Summer is right around the corner. Is your sales pipeline ready?
Some businesses do have seasonality, when sales are brisk in one season and slower in another.
The key to success in consistent, monthly sales is pipeline strength. And one part of an accurate pipeline (your sales forecast) is understanding the length of your sales cycle.
If your sales cycle is six months from start to finish, then it doesn’t matter how hard you prospect now; it won’t affect summer sales, but it will impact your fall. Understanding that cycle is critical.
Here are three areas you can manage to build a strong pipeline:
Are you doing enough of the right prospecting to create conversations with people that fit your ideal customer profile, farming existing customers (a great resource) and new prospects?
The right prospecting might include:
- Calls: cold and warm (yes, they still work!)
- Direct mail
- Industry associations
- Social media
Some of this prospecting is active (talking directly to prospects) and some is passive (putting it out there, say through advertising, and hoping someone responds). Some are short-term and some are long-term, but all have value in a sales plan.
For companies that rely on consultative selling, the only way to start the process is for someone to call you or you call someone. There must be a direct conversation.
Also, you must have your ideal customer profile (ICP) defined. This is your segment of the overall market, based on clearly defined quantitative and qualitative criteria, that represents those who have a perfect “fit” problem for your solution, and who are able to buy it. Don’t waste time on those who aren’t a good fit.
This is an objective reflection of the particular stage of specific opportunities in your sales process. It isn’t a guess or a percentage likelihood that they might close.
If you do enough of the right activity, you’ll book qualified appointments with the right people. Assuming you follow a clear, defined sales process, the prospect and you will travel together down a path through “qualified” to a close or a “no.” Because you followed a process, you can understand why the opportunity did or didn’t close. And you can learn from it and do what it takes to fix the problem.
There typically four reasons why a sale goes south:
- You were talking to the wrong person or the wrong company – not your ideal customer.
- You didn’t have clear, strong agreements about how the process would work and what the next steps would be.
- You weren’t able to uncover an emotional, compelling reason to create enough urgency for the prospect to change what they’re currently doing.
- You misread the decision process: When the required solution must be implemented and how they will arrive at the decision to choose a solution.
Closed business with new revenue
The last area is results – profitable revenue for the company. If you did everything else right (activity and pipeline) then this is the easiest part.
The best way to assure consistent sales performance during the summer is to step up your prospecting activity (and track it carefully), manage and control your pipeline (quantity, quality, balance and velocity) and watch the results roll in.
Learn more about the Building Sales Success Series with the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center.
Steve Parry is the president of Sales Productivity Consultants and Denver Metro Small Business Development Center’s Building Sales Success series instructor.