By Zen Newman, Marketing Analyst at PipelineDeals
There is absolutely no shortage of literature in the world talking about how to create/manage/run the world’s best sales pipeline. In spite of this abundance of information, creating a process that generates consistent revenue (and commissions) is something that alludes many sales professionals from front line representatives to division managers. Many of the people who struggle with this are motivated and capable salespeople who are familiar with sales strategy. Problems seem to arise in turning theory into consistent daily practices that create the desired results. Having seen ups and downs in the sales process, I’ve attempted to distill some of the building blocks of success into actionable tasks that create the conditions for sales success.
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There will always be rich times and poor, big months and small, but a well-maintained sales pipeline will help level the valleys and hopefully make the peaks all that loftier. Managing the sales process is about creating the focused conditions whereby success is most likely to occur. It’s about taking a process that can be unpredictable and making it predictable, and forecastable. At its core, a successful sales pipeline is an amalgam of simple actions repeated in an deliberate sequence to move prospects towards becoming customers.
At the top of the funnel, there is a variety of techniques that salespeople perform to begin the conversation. Let’s, focus on those prospects we find on our own instead of those that marketing brings to our doorstep. The challenge in this part of the funnel is in creating a system of consistently reaching out to prospects via email, cold calls, and door-to-door stop-ins to generate the interest to move forward. Since sales prospects at this stage are almost universally cold, engaging them requires both persistence in reaching out to them and a well-crafted message to deliver relevance to them. Since breaking the ice with new prospects can be daunting and, at times, discouraging, setting aside a regular time every week to pursue them is critical. Furthermore, since it is already a challenging process, the best sales development professionals map out the steps to target new prospects multiple times through several channels to reach and engage them. Someone who’s never heard of you before is unlikely to respond to your first outreach, but through consistent effort, they’ll often become more receptive to a conversation with you.
A targeted mix of emails and phone outreach is becoming the standard in many industries. Several cloud-based apps do an excellent job of facilitating this process, one of which is Salesloft. If it’s feasible, adding face-to-face interaction through targeted drop-ins can further enhance your targeting process. Regardless of whether you choose to use apps to help with the process, schedule sales development sessions to make sure the activity is happening and plan out a sequence of interactions to maximize your yield.
The more effort you put into sales development, the more prospects you should see convert into interested leads. The central point of the sales pipeline can consume a lot of time and energy preparing presentations, meeting with targets, and negotiating. Even though this is the case, make sure always to carve out time for additional prospecting and follow up work to ensure a steady pipeline.
For most salespeople, the central part of their sales funnel is the part they are the best at handling. The biggest thing to keep in mind at this stage is how many potential clients are you engaged with not only this week but next and ideally, even further out. That way you have a sense of what you will be closing on in the coming weeks. Having knowledge of your appointment to close ratio and average sales cycle will also help you keep pace in achieving your goals and projections.
There are many customer relationship management software platforms that will help you keep track of your appointments, but puzzlingly, many of them don’t offer the ability to view your sales funnel as a whole. Keeping track of where each prospect is in the buying process provides critical feedback on if you’re putting enough effort into the front end of the sales funnel. If companies are exiting your pipeline faster than usual, it means adding more to the top to ensure your sales funnel continues to produce reliably weeks and months from now. Visibility to your entire sales pipeline is at the core of the PipelineDeals CRM.
The close is often the most talked about and focused on part of the sale. Paradoxically, it is often one of the least impactful parts of the sales process. A client relationship, if properly shepherded through the buying cycle will reach a natural closing point where the ask is relatively straight forward. The key at this point in the sales funnel is to make sure that follow-up happens consistently and correctly. With all of the business flowing through your well-run sales pipeline, it becomes necessary to stay organized in your follow up to make sure nothing slips through the cracks or is left sitting for too long untouched. Circling back around in a structured manner is a huge factor in improving yield from this part of the sales funnel.
In the sales process, the middle section will often take care of itself. Most sales reps are well trained to deliver presentations as long as they are provided the leads. Focusing in a structured way on either end of the sales pipeline will ensure that more leads are entering the funnel and once in the funnel, are not being squandered by inadequate follow-up. To the uninitiated, sales success can look like serendipity or worse, blind luck. However, the best sales performers manage to stay on top, quarter after quarter and year after year. Achieving success means removing the chance from your sales pipeline and engineering it to succeed.