No matter what industry your company falls under, you need a constant flow of clientele to work with. When the prospects in your sales pipeline dry up, everyone — from the CEO to the front desk receptionist – is affected. But before your salesforce starts panicking and cold-calling people out of the yellow pages at random, it’s important to identify where the “leak” in your pipeline may be coming from.
If you are part of a franchise organization, the first reaction may be to lower prices and downsize staff. After all, if the leads aren’t coming in, it’s easier to adapt yourself to the new environment rather than change what’s already there.
Do not do this. Let’s start with the obvious: it’s fundamentally pessimistic, and presumes you have no control over your situation. It also initiates a downward spiral of service-slashing, poor customer service, and sales droughts down the road. Consider what happened to Aeropostale: after they discounted their clothing in a last-ditch effort to put wind in their sales, they sank into bankruptcy.
A franchisee has the benefit of sharing a sales system with peers. The opportunity to learn how other locations have weathered a sudden drop-off in business is a huge benefit. However, if you’re an independent business in a niche industry, you may be going it alone. In any case, we’ve got a few tips and tricks to help you return to your day-to-day norm, or boost your already-impressive sales numbers.
Read on to discover a few ways to get your sales pipeline pumping.
1. Listen to customers – former and current.
Everyone thinks they’re listening to their customers. But that one client who went out of his way to thank you for his service or product? Probably not the most reliable indicator that you’re providing the best customer service and business collaboration possible.
Go out of your way to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. That means surveys, store walks, anonymous staff input, or the occasional phone call if you have the time.
Don’t obsess over numbers or rankings. Find the narrative and motivation behind each response, and try to find some common themes or recurring pain points. Once you’ve identified these issues, addressing them can be as easy as redirecting staff or changing the script for your sales team.
2. Establish a sales goal.
Revenue objectives can give a sales team a sense of purpose, while also providing a means for judging performance. As a leader, you’ll want to establish attainable targets that strike a balance between optimistic and realistic.
From there, you can determine what constitutes a healthy pipeline. Numbers can be leverage in this instance, allowing you to work with team members who are not comparatively performing as well.
3. Work your pipeline.
Ever heard of CRM management software? If you haven’t, you’re already behind. Find a way to track your prospects and measure which stage of the pipeline your clients fall under.
Devoting time to nurturing leads doesn’t hurt, but know your priorities. Salespeople love to follow-up with potential customers, but data seems to suggest that the odds of qualifying a lead in five minutes is twenty-one times higher than qualifying that lead thirty minutes later. So, strike while the iron is hot when it comes to fresh inquiries, and contact older leads during periods of downtime.
4. Categorize and spend time accordingly.
Don’t let the virtual tidal wave of contact information overwhelm your salesforce. Find a way to categorize all of your contacts on a regular basis.
Avoid vague qualifiers like “interested” or “call later.” Separate your prospects into the hot, warm, and cool portions of your sales funnel, so your team can come up with an applicable strategy, e.g. sending promotional items to lukewarm leads, or a text message to hot ones. If a client has been in your pipeline for more than a few months without moving forward, it’s time to give them the boot.
5. Leave a breadcrumb trail.
We’re not just talking company swag and marketing materials. Offer smaller items like white papers and informative guides for free. These will grant you their contact information while building rapport for your business. Later on, using an email or direct mail marketing campaign, you can push these people further down your funnel.
Or utilize the freemium model that has catapulted many Silicon Valley startups to financial heights. Offer a limited version of your service or product upfront, with purchasable addons and optional subscriptions.