line.