5 Tips for Closing Sales in the Pipeline

May 29th, 2014 by admin

Sales pipeline management has become complicated, and not always more efficient, with new sales tools and techniques now available. On average, 0.75% (less than 1%) of prospects entering the top of the funnel are converted to customers, according to Forrester Research. The chart below from that study illustrates the problem.

Average Pipeline Conversion Ratios

The bottom line of a 0.75% conversion ratio means roughly only 1 out of 135 deals that enters the top of the funnel drops out the bottom as a win that can be booked as revenue. Those odds are not too attractive. As sales and marketing professionals how do we address that shortcoming? As you can imagine, there are a myriad of ways this can be addressed. We’ve chosen to focus on the following 5 tips that can help your organization close a higher percentage of those opportunities.

Quality Leads

Lead generation is usually the responsibility of the marketing department. However, marketing personnel have relatively little contact with prospects and customers.  The field and inbound sales organizations are in the trenches every day managing objections and competitive pressures.  These experiences, if not communicated to marketing, can lead to attracting the least desirable prospects from the next campaign or event. We are all familiar with the technical concept of Garbage In/Garbage Out. If we want to convert more of the leads, a great place to start is with better leads. The alignment of sales and marketing departments can create the desired results of quality leads, along with a larger pipeline and shortened sales cycles. The reason is simple. Working together sales and marketing stand a better chance of getting the right kind of leads in the funnel. And “the right kind” of leads stand a better chance of getting closed, and getting closed in a shorter amount of time.

Profile the Prospective Customer

Public information on leads in the pipeline has become abundant. Profiling the prospect can now take minutes on the Internet. Sales professionals and marketing personnel should review as many social media accounts as possible for prospective clients.  Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and other social sites expose valuable information on the prospective company and even individuals in the buying decision making . Public filings in SEC.gov and research information within Hoovers.com are also proven destinations for research. Many larger public companies make it easy to do research. They typically have an investors section on their website that not only contains general information on the company, but also links to their financial filings which can be quite enlightening. Take the time review 10K’s and similar documents to see what’s going on with the company.  Finally, if a smaller private company is the prospect, Crunchbase.com is aggregating significant profiles. Profiling prospective customers provides a solid foundation for tailoring your offerings to meet the specific needs of the prospective customer, and that in turn enhances the chances your interaction with them will be much more meaningful.

Responsiveness

A quality lead can quickly go to waste. According to B2B Marketing Directions, one of the most basic requirements for maximizing results from lead generation efforts is responding to new lead inquiries in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, it’s clear that most companies don’t respond nearly fast enough to inquiries from new leads.

InsideSales.com and Dr. James Oldroyd conducted a landmark study regarding lead response methods and timing. The study addressed several important issues, including what day of the week and what time of the day is best to call a new lead to respond to an inquiry submitted online. The most striking results of the study, however, related to the impact of responding quickly to lead inquiries. Here are two of the most significant findings:

  • The odds of contacting a lead are 100 times greater when the initial contact attempt is made within 5 minutes vs. 30 minutes after the inquiry is submitted.
  • The odds of qualifying a lead are 21 times greater when the initial contact attempt is made within 5 minutes vs. 30 minutes after the inquiry is submitted.

Virtually every sales professional knows that time kills deals. Given the information above, it is apparent that time kills leads as well.

Involve Influencers and Decision Makers

Final Buy DecisionAccording to CSO Insights, sales training programs suggested that the way to selling success was to focus on the economic decision maker, aka that key individual who could make a deal happen. A paradigm shift happened during the last economic downturn; that single person seems to have disappeared, as seen in the following chart from the 2013 SPO study. One thing this chart shows is that we have to be reaching out to more people than ever before to influence all the right decision makers and influencers. Influencing 1 or 2 people is now only appropriate for meager 1 out of 5 opportunities. We have to be working with more than just a couple of people if we are going to close the other 80% of opportunities.

Leverage Communications Technology in the Sales Call

In order to involve and educate as many influencers and decision makers as possible, in a timely manner, sales professionals should leverage the latest communications technologies.  Visual selling techniques embrace some of the same concepts that have been adopted by marketing organizations for the development of new websites, and the exploitation of social media channels, but applies these concepts to the sales call. These techniques capitalize on the fact that we all live in a world where tweets are confined to 140 characters and vine videos are limited to 6 seconds. In this world, you can’t (or at least shouldn’t) be using PowerPoint presentations containing dozens of slides full of words. We should be leveraging other forms of media organized in an intentional manner. Three key concepts which form the foundation of visual selling include:

Telling a story – Your audience isn’t going to remember all of the words you throw at them, but they will remember an engaging story. Get the prospect or customer engaged by sharing a common experience as a starting point and painting a visual image. Surely your prospect has a business problem which your product or service addresses or you wouldn’t be in business.  

So start by telling them what your company experienced to prompt you to develop the solution you are selling. This approach draws them in, and also builds credibility that you truly understand their problem, because you experienced the same problem and were so frustrated you built a company around a solution. The concept of telling a story is now widely accepted in marketing, and needs to be much more widely accepted in the sales profession.

Embracing video – We all know the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s true, how many words is a video worth? Videos can be extremely high impact. Do you have a complex service that is hard to describe with words or even pictures. Make a video that shows your service in action. This video by the pipeline service company TD Williamson is a great example of an animated video that was made to demonstrate the complex process of tapping into an active pipeline. This is hard to describe with words or still images, but becomes clear to even those of us not in the pipeline business when you see it in action using this video.

Customer testimonial videos are another great example. Your prospect gets to hear directly from your existing customer base why your company, product, or service is so great. These videos are much more impactful that even a written case study with quotes, because they become real. And they don’t have to be “produced”. Taking a quick video of your customer on a job site can be even more effective at times.

The key to videos used in a sales process are to keep them short and impactful. Nobody wants to dim the lights and watch a 30 minute video or even a 10 minute video. Using video snippets that are a minute or less can really enhance your presentation, while a lengthy video can actually hurt your cause.

Using media appropriately – Many of us became exasperated by wordy PowerPoint slides and decided we would make a change. The problem is that most of us simply made the change of putting some sort of graphic or picture on that same wordy PowerPoint slide. That isn’t using visuals properly. Different types of content and media should be used when visual selling. Leverage videos, images of emails or hardcopy letters singing the praises of your company, or even active websites that show tweets or reviews of your product or service. Depending on your service or product, simple before and after pictures can even be incredibly compelling. You’re telling a story visually, so make use of a variety of different content types to keep your audience interested and engaged.

Your Experience?

What are some of your tips for closing more deals? Let us know by commenting on this post or hit us up on Twitter @4DSales.

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