Category Archives: Sales

What does a healthy sales pipeline look like?

According to research by Vantage Point, 60% of sales managers say that their company does a poor job of managing their sales pipeline, how do you rate yours?

A sales pipeline is a visual snapshot of where prospects are in the sales process. Sales pipelines show you how many deals salespeople are expected to close in a given week, month or year and how close you are to reaching targets.

If you have a pipeline worth £100,000 in contract value and your conversion rate, from lead to sale, is 10%, then you can expect to close £10,000 worth of new business.

If your sales target is £20,000, then you will need to convert twice as many leads.

This is where pipeline analysis comes in. If you can identify improvements within your pipeline that will help you move more prospects from one stage to another, then you’re going to be more successful in your business.

For B2B sales in particular, having a healthy sales pipeline allows you to:

  • Improve your sales process
  • Forecast future business results
  • Analyse different sales strategies for your business,
  • Review your progress for the current financial year
  • Know how far you are from your targets.

A sales pipeline plays a key role both in closing more sales deals and indicating the overall health and future direction of your company. Here are a few tips to manage your sales pipeline.

Follow up, follow up, follow up.

Buyers today have more choice than ever before and with it, they need more help to make the right decision and choose your product or service. The best sales people will make sure they keep following up with leads and keep following up.

Focus on the best leads

Concentrate your efforts on the best, most sales-ready, high value leads.

To help, you could sort your sales prospects from high to low, instead of by date so you can instantly see which leads are most valuable. Also, if you view your sales activities for each lead, you can identify which prospects are the most engaged.

Let go of the dead leads

It is important to know when to let go of a lead. A lead is dead when they clearly tell you they’re not interested. If you can’t contact them, or you’ve spoken to them repeatedly but have not been able to move them forward.

Recognise these dead leads quickly so you can move on. 

Regularly monitor your pipelineYour sales pipeline is changing all the time so you need to monitor the key sales metrics. This includes things like:

  • The number of deals in your pipeline
  • The average size of the deals in your pipeline
  • The average percentage of deals that you win (close ratio)
  • The average lifetime of a deal before it’s closed (sales velocity)

These metrics give you an ‘at a glance’ view of the health of your sales pipeline and your business.

Review pipeline processes

The best sales organizations regularly review their sales pipeline and techniques to make sure things are optimized to ensure maximum efficiency and success.

When it comes to the sales process, each stage can be looked at and adapted/improved over time. This can be done one bit at a time!

Keep your pipeline updated

Don’t let your sales pipeline can get messy and confusing.

It is important to keep details up to date on every single lead by adding regular notes and information for each stage of the sales process. This does mean more admin time, but if you use this time to remove dead leads or update outdated contact information, then it’s time well spent.

Above are just a few good practices for managing your sales pipeline, there are more!

If you would like to discuss ways of improving yours Your Business Development Team would be happy to have a chat and see if we can help.

And please share this article if you’ve found it useful.

How do you know which half of your marketing is working?

I assume many of you have heard this before: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,” John Wanamaker (1838-1922).

Although this is an old quote, it is still very relevant and represents a source of great frustration for many companies. Marketing often seems like an endless pit which you must continue to spend on, regardless of the results you might get from it. Indeed, many companies I meet want us to provide guarantees that we can deliver results. To the marketeers and sales people that might sound problematic, however, not to an engineer who might spend 80% of their time ensuring processes deliver expected results.

This frustration leads many companies to decide not to spend any money on marketing and rely completely on existing clients and referrals. I think this is a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. The good news is that there are many things you can do to measure your marketing results. Here are a few examples:

  1. Use a CRM system which has an effective dashboard, providing you with an overview of your pipelines and sales opportunities. Make sure that you are including an accurate picture across your sales process, for example new leads, prospects and opportunities. This means that you will be able see an accurate picture of your sales funnel.
  2. Use Google Analytics regularly to evaluate your website performance. Although it takes time to get your head around it, you can find a wealth of information from traffic fluctuation, website usage and sources. If you don’t have the time to do this yourself, ask your marketing company to help or get training.
  3. Ask for reports on any marketing activity you outsource and set up reports for any activities you carry out in-house. From Excel sheets to sophisticated tools such as Keyhole or Hootsuite, find the tool that works for you and use it.

