Feature review: Sales pipeline

We're continuing our series of feature review posts. This time, we'll tell you a little bit about the sales pipeline features we have in Bisnest.

Originally, we thought that the sales features such as sales pipeline and sales budgeting would be a separate module, in addition to the Customers module. Pretty soon we started thinking that we have to have a sales pipeline and offer it to all our customers without having to purchase an additional module.

Let's face it, sales is at the core of the relations with your customers that you manage with a Customer Relations Management system.

From sales lead to closed deal

When you are tracking potential sales with your customers, one sale usually starts as a sales lead, often with a reference to a contact or customer, and a description. You then qualify sales leads into real opportunities that have estimated closing dates and monetary values. If all goes well, an opportunity is finally turned into a closed deal, which translates into more money in the bank.

Typically, CRMs have leads, opportunities and deals separated, and in the worst case, you end up copying a lot of stuff between leads and opportunities or opportunities and deals, when these items transition from one state to another.

In Bisnest, you only have one item or row if you will, and depending on what information you have stored with that item, it is called either a lead, an opportunity or a deal.

Begin your sales process with a sales lead

In most cases, your sales process begins with a sales lead. You might have overheard something at a customer, or read an article in a newspaper that made you think that you may have a possible sale to make.

In Bisnest, a lead is simply a reference to a contact person or a company and a description. Be as verbose or compact as you like with the description, but remember that it should describe the potential sale with enough detail for someone else to pick that up and start working on it.

All users that have access to Bisnest are allowed to create leads. We think this is important, because it's not just sales guys who can generate leads. Remember also that the field employees you might have out there connecting with your customers ever day have a really good understanding of what your customers are thinking and talking about.

The easiest way to create a sales lead is to use the lead widget on the front page dashboard in Bishest.

Qualifying leads into your sales pipeline

Qualifying leads into your sales pipeline as sales opportunities in Bisnest simply means that you take the list of leads you have (accessible from the leads widget on the front page dashboard), review each lead, and add an estimated close date and estimated monetary value and save it. This will turn your lead into a sales opportunity.

Many CRMs tend to use a probability from 0% to 100% that allows you to say how likely you think that the estimated value will turn into a closed deal. The sad thing is that this probability is never used for anything. It just sits there! You can probably agree that giving a percentage describing the likelihood of something happening is a waste of time. You can probably say that something is highly unlikely, 50/50 chance or highly likely, but that's it. And still, this information is seldom used for any purpose.

In Bisnest we've done things a bit differently. You don't give a probability for the estimated value of an opportunity, but instead, you specify the estimated value for a sales opportunity as a min / max range. If you think of it, this is something that you can specify with much better precision. Let's say that a customer may want to purchase a product that costs 500 EUR, but with a few add-ons the price might go up to 750 EUR. Then, the estimated value for your sales opportunity would be 500 - 750 EUR.

Similarly, if you're for instance a consulting company and you sell your expertise by the hour, and a customer might be interested in hiring you for a consultancy job that usually takes 3 to 5 days to complete, then the estimated value for that sales opportunity would be very easy for you to set.

Handling overdue sales opportunities

Many times, you create a lead, and qualify it into your sales pipeline, but then you forget about it. This won't happen in Bisnest, since we will remind you on the front page dashboard about all your sales opportunities that are overdue. An overdue sales opportunity is an opportunity where the estimated close date is in the past, and that has not been closed or lost.

This way, you will never forget about a sales opportunity, and we'll keep "nagging" until you either delete the opportunity, close it, which is naturally the preferred action, or mark it as lost.

Closing deals

The final step in your sales process is to take the sales opportunities and try to close all of them. The dashboard on the front page of Bisnest is designed to guide you in your work. From the sales pipeline chart, you can easily see your monthly situation and see the relation between opportunities and closed deals. If you have a lot of opportunities and estimated value, but your deals are very low, then you know that you need to pick up the pace in closing your deals. And if you don't have enough opportunities, then you know that you need to improve on your lead generation and start talking to your customers.

The sales pipeline chart on the front page shows you the current month +/- 3 months. The three months in the past give you a trend of the direction you are going in, and the three months in the future show you how that trend is going to look like in the future. Clicking on the various areas on the chart allows you to drill down into the data behind and list the opportunities or deals associated with that element.

Summary

The sales pipeline features will be rolling out in the coming days and will be available to all our current beta customers without any actions required from our customers. We feel that this simple way of handling a sales pipeline will suit our existing customers as well as our potential customers very well. We are of course happy to take any comments or suggestions you might have on our sales pipeline, or any other Bisnest feature for that matter. Pick your favourite channel from the options below in the footer.

If you got interested, sign up for our beta programme (which is closing in a near future) and try it out yourself.

Mika Berglund