Frustration sets in when you look at all the pending business you have sitting in your sales funnel and realize that a good portion of it has been there for weeks! Those prospects you were sure were going to sign off on your proposal right away are instead sharing reasons why they’re not ready or telling you they need more time to think it over. You know that with every week that passes, the chances that any of them will turn into a sale diminishes greatly and you’re kicking yourself because you are now reduced to emailing your prospect with the subject line "Checking in" since you really have no other options left.
Are you experiencing this uncomfortable, bloated feeling right now?
That bloated pipeline isn’t just uncomfortable . . . it’s frustrating and, ultimately, very expensive. Yes, it can sometimes feel rewarding to say you have “a lot out there,” but we all know that pending business is only good if it ends up closing.
Spoiler alert: This is not an article on how to close your pending deals. It’s way more valuable than that.
The problem is not in the proposal or the funnel, but rather with the process.
There is a rush to get to the sales pitch these days. I often see salespeople trying to pitch a prospect before they have any clue what the prospect’s needs are. If the goal is to get a lot out there so we can all go around the room and tell everyone how much we have pending, then this approach is perfect. But if your goal is to drive sales performance and increase revenue, a bloated pipeline is nothing to brag about. To increase revenue, we need to stop stuffing the bottom of the funnel with watery pending and empty promises, and instead stay true to a repeatable sales process that leads to predictable sales.
What Sales Process Works?
For over 35 years, The Center for Sales Strategy has been teaching, training, and consulting sales organizations on sales process. We know what works in B2B sales.
The ideal process looks like this:
- Identify and a list of possible prospects.
- Then select and focus on the very best ones.
- Connect and secure a quality appointment at which your objective is to discover the prospect’s relevant needs, challenges, and desired business results, agreeing on an assignment that your firm can solve.
- Your next step is to advise your client or prospect on the best possible idea that will help them to achieve their desired business result. Working collaboratively with the prospect, you should fine-tune the best ideas so they can be turned into a plan.
- The last step of the process is close. There shouldn’t be any surprises in your proposal since you’ve gotten their buy-in and they practically helped to write it, so it’s usually a simple matter just to confirm the sale.
Seems easy enough, right? So why are sales pipelines still broken, clogged, and bloated?
Expert tip: Don’t just measure your pending!
Maybe the problem with your pipeline is that it you’re measuring the wrong things. While a repeatable sales process is necessary for sales success, it’s important to measure the right things if you want to increase performance.
Top sales organizations are measuring the following areas:
- Lead Flow. The total number of new leads coming in each week, those that are sales-qualified, and those that meet their ideal customer profile.
Qualified Opportunities Created. Not just the sales package of the week, but rather a proposal that is specifically built to solve the challenge that was uncovered during the sales process and one in which the prospect has shown interest and even helped build.
Conversion Rate. The number of leads that become opportunities and the percentage of those opportunities that actually closed.
Booked Revenue. Deals closed, including a breakout showing new customers vs. repeat business from existing customers. Both are very important to overall sales growth.
By measuring and tracking progress in all of these areas, you will quickly be able to spot the bottlenecks in your sales process, but be aware that finding success in each of these areas might be tougher than it looks.
Lead Flow and Lead Intelligence
Studies show that more than two-thirds of the prospect’s research is done prior to contacting a potential supplier. That means that by the time you have an appointment with them, they have probably formed an opinion about your business and educated themselves on their options. It’s good that they contacted you, but you may have little maneuvering room at that point, little space to discuss needs and collaborate on solutions.
Some Important Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Is your website attractive to new prospects?
- Does it provide your prospects with all of the information they’ll need during their buyer's journey?
- Have you studied what their typical process looks like and made sure that your website is a strong resource guide that allows prospects to fully engage with your firm rather than just a company capabilities brochure?
- Do your website and early interactions with prospects position your team as experts and ultimately make prospects want to do business with you?
- Do you have a system in place that allows you to know when a prospect is looking at your website so you can engage with them in the right way and share the information they want with them exactly when they want it?
If you have these systems in place, congratulations, you are off to a great start! If you either don’t have these systems in place yet, or you are finding they are not working as well as you want, it’s time to make a change. Provide your team with lead flow and lead intelligence.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2017, and has been updated and refreshed with new content.