 This is all very well and might help with the initial discussion, but today, statistics and numbers are relatively easy to get hold of. The real question is what it means and whether it’s any use to your business. Let’s say that you have had 500 more people land on your site through Social Media in quarter two; does this mean you are going to hit your sales target this quarter? Of course, the answer is, not necessarily, which brings us back to square one…

What can you do then to understand if your marketing is working?

Here is what I recommend:

  1. Have a plan and a strategy that you update regularly
  2. Get close with your marketing and understand how it works and what results it brings
  3. Ask the right questions about your results
  4. Be patient and realistic about time scales
  5. When in doubt, bring in an expert

 Hope this is helpful. As always, if you are looking to discuss your options or just for some advice do get in touch.

How long does your summer holiday really lasts?

Research into wellbeing points out that levels of burnout are increasing, work-life balance is getting worse and many of us experience stress like never before. If you look at it in this light, having some time off in the summer seems like a really good idea.

Most people must agree, which is why July and particularly August tends to be a quieter time at work. So far so good but the problem is that many take this to mean that they can have a break from marketing too. Go off line for a bit and save some money on on-going campaigns. Good for them. There is nothing wrong with some cost and time saving exercises, no one is listening anyway, right?

After all this build-up I am sure that you understand that I don’t quite agree. Before I am accused of being a sad person and a party pooper, let me explain why: I am all for going on holiday, in fact some people might tell you that I have more holidays than most. But that does not mean I stop looking for new business and working through my marketing plan. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Because of the level of exposure to content and easy access to work stuff, most people don’t switch off. Even if they don’t read work e-mails on their holiday, they will be thinking about the problems they need to solve when they get back in the office. Your Blog might just get in front of them at the right time.
  2. I have said this before about December but it’s also true about August: people don’t take the entire summer off, unless they are teachers, but when they are in the office they have less meetings so they are more available to take your calls. You never know, you might just be able to get hold of that prospect you have been chasing for months.
  3. Most importantly, a new sale does not start with the crunch, it starts with a load of other work designed to identify interest. This takes time and you always have to go through it first, unless you just want to sit tight and wait for sales to come to you that is. So if you stop all of the interest creation and new business activity you may well find that you don’t write any new business until January 2020. Can you afford to do this?

So, by all means, have your holiday and enjoy it. Try to switch off and leave all the worries and stress for when you get back. Before you go, make sure you schedule the Blogs to go out as normal, keep paying your marketing company and make sure someone is following up on all of this activity. This just might help with your stress levels when you get back.

If you need help augmenting your resources this summer, check out how we can help here.

How easy is it to buy a G&T?

We all either love a chilled glass of G&T on a summer day, or at least can appreciate the notion. This is why I was particularly delighted to discover that someone clever had organised a festival dedicated to sausages and gin in Portishead last weekend. The local butchers have advertised it for months wearing colourful t-shirts and promising to supply their lovely sausage creations. What else can you ask for?  We were signed up to attend SausageGin as we fondly branded it.

What happened next was unexpected, even if you attend more local events than I do. We turned up on time to see our favourite band, Three Day week.  It wasn’t raining and sausages were still sizzling. The gin tent was prominent and there was even a Pimm’s tent. All looked great and as expected so we headed to the gin tent and asked for our long-awaited G&T. It was then promptly explained to us that we needed to go to another stand to get a glass, come back to them to buy the G and then go to the Pimm’s tent for the T…. Guess what happened: we ended up with wine from the pub instead.

I have no idea how well the gin tent did at the festival; the overall event was popular and pleasant. However, as someone who promotes sales for a living, the convoluted G&T sale was a lesson I had to share with you. It is so easy to do this; we all have a story or two to tell about how we forgot an important small detail that made our campaign a disaster. I just think it’s worth reminding you that if you want people to buy, you need to make it easy to do business with you.

This means that if you are planning a marketing campaign, you need to make sure that all the links work, the landing pages download quickly and your contact details are nice and bold in case someone wants to contact you. It also means that if you can provide a ‘one click service,’ don’t make it three. People’s time is their most important asset so make sure you respect that.

Sometimes this means that you are better off working with marketing and business development experts who can help you consider the best way to take your product to market. This might save you some costly mistakes like the above. Visit our website for more details.

 

Entering new markets can be a real challenge – Why do it?

