Sales Pipeline Problems
I have met dozens of salespeople who, when asked how much is in their pipeline will answer ~£180,000. When they are questioned further, it seems like their pipeline is ~£75,000.
This mistake can have a devastating effect on your business.
How can we manage our business expectations effectively?
It all starts with the quality of your pipeline.
An Inaccurate Sales Pipeline
Effective pipeline management is the life-blood of your business. It controls your raw materials, if your business is manufacturing. It controls your allocation of resources, if your business is the tech industry. It controls your purchasing if your business is distribution. Everything rests on an effective accurate pipeline.
Sales Funnel Stages
A quick note on the different stages in a sales funnel.
- Suspects: I don’t know you, you don’t know me, but I want to do business with you.
- Prospects: I know who you are, and you are aware of me, but we have yet to have a meeting to discuss business.
- Pipeline: We have met, we have discussed solutions, and we are at proposal/quote stage. You have been qualified into my sales pipeline.
- Client/Customer: We are in business together.
Qualify the Prospect
I have come up with the following 6 questions that should be asked at every prospect meeting. If you have the answers to all of these questions, then, and only then, should the prospect enter your businesses sales pipeline.
I have used the acronym A.C.T.I.O.N. for this purpose.
A.-Authority: Have the person(s) that you are going to see got the Authority to make a decision? If not then I would suggest that going to the meeting is a waste of time for both of you. The easiest question that I have come up with to ascertain that they are is this. “Who besides you makes the decision on moving forward?” The answer will let you know if you are meeting with the decision maker.
C. – Criteria: Your potential clients buying Criteria. What is it? The cheapest? The most expensive? Best value? A certain brand? Find out the answer.
T. – Timeline: When does the client want the product? When is the project to be completed by? Not understanding the Timeline risks the client being disappointed because of lead times. Salespeople can waste a huge amount of time working on business that the potential client is not even considering for 6 months.
I. – Intent: What is the client’s Intent? Do they need 3 quotes? Are they going to tender? Are they meeting with your competitors? There is nothing wrong with asking, and it is vital to know.
O. – Objections: What are they? As Zig Ziglar says “You don’t have to answer all of the Objections, just the important ones”.
N. – Next step: What is the agreed Next Step? What have both you, as the salesperson, and your potential client agreed is the next course of action. Send a quote, see a demonstration, go onsite to see the solution working in another customers.
Once all of these questions have been answered, the prospect enters the sales pipeline.
Failure to answer even one of these questions makes the prospect stay a prospect. There is nothing wrong with this, but the deal cannot progress, stock should not be ordered, and resources not scheduled for them.
If you are in sales, and have prospects that are not qualified using A.C.T.I.O.N. they are prospects. To progress the prospect simply call or meet again and ask the relevant question.
I have seen first-hand in my clients the difference asking about a prospects timeline can make to a pipeline.
A salespersons pipeline should be bulletproof.
If a client in your pipeline won’t, or can’t answer one of these questions, then they get put on your prospect list until they can.
Now Go Qualify
If you would like to find out more about Effective Pipeline Management, I’d love to hear from you.
Send me your questions via the contact page.