Most companies will maintain a sales pipeline – the conversion process from initial contact by a prospective customer through to a closed deal – but few would consider themselves to be good at managing their pipeline.
Keeping opportunities moving through your sales pipeline can be challenging, especially if your sales cycle is long.
The first step is to re-evaluate your pipeline and understand why deals are slowing. Armed with this knowledge, you will know what action you need to take to get deals moving, grow revenue and win customers.
Why do deals stall?
Macroeconomic factors like Brexit cause unavoidable disruption to businesses but there are lots of other factors that slow your deals that you can control. Business change often leads to delays:
- People changes could leave you with no-one to champion the deal on the customer side or with someone new to convince to buy.
- Organisational goals may change making your offer a poor fit.
- Business priorities often change at the end of an accounting period.
- Mergers & acquisitions apply to technology as well as people – you may find that your buyer gains access to new technology through a corporate merger.
- Deals go dark if your contact starts avoiding you.
- Holidays create more work and make it tough to get hold of people.
- Budgets can be taken away or reduced.
- Competitors may swoop in and make your customer re-evaluate other products.
- Buyer behaviour has changed and buyers are more informed than ever before.
Factors within your own organisation such as long sales cycles, inefficient sales processes, low adoption rates for sales technologies and churn amongst the sales team can also lower sales win rates.
What can you do to reinvigorate your pipeline?
Keeping deals moving requires an implicit understanding of macroeconomic factors, the organisation you are selling to and your contact within it:
- Understand: Research their marketplace, their business and your contact within it.
- Re-evaluate: Does the deal have a chance of moving forward? Is it smaller or bigger now? Do you need to change your offering? Do you have a new contact? Will the sales cycle be longer?
- Manage: Go back and create your pipeline based on new parameters. Find new gaps to fill e.g. could you find customers in other sectors or cross-sell to other departments?
Customer centric selling relies on the 4 factors below to create a partnership and build trust between buyer and vendor:
- Relevance – Ensure you understand enough about your customer that what you talk about together is relevant to them and their business.
- Context – Understand their marketplace, know the steps ahead and show them the way.
- Timeliness – Businesses operate according to their own timelines – understand when would be a good time to contact your customer e.g. defer contacting them if you hear bad news about the company.
- Interest – Once your team are on board you get deeper customer engagement because your team have shown interest in their customers.
What have we missed from our pipeline list – can you add any from your experience?
Knowing your customers is key to treating them as individuals.
Show genuine interest in your customers and you will build credibility and gain trust.
Large organisations are using customer engagement tools to get to know their customer better.
Download our Customer Playbook on Increasing Customer Engagement Through Business Intelligence.