One of my big bugbears is the saying, ‘Better the devil you know’. My esteemed colleague Google tells me that the proverb is of Irish origin and has been traced back to the 1539 collection of proverbs by R. Taverner. The main point of this saying is, of course, that a new thing is unknown and therefore should be avoided as it may be even worse than the current.

Not surprisingly, this is an approach we come across a lot when dealing with business. I have written before about the fact that most established businesses rely less on new business sales and more on customer retention and referrals. This is as it should be because these are key factors in the development of any company contributing to its stability and profitability.

So why invest in opening up and developing new markets?

Indeed, there are many reasons why not to, here are a few prime ones:

  1. Hiring or developing the resources required is expensive
  2. There are no guarantees that you will get a return on your investment
  3. You might have to make concessions or changes to your product to make sure it fits
  4. Developing new business takes a lot of time and effort

However, unless you are a big believer in, ‘Better the devil you know’, there are many reasons why you should consider new markets. Here are some of my favourite ones:

Over-dependency on your current client base. Depending on your industry your clientele may be very specific and limited or it might have a wider reach. Like everybody else, some of your clients might be great and others less so but any company can change direction, fold or

  1. decide to hire someone else. If you have a healthy pipeline of new opportunities this might be less of a blow.
  2. Over-dependency on specific industries. You may well be an expert and a brand in certain industries which is great. However, as economic circumstances change, some industries may experience a decline which can put you at risk. Adding diversity to your sales can put you a step ahead of your competition and keep you in profit. Diversity does not have to mean a different industry all together but also improving your reach within your existing one.
  3. Limiting your own growth. If you only operate within one target market, you may well reach a saturation point which hampers your growth efforts. A new market can provide you with a fresh opportunity to grow and develop.
  4. Becoming a bit stale. If you always do what you have always done you cannot really expect change, even Einstein said that. Going for new markets will force you to update your products and consider how you do things which is never a bad thing.

I hope this is useful and will support you in including a plan to enter a new market sometime this year. If you do, be sure to contact us to see how we might help. We have introduced some very specific products on top of our lad generation and lead nurturing so you may want to visit our site and have a browse.

Who is your end client?

The very knowledgeable Brain Tracy once said, “Keep your sales pipeline full by prospecting continuously. Always have more people to see than you have time to see.” I agree but before you throw a lot of resources into filling up your diary and pipeline, you might want to consider who, actually, is your end client?

This is an interesting question as most people look to identify their target markets but don’t necessarily consider who their end client is in those markets. This question specifically relates to which entity you sell to and the answer is one of three:

  1. Your end client is a company, an organisation or a person who purchases your product for their own use.
  2. Your end client is a distribution channel, such as a building merchant or a department store, which sells your products to its own clients.
  3. You have a variety of products and target both clients directly and distribution channels.

Not sure? Here are some examples:

  • Which companies typically sell directly to their clients? Most companies who provide a service like IT support, insurance, telecom and marketing.
  • Which companies typically sell through distribution channels? Most companies who provide a product like manufacturers, engineers, artisan food and drink and small clothes and shoes brands
  • Which companies sell through both? Larger companies who have a variety of products, suppliers of outsourced services like security and cleaning, retailers who sell online as well as through shops

 Why is it important to understand this then?

Understanding who you are trying to reach is a key to your lead generation and overall marketing strategy. If you miss this parameter out, you might find it very hard to engage your target market. Here are a few examples of where this might affect your decision:

  1. If you are trying to reach out to companies or people who buy from you directly, you will need to assess them directly. Find out what target markets they are in, where they go to look for data, who do they trust and use this information to build visibility and trust.
  2. If you are selling through a distribution channel, you need to take into account a whole set of challenges that affect branch and product managers in this industry. Of course, distribution channels vary enormously so you will need to identify the different segments relevant to your product.
  3. If you are selling to both, you need to reflect that in your strategy and ensure that whilst promoting your product online, you are also opening doors and building relationships with the relevant distribution channels.

Sounds complicated?

That’s because it often is, putting together a sound strategy takes some brain power, knowledge and expertise. We now operate a B2B lead generation service supporting you if you sell directly or through a distribution channel. Take a look and get in touch to discuss your requirements further.

 

Why are funnels key to your sales success?

