A lot of salespeople will be familiar with the idea that sales is about three things - a positive attitude, clever sales techniques and working through the numbers.
Every day we put on our sales hat and apply an empathic and upbeat approach in our attitude to our customers.We develop and practice slick sales skills to connect with the customer, identify what they need and lead a conversation to the sale or positive outcome.
We work through the process of prospecting, presenting and managing the sale in order to bring it to a close. Yet, how many of us have figured out exactly how many leads we need?
Sales pipelines will differ in their numbers and steps depending on the company, industry or even individuals and several other factors. It may vary based on the product or service they are selling, the cost and level of complexity, the sales person’s ability and experience, the reputation of the company, the demand in the marketplace and the level of competition in the market.
Typically, we begin with a list of companies we want to target. Once we start communicating with these people, some of them will fall away. Others will look for further information and become warm prospects. Further calls, product demonstrations or meetings will happen with many moving to the quotation stage.
If the potential customer shows a lot of interest in the proposal, we can get carried away and assume that it’s just a matter of getting the lead over the line. And whilst I’m a big believer in being tenacious and optimistic, we need to be realistic too. Even if we get the verbal “yes”, there is no guarantee every promise of a sale will turn into an order.
We need to remember it’s natural to lose leads at the various stages, for many different reasons. There may be people we can’t get hold of at a particular time. Some customers may be busy and if we do get through to talk to them. They may not be in the market right now, or be able to afford our product or service. They might even prefer something else and decide to buy elsewhere. For those genuinely interested, it might be about timing, where they decide to put off the sale and buy later. All of these factors are valid and are just part of the process.
Still, the reality is that we need to pay attention to each step of the pipeline and work out the numbers needed in order to secure a sale. For each point, ask yourself:
- How many leads do we need in order to talk to someone?
- How many conversations we need to get someone interested?
- How many warm prospects do we need to need to find they are in the market right now?
- How many people will get to the quotation stage?
- And finally, how many proposals do we need to get a sale?
Once you familiarise yourself with the numbers you need to secure a sale, keep feeding the numbers and you will have a healthy sales pipeline.