A sales pipeline is an organized, visual way of tracking multiple potential buyers as they progress through different stages in the purchasing process.
When building a sales pipeline from scratch, there are three prerequisites to be kept in mind:
- A product worth buying
This is the most important prerequisite in any sales professional’s agenda. No matter how skilled a sales person is, if they sell a product that lacks in quality, the organization’s business growth will be at best fraught with difficulty and at worst, an abysmal failure. It will be difficult to build customer loyalty, earn referrals or recommendations and garner any level of trust if the product fails to meet the customer’s standard.
- An audience of buyers
Knowing which group of people will buy a particular product or service and having an active buyer list is the second prerequisite. Also, a sales professional needs to make sure the products they sell are viable, at least by product category, if not by brand.
- The way people buy
The third prerequisite for a successful sales career is a basic understanding of the customer journey, how people buy today. The conventional wisdom of “grab them by the tie and choke them till they buy” no longer works in an era when customers can choose from a nearly infinite product selection on their smartphones.
Given that the three prerequisites are met, building a sales pipeline from scratch will not be too hard. If a sales process has multiple stages — “Call client,” “Meet with client,” “Send proposal,” “Final meeting,” “Deal signed” and “Deal declined” — the transition to a pipeline-centric sales management tool will be easy and logical.
A sales pipeline gives a visual overview of business at any one time, can be used to forecast revenue and reduces stress in general.
Ensure your sales process includes the following steps to build and maintain a healthy sales pipeline.
- Identify ideal customer avatar and target market
Characteristics of ideal target customers will render the total number of customers a business is able to sell to. This number will most likely be fluid and will change over time.
- Find internal contacts and do research
Build a list of internal contacts to target based on the company’s buyer personal. Using certain criteria defined by buyer personas, build a list with “x” number of contacts/leads per company who will be targeted.
- Reach out to internal contacts
This is the crucial step is any sales process. It has the potential to make or break deals. This should be an ongoing effort by outbound sales reps. A general rule of thumb is to reach out to a company (at least 3 contacts in a company at once) every 90 days.
- Book demos
Once the initial ice-breaker is complete and the contact has shown some level of interest, setting up meetings is the next step.
- Close the deal
After formalizing the conversation into a proposal to purchase the product, finalize the commitment.
While a healthy sales pipeline is a big boost to the morale of the organisation, systematically working to build it and converting leads is the only way an organisation can grow its customer base and ensure revenue growth.