Monday, April 6, 2009

Understanding Your Sales Pipeline

Do you remember that old television commercial—the one that said, “And then she’ll tell three people, and they’ll all tell three people,” on and on? Wouldn’t it be nice if actual sales really worked like that? The fact is the commercial never says all those people who got told would actually turn around and buy the product.

That’s the problem really: there’s a vast amount of difference between the hundreds of people who need to find out about your business before a few of those people will actually buy. Think about the number of people you had to tell about your business just to get it up and running. Now that you’re established, your focus has changed to both maintaining and increasing the sales levels you currently enjoy. Although your company was probably originally built up by your prospecting efforts, as a businesses matures the level of prospecting seems to fall by wayside. In today’s changing economy, you need to find the most efficient ways to keep qualified prospects entering your pipeline, nurture those already in process, and provide your salespeople with the candidates who are most willing to buy at the end of the pipeline.

A sales pipeline is a funneling process for sifting through every potential customer in order to find those who will actually buy. As you do this you will typically hear four responses:

“Not interested.”

“I’ll buy – but I’m waiting for budget approval.”

“As soon as the new warehouse is done, I’ll order.”

“I’m ready to buy right now.”

Of course, what we all want to hear is “I’m ready to buy right now.” This is where the first money is made for your business and your salespeople. But, with the funneling perspective of a sales pipeline you will understand that even when your pipeline is filled with highly qualified prospects only 25% of those potential deals will actually follow through to close. What happens to the other 75%? That’s the big question your sales pipeline needs to address.

The important thing to remember about sales pipelines is the “X” percentage factor I talked about in an earlier blog. Even if they didn’t buy from you this year, they might be in line for next year, or the next.

You want to fill your pipeline with the most qualified prospects available so that the highest majority of sales possible can come out the other side. But, you also don’t want to forget about the people still stuck at the beginning and middle of your pipeline. If you nurture those relationships, outside of the pressure of closing, then the majority of them will transition from point to point in your pipeline rather than going somewhere else when their “X” percentage factor for buying comes into effect.

Today’s compensation packages encourage salespeople to put most of their efforts into the end of the sales pipeline. It takes a little retraining to help everyone understand how best to nurture those “not yet” relationships.

Ekstrom & Associates specializes in helping you understand how to fill your pipeline with the most highly qualified prospects and creating nurturing relationship with the prospects already in your sales pipeline. When a prospect is ready to make his purchase, he is released to the salespeople. Until then, the prospect is nurtured without closing pressure.

No comments:

Post a Comment