If your team isn’t converting as many sales as you’d like, your pipeline could be the problem. Here are some common issues and advice on how to deal with them.
Every business has a sales pipeline, whether it knows it or not. For big companies, the sales pipeline is a treasure map – it’s carefully plotted, charted, explored, refined and revised to make sure it’s helping the team to find the gold.
For smaller businesses, however, a sales pipeline can be a scrap of paper; a kind-of-idea about how things are working; something that’s very much in the head of whoever is at the top. But your sales pipeline really is the way to business growth. So understanding the limitations of your current pipeline and working out where to put effort in to improve things could make all the difference.
1. Not enough time
Are you devoting enough time to your sales prospects? Prospective customers can tell when you’re rushing things – you don’t tend to listen, you might send the wrong information or make mistakes in your communications. This will lead to your prospect going elsewhere. After all, if you can’t treat them well at this stage, where’s the incentive to be a customer?
Think: if you don’t have enough time to sell to everyone on your list, go through and pick the ones that are most likely to convert and concentrate on them.
2. Not enough information
Good sales work relies on good quality information. Do you know how long a prospect stays in your sales cycle from initial lead to closing the sale? Do you know where the common sticking points are? Do you know why you lose prospects and when? The more information you have, the better able you are to see where your pipeline might be letting you down and you can start to make changes.
Think: a regular review of your pipeline will give you valuable information. If you have a team – including any sales administrators – make time to get together, look at your pipeline and see where the issues might be. As you go on, you’ll have comparable data that you can use to make the adjustments you need.
3. Not enough people
If your business is growing, you may need help to manage incoming enquiries and prospects sitting in your pipeline. Otherwise, you won’t be able to move prospects through the sales funnel and you could lose valuable business.
Think: this isn’t just about hiring new sales people, it’s also about supporting them with the right admin and technology. Investing in your whole team will take the pressure off and allow you to focus on the sales that matter.
4. Not enough support
Your sales team can only do so much. A significant part of the sales process is the follow-up; sending out the right information, collecting details from prospects, arranging meetings and keeping your business in the loop. Your sales team is most valuable when it is in front of prospects, not when it’s knee-deep in paperwork.
Think: who is supporting your sales team? Should you have a resource that can keep things running smoothly when your team is out and about or on the phones.
5. Not enough technology
It’s no longer good enough to manage your sales on paper. It’s quite often not good enough to manage sales on a spreadsheet. There are some great packages on the market that can help you to manage your prospects through every part of the pipeline – and continue to look after them once they become customers.
Think: would a small investment in a sales package help to streamline the way you do things?
6. Not enough quality leads
It’s frustrating to feel you’re wasting time on leads that either don’t come to anything or are low value. If this is familiar, it’s time to look at the quality of the leads coming into your business.
Think: is your marketing targeting the right people? Are you using the right channels? What could you do to attract the attention of the high-value, long-term customers you’re looking for?
7. Not enough structure
Every business needs a strategic approach to sales. Having a structure that you and your team understands and that is designed to push prospects through a well-thought-through journey towards agreeing to buy will really help you to manage the process and to see more easily where things aren’t working.
Think: Could you put together a strategy and a guide that helps your sales team to do things methodically? It will also help people who are new into your business to get to quickly get to grips with how you do things.
There are things in this list that you can change now without huge expense or investment in time. Any one of them could help you to see where the limitations of your sales pipeline lie, and give you the chance to improve the results you get and the percentage of sales you close.