What if you could increase sales without hiring new reps or spending any more money? More specifically, what if you could boost your revenues by analyzing your sales pipeline and applying a set of simple strategies?
We’re glad you asked, because we have some answers.
The strategies to increase sales break down into three key areas:
1. Focusing on the right leads
2. Engaging prospects with the right message at the right time
3. Negotiating effectively & closing the deal
Here are specific actions you can take to make sure that your sales reps are doing their best work in all three of these key strategic areas:
1. Focus On The Right Leads
To identify good leads, sales reps need to look at the strategic and monetary value of the lead, as well as the likelihood that the lead will eventually become an actual customer. Conversely, salespeople need to know how to quickly discern which leads are going nowhere, and stop wasting time on them.
Doing the baseline research to learn this information about each lead takes time and effort. Here are some tactics to reduce this time and effort, and boost the effectiveness of your team’s work:
Identifying Strong Leads
So how do you ensure that your sales reps can quickly identify a good lead when they see one?
• Identify buyer personas and share them with your team
Regular coaching and reminders of how to identify good leads will improve your team’s win rate. If you sell enterprise level security software, then a good prospect might be an e-billing company, and the ideal contact might be their Chief Information Officer. Develop detailed buyer personas for qualified prospects, and make sure your reps know them thoroughly.
• Stay flexible
Your prospect persona should evolve with your business. If your product changes, you add new functions or services, or your pricing is modified, you will probably need to alter your idea of what constitutes a good lead. Keeping every salesperson in the loop in this regard is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the sales pipeline.
Identifying Unqualified Leads
It is inevitable that some unqualified leads will find their way into your pipeline, and having a sales team that knows how to recognize them and filter them out quickly is the best way to reduce the number of lost deals later in the process.
Quickly getting answers to the following questions can help your sales reps disqualify weak leads before too much time has been spent pursuing them:
• Can you provide the product or service that the prospect needs?
This is the most important qualifier. It’s obviously not a good match If you’re selling air conditioners and the prospect needs industrial ovens. Sales reps should learn to identify these categorical mismatches quickly, and move on to pursuing other leads.
• Can your prospect afford your product or service?
This is a simple way to disqualify leads. Ask what their budget is, and if it doesn’t fit with your pricing, then there is no fit and you should disqualify them. For businesses that provide highly customized proposals and quotes, this process may not be as clear cut.
Sometimes your lead will be reluctant to reveal their budget, which is completely understandable. In that case, you can share the typical cost of your product and ask the lead to tell you if that fits within their budget.
• Is your prospect ready to buy?
Sometimes prospects just aren’t ready to buy what you’re selling. This could just be a timing issue. Maybe they’re in the middle of raising venture capital or just don’t have the time to hash out a deal with you this quarter. Your sales team needs to recognize when the timing is wrong, and should make a note to follow up with the lead a few months down the road.
It could also be that the prospect isn’t fully convinced that they need your product or service. If that’s the case, your sales team needs to increase their communication with the prospect and start using their powers of persuasion, which we’ll discuss in greater detail in the next section.
Naturally, most businesses will need to ask further questions and tailor the lead qualifying process to fit their industry and customer base. Sales teams that are great at qualifying leads increase sales and reduce their sales cycles.
Create detailed buyer personas, and make sure your sales reps know how to use them to quickly identify strong leads and toss out irrelevant ones.
2. Engage Prospects With The Right Message At The Right Time
Once your sales rep determines that a lead is worthwhile, it is time to ratchet up the amount of communication with the prospect. Engaging the prospect with the right message at the right time is the key to converting strong leads into closed deals.
Here are a few best practices sales reps can use to maintain and increase engagement with potential clients:
• Dig deep: Always be researching the client so that your communications with them can be tailored to their circumstances.
• React instantly: Return client messages as quickly as possible to show that you’re committed to meeting their needs in a timely manner.
• Prove your worth: Send the client case studies, testimonials, and other insights that directly or indirectly demonstrate the value that they will get from working with you.
Tracking all of this communication in one place will help your reps ensure timely follow-ups and maintain rapport with clients. Poor communication can result in losing the deal to a competitor, or even a total cancellation of the project. If you’re a Base customer, you can track all communication with clients and have automatic email view notifications and follow-up reminders sent to your sales reps to help them get more productive and increase sales.
Coach your sales reps to increase communication with clients as they get nearer to closing a deal. Track these communications effectively so that you can tailor your messages to the client’s specific circumstances.
3. Negotiate Effectively & Close The Deal
At this point, you should know definitively that your prospect can afford what you’re selling. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re willing to pay that much. If your product costs a nontrivial amount, any quote you provide is likely to spark a round of negotiations with the potential client. Negotiation training is a must for sales reps, and having skilled negotiators on your team prevents leaks near the end of your sales pipeline.
The process of improving your sales pipeline doesn’t stop when a sales rep closes a deal. Previous clients and referrals are one of the best sources of new business, and testimonials from strategic, high-value clients are an important promotional tool. Getting referrals from current clients creates a virtuous cycle of constant improvement for your sales pipeline. Entrepreneur.com has a stellar article on how to effectively use testimonials to close more deals.
Use your current client base as a source of new prospects by asking for referrals and testimonials. Every successful sale can contribute to further improvement in your pipeline.
Consistently providing outstanding products and killer customer service, combined with mastering the strategies outlined in this post can pave the way to a smoother, more efficient sales process.
To recap, the steps you should take to increase sales and plug leaks in your pipeline are:
• Create and maintain buyer personas, and make sure your sales team understands them.
• Disqualify leads early, often, and effectively. The more leads you disqualify early-on, the fewer deals you will lose later in the pipeline.
• Coach your sales reps to communicate clearly and frequently as they move towards closing a deal. This is a great time to strengthen your relationship with the client and prevent the loss of the deal to a competitor.
• Teach sales reps how to negotiate while maintaining a friendly relationship with the client. Overly aggressive negotiating tactics could cost you the deal.
• Get referrals and testimonials from current clients so that the hard work you put in to build those relationships can feed new prospects back into the beginning of your sales pipeline.