Is Your Sales Pipeline Nothing but a Sewer Line?
Reposted from Mark Hunter of Capitol Marketing Concepts
What is in your sales pipeline? More importantly, is what's in your pipeline moving?
When I'm working with salespeople, I see far too much sewage that is being passed off as prospects. News flash! There's a big difference between a prospect and sewage! Clearly, too many did not read the memo. I hope you weren't one of them!
The problem with sewage is it contaminates everything else it comes in contact with. This means the sewage you have in your pipeline is destroying the good prospects you also have. If you want to save your good prospects, you need clean the pipeline and get rid of the sewage.
If the contact you have in your pipeline is not moving, it's sewage and you need to call it out as being just that. One of the easiest ways to keep the sewage out of your pipeline is by keeping it as short as possible. This means making it easy for the person to do business with you and being willing to ask tough questions early in the process.
By making it easy for the customer, I mean by not holding out for the absolute big sale. Make it simple by allowing the customer to buy early. After they've bought once, it becomes easier to make the next sale. When we make it a long sales process, we're inviting the customer to look elsewhere. This extends to how we extend credit and set up new customers. The key is keeping it simple early on. As the customer buys more, we'll then have the history of the customer to help us with credit limits, etc.
Now let's talk hardball.
Are you asking tough questions? I like to say the goal is to kick leads out of your funnel rather than having them in it. Yes, it's harsh, but don't go thinking I'm trying to turn away business. It's about using your most valuable resource - your time. The sales you close are going to be directly related to those prospects you spend time with.
The only way you can make more time is by stopping those things that are doing nothing but draining your time.
Tough questions I like to ask include:
What's your timeline for making a decision?
How have you made decisions like this in the past?
What's the impact to you if you don't make a decision?
What is making this an important issue for you?
Now, do not go using any of these questions verbatim! I'm providing them only to spur your thinking. Each situation is different, each customer is different and you're different from me.
The key is finding what's comfortable for you, but remember there are times when you have to push the customer. Failing to push the customer can keep them in a warm and fuzzy position. Problem is the only outcome you'll get from a customer who is warm and fuzzy is someone who's not coming clean with the truth.
Before you go thinking I'm advocating you throw out the lead that doesn't fess up to the tough questions, that's not the case. Well, sure you can put them out to pasture, but it better be a small one you can access quickly with marketing messages or other tools that don't consumer your time.
The plan I recommend is when you have a lead that clearly is one you can't move forward with even a small sale quickly, you move them to a "C" list. I call it "C" for "communication." It's a list to which you'll send out an occasional email with great information and then ultimately follow up with another round of phone calls in a few months.
This way, what you're doing is segmenting your list quickly to allow your pipeline to not be the sewer line it can tend to be. Your goal is to keep your pipeline looking like a short, fast-flowing water pipe.