Fill Your 2016 Sales Pipeline Before 2015 Comes to an End!
Have you ever heard the advice that your day starts the night before? It means doing what preparation you can the night before to make your morning—and therefore your whole day—go smoother. When you know what you’re going to wear, pack your lunch, and make sure your laptop is by the front door before you ever head to bed, you’re already a step ahead on the next day. This advice is particularly useful for working parents who have not just themselves to prep but little ones too. It’s good advice—such good advice that the same concept applies to sales and building your sales pipeline.
As 2015 comes to a close, you might be tempted to let things settle down and take a break (especially as our brains all head into the holiday mindset), but sales never rest and neither should you. Now is a great time to begin mapping your plan for Q1 of 2016. Chief among those plans should be lead generation and filing your sales pipeline.
Who wants to talk about sales prospecting when the year is coming to a close, you ask? Well, you do! So grab an eggnog latte and sit down with your sales team before the holiday rush takes over to talk about starting 2016 strong, with everyone enjoying a bounty of prospects and leads.
To help you get started, we serve up some advice to help you focus on sales prospecting for next year now. No, it’s not as tasty as eggnog, but in the long run, you’ll get a lot more out of it…
Start with the obvious: Finding new customers
Obviously, finding new customers is going to be your first step in the sales prospecting process, right? And it sounds easy enough, but the truth is that if finding new clients were easy, you’d already be doing it. So the question is, how do you promote lead generation? Leads don’t appear out of thin air nor under the tree or in the stocking.
Nope, generating quality leads starts with a careful examination of your market. You need to know the needs, the competition, the landscape. Even more importantly, you need to know your customers—not the ones you want to have, but the ones you already have. As Elizabeth Wasserman points out in an Inc.com article, “Before you can find new customers and increase sales, you need to understand who your customer is, what value proposition you offer to customers, and what your competition is currently offering in the market and where there are gaps for a new entrant.”
Once you’ve done that homework, you can identify the gaps that you can fill with your product or service and determine how to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Remember, sales aren’t about fitting a square peg into a round hole. Sales are about providing real solutions to real problems. And the only way to know what those problems are is to ask, listen and learn. Then you need to figure out how to get that message out into the world and in front of the right people.
In addition to this, you need to also consider who your current customers are. That’s how you figure out who those “right people” are. Understanding your target’s demographics, psychographics, ethnographics, and buying habits can reveal some incredibly valuable information as to whom you’re selling to now. Then learn from and use this data to influence how to sell to new clients. It’s kind of like being able to paint a picture of what an ideal customer looks like, then going out to find more customers just like that—that look like the picture, if you will.
Next, strap on your sales manager’s tool belt
Once you’ve figured out whom you’re going to target with your sales prospecting, it’s time to break out your manager’s tool belt and help your team utilize the different inbound and outbound channels at your disposal. Some of those tools might include:
- Cold calling: While not always the best technique for lead generation, cold calling can be a good first step to initiating contact with a prospect, especially when the effort is targeted based on the homework done above.
- Networking and referrals: Networking and referrals are powerful sales prospecting tools that you can use to fill your sales pipeline, because they help you to get your foot in the door and give you immediate credibility.
- Social selling: Social and influencer targeting are also some great ways of generating new leads. And through cross-promotion, you can utilize an influencer’s wide sphere of influence to reach new prospects you wouldn’t have normally been able to reach.
- Product demos: A well-produced product video can be a quick way of increasing your sales—the prospect can see how your product works, and right then they can begin to make decisions based on additional information. Plus videos are engaging and can keep a prospect’s attention in a way an email or sales sheet can’t.
- Useful content: With a slew of information out there, it can be hard for your prospect to make decisions if they are always being sold to. Therefore, “by offering prospects helpful information in the form of blogs, whitepapers, ebooks, you build your credibility and win their trust and their business.”
These are just a handful of useful tools that you can encourage your team to use for lead generation, and you might have others. Each one has its own strengths and its own weaknesses, so encourage your reps to use a mix of them. While you’re sitting there with your eggnog latte with your reps, discuss how you will use these tools and to what degree, maybe setting benchmarks such as X number of cold calls and X number of network outreaches per day, and X number of demos per week.
Lead generation isn’t easy, but when you know your audience, target market and toolset, the process can be made a bit easier. And the most important part of lead generation to fill your sales pipeline is to get started. So enjoy the holiday music and special treats you’ll find around the office. But at the same time, choose to make the end of this year the start to a productive next year with this advice.