Just in case you wanted to know, here are a few fascinating facts about funnels:

  1. The word funnel came into use in 1400 and originates from the wine making region of southern France.
  2. The word was shaped from the Latin word fundibulum which means to pour.
  3. It can be used both as a verb and a noun.
  4. Synonymous words include mouth, pipe, siphon, tornadoes, tote and transmit

If you were ever involved in a discussion involving marketing or sales, you would have surely discussed the sales funnel. The correct definition of a sales funnel, also known as the sales-process is:

‘The buying process that companies lead their customers through when purchasing products.  A Sales funnel is divided into several steps, which differ depending on the sales model’

 The reason we liken the process of selling to a funnel has a lot to do with this brilliant quote from my favourite salesperson, Zig Ziegler:

‘Every sale has five basic obstacles:

  • No need
  • No money
  • No hurry
  • No desire
  • No trust’

This means that in order to complete a successful sale, one has to take a lead through a series of qualifying steps which eventually enables them to confirm their interest in buying our product thus becoming a customer. This process can take anything from a few hours, a few months or even a whole year depending on the complexity, cost and nature of the product.

Many books have been written about the sales process and how you should manage it through using qualifying questions, regular follow ups and trust building activity. However, the point I wanted to make here today is that the type of funnel you choose to apply, makes a very big difference to how many opportunities you identify and most importantly, to your conversion rate. To further illustrate this, let’s consider funnels more carefully. Don’t worry, in my experience, there are two main ones:

  1. A short funnel, or a sieve, is one that only goes as far as one campaign. For example, you might send out an e-mail campaign, or put out a Blog and leave it there. The problems with this funnel is that you either don’t stick around long enough to make an impact or you end up speaking to people with no real need, money of more commonly, no real desire.
  2. A Long funnel, or a marble run, is one that follows the process closely through various stages. For example, you might send an e-mail campaign, send people additional information, re-target them through additional adverts, connect with them on LinkedIn and follow up on the telephone.

In other words, you are following the funnel down, uncovering interest and desire then developing trust to ensure that budget is found.

You might have already guessed what my favourite funnel is… Short funnels are easy to create and they give lead generation a bad name. Long funnels, on the other hand, are harder to create but they are much more effective in the long term. Watch this short video to find out more about our lead generation funnel and get in touch to discuss how we can create a tailored funnel to support your sales success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The truth about the best lead generation methods…

Which method works best when it comes to generating the most leads? Would LinkedIn Sales Navigator make all the difference to your diminishing pipeline? I hear this kind of conversation and it always makes me think about our comfort zone and how it affects so many of our choices.

As I often do, I found an interesting quote to share by the motivational speaker Ogwo Davis Emenike:

‘It is better to explore a gainful uncertainty than to sit in a painful certainty’

As much as I agree with Ogwo, I also know that often it is much easier to stay in my comfort zone and do what I know. As I already alluded to, I think that the need to stay in our comfort zone dictates a lot of the choices we make. This means more than you might think when it comes to choosing lead generation methods.

Many Sales Managers and business owners I meet focus on methods and tactics when it comes to lead generation and sales. I think that this is largely due to the fact that many of us are doers and find taking action the most natural place to start. I agree that actions are key to achieving results but actions which lack focus are often a waste of time. Add to this the fact that our comfort zone often leads to choices we feel comfortable with and you begin to understand why so many new business campaigns don’t work.

I have written before and will probably write again about the frustration I feel when people put a lot of effort, money and thought into starting a new campaign, only to abandon it after two months as it did not provide them with the easy sales they were after. If you examine most of these attempts to find a magic bullet, you will find that many were based on a bad combination of focusing on actions first and making comfort zone-based choices.

The thing to remember is that any development of new markets takes time and patience. However, if you develop a strategy first, based on analysing your target market and then choose your methods and tactics accordingly, you stand a much better chance of having sources eventually. Now, I may have not told you anything new so far but maybe this idea will be one you have not considered yet: the key to engaging new target markets is to understand how they work and where they go to find the information they are after. This understanding should dominate your choice of content, platform and campaigns rather than your own preference.

Having said that, it is also important to remember that we all have so many choices in terms of consuming information that considering a number of different touches is key. Sounds a bit like an oxymoron?  Watch our new video to see how it might be done.

 

 

 

Staying focused can be hard work these days…

‘I try to stay focused on my creativity,’ said Christina Aguilera. Well, what can I say, me too, how about you?

