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5 Steps to a Robust Sales Pipeline

By:Doug Dvorak


Whether or not the sales team follows the rules of the sales process, every company has a sales process in place as this is a prerequisite for a sales department. Even when you’re not sticking to the company’s sales process, sales executives follow some of sales process. In every sales process there are a few well coordinated steps:

  • Generating leads
  • Qualifying prospects
  • Sales presentations
  • Handling objections
  • Closing deals
  • Referral sales

There are potential/confirmed customers at various levels of the sales process. Usually their number tapers off from lead generation to the final step of referral sales. If a hundred leads are generated it may lead to 20 qualified prospects and three or four deals. If the sales person is talented enough or lucky, the number of qualified prospects and ultimately the deals may increase. Though there is no fixed method to predict the number of deals, this is a rough measure of leads to deals predictions. The Pareto principle of 80:20 works well here. Eighty percent of the leads qualify as prospects and eighty percent of the sales deals are generated by twenty percent of the qualified prospects. There may be a small percentage of difference here and there, but generally this is the rule.

The generation of leads, qualified prospects, deals, and referral sales is known as the sales pipeline. It is in the best interest of a sales person to have a robust sales funnel at every stage of the sales pipeline. This is the best way to maximize sales. The healthier the sales pipeline, the better the chance of achieving sales. It is the responsibility of the sales executive to maintain a robust sales pipeline. Here are the five steps how it can be done.

A strong Foundation through Good Lead Generation and Qualification

Explore all the expected sources for leads. Your company definitely creates leads by way of advertisements and publicity. Check if the lead data bank your office uses is up-to-date. You should have your own methods of lead generation too. Fresh leads can be obtained from the latest yellow pages, the Internet, networking, and referrals. There are some services like postmaster.com that have interested people signed up to receive newsletters and emails from sellers. You can probe for sales by sending newsletters (without spamming) to the listed people with postmaster.com.

Apart from the expected sources, leads appear from unexpected quarters if a sales person keeps his eyes and ears open. If you are on your way out of the customer’s office after having concluded a deal there is no harm in stopping by and having a small talk with any of the office staff. Thank people from the organization that have helped you in reaching the right person and making a sale. Some of their friends or spouses may be running businesses and may have a requirement of your products. Usually as a sales person you will be in your element after making a sale. This is the best time to explore more possibilities. If not immediately, the office staff may get interested in your product later after they see how it works in their office. They wouldn’t require any further proof of quality.

When it comes to qualifying prospects for your product or service be sure to ask open-ended questions – who, what when, where & why to determine that they are prospects and not suspects. Wisdom lies in grading qualified prospects and allotting time according to their importance. High caliber sales professionals spend more quality time with top prospects.

Be Creative in Contacting

Senior executives that have the power to make buying decisions do have hobbies and are often found in gyms, tennis clubs, resorts, and golf courses. They would be pleasantly surprised and appreciate it when you try to meet them there. Keep the meeting as brief as possible and only as a primer to a real official meeting. This is the time when they are in a relaxed mood and would give you a chance for a meeting or a demonstration. Also ascertain as to what time the senior executive in a relaxed mood while in the office. That’s the best time to schedule a meeting.

Probe and Talk about the Customer’s Need

When you have an audience with the potential customer, don’t bore him with the prattle about your product. Even if it’s the best product in the whole world it means little to him. You have to first explore the needs of the organization, understand the needs, and confirm the needs. Then you will have the attention of the customer when you describe how your product can cater to their requirements and all the positive points about your product will suddenly become matters of interest to him. Let the customer do the talking about his needs first.

Solid Presentation, Pleasant Objection Handling, and Swift Closing

Now this is your chance. You have come this far. Make the most of it by giving a solid presentation. The best way to do that is to pepper your presentation with humor. Be confident and assertive. Come prepared to handle objections and remove objections pleasantly. Most importantly know when to close the deal. Close the deal swiftly with correct timing.

Closing a Deal is Just the Beginning

Closing the deal is just the beginning of more sales from the customer (repeat orders) and referrals earned through them. Yes, referrals have to be earned. When you treat your customers well with the right service they may refer others voluntarily. They may come forward to refer others when you ask them. Many sales people overlook the opportunity for repeat or referral sales just by not asking.

Sales people can have a large number of leads, prospects, and customers if they follow the above five steps. The flow of leads and customers would be steady and the sales pipeline will be robust as well as fully functional.

About the Author:

Doug Dvorak helps companies and professionals achieve results through customized, creative and non-traditional sales training systems that are “one size fits one” and developed to the unique business needs and “sales pain points” of each client. He is available to speak on these topics.

For more information visit https://salescoach.us or call 847-359-6969 FREE

Permission is granted to reprint this article in print or on your web site as long as the paragraph above is included and contact information is provided.

Copyright 2008 The Sales Coaching Institute, Inc.

Sales Skills Training Strategic Sales Coaching

Doug Dvorak, CEO of DMG International, is the Author of the forthcoming book “Build Your Own Brand” (Pelican, 2009)