My experience tells me that your pipeline is probably full of dead wood! It’s full of those who you’ve called and emailed but whom never respond to anything; it’s full of those who have said “it’s on hold” because their company is merging with another and it’s full of those who still haven’t got buy-in internally from the real decision maker.
I could go on!
But, being an optimistic sales person you want to leave them on your list “just in-case”
Come on, you have got to get real and be honest with yourself and remove them from your pipeline.
You’ve got to stop kidding yourself and you’ve got to understand what the true value of your pipeline is so you can take the right action and fill it with qualified prospects and leads.
I remember being called in to do some sales consultancy for a firm that sells software.
“We’ve got 20 sales people and a full pipeline but no deals are closing” said the Sales Director
I took one look at their pipeline and worked out that a staggering 65% of the leads across 20 sales people were what I classed as dead wood prospects – they had about as much chance of closing as me growing hair!
The team got honest with themselves and had a massive cull and they then channelled their energies on the prospects that had a chance of closing and they spent time on filling their pipeline with qualified leads – time that otherwise would have been spent on follow up with the dead wood!
So my message to you is to get real with yourself about your pipeline.
Take a long hard look at it and be honest – otherwise the time you spend following up on “zero chance of closing” prospects will damage your sales figures when you could have been spent that time filling your pipeline with new prospects that you’ve got a chance of closing.
5 Warning Signs Your Sales Opportunity Won’t Close
If you experience any of these warning signs, don’t delude yourself into thinking they’ll close. If the sales process does get stalled out and you leave it in your pipeline, the only person who loses is you.
1. Not sure when they’ll change: If they’re hemming and hawing about when they’ll change, they’re not a prospect right now.
2. Shift in Priorities: If they tell you other, more urgent priorities have emerged, they’re not going to be buying in the near future.
3. Boss Isn’t Sold: If they tell you that the boss isn’t sold, it’s not likely you’ll get a signed contract anytime soon.
4. Unresponsive: If they don’t respond to your calls or emails, take them off your prospect list right now.
5. Interested but expecting delays: You’ll want to keep in touch if they are still very interested but projecting significant delays – but don’t count on them.
Learning to let go is an invaluable skill in this business. It keeps you realistic about the opportunities (or lack of them) in front of you. It frees up mental energy to pursue new prospects that you have a better chance of winning. It keeps you agile.
MTD Sales Training
(Image by ArtJSan at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net)
On my first day at work, I was given a list of people to call and a phone. I was told that the more people I called, the more success I would have.
Well, although it was a partly successful , I soon realised this was not the most effective way of getting sales! Simply having a list developed by people who would never actually have to call the people on it wasn’t the best strategy ever devised.
Later in my career I learned that a salesperson has to realise he or she is running their own business, and that business (like every other) has to have a firm foundation laid in a plan that focuses on two main areas: The development of a solid sales pipeline built on a quality database, and a proactive prospecting plan.
Build a Quality Database
Take the time to research your prospect’s business online prior to reaching out. Leverage social-media information that you can find on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. While it is tempting to create as large a database as possible in the hope that high numbers will produce prospects, this is only partly true. Yes, you need lots of prospects, but if they are not a great fit, they will only dilute your focus on the best opportunities.
Linkedin will help you find the right people to contact. Remember, it’s a database for your prospects and doesn’t replace the skills you need to sell effectively. It will, though, give you a list of people who are connected to you in more ways than you will imagine.
Think about whether or not your prospect looks like your ideal customer. Do they look like the last several closed deals? Build a database in your CRM consisting of quality prospects that you know are a fit for your products or services, and be honest about deleting and adding to it every day. This is the pool from which you will find prospects to fuel your pipeline.
Develop a Sales Strategy
Now you are ready to create a well-planned, consistent, proactive, outbound plan to ensure success.
