‘How’s business? How are your sales?’ – these are two questions give a quick pulse on your sales health. The bigger question really is ‘How’s your sales pipeline?’
First though – what exactly is a sales pipeline? In your business, your sales pipeline is essentially whatever structure you have in place to attract and qualify leads, and then to nurture them through any objections/obstacles into becoming a customer, and then hopefully a raving fan of your business.
How healthy is your sales pipeline?
So often we forget to talk about the health of our sales pipeline. This is the forgotten part of sales in many companies, in the less-glamourous section along with properly signed contracts and up-to-date invoicing.
If your business was a human body, the sales pipeline is like discussing the liver. When was the last time you talked about your liver? And yet the liver is a filter for our blood, helping to produce proteins that are important in blood clotting, as well as being one of the organs that breaks down old or damaged blood cells. The forgotten liver plays a starring role in all the body’s metabolic processes. Many people don’t think about their liver until there’s problem with it.
Your sales pipeline can be just the same. When sales are humming along, many business owners forget how long it took to get all those customers on board. Especially in high-tech solutions, it can often several months or more to get a customer into a meeting, let alone agreeing to purchase. Not to mention ensuring that the invoice is fully paid.
It takes such an effort to create and sustain a business, that once things really get going, the excitement is so great that it’s easy for business owners to get caught up in the now and forget to keep looking ahead.
Is your business one click away from oblivion?
Without realising it, many businesses are potentially just a couple of clicks away from oblivion. Everything might be riding on those couple of large customers, leaving the business exposed if something changes in their customers’ businesses.
Many businesses forget to monitor the health of their sales pipeline. Even if you’re turning over a healthy amount, keep checking your sales pipeline and tracking those customers who are about to purchase, as you never know when you might need to see some rapid action with your sales.
A healthy sales pipeline is your best indicator of what you’ll be doing six months now. Will you be dining on caviar or eating dry crusts?
Just like the liver, your sales pipeline can only be neglected and abused for so long before you start to notice some issues.
Businesses with large projects are especially vulnerable to client change and can easily come unstuck if a project finishes earlier than expected. If your business concentrates on a few large customers, that’s okay so long as you’re constantly attracting and qualifying new potential customers, continuing to grow existing customers, approaching new customers and following up with previous customers.
In other words – you’ve got to keep being proactive about your sales and the health of your sales pipeline. What you ideally want, is a couple of customers waiting in the wings, so that if a project finishes early, you’ve got someone else to slot into that space.
Taking positive action on your sales pipeline
The key is that you’re taking positive action.
There are all kinds of discussions we could have about sales pipelines. Sales and marketing have really changed over the last few years. No discussion about sales pipelines is complete without reference to social selling and digital marketing, and the important part that these often play in helping you to attract new customers.
There are so many apps and CRMs (customer relationship management systems) out there, that some discussions around sales pipelines can disintegrate into a standoff about who’s got the best tech behind them. We’ll be talking about some of the available tools and what you should consider when thinking about tools of the trade.
After talking with numerous business owners, two things really stand out. Firstly, all the technology tech in the world won’t save your sales if you don’t take positive action. Secondly, many businesses are just a couple of clicks away from sales oblivion.
If you’re read this far and you’re feeling worried – keep reading for our list of ten tips you can do to shore up your sales pipeline for the future. We’ll be taking a deep dive into these points over the next few weeks, hoping to add value to your sales pipeline.
Ten way to create a healthy sales pipeline
- Check your current customers Take an objective, honest assessment of your current customer relationships. See where you could improve these, and where they could be vulnerable to change.
- Look at the market Are there signs of change on the horizon? If so, what can you and your business do to prepare for what lies ahead?
- Check your offer The best way to grow sales is to have a fantastic offer, a set of factors about your business and what you do that makes your customers jump through hoops to work with you. If you’ve got such an offer, bottle it and share it with your staff. Make sure everyone is clear on what’s special about your business and how you serve your customers best.
- Check your data Are those large customers paying on time? Are you serving them with your best products and services, the ones where you deliver the most value for the highest profit level? Large customers who pay late and provide just enough revenue to help you keep the lights on, are not as secure as you might initially think.
- Get social Make sure your business is active on social media, and that you’re well connected to your tribe. As you grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to follow up with everyone, so make sure your social selling is really working for you.
- Use technology Artificial Intelligence is an incredible thing. What technology is available to you, to analyse your database, your customers or to deploy as part of your digital marketing strategy?
- Ask for feedback That’s right – ask your current customers what they really think of you. Where are they happy? Is there anywhere that you’re missing the mark? Most important of all – what are the stories that they’re telling others when they recommend you? These stories are your key to future sales growth.
- Get a CRM Yes, your customer relationship management system. If you haven’t got one, we most definitely need to talk. In this age of cloud-based tools, distributed teams and exponential change, not to mention unexpected natural events – businesses need to protect their data and ensure they maintain visibility over their sales and their sales pipeline. As your team grows, you won’t be able to personally check all their work – this is where your CRM will help you to understand what’s really happening in your business.
- Use your CRM Perhaps we could have combined points 8 and 9, but they are both so important it’s worth giving them the space. Once you have got a CRM, make sure that everyone who touches your customers from social media through to new business development, account management and customer success is logging their interactions into the CRM. Used well, your CRM is a rich source of data that your business can use to grow strategically. Get the full value from your customer data by making sure that you have all relevant information at your fingertips.
- Talk to your team If you’re concerned about sales, don’t bottle this up. Talk to your team. They’re helping to serve your customers and may have insights that you just don’t have the opportunity to see. What gems of information can they share to help you grow your sales?
Are these ten points the only ways to ensure that your business is enjoying a healthy sales pipeline? No, they’re just the beginning.
Having a healthy sales pipeline is critical to your business as you plan your growth strategy for the year ahead. Just like a liver problem that suddenly becomes apparent – realising that your business could be in a precarious position with your sales can be overwhelming.
Here at Magnify, the need for a healthy sales pipeline is often a driver when business owners decide to step up their sales efforts. Over the next few weeks, the Magnify blog will be doing a deep dive into your sales pipeline and exploring how to make the best use of your sales opportunities. See you next week!