- Posted by: Jon Smart
- Categories: Marketing, sales, tips
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had a big impact on businesses of all sizes and has made prospecting for sales trickier than usual. However, just because more businesses are working from home, face to face meetings aren’t happening and networking opportunities are scarce, it doesn’t mean you should neglect your sales pipeline.
In fact, with a bit of effort, it might be easier than you think to maintain a healthy sales pipeline, even in lockdown.
What is a sales pipeline and what are the stages?
A sales pipeline allows your business to organise and assess your sales and marketing, to move potential clients more effectively through your sales process and focus your time and effort in the right areas.
It will also help you keep track of what work you have coming up, and when it might land, so you can plan your resources and finances accordingly.
Usually, a sales pipeline can be broken down into the following stages:
This is where you first make contact with a prospective client, either by phone, email or at an in-person meeting. If you get their contact details and their consent to communicate with them, this should be logged in your CRM, at the first stage of your sales pipeline.
Once initial contact has been made, you should qualify the prospect. That means discovering if they have a need for your product or service and can make a decision to buy. At this stage, you should also try to discern whether they might buy from you now, or at some point in the future, as this will have a bearing on when to pursue them.
Once you have established that your lead is worth pursuing, the next stage is to book in a meeting with them. This is to find out more about their business, explain what you offer in more detail, and establish whether they have a genuine interest in doing business with you.
Once you have qualified the lead, met with the customer and explained your product or service, the next stage is about pitching the sale to them. This is usually done by sending them a proposal document that shows your understanding of their needs and how your product or service can solve their business problems. It also sets out the terms of them entering into a commercial arrangement with your company.
Once the prospective client has received your proposal, they will either accept it, decline it or want to negotiate on price, terms or added value. You’ll need to conclude these negotiations successfully to move to the next stage and close the deal.
At this stage, you’ve done all the hard work and all that remains is to turn the prospect into a paying client. Contracts should be signed and deposits should be paid before you can start work on delivering their solution.
The sales pipeline doesn’t close once the deal is signed. Looking after your new customer from hereon in is essential. You should not only work to exceed their expectations when delivering the work but keep your customer engaged so you can nurture them for more longer-term up-sale opportunities.
Why you should keep your sales pipeline full
It goes without saying that an empty sales pipeline could be catastrophic for your business, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, if your pipeline dries up and you have no new work coming in, your cashflow will dry up and your business may no longer be financially sustainable.
Secondly, a full sales pipeline will help you to plan and forecast more effectively. If you have complete visibility over what work you have currently, what you have coming up, and when it might drop, you can plan your resources and investments with much more clarity.
A full sales pipeline will also help ensure you are utilising your capacity more effectively throughout the year, so you can better plan for peaks and troughs in your activity.
Tips to build your sales pipeline
With the UK still in lockdown, events not possible and many businesses working from home rather than in the office, it can be difficult to spot sales opportunities and maintain your sales pipeline.
However, keeping your pipeline as full as possible throughout lockdown will not only ensure you don’t miss any opportunities, it will also help you emerge from lockdown stronger.
Here are a few things you can do to keep things ticking over…
Don’t stop marketing and selling
It might seem like it, but the world of business hasn’t stopped turning. Many businesses are having to adapt to new ways of working because of the lockdown restrictions but are still doing what they do. So, don’t stop marketing or selling to them. If you turn your marketing tap off, new connections and sales opportunities will be harder to come by, so keep calm and carry on marketing.
Face to face business networking meetings have not been possible for a while which is a shame, because nothing can beat the connections you make and the conversations you can have when you are in the same room as people.
However, there are still huge numbers of virtual networking events taking place every day of the week. They are easily accessible and while they may not be the same as face-to-face events, you will still get the opportunity to pitch your business and connect with people who may be interested in your products or services.
Get good on social media
Again, because face to face meetings are a no-go at the moment, you’ll need to find other ways to get out there and make connections with potential customers. One way is social media. Our advice here is to work out which platforms will work best for your business, and then do them well. If you run a B2C or lifestyle brand, Facebook or Instagram may be a good bet. For corporate or B2B, getting active on LinkedIn will serve you well.
Loads of free advice about social media best practice is available on the internet, so do a bit of research and start putting yourself out there a bit more.
Work with aligned partners
If new sales opportunities are hard to come by because of lockdown, then you may be more reliant on referrals to keep your pipeline full.
There may be some people in your contact book who it would make strategic sense to work alongside – you deliver complementary products or services or work with a similar customer base.
So, work your existing network to see if there are any opportunities for closer working or referral opportunities.
Koa Consulting can help support you in growing your sales pipeline
Growing your sales pipeline, and getting more value from your customer relationships, is the key to sustainable business growth.
We offer a full suite of solutions and services to help your business generate more leads, close more sales, maximise your customer relationships and achieve your goals.
We can give you a fresh perspective on your business, so you can take a different approach to build your sales pipeline and emerge from lockdown in better shape.