Imagine a bath filled with water, almost instantly the water begins to evaporate or can slowly seep through the plughole.
Over a period of time the water level reduces and the temperature drops! The only way to keep the water level high and the water hot is to turn on the tap and continually refill it. Equally, you want to keep your prospects ‘on the boil’ by actions that continuously warm up and consolidate your relationship with them. You certainly don’t want all your efforts to go down the drain!
The moment you contact a qualified prospect you are committed to the time consuming process of ongoing discussions and you have created a real opportunity to convert potential business into actual sales. This is often referred to as ‘pipeline business’ because the more progress you make, the higher your probability for success.
Here is a very simple but effective, objective weighting system:
• Written Agreement 90%
• Verbal Agreement 80%
• Proposal/Negotiation 50%
• Offer/Proposal 25%
• Qualified Via A Rigorous Objective Process 15%
• Conducted A Formal Exploratory Meeting 10%
• Made Appointment 5%
• Prospect 0%
In this example you can see that each milestone in the sales process has a % probability rating. These milestones and percentages will vary from organisation to organisation, yet the principle that the more milestones you reach the higher the probability for success remains valid for everyone. These milestones form goals against which you can plan specific activities. These can then be translated into specific objectives that you can review and monitor at each stage.
The ability to leverage your probability for converting potential business in your pipeline is a vital part of the sales process and helps to focus your mind onto getting each prospect to the next milestone. Speed of follow-through is really important because it helps to create a momentum that consolidates your relationship with potential new customers.
The following suggestions can help you accelerate your prospects through your pipeline, and increase your probability for winning more deals:
- Agree the next steps with your prospect, and ensure that you are clear on the actions that will take you to the next milestone and closer to the sale.
- Before agreeing any actions with your prospect, ask yourself if these actions are leading you towards a sale. If you can’t see the tangible reason for doing an action then you could find yourself in a never-ending situation of fruitless discussions that dilute your results.
- Send an acknowledgement and confirmation of agreed actions to your prospect within 24 hours if possible. This conveys professionalism and provides another layer of reassurance for the prospect.
- At the end of every telephone call and meeting with your prospect, agree a specific time and date for your next contact. Lots of your valuable time can be wasted trying to get in touch with a busy buyer!
A well-managed pipeline helps to improve the consistency of results achieved and creates a platform for more accurate sales forecasting. If pipeline management is not an integral part of an organization’s sales process, this can result in a number of problems including; longer sales cycles, reduced forecasting accuracy, inconsistent and unpredictable sales performance, declining win-rates and an inability to pinpoint reasons for decreased results.