Leads Sales Advice Sales Basics

How to Build a Sales Pipeline

I was asked this question recently and thought I would try to answer in this post.  As simple and easy as it sounds, some intricacies need to be worked out before you ever begin.  My last article, “Cold Calling is Dead-Or Is It?” addresses an old method of simply picking up the phone and dialing.  Not much in that thought process! Nor, much success!

The trick (or secret) is to use your time wisely to build as big a sales pipeline in the shortest amount of time.  After all, the clock is ticking and the sooner you get a score on the board, the easier it is to garner some breathing room.  So where do you start if you have what is considered a fairly greenfield territory? Or your company’s presence has been minor?

You start with a collaborative meeting with your sales manager and the lead generation support (I talk more about this further down) Work with marketing to get awareness and interest in your area.  If you do not have any marketing effort at your disposal, your job is going to be a bit tough.  At the very least, you will have a sales manager, and between the both of you, you need to understand your target market, and how best to segment that market.

Building your pipeline is a bit like asking someone how to paint a picture.  You are going to get several different answers and many methods. I have seen this question asked in an interview.  It is unfair to ask someone without first establishing the premise for the question because it can have many different answers and none of them wrong.  Usually the person asking is looking for the same answer that is in their head so answering it differently does not make it wrong, just different.  Unfortunately, some interviewers do not see it that way.  That is why I think you need to understand from a collaborative view, what management is thinking and form your strategy and tactics from there.  There is not really a wrong or right answer because it can go both ways depending on the end objective.

You have to ask yourself two questions: Am I looking for numbers or am I looking for qualified numbers?  Let’s assume the latter. Qualified leads are the life-source of every company.  Why?  These leads have had a positive response from a potential customer.  If handled correctly, they turn into sales.  Lead nurturing is an absolute necessity to keep this potential opportunity from dying on the vine or your competition to swoop in and steal this right from under your nose.
Earlier I spoke of lead generation. Regardless of the size of a company, lead generation and nurturing is a requirement; period.  Your field sales force needs to be closing sales, not seeking qualified leads.  This role is one of the most overlooked, yet one of the most vital position for supporting a field-based sales force.  When you ramp-up your sales force, place serious importance on how this team is going to be getting their leads.  Do you know why companies always have a ramp up time?  Partly because of the training, but mostly because of the time to get there territory in order.

I realize there are other methods, but these really just lend themselves to the efforts of a dedicated lead generation machine.  Personal leads, contacts, and luck all are good, but a coordinated marketing and lead generation plan should be an integral part of sales.

If you find this useful, Contact Me or better yet, leave a comment. If you have a Twitter account and found this article useful, it would be much appreciated if you would retweet this with the tool at the beginning of the article!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

Sales Tips

Selling in Tough Times

I thought I would put my own spin on what I’ve experienced and in addition, what I currently see transpiring in today’s selling environment. Aimed mostly at sales management, I would like to share my thoughts from having been an active participant as both a sales professional and manager.

Selling in the toughest of economies can still be done, but it takes special leadership to navigate the waters. My career has taken me through broad as well as vertically tough times. The one element that must stand out is LEADERSHIP, not management. Given the events of the past 12-18 months, salespeople AND customers are more nervous than ever before. Now is the time to lead, not manage. Pressure is building on both sides of the selling/buying fence. Here’s what I suggest……

  • Don’t beat a dead horse– brow-beating the salesforce to make their numbers isn’t going to make it happen, rather, beating up on sales people will demoralize and damage their esteem and in the end won’t generate another $ of sales. It just poor management and shows zero leadership.
  • Turn the pressure down– Money is short and both the seller and buyer know it. Pressuring the customer with constant pinging will only result in resentment and anger towards you and your product. It also sets a precedent in future dealings; it shows your desperation. To counter, uncover additional pain points that show value for your product, then work to motivate the customer to buy.
  • Go back a few steps– In order to have a winning situation, you may need to revisit prior sales steps to uncover functionally better reasons to buy including the cost of delaying the purchase. Above all, you must have previously in the sales cycle built a mutually agreeable plan with the customer.
  • Climb the ladder– climb the corporate ladder for the funding. Upper management has, or can obtain the money, especially so in a down economy. If not, they know how to get it so your value proposition better be spot-on. Cultivate higher-level relationships, higher than you are now. When costs are trimmed, they are done at lower levels and if you are working at this level this might be why you are not selling!

The last thought an organization has right now is hiring; but it should be the first thing. NOW is the right time to hire. The market is full of very talented people and we all know GREAT salespeople are rare.

One last thought. Everyone naturally holds the sales organization responsible for revenue generation and even more so when times are tough. Sales knows what they have to do and how far they are out on the limb. –SUPPORT THE LIMB–

As always, Good, bad or indifferent, Contact Me and let me know your thoughts or better yet, post your comment here!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner