Without a strategic sales pipeline, your business is doomed to fail. If you haven’t defined the steps that make up your sales life cycle, you can’t possibly tell the difference between prospects who need more information and prospects who are ready to purchase.
Even worse, you can waste your time and energy on people who aren’t a good fit for your organization or burn bridges with prospects who would have bought had you talked with them at the right time.
To get more control over your sales, you need a strategic approach to pipeline management. With the right process, you can not only drive growth, but also avoid needless activities and save time.
To help you out, here are four ideas to enhance your sales process, along with some examples to illustrate the points.
1. Remove needless steps
An effective sales pipeline is a bit like a slippery slope. Your prospects should climb to the top, sit, slightly tip over the edge, and slide down to the bottom with ease. If the “slippery slide” (read: sales pipeline) is rusty, your prospects will go through a lot of friction, which is a deal breaker. Any further step you add will decrease your results, so you must remove nonessential stages.
So, where should you start? With your landing page, of course.
By optimizing your qualifying process, you can bring in prospects that really need your products and services and get rid of a few steps in the sales stages. Even for apps like EarlyBird, having an engaging landing page is vital for informing customers, collecting their data, and repelling “unsuitable” prospects.
If you take a look at the EarlyBird home page you’ll find it clearly describes the people it’s addressing: parents, family and people who want to invest in a child’s financial future.
If you don’t fall into one of those categories, you probably won’t be interested enough to continue to the next steps, which is a time-saver for both you and your customers — you won’t waste time talking to someone who’s not a good fit.
And this isn’t exclusive to service-based business, by the way. By reducing the steps needed to complete a purchase, e-commerce ventures can benefit from this principle, too.
Allstate Insurance, an online car assurance service provider, is a great example. When you land on its homepage, you’ll find a simple description of what it offers and a clear call to action (CTA) button.
When you click it, it takes you directly to the product page. So, in a few clicks, you are able to purchase the company’s products. Even more, by adding your zip code, you get products that are personalized to your place of residence.
No matter the industry you’re in or the business model of your company, by getting rid of the friction in your sales processes, you’ll increase results proportionally.
2. Consider external factors in your sales process
The consideration stage impacts sales results more than many people realize. According to a recent study, 60 percent of customers decide to talk to a sales rep during this stage. At this point, potential clients have already made a list of options and carefully researched each of them. That’s why designing a strategy to position your product or service before them is crucial to success.
Here’s where social proof should play a crucial role in your sales process.
Managing your pipeline can also include external factors like accredited reviewing sites, recommendations from friends and family, testimonials from previous customers, and even comments on social networks like Facebook or Instagram.
Potential customers will likely check that page before hiring you or buying anything on your website. In the decision-making process, peer review is a factor that no one can ignore. So why not use those reviews for your own marketing?
For instance, research finds that the average person conducts three to four Google searches per day, but what does that mean for you?
Well, when your prospects are still in the consideration OR evaluation stage, they’re likely to compare solutions through search engines. And if you position your service in front of these prospects, they’ll probably add your company to their list of options. Nurturing your prospects before a sales call will increase your chances of closing the deal.
3. Optimize your accounting systems
Pipeline management isn’t only about what happens before the sale, but also about what happens after a prospect becomes a client. You must design a process to get paid, manage your numbers, and measure the overall health of your business. In other words, you should have a system in place to know if your current sales pipeline is working in the first place. No matter how neat your sales process is or how much you work on it, if you can’t properly manage your accounting and ensure your clients pay you on time, it’ll all be worthless.
In today’s day and age, you need an accounting system to manage your finances and optimize your processes through features like automatic invoicing and income tracking. Remember: delayed decision-making is the killer of the sale, and if you can’t automate collection of payments, you’ll lose money and time. Not only that, but you’ll lose control over your cash flow.
Now, accounting software doesn’t need to be expensive. The pricing structure of most platforms starts as low as $10 per month. So, even if you’re on a shoestring budget, companies like Wave, for example, offer free accounting software for small businesses. So, there’s absolutely no excuse.
4. Use video to target prospects at each stage of your sales pipeline
You should reach your prospects at a specific point of intent and show them relevant content based on their level of awareness. Video is a great way to connect with your audience at a personal level while also achieving this goal. Depending on which stage of the funnel you’re targeting, you’ll use different types of video.
For instance, if you’re a SaaS that helps e-commerce businesses accept payments online, you could segment your videos into three categories: awareness, consideration and decision. Then, you should create videos that address specific questions people commonly have at each stage. Your video topics might look something like this:
Awareness: How to accept payments online
Consideration: The top three payment processors
Decision: How to choose the right payment gateway for your business
This way, you can address the specific question a prospect is asking at each stage and strategically position yourself as the best option. Video content is one of the most effective and shareable ways to lead prospects through your sales pipeline.
I suggest you organize a meeting with your customer support team as well as some of your sales reps to figure out the most common customer objections. By creating videos that overcome such objections you’ll reduce friction and improve your overall results.
A clear and well-designed sales pipeline is a must for any team. Unfortunately, so many companies ignore this fact and still wonder why they aren’t seeing results. Hopefully, you aren’t one of those.
To get the most out of your sales efforts, you can rely on a variety of tactics including: developing an affiliate program, considering external factors, removing needless steps, accepting online payments, and using video to reach your prospects at their specific level of awareness. By using these ideas, you can improve your results, save time, and reduce waste.
On a related topic, I'm attaching my latest white paper on 10 keys to prospecting. You can download below: