Whether you deal with sales prospects yourself or manage a team of sales reps, getting a complete view of your company’s sales pipeline is no easy task — in fact, it requires constant maintenance and updates to get a picture that is as close to reality as possible.
In this post I will show you how to set up a simple and (almost) free sales pipeline to help keep track of how well your business is doing with its sales initiatives.
Use Online Marketing to Find Potential Clients
Unless you are entering your market with a huge database of clients that are lined up to buy your products and services, you will have to invest a good amount of time and money in advertising and marketing.
My colleagues at AllBusiness and I have written several posts about marketing and how to get it right. You can find useful information about website tools, website performance, marketing apps & tools and banner advertising. For more information I highly recommend checking out SEOMoz for their absolutely fantastic marketing guides. That’s where I found this infographic that lays out all the possible marketing channels that can turn any visitor into a client.
Without previous insight about your market, you will probably need try out almost all of these channels because your most profitable sources will only reveal themselves after some time. (Check out what’s known as the “Pareto principle.”)
When managing multiple marketing campaigns and handling many channels at the same time, automation becomes a crucial aspect — a time-saver that you will definitely learn to appreciate very quickly. Zapier is one of these automation tools that help you work more efficiently by automating recurring tasks.
You’ve built your website. You’ve done your marketing. Now you’re seeing traffic coming in to your website.
So how do you convert your visitors?
Give them a good reason to do so. Do you offer a free trial? Dollar amount credit? First round free? 10% off until the end of the month? You decide, but find something that offers a benefit you believe will resonate with your clients and use that to initiate a first contact.
Let’s use a practical example: John Fisher found your website and is eager to explore the 14-day free trial of your online Spanish course.
Use a Contact/Subscription Form
John doesn’t have much free time (hint: this applies to many!) and prefers to fill in a short contact form instead of sending an email inquiry. Because you are ready to engage users quickly, you’ve created your free trial signup form with Jotform, a service that integrates with Zapier.
Keep Track of Your Subscribers
Now that John has signed up (with an email address and password) he is able to take full advantage of his 14-day free trial right away. You, meanwhile, have been able to collect his contact information. Zapier can now export John’s information from Jotform to Intercom.io, a CRM (customer relationship management) tool that you should not miss out on.
Intercom.io gives you an overview of all your subscribers. You’ll be able to monitor their engagement (for example: how many times they access your service; how long they stay each time). This ultimately helps you to determine the people who are potential paying customers and ready to fully subscribe to your service.
Convert Leads to Prospects
During his 14-day free trial, John has spent an average of 30 minutes every day, training his Spanish skills with your online course. He seems to be a promising client and therefore you consider a direct follow-up with him.
To do this, Zapier comes in handy once again. Automatically export John’s contact details from Intercom.io to Nimble, a contact management platform. Nimble analyzes the contact information and searches the Internet for all public information that exists about this person — their Facebook page, Twitter stream, LinkedIn details, and more. This allows you to learn important details about your client, and perhaps even understand his motive for using your service.
We learn that John works at a well-known restaurant in Miami, and perhaps is drawn to learn Spanish because of his job and personal environment.
“Categorize” Your Client
Products and services differ, and so do their users. In many cases, adapting to your client’s situation and building different pricing structures for private and corporate clients can help generate more revenue. Since John does not appear to be sponsored by his employer in taking the Spanish course, he would fall into the “private” clients category.
In large companies where information is transferred from agent to agent via virtual contact, this kind of information often gets lost. Emails are forgotten, notes not updated. These things happen all the time. Adding this information once into Nimble will help everyone who is part of your business understand every client without having to ask. Detailed information about each client is stored safely and correctly.
Maintain Your Pipeline
Now that you’ve studied John’s profile, you can add him to your sales pipeline on Pipedrive via Zapier. Pipedrive works like a Kanban board, a organizational system in which you move tasks from column to column according to their status.
You are free to name the columns according to your work flow; however, most likely you’ll use terms such as “Leads,” “Prospects,” “Sales Calls,” “Interested,” “Not Interested,” and “Signed.”
Turn Prospects into Clients
John has passed the “Leads” stage and is currently listed in the “Prospects” column of your pipeline. One of your sales representatives has carefully studied his profile, contacted him personally, and scheduled a follow-up call to discuss his experience and a possible annual subscription to the online Spanish course.
Sell, But Don’t Be Pushy
Embrace the following fact: People buy what they like, or what they are made to like. Use the information you know about your client and establish a real relationship with him. No matter what you are selling, make it an emotional purchase. Appeal to your client’s feelings and make him understand the true value behind your product or service.
Your sales agent calls John, who was very happy with his experience during the free trial. He mentions a few flaws in the service (which your sales agent takes down and communicates to the development team) and shares the true motivation behind taking the Spanish course — his upcoming trip to South America. When he learns this, the sales agent offers John a special package that will allow him to freely pause and restart his course during his travels, and therefore offering a service that is highly customized to John’s situation. John is very happy about the offer and signs up for a one-year package.
Analyze Your Sales Pipeline
After updating John’s profile in Nimble, and moving him from the “Sales Calls” column straight to the “Signed” column in Pipedrive, you have a new client! Pipedrive then allows you to credit the sales agent that closed the deal, view your sales history, and improve your sales process.
Customer Service Is Key
It is imperative to ensure customer satisfaction all along — from the first contact until your relationship ends. Being as attentive as possible is a great way of keeping your clients humbled and surprised by your undivided care. Be sure to set up a thorough knowledge database and customer service line with a service like Zendesk. Many users will refer to these means throughout their engagement with you.
Additionally, you might send your client a personalized Happy Birthday message or a note for any important event.
- Use different online marketing channels to find those channels that create the most promising leads.
- Generate leads by integrating an online form for your website visitors.
- Offer benefits to new subscribers in order to attract more leads.
- Use a CRM service to keep track of your subscribers and identify those who could become prospects.
- Study your prospect’s profile and get in touch with him once he’s tried out your service.
- Use a sales pipeline to monitor your sales process and analyze your conversion rate.
- Always focus on customer service throughout the entire engagement.
How much does a setup like the above cost?
Your cost can be calculated based on the following numbers:
- Zapier: Free (for 5 zaps), then $15/month
- Intercom.io: Free (for 250 active users), then $45/month
- Nimble: Free (up to 3K contacts), 14-day free trial, then $15/month per user
- Pipedrive: $9/user/month (30-day free trial)
- Zendesk: $2/user/month ($1 if you sign up for annual billing)
All in all, you can get started on $11 a month — $11 that will simplify your life by a large margin and free up more time for all other kinds of tasks you need to take care of on a daily basis.