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Managing your pipeline is both an art and a science that, when done correctly, will help you land more business. This involves understanding the needs and aspirations of potential clients to better manage their journey from prospect to client.

We see five common challenges among financial professionals as it pertains to sales pipeline management:  

  1. They’re aware of those who are interested in their services, yet their asset details, level of interest, or their timeline for engagement remain murky
  2. They recognize prospects who are actively considering their services, but overlook those who may do so later
  3. They have contacts moving too slowly through the pipeline or deciding not to use their services at all
  4. Their pipeline is cluttered with contacts who aren’t actively considering their services
  5. There are inconsistencies in how various team members manage their pipeline, onboard new clients, etc.

At the core is the absence of a structured system to track and nurture those who are considering your services. If you don’t have a system to determine which contacts make it into your sales pipeline, how they’re categorized, or a standardized communication plan, your results will be inconsistent at best. 

At Oechsli, we see a variety of techniques for pipeline management: notepads, spreadsheets, and customized customer relationship management systems are just a few. The medium doesn’t really matter, but the process does—greatly. Top financial professionals actively manage their pipeline. They provide enough, but not too much, contact, and are intentional about how they move potential clients from one stage to the next.

I’ll share three tips for effective sales pipeline management. The goal is to regularly add new prospects to the pipeline, then walk them down the path of becoming a long-term, loyal client.


First, Segmenting Your Sales Pipeline 

Do you ever feel like your pipeline’s becoming a bit unwieldy?

Over time, a variety of contacts can make it into your pipeline, which isn’t a bad thing. But if you’re not careful, you end up with a crowded pipeline that isn’t very actionable. To fix this, start by segmenting contacts into three categories based on where the relationship currently stands.

The Three Ps of Your Pipeline

Divide your contact list into three categories:

  1. Potentials

    These are the contacts you’d like to be your clients, but you haven’t approached them about business yet. These contacts include friends, neighbors, former colleagues, business owners in your community, your kids’ soccer coach, and the list goes on. This list is broad by nature, and that’s okay. That’s why it exists. These contacts are on your radar, and the goal is to get them on your prospect list.

    Example: The owner of a local restaurant where you often dine asked you some innocuous questions about the markets, but the conversation hasn’t gone further.  

  2. Prospects

    You’ve had a business conversation with these contacts and you’re still hoping to bring them on board as clients. This list should be cleaner and more focused than your list of Potentials. For someone to be considered a Prospect, a business conversation must have taken place, they must seem qualified for your services, and they must be at least somewhat receptive. This list of contacts is your core focus. Analyze each contact weekly to determine next steps.

    Example: An accountant referred their client to you. You’ve had a meeting to get acquainted, and you believe you’d be a good fit for each other.

  3. Periodics

    They’ve opted not to move forward with you or said, “not right now.” Once it’s been established that they’re not ready to move forward, add them to your Periodics list. The idea is to stay on their radar by connecting with them periodically without being pushy. When you’re needed, you’ll be the first one they call.

    Example: A contact said they’ll stay with their current financial professional for now, but it’s okay for you to keep in touch.


Second, Creating a Checklist for New Prospects 

Many small gestures and personal touches can make a prospect feel valued or important, such as calling and sending messages from time to time. But a consistent approach is essential. Below is a checklist we recommend to engage your prospects.

New Prospect Checklist

  • Connecting on social media 
    • Send a Facebook friend request or invite them to like your business page

  • Doing online research 
    • Email an article about a financial topic that’s of interest to your prospect or pertains to their situation

  • Sending a handwritten message   
    • Mail a note to your prospect after a meeting to thank them for their time

  • Having a non-business contact  
    • Ask your prospect to join you for lunch

  • Showing attentiveness
    • Send a travel-related article if your prospect is planning a trip, or an article about one of their hobbies

Now that you have ideas to stay in touch with your prospects, there’s another critical habit to add.


Third, Establishing a Routine 

One of our coaching clients, a financial professional, told us that one new habit he developed had paid for our coaching services.

What was it?

He stopped in the lobby of his office building every morning to spend 20 minutes working on his pipeline. He thought about each contact, the appropriate next steps based on their respective category, and the actions he needed to take before entering the distraction zone of his office.

A key aspect of this is formulating next steps before each meeting with a prospect. If you plan to invite them to your next intimate client event, ask them to lunch with their spouse, or give a tour of your office in advance, you won’t miss creating another connection opportunity.

What’s your routine? Do you regularly review your pipeline and create a game plan? Do you share it with your team or your manager each week? Accountability helps you stick to your routine, increasing the likelihood of success.


You Might Be Thinking, “Isn’t Any Prospect a Good Prospect?”

Often, financial professionals who are focused on growth cast a wide net and see all contacts as equally promising. By treating them the same, they may spend too much time tending to those with less potential and not enough on the ones with the most potential. The sales pipeline becomes jammed, and fewer prospects become clients.


To Summarize

First, segmenting your pipeline using the 3 Ps will help you and your team prioritize your efforts. Second, creating and implementing a new prospect checklist helps you maintain a connection with prospects and keeps you and your practice top of mind. Third, establishing a routine of reviewing your sales pipeline and planning next steps helps ensure that no qualified prospect slips through the cracks.


A Well-Managed Pipeline Leads to Growth

While the principles of effective pipeline management might not be revolutionary, their application—and results—can be transformative. By implementing a systematic approach to identify and nurture prospects, you can invest your time and energy where it’s needed most and significantly increase your conversion rates.  


Next Step

Begin segmenting your contacts into the three P categories.


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