The life force of sales is a strong pipeline that’s flowing with prospective customers. Without a pipeline of prospects, it’s difficult to have long-term growth or proper short-term results. Creating one is a two-step process.
- constantly filling the pipeline with potential business, while
- taking care of the new business that flows from the pipe.
Your sales lifeline
Keeping your pipeline filled with qualified prospects is your sales lifeline. From it will flow a steady stream of orders. Here are 10 steps that will help your salespeople keep the pipeline filled:
- View prospects as customers-in-the-making. They may buy today, tomorrow or a year from now. The goal is to bring them into an orbit where they can gain an understanding of why they should do business with you.
- Decide who you want as customers. Try not to sit back and let fate decide your destiny. Be proactive and develop profiles of those you want as your customers. Make an effort to gather all the information you can on prospects. Let them know they fit the profile of customers you serve best. If you make a commitment to utilize your experience and resources to help customers succeed, you will get a steady flow of business.
- Make prospect identification a continuous process. Try to resist putting the sale ahead of creating the customer. The goal of prospecting is identifying those who fit your ideal customer profile and have the potential to become long-term buyers. Prospecting isn’t about getting through to someone. It’s all about giving would-be customers the opportunity to get through to you.
- Implement prospect cultivation tactics. The purpose of cultivation is to build a relationship with prospects. Customers set their own buying schedules, and they’re not about to have their priorities changed to fit the needs of a salesperson. When it comes time to buying, salespeople who have established themselves in the prospect’s mind usually get the opportunity to write the order. The best way to do that is to engage in passive sales contact by providing them with periodic information that will help or be of interest to them.
- Segment prospects to focus on individual needs. The goal is to have prospects conclude that your solution meets their specific needs. The prospect expects everything to be personalized. Salespeople who make a flurry of calls or send a half-dozen emails usually don’t get the response they want.
- Be a valuable resource. The most effective way to convince a customer to buy from you is to make yourself invaluable. What you sell may help a customer become more successful, but what you know solves customer problems. What you know is more important than what you sell. The best way for prospects to become aligned with your company is to allow them to discover what’s helpful to them from your experience and knowledge.
- Find ways to help customers be more successful. Value is generated by helping prospects and customers meet business challenges. Just selling them the right product or service isn’t sufficient to build a lasting bond. Going beyond the expected is today’s challenge.
- Demonstrate leadership. Establishing a leadership image captures the attention of prospects. Identify those prospects you want to do business with over time and cultivate them on a continuing basis so that they know you. When this happens, getting through the door is much easier.
- Recognize your value. Today’s customers are looking for relationships based on results and trust. With downsized staffs, they count on the added expertise of their salespeople. When selling yourself, you’re also selling your expertise. Be prepared to offer it, especially if you know that the prospect is headed down the wrong path.
- Act as if every prospect is important and every customer counts. Think carefully before passing on what appears to be the small prospect. Figuring out how to serve all customers is the real challenge for today’s salesperson, not just trying to pick the ripe plums. Some salespeople make the mistake of assuming there’s no future spending time on a particular account, only to discover that it had quickly blossomed into a major account for a competitor.
Cite: John R. Graham, president of Graham Communications, a marketing services and sales consulting firm, and author of The New Magnet Marketing and Break the Rules Selling.