An article, "How Small Changes in Pipeline Management Make Big Changes in Top Line Revenues", by Chuck Schaeffer, provides some valuable ways to optimize and manage your sales pipeline that will increase your top-line revenue.
Some highlights follow:
Rather than design the pipeline as a silo storage container for sale opportunities, it's a good idea to architect the sales pipeline within the bigger context of a revenue funnel. Designing an integrated lead-to-revenue funnel permits sales and marketing leaders to measure conversions and work backwards from slated revenue targets by knowing exactly what must go into the Top of the Funnel to come out of the bottom.
The single biggest lost opportunity in pipeline development is lead leakage. The second biggest problem is pursuing unqualified leads that can't be won. According to Sirius Decisions, 80% of leads generated by marketing get ignored by sales. The stats from Gartner, Forrester, and CSO Insights are nearly the same. Far too many marketers continue to throw unqualified leads over the fence to sales.
Hygiene & Maintenance
Let's face it, a lot of salespeople have happy ears and wear rose-colored glasses. This optimistic view has the result of overstating the volume and the quality of sales opportunities. I've also found that sales opportunity probabilities linked to sales stage activities tend to overstate pipeline values. The biggest problem here is that the typical sales activities (qualification, discovery, demo, etc.) are entirely focused on what the sales person does, and not linked to buyer advancement.
For more information, read InfoGrow's article, "Lead to Sales". This will walk you through everything you should know about the sales pipeline and lead generation/management.