I was asked the other day what my best telemarketing tip was and, as boring as this may sound, my answer was “ensure you have a significant and qualified sales pipeline”. But in reality, that’s far from simple. After all, if it was, we’d all be doing it! ? Though, in my humble opinion, it’s only as complicated as we allow it to be.
A Steady Stream of Leads
It’s not going to shock you to hear that your sales numbers are at risk if your pipeline is not steady and strong enough to help you achieve your sales targets. Very few organisations can sit back and wait for sales to come to them. Fewer can survive on existing business alone without targeting fresh sales.
As a consequence, your sales and marketing team needs to generate sufficient qualified leads that are relevant for your business. Part of the process is to qualify prospects both in and out. Not every prospect is going to fit your requirement. Some will be too small. Others may require services that are outside of your particular skill set.
Lead Generation Starts with Targeted List-Building
Your ability to generate new business is only as effective as the quality of your targeting. That starts from marketing list building. Every ambitious outbound sales campaign should start with a target list. At the outset, you need to clearly profile your audience. It’s important to fill your data pool with the kind of companies, and job roles, with which you’d like to do business. It isn’t about mud-slinging and hoping some of it sticks. You can waste an awful lot of time and money if you don’t ensure accurate targeting from the beginning of your campaign.
Therefore, make sure that you consider aspects such as sector, location, job functions, company size, and whatever parameters might make a good long-term customer. Consider how their industry might be changing. Are there factors that mean your products and services will be in higher demand? Where possible tightly define your target customer profile but ensure that there are enough prospects with the potential to fill your pipeline.
Momentum is Paramount.
Seeing a constant stream of new opportunities coming through the door energises the sales team and gives impetus to those responsible for delivering the revenue numbers. Qualification and profiling are key in these endeavours. There’s no point having a sales funnel full of irrelevant prospects that will either never do business with you or clients that spend so little that the ROI is unworkable. The aim is to remove these before any sales outreach. However, that’s not always possible.
That’s where good sales people know how to validate and profile during a sales call. It’s about asking the right questions during the process. There is a fine line though. If Tesco is a target but they aren’t ready to do business right now, do you ditch them and move on? You may have to move on but it’s about establishing the right time to call back, the time when they may be reviewing suppliers, the period when new budgets are available.
The Essence of the Sales Pipeline
Ultimately, if you get your targeting right from the data build, you will have a number of prospects at each stage of your sales cycle starting with those you haven’t contacted through to those where you’ve established the right time to contact them again through to those that constitute hot prospects. But nothing happens without working this sales process to conclusion.
The reality is that successful business development requires planning, effort and consistency. So, unless you have a significant number of leads coming to you as a direct result of your inbound marketing efforts, you will probably need to undertake some work on your sales pipeline. Every business has a defined gestation period before sales leads and profit begins to flow. So ask yourself two questions:
- How many hot/warm leads do you have in your pipeline at the moment?
- How many calls, conversations with a Gatekeeper / Decision Maker etc does it take you to generate a sale or appointment?
Do you Know what your Statistics are?
The same principles apply regardless which channel you use. You need to understand your cost per acquisition, and the ratios for the component parts of the process. Whether you measure open and click through rates from email marketing through to the number of prospects that fill out a form or download something on your website or you work out cost per lead for PPC, you need to test and measure.
Successful sales and marketing executives know what activity they need to put in in order to achieve their sales targets. Once they’re aware of the numbers, and know what they need to do to make those work, they are far more in control of the outcomes. And, when they’re in control and aware of the figures, it’s far more likely that they will consistently deliver results because they understand what’s needed in terms of activity to plug any shortfalls in leads or revenue.
Dealing with Wastage and Rejection
Sadly, but not unsurprisingly, not every marketing activity delivers success from the get-go. And, whilst the more you can refine the process the better, it is to some extent about your level of activity. The more you put in, the more you will get out. There will always be wastage. You will always experience objections, blocks and rejection. There is no sure-fire solution that works every time.
To some extent, the only way you can achieve your sales quota is to generate the maximum number of appropriate leads and qualify the maximum number of prospects to get to the level of warm or hot leads. You may have to kiss a few frogs despite your efforts at data building and profiling at the start of the process. Some fish just won’t bite, while at other times you will land a big catch.
Play the Long Game
However time-consuming it may be, it is important to assess each lead and each prospect diligently so that not a single prospective customer engagement is wasted. After all, intelligent business development is not just about today. Sales pipeline management is about qualifying prospects in, but also about qualifying them out in order to have a robust sales engine that feeds growth. Some prospects just aren’t ready now. That’s why you need a long-term strategy that ensures that opportunities aren’t missed.
Timing is everything. So, make sure your systems and processes are capable of tracking and flagging prospects at the right time. Without effective processes, your business development efforts will run aground. A perfect pipeline is one that has short, medium, and long-term prospects. And, it’s an ongoing challenge that needs to be consistently managed.