In any organisation it’s vital to build up a reserve of sales opportunities so that your pipeline never dries up. So how do you make this happen?
Well, it’s all about getting the right type of data into your pipeline in the first place and then making sure that this reservoir feeds the pipeline on an ongoing basis. Let’s take a quick look at the components that make up your pipeline:
Existing customers – these are the mainstay of your pipeline and it’s crucial that you look after them. In an increasingly competitive market it doesn’t take much for a customer to jump ship and move to a competitor. In light of this, you need to find ways to keep them coming back and to keep adding value to them. Critical to this is the after-sales service you offer and what differentiates you from your competitors. This is something that you need to keep reminding your customers about.
Lapsed customers – identifying why your customers have lapsed and putting in strategies to win them back is the challenge you have with this scenario. Whether they’ve moved because of price, poor service or because they’ve found a product or service more suitable for their needs is something that you need to find out and then work through how you can tempt them back.
Failed quotes – how often do companies send out quotes that aren’t appropriately followed up or simply get rejected? It happens all the time and, for the sake of a bit more flexibility and negotiation, these are quotes that could easily turn into business. If a quote gets rejected then find out what the customer is looking for and see if you can tailor it more effectively. Negotiation is a big part of getting a quote accepted and many organisations give up too easily. Show a bit of flexibility and be prepared to broker an agreement to win the business you need.
New and emerging businesses – new businesses that fall into the sectors you are targeting are prime opportunities for your sales proposition; so you need to get in early and steal a march on your competitors.
New markets and diversification – exploring new markets and diversifying your proposition can be a great way of getting new business and opening up a new stream of opportunities. Work with marketing and identify other sectors where your proposition could get some traction and put together a plan on how you can make this happen.
Traditional markets – the tried and tested markets for your proposition should always provide a regular supply of leads for your pipeline, but as more competitors enter the market, this can easily get eroded if you’re not quick off the mark. Raising your brand awareness across your traditional markets is a must if you want to stay ahead of the game and if you want the first company they think of when they need your product or service to be you.
Rest of market – there will always be some business that you gain from non-traditional markets and even though you may not be pro-actively marketing to them, you still want to be their first port of call if they need your product or service. Once again, this is about raising brand awareness and making sure that your USP is evident for all to see.
Keeping your pipeline topped up with new opportunities will often require sales to enlist the help of marketing, especially when it comes to entering new markets and raising brand awareness. Whenever you are doing this it’s important to identify the areas you’re currently strong in and learn from them, so that you can support your weaker areas. It’s also important to understand the information you are going to need and how best to source it for those new target sectors that you are trying to get into.
With all of the above you need to control the flow of target organisations into the sales pipeline in order to keep a steady flow that can be effectively managed by the sales team (i.e. not too much to deal with). You should also not be afraid to get rid of any information that doesn’t fit the bill. If you can achieve this, your sales reservoir should never run dry.