Perhaps this is a bit of a bold statement. However, it is a pretty tough market out there, and if you haven’t got a healthy sales pipeline, the chances are that your forward sales are likely to look a deathly shade of off white. If you’re lucky, you may see a quick turnaround from enquiry to sale. But, certainly for businesses with a significant value of sale, it takes time to close. Therefore, a robust pipeline is what’s needed to keep the fire burning.
A Healthy Pipeline = a Healthy Business
The fact is that you can very clearly assess the health of a business by the size of its pipeline. That doesn’t mean that we should allow our sales guys to chuck a load of dodgy prospect data into our CRM system that will never come to fruition in several months of Sundays. It’s about quality ahead of quantity. There’s no point basking in the stream of a gushing sales pipeline if, in reality, that stream is more of a weak dribble that is about to dry up altogether.
What we’re talking about here is a qualified pipeline. That means companies that you’ve profiled that you’d like to do business with. They have the wherewithal to purchase your products or services. What’s more, you’ve established a reasonably imminent need, intent, or interest in doing something about that need.
Properly filtered sales pipelines allow you to forecast the likely sales and profitability of your business. It’s inevitable that your business will experience client attrition. You can probably quite reliably forecast the drop-off in client business each year. With that in mind, it’s fairly obvious that if you bring in less new customers than those that leave, you will be in a perilous position before long.
Whist client retention is crucial, organisations must also focus on generating, maintaining and converting a stream of new business sales enquiries. The stark reality is that, despite our best efforts at sophistication, to some extent it is a numbers game. That doesn’t mean that we should target anyone. Customer and prospect profiling are essential. What it does mean though is that there will be a certain number of sales leads in your sales funnel at any given time. Some will convert. Some will drop off and some will sit there for quite some time before they go one way or another.
What a Sales Guru Told Me
I spent some time many years back with a supposed sales guru. The reason for the meeting was that I was concerned that I wasn’t converting enough new business. After 5 minutes discussion, the sales guru stopped me in my tracks and said
‘I know what your problem is’.
That comment took me aback. He then proceeded to explain that my problem wasn’t conversion. He said that I was perfectly able to convert based on my approach and my personality. My problem was simple. I had too few leads in the sales pipeline. As a consequence, I was fixated on converting the few I had. He told me that there was an inevitability that some prospects are earnest but not ready to convert. Others are procrastinators, or even time wasters. And, of course, there are some that will convert. The challenge is to ensure more of the latter and fewer of the former and to ensure enough of a flow of leads to take the pressure away from ‘needing’ to convert every single one.
Focus Your Lead Generation Strategy
The key, then, is to focus upon lead generation strategies that ensure that your bucket of enquiries is constantly full. It needs to be regularly replenished, rather than it being more akin a leaky bucket so full of holes that the water never reaches the top. You can’t build a business on no enquiries. And, you can’t improve your sales if you don’t have a new business strategy to feed your business engine.
So, focus on new business lead generation. Don’t forget to nurture and deliver great service to your existing customers. But, remember that most supplier-customer relationships have a life span. Make sure therefore that you have a constant stream of opportunities coming into your business, or your business won’t be around too long.
If you’d like to find out how GSA Business Development can help Generate Growth for your Business give us a call or make an enquiry using our contact form.