An old business adage says, “Sales is a numbers game.” In other words, the more potential buyers you face, the better your chances of making sales. This isn’t completely true, of course; success also depends on execution. Nonetheless, when a company builds a pipeline to funnel prospects to its sales team, it will increase the opportunities for these staff members to strike and close deals. Here are some ways to undertake construction.
Do your research
First, establish a profile of the organizations that are the best candidates for your products or services. Criteria should include:
- Number of employees
- Sales volume
- Specific needs
Next, think lead generation
The two best sources for generating leads are companywide marketing activities and individual salesperson initiatives, both of which create name recognition and educate prospects on the benefits of your products or services. Although you may find one method works better for you than the other, try not to be too dependent on either.
Three ways to reach out
Once you identify prospects, your sales team has got to reach out.
Here are three ways to consider:
- Cold calls. Every salesperson has done traditional cold calling — assembling a list of prospects that fit into your established customer profile and then calling or visiting them. Cold calling requires many attempts, and the percentage of interested parties tends to be small. Encourage your sales staff to personalize their message to each prospect so the calls don’t have a “canned” feel.
- Researched cold calling. Select a subset of the most desirable candidates from your prospect list and do deeper research into these organizations to discover some need that your product or service would satisfy. Work with your sales team to write customized letters to the appropriate decision-makers, highlighting your company’s skills in meeting their needs. If possible, quote an existing customer and quantify the benefits. The letter should come from the sales rep and state that he or she will be following up with a phone call. Often, after sending such a letter, getting in the door is a little easier.
- Referrals. Research potential referral sources just as you study up on sales prospects themselves. Your goal is to develop and maintain a referral network of satisfied customers and other professionals who interact with your prospects. When you get referrals, be sure to send thank-you notes to the sources and keep them informed of your progress.
Go with the flow
Does your business regularly find itself hitting dry spells in which sales prospects seem to evaporate into thin air? If so, it may be because you lack a solid pipeline to keep the identities of those potential buyers flowing in.