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Funneling Into Your Pipeline

Author: Larry Chester, President

Every business is concerned about sales.  How do you find leads, approach a new prospect, present your offering to them in the best light, and then close the sale?  The amount of time it takes for them to actually buy may be only a few moments for critical service or product the business needs, or it might be the result of several years of patient emails, phone calls or newsletters.

It’s important to remember that there are really two sides to that sales process.  The sales side and the buyer side.  One lays out the stages or steps the salesman goes through in the sales process – practical steps that take the sales effort from point A to point Z.  That’s the Sales Pipeline.  The other tracks the emotional or commitment stages of the person that you’re talking to.  That’s the Sales Funnel.

It’s important to understand where you are in the process to measure your progress towards the final goal – closing that sale and to assure that you are putting your best foot forward all the time.  There are entire books written on this topic, but for those who aren’t familiar with the process, let’s look at the steps.

Let’s talk about the Sales Pipeline, and how it sets the steps you go through in finding and processing a lead that will result in the sale of your products or services.  And, you need to make a decision at the end of each step as to whether you’re going to proceed to the next step in your Pipeline:

  • Prospecting – Lead Generation is the search for people who might be interested in your product or services. Maybe now, maybe sometime in the future.
  • Qualification. Have an initial phone conversation to determine if this person/company could end up being the right customer for you.  You should already have a picture of your customer.  Size of company, industry, staffing, processes.  Each business develops a different customer profile.  Understand what your ideal customer profile is and measure each lead to that standard.  Don’t be afraid to walk away from leads that don’t meet your qualifications.  They might still buy, but you could spend a lot of time nurturing a lead to potentially get a lukewarm result.  Save your time for your prime prospects.
  • The meeting, in person preferably, but these days it might be over a Video Call.
    • Establish your relationship with the prospect.
    • Present an agenda – Tell your prospect what you expect to do during this meeting – no surprises.
      • Time – Confirm the amount of time available for the discussion. Then pay attention to the time so you’re respectful of the prospect’s schedule.  Complete your meeting before the clock strikes 12.
      • Purpose – Restate the reason why you set up the meeting. Don’t be shy, the prospect knows that this is a sales call.  You want to see if your product will be of service to them.
      • Your Expectations – You want to hear their story, find out what’s keeping them up at night. You want to get an opportunity to present a solution to them and address any questions that they have.
      • Their Expectations – What are they expecting? If their expectations are different than yours, now’s the time to resolve the differences.
      • Outcome – Tell them that you want to conclude the meeting by confirming that you have a solution to their problems and provide them with the opportunity to agree and buy your product/service.
  • Discovery – A complete Needs Analysis. What are their problems?  What’s keeping them up at night?  Get them talking.  The more they talk, the more you will understand their business, their issues and what you need to do to help them.  Agree that these are things that need to be resolved.  Tell them of companies that you know that have the same issues – they are not alone.
  • Your presentation. If you’ve been listening, you can tell them – short and sweet – how your company can solve their problem.  Focus on the results that they will receive.  Explain how you deliver your product and service.  They need to understand that you provide a best practice approach that’s a solution to their problems.
  • Close the deal. Get the Purchase Order, the contract signed, set a date to start work.  Or, if your sales process ends up being a longer cycle, determine what their next steps are, and schedule a follow-up meeting.  Don’t say, “OK, I’ll call you next month.”  Tell them when you’ll call them, and schedule that call.  Put it on your calendar and on theirs.

Once you’ve gotten the sale, there are still two things that need to happen:  Delivering your product or services and following up to make sure that your customer is satisfied.  That is how you guarantee a long-term client.  So, once you have closed the sale, reach out to your customer on a regular basis to make sure that your services are being delivered correctly and the client is satisfied.  This way, you assure client longevity.

No matter how you approach sales, and how your process might differ from what is presented above, it’s all important that you make ongoing progress with each prospect.  You might keep going even if the sale process is taking longer than normal.  As long as you are addressing issues and progressing with the knowledge and information the prospect needs to make a decision, you’re doing OK.  But there are always those prospects that aren’t ready or have decided not to buy from you.  They just haven’t told you yet.  In those instances, stop wasting your time.  The second best answer in the sales cycle is NO.  At least it’s brought resolution to the journey with that one prospect.  Now you can devote your time to new prospects that are ready for help.

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