If I asked you, at this moment, how many opportunities in your sales pipeline were likely to close, what would your answer be?
All of them?
What’s a sales pipeline?
Too much optimism
There are a lot of things that go into generating and closing a lot of sales. I will talk about some in a moment. But before we get to that, I want you to know the biggest cause of sales pipeline constipation: too much optimism.
Here are common things I hear from my clients:
“I really think this one will close because they said they were really interested.”
“We had a great vibe. I feel good about it.”
“I have no idea what happened. I was sure this project was going to happen. We had so many meetings. I was just informed they went with someone else. What am I going to do now?”
You need to have a huge amount of optimism and enthusiasm in business because it is the fuel that activates you doing the work you were put here on this earth to do.
Use all of it when you make a great connection with a potential client who you know you can help.
Give them a clear proposal and genuinely express your enthusiasm to work with them.
Then, when you have done all you can do, let the rest gloriously go.
Until you have your check or deposit in the bank, consider that you have no chance of closing this business, and continue seeding new opportunities.
This attitude will give you so much more peace of mind, and a much more accurate sense of pipeline.
The reality is, we often need ten times the amount of sales opportunities than we think we do to generate income stability and growth.
5 Fixes that will change everything
1. Qualify, qualify, qualify
What questions do you ask in your sales process? Do you spend a lot of time getting to know what your clients are trying to accomplish, and why it is important? Do you know when they need to have that thing you are helping them do done? Exactly? What will happen if it doesn’t get done?
Build a consistent list of questions for the beginning of your sales process to be sure that you deeply understand the problem or challenge faced by your prospective client.
Use this to build a clear and feasible solution, at a price resonant with the value and the financial resources of the client.
2. Simplify your proposal process
About 2 years ago, a beloved client was stuck with a gloriously slow sales pipeline. Things were just not moving, and when opportunities arose, it would be a huge, stressful effort to get a proposal out the door.
We evaluated her proposal process, and it turned out, it took about 20 hours of work to get a completed proposal.
She re-engineered the entire process, and ended up getting it to a manageable 2 hours of work.
Pairing extremely consistent marketing actions over time, with her renewed rigor in her sales process, she ended up totally turning things around, to the point of having overflowing amounts of work.
Check out Hubspot’s recent post on recommended proposal software.
3. Don’t trust the Maybes
One of my past clients, Skip Miller, would always say “Yes’s are great. Nos are great. Maybes will kill you.”
Believing that deals in your pipeline will close is the biggest killer of sales momentum, and frankly, your emotional well-being.
After talking with an ideal client, it is normal to get really excited about working with them. If you aren’t careful, you can get ahead of yourself and actually believe you are already working with them, and don’t need to talk to anyone else.
A maybe is not a yes.
Consider it a no.
And go plant some more seeds.
4. Tell people what you do, and why you love it
I work with a lot of people who are generous and humble. They don’t feel comfortable blasting everyone about how great they are all the time.
The thing is, effective selling is not blasting people.
It is, as my friend Phil Jones says in his audio book How to Persuade and Get Paid, “Building enough trust to make a recommendation.”
I hope you are in the kind of business that you believe in. I hope you truly get joy from doing the work. And I hope that you feel so excited when your clients have success that you can’t wait to share it with with everyone.
If this is the case:
Do your neighbors know what you do?
Do you sport parent friends know what you do?
Do your past clients, peers, and fellow employees have a clear sense of what you are doing now?
What benefit are you getting from withholding this information?
Tell them! And watch more opportunities appear.
5. Ask for a decision
Your main goal in sales is not to get a close, but rather to get a decision, yes or no. If you don’t have a decision, as Skip says, you have a Maybe.
Before you leave a sales conversation, define the next steps, check to make sure that your prospective client is in a place to make a decision, then outline a specific date to make a decision.
To respect both of your efforts and energy, you need to make a decision in a timely manner.
If they don’t respond to you in that timeframe, they have other priorities, and that is ok.
As for you, you have problems to solve, things to build, and people to help.
Get out there and plant some more seeds.