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How’s your sales pipeline looking this quarter? What’s the likelihood that you’ll hit your forecast?

How confidently can you answer these questions? That is, without checking in with each of your reps or spending hours rolling up reports? Probably not very – and you’re not alone. Pipeline visibility is a major struggle for companies of all sizes and industries. In fact, 44% of sales execs believe that their org is ineffective at managing its sales pipeline.

The problem starts when companies assume that simply “keeping a pulse” on sales is as easy as monitoring wins and losses. They fail to put the necessary processes and protocols in place to ensure that prospect communications, rep activities, and all other components that make up a sale are easily accessible and clearly visible throughout the entire sales pipeline.

Without this information, defining success and identifying areas for improvement gets pretty darn hazy. That’s why we’re sharing these three important tips to help you and your team achieve 20/20 pipeline visibility.

Solidify a Sales Process

As famed professor and business consultant Edward Deming once said, “If you can’t describe what you’re doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.” A sales process is intended to provide your reps with proven steps they need to take to bring a prospect from lead to close in the fastest and most effective way possible. These steps can include everything from asking certain questions, to identifying decision-makers, to receiving specific confirmations.

Not only does this give your reps a clear roadmap, which is especially important for newer sales folks, but having a clearly defined sales process in place also leads to a series of consistent data points that can be measured to understand, predict and improve performance over time. In fact, research shows that there is an 18% difference in revenue growth between companies that define a formal sales process and companies that don’t.

Putting a sales process in place doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an iterative, on-going objective – but it’s worth it. To get started, check out this eBook: 3 Keys to Developing a Scientific Sales Pipeline.

Define Your Data Points

Part of creating your sales process is defining the specific information you need to know to move a deal from one pipeline stage to the next. This is extremely helpful when it comes to achieving pipeline visibility, as it establishes a single lens through which to view sales performance.

Say you want to understand why one deal is progressing through the sales pipeline at twice the speed of another. If different information has been recorded and there are no common reference points between these two deals, getting to the bottom of why this is happening and how it can be fixed is essentially impossible.

That’s why not only is it important to define the data points your team needs to collect, but it’s also paramount to ensure that this information is being captured in a consistent fashion. For instance, say you require reps to enter a reason when deals are lost. However, every rep enters the information as they see fit: “no money,” “too expensive,” “price wasn’t right,” etc. Good luck digging through that data for insights!

Instead, giving reps a standardized list of loss reasons to choose from enables you to compare apples to apples. Now, you can compare the qualities of deals that were lost for specific reasons to try to weed these out of your pipeline earlier in the sales cycle. We call this process building your sales data strategy.

Make CRM Adoption Mandatory

In a recent interview, founder of the New Sales Coach and two-time best-selling author Mike Weinberg said, “If you’re going to have a CRM, you have to have 100% CRM adoption, otherwise good data and reporting are impossible.” Put differently, you can ask your sales team to follow a sales process and collect certain data points, but how can you achieve pipeline visibility if these items don’t live anywhere? Or, even worse, if they live in different Excel spreadsheets, notebooks and reps’ heads?

Mike continues, “One of the best things that I’ve seen a company do is say, if it’s not in the CRM, it doesn’t exist. However, I understand why people want to avoid a cumbersome CRM setup. You shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to log calls, take notes or access information. Your CRM should make it so easy to do these things that your reps actually want to use it.”

Ask yourself: would you use your CRM on a daily basis if you didn’t have to? If the answer is no, it’s time to find a new one. Think like a consumer during the purchasing process, and place user experience at the top of your list of non-negotiables. Giving your reps a CRM that they actually want to use makes hazy pipelines a thing of the past.