Fill and manage a vibrant sales pipeline with these seven strategies.
Establish A Sales Goal: A healthy pipeline centers on having enough good leads in the works to meet or exceed your sales goals. Therefore, start by establishing clearly defined revenue objectives. “From there, you can work backwards into what constitutes a healthy pipeline,” says Julia Kline, small business coach and author of the best-selling book The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Sleaze-Free Selling.
Understand Your Close Ratio: Sales reps often want to know if there is a correct number of leads to have in a pipeline, but there is not a single magic number. A rep’s proper number of pipeline leads depends significantly on his or her personal close ratio. Thus, reps must know how many sales they typically close per number of leads they get. “If you close 50% of your leads, then you need two leads in the pipeline for every one sale you hope to close to meet your goals,” says Kline.
Qualify Leads: Having a pipeline packed with scores of names may look impressive, but it does not necessarily do you any good. Quantity is only positive if the prospects in question also represent quality – meaning they are people who have need of your services and can potentially be converted. A practical way to ensure your sales funnel is stuffed with quality leads is to pre-qualify prospects. “When you connect with potential leads, do a quick qualification procedure,” says David Blaise, owner of Blaise Drake & Co., a sales consultancy that specializes in the promotional products industry. “Ask a quick question or two to find out if they have a need for promotional items. Try to find out when that need will next come up.”
Categorize Qualified Leads: Once you have qualified a prospect, Blaise suggests filing them into one of several categories. Category one is for prospects ready to buy right now. Category two is for prospects who desire promotional items at a specific point in the future, but are not prepared to proceed at the moment. The third group is for would-be buyers who are generally receptive to investing in promotional products, but do not have any particular marketing initiatives on their calendar. The final two categories are for disqualified leads and for unresponsive people. Obviously, do not put disqualified leads in the pipeline.
Define and Organize: To maximize close rates, establish a sales process with clearly defined stages. This will help you smoothly guide prospects toward transactions. Relatedly, have a system for managing your pipeline – a system that indicates which category buyers are in, where they are in the sales process, when to follow up, what the prospects’ interests may be, etc. Consider using sales tracking software to help. Being systematic and organized will help ensure no opportunities slip through the cracks.
Work The Pipeline: Yes, it’s essential to make prospects ready to buy now your highest priority. But it’s also pivotal to devote chunks of time to nurturing the other leads in your funnel. So, be sure that your sales process includes lead nurturing and follow-up. “When you do that, you get to a point where sales are converting on a consistent basis,” says Blaise.
Get To Prospecting: To keep your pipeline stacked with prospects, devote time to generating new front-end leads. “It can be helpful,” says Blaise, “to define the type of customers you want to have. This helps you be more targeted in your approach.” Start building your lead list by asking satisfied clients for referrals. Attend networking functions and join networking groups. Leverage your network to make connections with ideal prospects in markets you’re already adept at serving. Identify growing niches you do not currently work with and link-up with prospects in those fields. Create online content that’s valuable to target buyers and share it through social media channels.