Think of your prospects as a network of professionals to whom you can offer help. Reach out to them with a phone call, a Linkedin message or an email, and if you don’t catch them directly, leave a voicemail followed up by an email introducing yourself and your company. Explain to them why you believe they should take a few minutes to speak with you. You might try a message like this:
Give them a compelling reason to speak with you, not an airy-fairy marketing pitch. These people get calls every day, and if you don’t sound like someone who can add value, they will not take the time to speak with you. You have to stand out, and if you don’t, then you’re just like all the rest.
Always fine-tune your message for each industry segment and job function. Don’t use one boilerplate message on every call. Customise, personalise, individualise, and optimise your calls. Engage interested prospects, and remove those who are not ready to buy, but always keep in mind that it is your job to add value on every call. Don’t be afraid to drop prospects if they don’t help you to achieve your goals
Build your database, especially through social media, reach out to your prospect base consistently with a value-add message, set a goal to complete an good amount of quality conversations per day as appropriate for your business, and hit that conversation goal every day. Completing your plan will turn your target-rich pipeline into sales and commission.
Before I sign off, here are some more tips on becoming a great sales person:
MTD Sales Training
(Image by Sheela Mohan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
You had a great month! You closed a ton of sales, including that big one that you had been working on forever. However, shortly after the euphoria of “Sales Person of the Month” awards and a huge paycheck begin to wear off, a horrible reality sets in.
You look up and realise that your pipeline is completely dry. You have little or no fresh leads, no appointments, and no proposals in the mix, nothing. What happened? You did everything right? Right?
As you work, you must take measures to keep the pipeline traffic flowing and here is a simple way to help you do just that.
Simply replace every sales item that you use. By sales items, I am referring to sales calls, contacts, appointments, proposal, sales, etc.
For instance, you pick up the telephone and call a cold lead from your database, and make contact with that lead. Now you have one additional “contact with a decision maker (DM)” in your database. However, you also have one LESS cold lead. Replace that lead as soon as possible.
When you set an appointment with a contact, you now have an additional “appointment set” in your funnel, but you also have one LESS raw contact. You need to replace that contact. When you meet with a DM, complete a sales interaction and make a proposal, you now have one LESS “appointment.” Set a new appointment to cover the one you just used. If you close the sale on an active proposal, then your number of “active proposals” just went down. Replace that proposal. Just replace everything.
Keep your averages in mind as well. For instance, if you have a 25% closing average, in that it takes you four presentations to close one sale. Then when you close one sale, you are now SHORT four presentations. Replace those immediately.
Some things in professional selling are as simple as your mum always told you. Just put back everything you take!
Sean McPheat MTD Sales Training
You have finally closed that big one! You have been working on that sale for a long time and no one believed that you could close it, but you did. However, now you look up and see your pipeline is empty. You are short on leads, prospects, appointments, everything. When your pipeline runs dry, it’s like being stranded on the beach and up to your ankles in troubled waters.
Consistent Sales Activity and Work Ethic
Of course, if you constantly maintained an even work ethic and always completed the same amount of calls, contacts and other sales activities, you would never have the dry pipeline problem. If you follow your Science of Selling, then you understand the importance of keeping your numbers steady, regardless of the results. However, in case you missed that lesson, here is another way to keep an eye on your treasure trove.
Replace Everything That You Use
Simply replace every sales item that you use; put it back. By sales items, I am referring to sales calls, contacts, appointments, sales, etc. For instance, you pick up the telephone and call a cold lead from your database, and make contact with that lead. Now you have one additional “contact with a decision maker (DM)” in your database. However, you also have one less cold lead. Replace that lead as soon as possible.
Once you set an appointment with that contact, you now have an additional “appointment set” in your funnel, but you also have one less DM for which you have not set an appointment. When you meet with that DM and do a sales interaction and make a proposal, you now are left with one less “appointment”. If you close the sale, then your number of “active proposals” just went down. Just replace everything.
Keep your averages in mind as well. For instance, say you have a 25% closing average, in that it takes you four presentations to close one sale. Then when you close one sale, you are now short four presentations. Replace those immediately.
Get your pipeline full and then replace what you use.
Bestselling Author, Sales Authority & Speaker On Modern Day Selling Methods