Empty Sales Pipeline? Here’s How to Fix It
A brand new year is underway and you have a lot of tasks to tackle, plus some new habits to work on as you stick to your resolutions. However, as you start on this new year with all of its promise and possibilities (and projects) keep in mind one critical component you’re carrying over from last year: your sales pipeline.
Unlike with bookkeeping and calendars, your sales pipeline doesn’t start out the year as a clean, blank slate waiting to be filled in. No, your sales pipeline—for better or for worse—is the same now as it was two weeks ago when it was still 2015. However, the start of a new year is a great time to take a good, hard look at that pipeline and develop some sales insight into the health of it and how to improve it…and then fill it up!
To aid you, we offer some ways to analyze the performance of that sales funnel, what might be causing it to perform below par, and ways to fix those problems. Then we follow that up with some easy-to-implement tips for giving that pipeline a boost for better health, and a better new year.
Determining what ails your sales funnel
It’s one thing to look at the bottom line and how well you and your team are meeting quotas (or not). But back that up a step for real sales insight to take a look at the pipeline itself. It’s the pipeline that feeds the sales funnel and ultimately the sales team. How does it look? Is it thriving and strong, full of leads and various stages in the buying process? Does it promise to help you meet your sales goals? Or is it kind of limping along, with poor leads, stalled opportunities and few closes?
If your sales pipeline seems a little unhealthy, there could be many reasons why this is happening. Three likely reasons are lack of opportunities, lack of movement, or lack of action…or a combination of two or more of those reasons! Here’s a little more information to help you figure out what’s wrong, and how to fix it:
- Lack of opportunities: Your sales pipeline might be suffering due to a lack of opportunities. It might be the opportunities you have aren’t real opportunities after all, especially if your prospects are seemingly engaged with your content and brand, but not ready to make a change. If your prospect isn’t ready to change, then you don’t have a real opportunity. Or perhaps you don’t have any new opportunities to follow up on. If you don’t have new leads, you won’t have any new business. The prospects you’re currently selling to will help to keep your pipeline where it is today. But they won’t help you move forward. You need to create new opportunities for your business in order to reinvigorate that pipeline and get those sales.
You can remedy a lack of opportunities in part by reconnecting with old leads in a concerted and strategic manner; attending conferences or events to create new leads; and reaching out to your existing clientele for referrals.
- Lack of movement: On the other hand, you might have plenty of opportunities that you’ve created, but they’re disappearing (or dragging along ever so slowly) due to lack of movement. They’ve been sitting in the same stage for too long and they are losing interest. It could be the deal is stalled due to a change in the prospect’s mindset. Or perhaps your sales team isn’t following up with that prospect. Either way, nothing is happening and leads aren’t getting moved through the sales pipeline like they should.
If a lack of movement is the problem, take a look at how your sales reps are going about their jobs. Is some training needed? Are they using the tools they’ve been given in an effective way? Is the content provided useful or are they ignoring it? Help them to commit to the sale and see it through, acting as a mentor if necessary. Also have your reps make themselves more available to prospects and leads, to answer any questions (not give more sales pitches). Ensure that your reps are focused on determining the prospect’s needs first. Any or all of these approaches should help to get your sales pipeline moving again!
- Lack of action: A lack of action on your side might be the reason your sales pipeline isn’t where you want it to be. Maybe your sales reps dropped the ball, or they showed indifference to the prospect. It could even be lack of action on the part of your sales rep lost the prospect completely. (Obviously lack of action on the part of a prospect can slow the sales process too, in which case you’ll want to re-evaluate your sales materials and approach, or even the types of leads you’re targeting.) This applies to existing customers too, who are likely to buy from you again: Make sure they aren’t being ignored by sales reps who are too intent on new leads and not attentive enough to current customers.
If lack of action ails your pipeline (and your reps), take a look at the communication between your reps and your prospects. Are they communicating regularly and consistently, or in a haphazard way? Make sure your reps are equipped with a strategic approach to these communications, and that the contact with prospects remains primarily focused on the prospect’s needs. This applies both to those who aren’t customers yet and those who are.
Ways to improve your sales funnel
As you determine the reasons behind an unhealthy sales pipeline and you start to remedy them, also start thinking about ways to reinvigorate your pipeline to fill it up again. There are a number of strategies you can use to help fill your sales pipeline, among them these ideas inspired by a Salesforce post:
- Engage customers and prospects on social media–Don’t let your sales reps try to rely on social media to make sales. Use it to get on someone’s radar by wisely and strategically using social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Reposting their content while giving them credit is a great way of showing them that you’re interested in what they do, and that you and your reps are paying attention.
- Hold an event inviting clients and prospective clients—Center your event around a topic of interest to people in the industry, so they have a reason to attend beyond free food. This is a great way to not only show appreciation for your current clients, but to also get your foot in the door with prospects and show them your industry knowledge and interest.
- Have your reps get on the road to meet with prospects in person–Meeting with prospects in person shows commitment, which can be a huge point in your rep’s favor. A caveat: These aren’t sales calls, but more like fact-finding/relationship-building calls. Tell your reps to take this opportunity to learn everything they can about these prospects. Learn about who they are—connect with them and let them talk about themselves and their values. Try to not even mention your product…at all. Your reps can do that in a targeted, relevant way as part of their follow up.
- Check your database and reconnect with old leads–Warming up cold leads can be another great way to fill your sales pipeline. You never know if a prospect’s mind might have changed since you last spoke. Reconnecting with them can be a great way to restart the conversation and get to know them better, especially if their needs have changed.
Even though your sales pipeline might not be where you want it to be as the new year gets underway, don’t let that hinder you from fixing it. Spend some time on sales insight to diagnosis potential problems and fix them. Then make a concerted effort to fill that pipeline and keep your sales reps busy all the year long!