Make the Sales Pipeline a Priority
by Leslie Groene
Every prospect, no matter the stage of the sales cycle, is part of the sales pipeline. A salesperson’s ability to juggle these prospects, often in differing points of the sales cycle, is referred to as “pipeline management”. Balance is the key to maintaining a continuous flow of opportunities.
The sales pipeline consists of all prospects at all stages in the sales cycle – whether you are in the beginning phase of introducing your company, discussing the product or service, qualifying a prospect, conducting a webinar or product demonstration or formally presenting a pricing proposal.
The phrase “pipeline management” refers to the salesperson’s ability to juggle all of their prospects in differing points in the sales cycle. “Balancing” the sales pipeline refers to their ability to cold call, follow-up on existing leads and close sales simultaneously so that they have a continuous flow of opportunities and will not have huge period-to-period swings in closed sales.
Though all future sales begin as leads from one source (cold calling, referrals, tradeshows, etc.) or another, only qualified or contacted leads should be in the sales pipeline. All unclosed sales, however, belong in the sales pipeline as well.
Professional selling has many stages, which have been the same throughout history and effect your personal income. They include prospecting, presenting, following up and closing. I coach my clients that there are many steps in between these crucial steps of the sales cycle depending on the type of prospect, how long the sales cycle is and your personal selling style. If your sales and income are down, it is because you are not prospecting enough, presenting enough or following up and closing enough. The way to increase your sales usually is for you to increase the quality or quantity of your activities in one or more of these areas.
Imagine Your Sales Pipeline
Imagine the basic sales model as a funnel. At the top of the funnel, you put in prospects. You have to call on a certain number of people to get a certain number of prospects. This number varies depending on the market, your product or service, your individual skills in prospecting, advertising and many other factors.
An important part of the sales funnel is presenting. There is a direct ratio between the number of people you call on initially and the number of people who will agree to meet with you. Let’s say, for example, that you have to call on 20 prospects to get five presentations or meetings. This would give you a ratio of 20-to-5 for your prospecting activities. Selling is very much a numbers game.
Follow Up and Close
Another necessary part of the sales funnel is that you have to follow up and close. Let’s say that you have to follow up with two prospects to get one sale. What this means is that you have to put 20 prospects in the top of the funnel to get one sale out of the bottom of the funnel, a ratio of 20 to 1. The rule, therefore, is this: “Keep your funnel full.”