Filling the Sales Pipeline – Creating an Authentic and Reliable Sales Pipeline
I love this old Chinese Proverb – it sums up my view of Lead Generation and Pipeline Creation perfectly:
‘The best time to plant a tree was 100 years ago; the next best time is now’
I get called in by a client when they want to improve sales performance – I’ve mentioned before some of the acid tests I do to assess the scale of the problem, possible solutions and time frames.
Most often, the area that causes me the highest level of concern is the quality of the sales pipeline.
New Business vs Repeat Business
Now, any company that has been in business for any length of time may well have a decent level of repeat business and this maybe enough for them.
However, the value of the NEW BUSINESS SALES PIPELINE should never be underestimated.
Running a business based purely on repeat business from existing customers is a high risk strategy; especially in uncertain times and trading conditions.
One of the hardest jobs I have to do is to convince the company and the sales team to agree to a concerted effort to look for new business.
Weak New Business Sales Pipeline
Why is it such a battle to convince a business to spend some time focussing on new business development.
The question is why don’t they already do it, or want to do it?
In some cases they may think that:
- They don’t need to, they are ok as they are
- They don’t want to incur the added cost that comes with new business acquisition
- They have never needed to in the past
- The sales team are under resourced so pipeline building and high quality prospecting is never top of the list of things to do
- The reward and recognition scheme is the same for new business as it is for existing business
- Data isn’t available for lead generation, pipeline building
- All are quite common reasons given, and there are a few more that could be added too
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of New Business Lead Generation and New Business Sales
Working with clients in many sectors I get to see those companies that are well run, strategically solid and with a highly commercial focus, and invariably these companies put great effort into CONTINUAL lead generation.
I can identify these organisations by looking for a few things:
- They are proud to talk about the authenticity of their sales pipeline
- They have a sharp grading structure for prospects moving through the pipeline
- They have a set of criteria for what qualifies a prospect of each grade and what must happen to move that prospect from one level to the next
- They are happy to test the validity of the prospect on an ongoing basis and discount the prospect if needed
They require and encourage CERTAINTY in their sales operation. ‘Mights’ are minimised.
Filling the Sales Pipeline – Qualification
Of course this degree of qualification in a sales pipeline relies on there actually being a sales pipeline that is controlled and managed by the company via the Sales Manager/Director – who holds each and every contributor accountable.
This should NOT be confused with the sales guys sales forecast – a sales forecast is a feeder document into the sales pipeline.
There are endless reasons why accountability and the focus should set with the manager/director – for another blog maybe
The key points here are that:
- Lead generation should be a continual activity even if it’s only the qualification of 5 new prospects every day – how would your business feel about an extra 100 qualified prospects going into the sales pipeline every month?
- Keep the sales team focused on good time management when they are generating sales leads – stick to those organisations that have a high chance of being able to buy, afford and consider your product or service offering – forget the scatter gun approach – this is quality over quantity
- Don’t be afraid to start the relationships with the potentially bigger purchasers of your service – stream the lead generation activity into short term, mid term and long term – that way you get a rolling pipeline not a stop start pipeline, also the pipeline has diversity – less risk
- Consider changing the commission structure to reflect the skills and effort required to secure new business as well as hang on to and manage existing accounts
- Use the sales lead generation exercise to gather market intelligence – what are your competitors doing, for how much etc – feed this information in centrally and use it to outsmart the competition….today, everyday
- Look for prospects in your target markets that have experienced ‘trigger’ events – change of personnel, internal restructure, MBO etc – these factors will be different for every organisation – what are your ‘trigger events’
- Keep the prospecting list topped up – 100 minimum at any one time – never let it get below 100 – these should be organisations you would LOVE to work with – not just a random list pulled form a 3 year old directory someone found on the internet. That list is your future pay cheque – look after it and it will look after you.
If you’re looking to dramatically increase the new business opportunities in your sales funnel, give your sales pipeline a shake and see where you could be harvesting high quality leads at very low cost – hit the link – Leads ++ for more details
Or you can call Carol on 0779 002 1885 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Plus you can get your sales improvement and business development insights here – just hit the link – The Advanced Business Achiever