As a sales professional, you know that one of your most valuable assets is a full pipeline. The list of prospects with whom you’re working at every level of your sales funnel is an essential ingredient to ongoing sales success. It’s easy to go from “hero-to-zero.” The secret to staying a “hero?” Keep a strong list of warm prospects who are at some meaningful stage in the buying cycle. It sounds pretty simple, but in today’s buyer-controlled marketplace, it’s much more complicated than that.
The secret, of course, is to keep your pipeline full of prospects at different stages of the sales process. Imagine how boring your work would be if every prospect were at the exact same stage in their buying process at the exact same time! Keeping a healthy balance of fresh prospects and ones nearing closure requires attention and management that’s sometimes difficult (but always essential) to devote.
Begin by making a list of all of the prospects you’re working with right now. Next, divide them into categories depending on where they are in the sales process.
Building your pipeline is only half the battle. By its very nature, it won’t stay full forever. After all, if you’re effectively working your prospect and client list, you’ll constantly convert prospects into satisfied customers and sell existing customers more!
In order to maintain a full pipeline, you have to:
Prospect some more.
Oh, and then you’ve got to go prospect again!
Adding to your pipeline is important work because it’s essential to continued success. Today’s sales stars know that selling is no longer about “ABC” (Always be Closing), it’s about “ABP” (Always be Prospecting). Sure, that’s not nearly as catchy, and it can be a less-than-pleasant task for a lot of salespeople, but it’s the absolute, number-one, hands-down best way to develop a pipeline.
Prospecting is, of course, only one aspect of sales. That means it’s important to manage your time with care.
Time management is difficult for salespeople whose schedules are, by the nature of their job, very unpredictable. Sometimes it’s difficult for us to know in the morning where we’ll be in the afternoon. But that’s all the more reason to manage your time with care.
Consider mapping out your week and setting aside “unbookable” time to devote to prospecting. If you know that Monday mornings tend to be slow, why not claim that time for this purpose?
In order to use your time effectively, identify target-rich segments. It’s a waste of your time to pursue prospects who aren’t going to buy anything. And your time is incredibly valuable.
Successful prospecting can be accomplished by doing things like:
Speaking to Groups;
Asking for Referrals…
Before beginning your prospecting efforts, it’s important to determine for yourself (unless your sales manager has already given you the answer!), how full is “full enough?” An overflowing pipeline is worthless if it’s too full for you to effectively manage. Think about factors like available resources, your territory or industry. Don’t forget to consider your own desire and ability.
In short, never fill your pipeline beyond your ability to deliver on your promises. Ever.
By working toward identifying and reaching out to new, highly qualified prospects, you ensure your pipeline is always filled.
Not every prospect is created equal. Your local phone book could fill a pipeline, but unless you’re giving away oxygen, not everyone is qualified!
Remember your list? Consider rating each prospect on a scale (A, B, or C).By doing that, you’ll be able to tell – at a glance – just where you should focus your time. The key is differentiating between an A and a C.
An A is someone who meets all five characteristics of a qualified buyer:
They have a need for your product or service and are aware of it;
They have the ability and authority to pay for it;
They have a relative sense of urgency about the decision;
They have a significant level of trust in you and your organization; and
They’re willing to listen to you.
Bs and Cs have fewer than five of those characteristics. As prospects move through the sales process, you should adjust their rating. This is what top-notch salespeople do when they analyze their pipeline.
Because salespeople tend to be optimists, you might end up with too many A’s. Unfortunately, not everyone can be supremely qualified. If you find your list is flush with A’s, try going back through your list and pegging some as AA’s and others as A’s. Again, not all prospects are created equal. If you’ve really got a list overflowing with AA’s, we’d like to hear from you to learn your secrets!
Remember that the key to a full pipeline is always prospecting. So, set aside the time and dig in. There’s no time like the present!