It might have been mentioned before that we live in a very busy world which makes staying focused very difficult. This affects most people and covers all walks of life, making It one of the biggest challenges we face. Now, I cannot really help you if you are a nuclear physicist looking to get more focused but if you are looking at increasing your new business sales, I might be able to offer some advice;

So, what are the specific issues you face regarding focusing your business development?

As I see it there are three key issues:

  1. Short cuts
  2. Silver bullets
  3. Impatience

I do apologise if this sound a bit like a Haiku but it can be further explained with the following example:

Bob is a Business Development Director who has been tasked with increasing new business sales for his company. Bob has a very busy job and is bombarded with communications about how he could take his company to the next level using the latest trick every day. Bob, like many people, likes to use tried and tested tools, preferably ones he feels comfortable with. What will he do now then? Here are some options:

  1. Bob could look at previous marketing campaigns which may have worked in the past and look to re-instate them, praying they still work
  2. Bob could pursue the latest tool promised to solve all his problems
  3. Bob could spend some time reviewing and understanding his target markets and put together a structured strategy to approach them

Will you be surprised if I told you that any of the above options could still land him with no further sales?

This is the problem so many of us come across, no matter how much thought you put into a campaign ensuring your planning is spot on; you still may fail, in THE SHORT TERM. One of the biggest issues with our busy world is that it is full of choice and so we have become dependant on instant solutions that deliver immediately. But, when it comes to selling, particularly expensive stuff, it’s impossible to get immediate results and you really need to apply patience in order to get any meaningful leads.

As patience really is a virtue these days, most people abort business development campaigns too as soon as they feel they have had no results and start again on another old initiative or a different silver bullet and so on and so forth. Now that sort of thing really does not help your focus or your new business sales, does it?

I don’t think there is one answer to this, as it will make me another business person offering silver bullets. All I would say, is that every business has specific needs and details make all the difference. If you want to look into this further, click on this link (preferably on your mobile) to fill in our questionnaire and we can get back to you with some ideas.

 

Why are new business sales a must in 2019?

Many people will be looking at this title and say that developing new business is always a must. Still, many companies don’t necessarily consider this an emergency, especially well-established ones. This is an important area to consider as a matter of course but I felt that there is more of a calling for it currently which is why I am dedicating this Blog to this.

Back in December, I wrote a Blog about common sense where I examined some key reasons to focus on new business development in 2019. One of the reasons, though general, is particularly important in the face of current events:

as Matthew S. Olson and Derek van Bever demonstrate in their book Stall Points, once a company runs up against a major stall in its growth, it has less than a 10% chance of ever fully recovering.

I am not sure about you, but I can certainly see a potential stall point coming up which might affect many companies’ growth. When I wrote my original Blog, many businesses were still treating the situation as one to ignore, thinking that things will get clearer in the New Year. At the time of writing these lines we are 13 business days away from the UK leaving the EU and we have no further clarity.

I have not written this Blog to join the end of the world choir and I am sure that business will prevail after Brexit, in the long term we may even be better off, who knows. Your problem as a business owner, Sales Director or senior manager is the short term. How will you navigate your ship in the stormy water of a ‘short-term economic downturn’?

There’s a lot to be said for applying some planning to this situation, whatever you call rainy day measures in your organisation. That said, many businesses feel that you can hardly plan for a scenario you are unclear about. However, there is one area you could definitely benefit from reviewing which is, your new business sales.

This is particularly important for established companies out there as over reliability on existing business can make them very vulnerable to a market downturn. As we all know, when the economy is showing signs of crisis many companies look to reduce their monthly outgoings and review unnecessary expenses. There is no telling what these might be and whether your company will be affected by it. In this situation, you might agree, there is no harm in developing some new business and growing your pipeline by way of plan B.

I cannot tell you which way you should go in terms of new business without knowing more about your circumstances. However, I can say that whichever way you choose to go, you need to consider two important factors:

  1. Developing new business can take time to mature, anything between 6-12 months.
  2. The longer you leave it the more competition you will have.

This is why I recommend that you look into this urgently to make sure that you can start widening your options and developing your sales pipeline. We have recently developed a new lead generation system we call Big ticket Leads which might provide a possible solution.  Watch this short animation to find our more.