Keeping your sales pipeline full seems to get more challenging with each passing year.
Quotas keep rising, but the number of people you can sell to seems to be decreasing.
How are salespeople supposed to hit their targets this way?
One of the leading causes of this problem is a lack of prospects. Think of it this way: When there aren’t enough leads at the top of your sales funnel, you would eventually be left with zero opportunities to close deals.
Unfortunately, most sales methodologies begin at a point where there are already prospects that you can convert. The focus more often than not is on closing, not on prospecting.
But if you don’t have any prospects, you can’t close any deals.
That’s why building a strong sales pipeline is important.
What is a sales pipeline?
The sales pipeline is a visual representation of all the stages of your sales process, from your first interaction with a lead or a contact all the way to capturing a sale. It shows your selling performance at a glance, allowing you to easily see which activities and strategies are working and which ones need more work.
Now here’s the tricky part: There isn’t one foolproof, tried-and-tested way to build pipeline. Since sales pipelines vary from business to business, different sales organizations tend to have their own unique processes and rules for pipeline creation. At times, it even varies per member of the sales team.
The lack of standardization in pipeline creation poses several risks, such as:
- Difficulty identifying specific areas for improvement
- Less accurate sales outcomes
- More good leads getting stuck in dead zones
That’s why salespeople who can create, maintain, and improve pipelines will have a higher chance of thriving in today’s cutthroat world.
How to Keep Your Sales Pipeline Full
Having plenty of sales opportunities prevents you from relying on bad sales practices that could harm your bottom line, such as offering discounts or guilting prospects. A full sales pipeline allows you to confidently set the price your product deserves, knowing that there are plenty of other opportunities you can fall back on. This results in a larger average deal size, more referrals, and positive feedback.
1. Always be prospecting
Spend time every day to look for new leads on LinkedIn, look for buying triggers in the news, and reach out to new prospects via email and phone.
Your prospecting efforts need to be consistent. You see, if you let yourself take a day off one time, you’ll be tempted to do it again a week later, and then the week after that.
And before you know it, you won’t have new leads in your pipeline anymore.
Try blocking some time on your calendar, setting an alarm on your phone, asking another salesperson on your team to keep you accountable, or writing “prospecting” on your daily to-do list. Force yourself to prospect daily—whatever it takes to make it a habit.
2. Upsell and cross-sell.
Sure, working non-stop to attract new customers is exciting. However, if you want to increase revenue without ramping up your lead generation efforts, upselling to existing customers is key.
You see, with new customers, you need to establish trust before they’ll even listen to you, let alone buy your product.
In comparison, your existing customers already trust you. Since they already purchased from you before, they’re much more likely to buy from you again—provided they’re happy with your service.
It’s also a lot cheaper to sell to existing customers than to new ones. According to the 2016 Pacific Crest SaaS Survey, the median Customer Acquisition Cost for upsells is just $0.28 per $1. This is a bargain compared to the $1.18 spent to acquire $1 of revenue from a new customer.
So take the time to regularly check in with your existing customers. Keep providing them with value and identify win-win opportunities to upsell them.
3. Incorporate social selling.
Social selling is necessary to survive and thrive in today’s modern, digital sales environment. The sooner you embrace this, the faster you will meet quotas, grow your pipeline, maximize your profitability, and elevate your team’s skills.
The SPEAR Selling strategy is an effective way to fill your sales pipeline and prospect more efficiently. First, a seller needs to be accountable for their own territory by visualizing their Total Addressable Market (TAM). This allows them to see clearly where gaps and opportunities lie, and they can apply signal intelligence against accounts in their TAM so they can objectively Select and Prioritize the most promising prospects using data-based Signals.
From there, the seller moves on to Planning—developing executive business plans for the top accounts. Engagement starts after, powered by synchronous and asynchronous video.
Next, the seller Activates customers by applying the signal intelligence and the stories they have created against their accounts. The seller should gauge the customers’ feedback—also known as buying intent—before moving to the Reprioritize phase. In this last stage, the seller will redevelop their TAM based on all the data they have gleaned.
4. Ask for referrals.
Your current customers are the best source of your next customers. They believe in your value proposition; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have bought your product.
So once a customer has crossed a certain lifetime value with you, ask them to refer you to someone in their sphere of influence who can use your product.
“Traditionally, when B2B salespeople ask for referrals, they would ask the customer to determine who they should be introduced to,” says Amar Sheth, Sales for Life’s COO. “That’s actually very dangerous. It’s not a smart thing because the customer now has to think about it, which means that there’s a high likelihood that this request may not even be fulfilled.
The best way to go about it, Sheth continues, is to aim for an introduction to a specific person.
“if you could find out who they’re connected to using the power of social media, then you can ask for strategic referrals,” he says. “Using tools like LinkedIn, you can determine who they’re connected to and ask for a strategic and precise referral. This way, you can enter accounts of your choice, not just the choice of the customer.”
5. Know your top customers and focus on them.
a. Grow deeper in existing accounts
In time, you’ll observe that your team closes more deals with companies from a certain industry. For example, if you close six times more deals with mining corporations than food companies, then it makes sense to focus on mining corporations.
The same logic applies with roles within a company. If historical data says you’re more likely to win a deal when you work with the research team versus the culture team, you should get an introduction to a research team member ASAP.
b. Focus on account retention
Account retention entails building relationships with your customers and maximizing revenue from every single one of them. But it’s not a one-way street: You have to provide more value to your existing customer base as well.
Your sellers should ensure that the customers they have acquired will have a great experience with your company and will stay satisfied with your products and services. Some strategies include improving customer support, offering discounted renewal rates, and rolling out multi-channel engagement campaigns for existing clients.
6. Automate as many processes as possible.
The simpler and easier prospecting is, the less you’ll dread doing it—and the more efficient you’ll be.
There are several CRM tools that you can use to make sales pipeline management easier. You should set reminders and create automated emails to reach out to prospects. Always try to move them further along the pipeline, even after the deal goes cold. Automation lets you focus on warm leads while keeping an eye on cold ones, as well as prospects with longer buying cycles.
Creating and maintaining your sales pipeline isn’t an overnight affair. You have to take good care of properly plotting your pipeline in a customer-centric manner, and this is a process that could require a lot of trial and error. But the result will always be worth it.
Above all, you should never stop prospecting.
A lot of people only prospect at the start of the sales cycle, and that’s not a good strategy. As a seller, you should always find ways to drive new business, no matter where you are in the customer life cycle. You need to be intentional about it, and all your actions should be centered around the creation of new opportunities.
Remember: Building sales pipeline for the sake of building pipeline is meaningless unless you understand what you need to achieve by what date as milestones to get you to your goal. You need to be pointed about the actions and activities—the only things that you control—you should do to achieve that goal.