Building Your Sales Pipeline Is Not a One Step Process

sales funnel Do You Have a Sales Funnel?

For many years, the “sales explanation industry” has worked with and discussed a Funnel or a Pipeline model to explain how you need many more leads to eventually turn into prospects, and then ultimately a smaller subset who become actual customers. Hence using a picture of a funnel gives a visual on how you need more at the top to end up with some at the bottom. I’ve used a pipeline for years rather than a funnel, so I am used to talking about the front, middle, and end of a pipeline. Whichever works for your visual, use that.

To use a CRM, or Contact Relationship Management system well – you need more than tools – you must have a way - a process and a methodology - to do the following things we will be talking about to grow revenues.

Can you find prospective customers – ideally who are “more likely” to do business with you than “less likely”. There is little point to attracting thousands of people your way who are not likely to do business with you. There is a whole lot of sense in drawing thousands of people your way who are more probable to do business with you someday. These are company and individual relationships that you want to nurture. The phrase “nurture marketing” came from this idea.

People go wrong because they just buy tools– they import their mish-mash of “contacts” – names in whatever system they were using, such as their e-mail application. Contacts get imported in, and then sometimes people just wait for the magic to happen.

Magic? Just like there is no crying in baseball, there is no magic in selling. It takes a clean set of nurtured contacts over time – who know and trust you, and who find the value in your offering to grow sales. Through multiple contacts to the right contacts (decision makers) you can create sales opportunities and bring them to closure.

Today we’ll talk about the front end of the pipeline (or for you funnel fans, ToFu – Top of Funnel, as coined by Hubspot).

You MUST have tools that can:

help you find and /or attract prospects

look for the trigger events in their businesses (for compelling reasons to contact them)

allow you to learn about them and what they need

offer them something of value – be it an idea or a whole e-book of ideas

build and maintain a robust group of people who are more probable to work with your company

This is the front-end of your sales process.

So, do you have tools that can do this for you? Do you have strategic partners, vendors or employees helping you with this?

It’s 2012. Don’t put junk in your sales pipeline.

Get rid of those in your pipeline who are just filling space. Remove those problem people who don’t seem that they will ever work with you. Delete them. Remove people you have not connected with in a long time. You need to focus on less companies and work to do more with them. Why? To keep your focus, to keep your niched offerings (you do have a niche, right?) and to make it easier on yourself and those who work with you. It’s also way easier to work with people who DO somewhat get what you do, or are more interested than others.

Look for these types of tools and services:

Lead list building

Web visitor tracking

Lead capture

Lead nurturing

Trigger Alerting tools

A Word about e-Mail:

No More Tacky E-Mail in 2012 Please!

Dear vendor: you are part of a business, and you need tools that manage e-mail so that no one is a victim of visible group email anymore. I, for one, won’t do business with a company who openly exposes my email within a group – this is a practice that should have stopped a couple years ago. Further, you need to use a tool that will track open rates so you know how effective you are. This is very important also: segment your e-mail so that when someone does sign up for one of your offerings, they go into another bucket, and they don’t get any more “last chance to sign up” e-mails. Sophisticated e-mail tools have been doing that for years. If you are still doing any of these things, you need to stop these primitive marketing practices right away!

Let’s step it up this year with better management of the FRONT-END of our sales process. If you are already doing this, fantastic – post in our comments what you are using that is working to help you manage and grow the right prospects for your business.

Next week we’ll discuss the all too often forgotten middle of the sales pipeline.

Do you use a pipeline or funnel management tool? What tool is most helpful at your company? Post as comments (below) as to what is working, because that helps others.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Lori Richardson writes, speaks, trains, and mentors company leaders on tactical ways to grow revenues. Her company, Score More Sales helps with systems, lead development, and prospecting for technology and financial services companies. Sign up for the award-winning blog and the "Sales Ideas In A Minute" newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.

Topics: Sales Tools

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