A sales pipeline is an organised visual way of tracking multiple prospective buyers and their purchasing behaviours to maximise your chances of closing the deal. A robust sales pipeline is a must-have tool for every sales team to help keep their finger on the pulse of the business. It gives invaluable insights into the effectiveness of the sales process by identifying where the deals are stalling or which activities are bringing the most revenue.
A good sales process is straightforward, structured, and tells your team precisely what actions they need to do to close a deal faster. When clearly defined and planned, sales stages are the foundation of your business growth journey. The complexity of your sales pipeline will depend on multiple factors, including how you contact leads, your product range, and how many salespeople you have in your team. With a sales pipeline, it’s always best to start small and expand as you grow the pipeline and the business. Here are the main stages of a sales pipeline.
Stage 1: Prospecting
Prospecting is about finding new potential buyers who need your product or services, ensuring there is a constant flow of new leads in your pipeline. A healthy pipeline means having enough quality leads to meet or exceed your sales goals. How can we maximise leads cost-effectively?
Here are some quick ideas on how to boost your sales prospecting activities;
- Get more exposure – advertise, advertise, and advertise! The rule of seven in advertising states that the prospective buyer should hear or see the advertisement at least seven times before buying. So essentially, it’s a numbers game – the more traffic you can drive to your website, the more sales you generate.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a well worth investment. It can increase the quantity and the quality of traffic directed to your website, hence a higher conversion rate to sales, particularly if your target market is localised. SEO is a great marketing tool to guarantee exposure and leads to customer groups most likely to buy from your business.
- Testimonials are like digital salespeople for your business. Ask current and past clients to endorse you on Google My Business or on your social media platforms. These are a great way to showcase your customer service and experience and attract new clients. In addition, people are more likely to engage based on third-party reviews.
- Capitalise on social media. Posting on social media is free publicity, and as we said earlier, it’s a numbers game, so the more frequently you post, the more leads you’re likely to get from your social media accounts. There are even tools to help you set up posts in advance; it’s free, easy, and effective!
- Referrals are gold when it comes to prospecting! The conversion rate of referred customers is the best you can get! Leverage existing connections – from affiliates to clients – for introductions to fill your pipeline. Capitalise on your existing client base – give them a promotional code to refer a friend.
- Grow your network. Networking events can be a fun way to meet potential partners who can refer to you. Look for networking events relevant to your business and ensure you regularly attend. Investing in these relationships can be an invaluable long-term source of referrals. Remember, people do business with whom they know, like and trust first!
- Lead magnets to attract new prospects. A lead magnet is a free item or service that is gifted to gather contact details; for example, lead magnets can be eBooks, samples, free consultations, checklists. Lead magnets don’t need to cost much and can be highly effective in prospecting, get your sales team involved in coming up with practical and effective lead magnets that will draw in potential clients!
Stage 2: Qualifying Prospects
Understanding your buyer’s readiness to commit is crucial as you don’t want to waste time on leads who won’t ultimately buy your product or who might be wrong for your product and cause problems down the line. Instead, focus on the best leads and drop the dead leads. Put some critical steps in place to ensure you understand the customer’s precondition to buying, and ask direct questions on their immediate needs for your product offer.
Stage 3: Contacting Leads
This step is straightforward; a salesperson initiates contact with potential sales leads gathered during the prospecting stage. You may do this via phone, email, social media. The faster you can contact and establish a rapport with the lead, the higher your chance to make the sale. Having a detailed script is invaluable at this stage as it enables you to manage the quality of the interaction with your potential customer. First impressions always last!
Stage 4: Nurture Prospects
Nurturing and building relationships with potential buyers increases conversion of leads to sales and can bring about repeat business; word of mouth is powerful and is free advertising! Make a good impression and show that you understand their needs. Having the right salesperson for this job is going to make or break the sale. Ensure that the conversation is always valuing the prospect and not pushy. The end goal is to start a relationship, not to close the deal.
Stage 5: Present Offer
A salesperson can present an optimal offer, perhaps with a voucher or a discount, as a sweetener for a new client to help close the deal! Also, have a card up your sleeve, ensure you have incentives to push the deal over the line if necessary. For example, there could be a time limit on the offer, or something extra thrown in. People love a bargain, and if you
can give them more value, chances are you will get the deal over the line.
Stage 6: Overcome Objections
Experienced salespeople who thoroughly understand your value proposition are imperative at this stage to get the sale to the closing stage. Offer sales training to your team to ensure they can navigate objections. Role-playing is a great way to preempt these challenging objections and be ready for whatever the customers throw at you.
Stage 7: Close Deals
When your sales reps have made contact, explained your product, and built trust, it’s time to finalise the deal, which should be straightforward if all the previous stages have been executed well and the process followed. The recipe for success is understanding the potential customers’ critical needs and desires and addressing those during the sales process. Also, the onboarding process must be accessible. Ensure the salesperson can complete the deal and sign up the new client on the spot.
Stage 8: Recycling Prospects
Once you close the deal, it’s not over. Your sales pipeline is a continuous loop of old, new, and missed opportunities. Here are a few tips on recycling old prospects and lost clients:
- Existing and past clients are an invaluable asset to any business; they already know you, trust you, and value your work. Know what they need, what they are trying to do, then come up with offers and new opportunities to engage them. These are a valuable pool of customers to whom you can upsell and cross-sell your services and products.
- Follow up! It’s not nagging; repetition is effective. Following up shows you care about the customer. Consistency is an integral part of nurturing and building lasting relationships with both existing and new customers. Even if someone said no once does not mean they won’t change their mind.
- Special Offers – customised offers and campaigns are a great way to engage your customers and make them feel valued. There are various ways to recycle your customer base through your sales pipeline; new offers, memberships, loyalty points or reward systems. Having a segmented customer base assists in targeting specific customer segments with special offers; a CRM is a helpful tool for this. Create specialised offers for niche segments to maximise your chances of making a sale.
Stage 9: Evaluate & Recalibrate
Regularly evaluating your sales process and performance is a massive part of the sales pipeline process. Refine your stages and strategies often; it may take numerous attempts to figure out what works for your business. You may even find that some steps end up being unnecessary and discover others that are missing.
In conclusion, it is vital in any business environment to know how to set up, manage and boost a sales pipeline, particularly in a CRM where all components are in one system. Many sales software applications such as Salesforce, Hubspot, or Infusionsoft can assist in automating these various stages for your business and gives you the potential to supercharge your sales conversion rate!
To further develop your sales pipeline, consider hiring a marketing consultant for a fresh set of eyes and perspective; they come with a wealth of experience that may save you from making expensive mistakes. After all, an effective sales pipeline can make a world of difference to your sales revenue!