We have given up counting the number of times we have heard “Our sales pipeline is heaving; just 50% of the deals closing would set us up for the year” and six months later, the story is the similar “The pipeline is heaving but no one is making decisions!”
Customers are not just someone who completes a transaction with you, a true customer will come back for more because they trust and value your service.
So while your lead generation engine may be working well with prospects; calling in, looking at the website, downloading whitepapers, agreeing to meet you, wanting you to quote or propose, if you are failing to close enough deals to meet your targets you clearly have a problem.
To successfully convert ‘interest’ into new business for your company requires the application of a fully integrated sales and selling process which encompasses:
- Qualification – a process of progressively developing the contacts that come out of your lead generation activities into stronger leads ready and willing to discuss specific issues that you might be able to help them with. The process also gives you an early indication when the right decision might be to disengage where it becomes clear the relationship is unlikely to benefit either party.
- Pursuing opportunities – once you have established a viable relationship the focus moves to responding to or, better still creating, new potential opportunities. Continuing qualification, now focused on quantifiable information, enables you to decide how to pursue the opportunity and whether an opportunity meets the criteria of delivering value to your customer and profit to your company. This also provides the hard facts necessary to produce a realistic sales forecast.
- Bidding –a proposal or quotation should be produced only after the parties have discussed and agreed on the shape and scope of the solution;
remember, a proposal is not a discussion document it is a statement of consensus.
Providing a proposal before confirming the potential to close the deal is tantamount to delivering free consultancy, equally, a proposal which fails to match the customer’s vision is damaging to the supplier’s brand image. To enhance your chance of success requires you to gather the information you need to understand and fulfil their decision criteria. Once the value of your proposal is understood, a quotation can be provided based on your strategic pricing strategy.
- Sales Pipeline reporting – all sales and selling activity involved in specific opportunities to develop, pursue and bid need to appear in the pipeline report to give you a realistic insight as to your future – there is nothing you can do to fix a poor sales month or quarter once it has happened – you need to constantly monitor sales and selling activity to ensure you have a secure future.
- Win/loss reviews – whether you win or lose a specific bid you can learn from the experience. By understanding why the decision went as it did you will gain valuable information that will empower future bids. The information may also help you to make better decisions, going beyond individual customers, enabling you to tune your whole approach to the market.
While the above is primarily focused on new customers and new business much of it will also apply to growing and expanding an existing customer account with add on or completely new work.
Call us to discuss how we could help you to convert ‘interest’ into new business at increased margins.