Are You Really Working All the Branches of Your B2B Sales Pipeline?
I’ll start by pointing out the reason I chose the term “sales pipeline” over “sales funnel”. I always believed the terms were interchangeable, but I have decided to ditch the funnel analogy for good. A sales funnel implicitly suggests that your leads will magically turn into sales through the miracle of gravity: as long as you continue dumping a healthy amount of prospects into the top of the funnel, they’ll inevitably filter down and naturally pop out the other end a sale. If this were true, my job would be a hell of a lot easier.
Instead, the dirty work of #businessdevelopment is done within a pipeline which, without the magic of gravity, requires actual work. When I’m actively prospecting, I liken myself to Jon Snow; slowly but surely trudging forward through a sales pipeline of terrors, fending off wildlings, white walkers, and condescending royalty in order to achieve my noble goal of delivering hard to find, qualified leads to my clients. (If you haven’t been swept up into the Game of Thrones obsession, feel free to apply whatever analogy works best for you.)
Working Your B2B Sales Pipeline – A Pragmatic Path
Before you delve into your prospecting work, you first need to set a goal, and that goal is getting qualified leads, right? Not quite, Captain Obvious. Finding qualified leads on the precipice of becoming sales is a fundamental goal of business development; it’s so fundamental that stating this as your goal is about as profound as stating that the sky is blue.
Your real goal is the answer to the following question: how many hours per week will you devote to #salesprospecting? The bare minimum should be 10 hours per week. This means 10 solid hours, not 8 hours of work and 2 hours of bathroom breaks and YouTube videos.
The Plan of Attack
Once you’ve set your weekly goal, pursue your sales pipeline calls/emails in the following order:
The Inquiring Minds – leads through your website, social media, etc. Essentially, the prospects that come courting your company.
The Damn Near Ready’s – these are the contacts you’ve had lengthy conversations with and are just a few months and/or an executive approval away from being a buyer.
The Needs a Touch More Lovin’ – you’ve talked, they’re intrigued, but no real commitment is yet in place.
The Call Me Backs – pretty much exactly what it sounds like: you got them on the phone but they were “in a meeting”, aka, “I guess I’ll talk to you eventually but not right now because it’s sunny outside and I’m trying to get the hell out of work so call me back next week”.
A Friend of a Friend – i.e. referrals.
Cold Calls – otherwise known as the place we all conveniently run out of time before we even get started. If you’ve committed to a goal of 10 hours/week of prospecting, you’ll likely only spend half of that time on steps 1 through 5. Step 6 is where you channel your inner Jon Snow and go all medieval on your #salespipeline.