See the Sales Pipeline Clearly with Qualifying Questions


Ask any CEO or Sales Manager how their customer relationship management (CRM) solution is working out and more often than not they’ll say “We’re not really using it as much as we should,” or something like that.

Ask them why they purchased the CRM software in the first place and you’ll likely hear “Well, we wanted be able to see everything going on with a given customer in one place and we wanted a good way to see the pipeline of future sales.”

So what gives?  Did the CRM system not work the way they expected?  Probably not.  Basic centralized management of customer information and pipeline management are pretty standard features in CRM software.

In most organizations the sales team is the primary interface with customers and therefore the source of most information about customers.  Why aren’t they using the CRM?  Contrary to popular management opinion, it’s not because they’re just lazy or they’re afraid of the “big brother” aspect of CRM software.

Most CRM systems are underutilized by the sales team and fail to meet expectations due to the lack of clear requirements from management.  This leaves the sales team using the system haphazardly from the outset.  This leads to inconsistent information in the system and the vicious cycle begins to spiral downward.

The sales team may be tough to manage but, given specific instructions of exactly when they should enter information into the system, they’ll do their best in general.  In addition, if these expectations have been defined, then reports can be created that compare the people on the sales team based on this information.  They’re naturally competitive and now use of the system begins to take on a life of its own.

Sales Process and CRM Software Depend on Each Other

It’s not easy for a typical entrepreneur to define their sales process.  They’re not sales people normally.  It’s not easy for sales people to define their sales process.  Few are good at looking at themselves and what they do objectively.

But, most sales people can tell you what questions they ask leads and prospects to measure their likeliness to make a purchase.  These are called qualifying questions and they make the foundation of any sales process.

Defining these qualifying questions, building them into the customer database as fields where the answers can be entered, categorized, measured, grouped and analyzed gives the customer and prospect list organization and enables segmentation and targeting of marketing and sales efforts.

Sales Pipeline Management Depends on Good Qualifying

Sales pipeline management enables meaningful future sales prediction.  One sales person may make lots of calls and talk to lots of people every day but, close few of them.  Another sales person may have strong relationships with high level decision makers and close most of the opportunities uncovered.

If both of those sales people list all the potential opportunities they encounter, then the sales pipeline of the first sales person may appear to be bigger and stronger.

If, on the other hand, only leads that have been “qualified” by providing the desired answers to the qualifying questions are added into the sales pipeline, then the forecast will be far more reliable.

So, for those struggling to find CRM success or those preparing to implement a CRM solution, the answer can be as simple as an hour or two meeting with the sales team to distill those qualifying questions and another hour or two to customize some fields in the CRM database.  From there, clear guidelines can be created for all team members to follow.

This sets the table for leveraging this organized, consistent and segmented resource to target specific messages via email marketing, direct mail and sales campaigns at specific niches and in support of sales efforts as well as providing insight and analytics that management can use to steer the business toward greater success.

About the Author

Craig Klein

Craig Klein is founder and CEO of, the first online CRM solution to include complete email marketing and access to targeted contact lists.  Craig has published several eBooks and is a regular speaker on sales automation and lead generation topics.  Craig's passion is to help businesses grow so they can improve the lives of their employees, customers and communities.

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