Category Archives: Strategy

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.

What is your favourite B2B marketing strategy?

This week I have discovered that there is definitely something about the North Sea air that really clears your thoughts. I assume it’s the cold wind that hangs around even on a lovely sunny day. I am sat writing this during our summer holiday to the Scottish Island of Islay, a very peaceful and beautiful place indeed. We have just had a picnic and as you can see from the picture, I am ready for the Scottish summer. This means that my family can run around and enjoy the rock pools whilst I stay warm enough.

This brings me to the point of the Blog today which is all about diversifying and working with the conditions you are faced with. We all have a favourite marketing strategy which we tend to believe works for us. For some people it’s e-mail marketing, for others it’s Blogging and for quite a number of SME owners it’s repeat business and referrals. Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with this. If you have been in business for sometime you must be doing something right. 

Having said that, I believe you need to consider two important elements besides whatever it is that you think is working for you:

  1. Market circumstances do change and being able to foresee this in advance can help you prepare and diversify to ensure you are ready for the new situation.
  2. Measuring your results is very important as there is often a big difference between what you think a tactic is generating and what you actually get.

Just in case you haven’t considered the above before, here are a few things you can do going forward:

  • Changes to the market: None of us have a crystal ball but we can still react to change and create a plan B using a variety of tools such as:
  • Developing possible scenarios and analysing how they might affect both growth and business retention
  • Identifying some low-hanging fruit which are relatively straight forward opportunities you can capitalise on
  • Considering new products or services 
  • Considering new markets to tap into
  • Increasing your reach in your existing market 
  • Measuring your results: This is never an exact science but its is important nonetheless. Here are a few things you might want to consider:
  • Get to know how to use Google Analytics better
  • Learn how to use digital analytic tools for your Social Media activity
  • Make sure you and your team are using a CRM system to record any sales activity 
  • Run some surveys with existing clients 
  • Ensure you always ask new people where they heard of you

These are very broad ideas and I am sure that you and your team can come out with much more specific strategies. When you have, we will be very happy to support you in taking your new ideas to market. Click here to get in touch.

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Looking for a little inspiration to lift the doom and gloom?

Despite the news overload, it does not feel like there is much progress in our national affairs. Not sure about you, but I have been finding the whole think a little depressing.  When I feel like this, I use a trick I learned in the Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor which is a great book about positive psychology. The trick is to take 5 minutes in the evening and write three things which made you happy during that day. There are lots of versions of this, with some people finding it easy to write in the morning, others using it to express gratitude.  Whatever works for you; the point is to spend some time on thinking positive thus training your brain to prioritise positive over negative and contributing to your overall happiness.

Here are a few things that made it onto my ‘Happy List’ last week:

  1. My beautiful Mothers’ Day present from my daughter which included 10 reasons why she loves me with a few lovely surprises beyond ‘because you cook nice food’
  2. Achieving real clarity on a client’s service proposition which means they are nearly there with going to market
  3. A great referral from my BNI colleague which is exactly the kind of business I am looking for
  4. A client wanting us to increase our work for them as they feel they are getting results

I am sure you can see how doing this might help maintaining focus and keeping you going. I must admit that I did choose my ‘best’ ones for the Blog and often I have to think hard and come up with things like, ‘the sun shone’ or ‘dinner was tasty.’ The point is that it does not matter as long as you practice seeing the positive because I really believe that mindset is everything. Here is an example:

Following up from a very busy start to the year, we experienced a quiet March where we got very little enquiries. The move from too busy, to sort of twiddling my thumbs ,was hard and I found myself holding on to a mindset of blaming overall market conditions which was not helpful to say the least. Once I realised this, I decided I had to change my mindset and work out what opportunities I had, despite, and as a result of, the situation. Here is what I did:

  1. My assumption is that due to uncertain market conditions, companies need to focus on developing new business and growing their pipeline. This provides us with an opportunity to win new work.
  2. Initially we put a lot of effort into drumming this message to our target markets to develop new business though our efforts were met with little appetite.
  3. It felt like many companies wanted to see what direction the UK market will take before thinking of new business
  4. Still, I think that companies need to make a move on their new business sales but rather then hitting our head against a brick wall we chose to get in touch with people who already knew us. This meant contacting all of our ex-clients who we felt might be more open to a conversation at this stage.
  5. This approach was more effective though we have not stopped our new business development activity which is on-going.

 

The moral of my story is that even people whose job it is to develop new business can find themselves at a dead end sometimes. The point is to not let it last for long, take stock and try something else.  If you need some help evaluating your new business development approach, take our questionnaire here.

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.

 

About making a choice

We recently asked a carpenter to make us some shelves for our kitchen.  In the process of discussing our requirements, we went from having a few shelves for our cook books to having a floor to ceiling unit in the corner of our kitchen. That took some careful measurements and calculations then off he went to make our unit.

Some time passed and he came back to take some final measurements. It was Monday morning and I had about a million things to think about but it was then that I was asked to make a choice between a corner unit or a straight forward shelving unit. What I should have done was to ask him to leave it with me so we could discuss it but instead I felt compelled to make a choice there and then. I chose a corner unit, which came out completely the wrong shape and size for our kitchen. Not a good outcome; luckily it sorts of fits in our living room.

At this stage, I think it’s important to mention that there is never just one choice.  However, if you need to make one, here is what I learned:

  1. Immediate choices are not a must. Some things are better off being carefully considered.
  2. Making the right choice takes specific skill and knowledge. Sometimes it’s wise to involve other people who are better placed to make a particular decision.

Your business development strategy, just like many other elements, involves making choices. In order to make it work for your company, you need to consider a variety of things, such as:

  • Who are you targeting?
  • In what order?
  • What is their key issue?
  • How can you solve it?

Once you are clear on the above, you can work out what tactics to use to better connect with your target markets.  At this stage, your choice should be based on where your target markets search for helpful information. This will almost certainly not be based on one tactic, or platform but rather on a variety of tools which fit together.

Simple, right? WRONG!  Doing this right takes some skill and research. It might take some time to put together and you might have to ask an expert. But done correctly, it will work much better than applying the latest craze which everyone is talking about.

Our Big Ticked Lead Generation system was designed to provide a means which may be right for you if you operate in the B2B market and have a complicated, long sales process.  Check our website for more details or give us a call to discuss further.

One trick ponies and comfort zones

Our fixation with not being a ‘one trick pony’ in business, is apparent in the examples below:

  1. Famous last words: Some of you may remember Stuart Baggs, ‘The Brand’, who famously told Lord Sugar during the Apprentice show in 2015: ‘I’m not a one-trick pony, I’m not a 10-tricks pony. I’ve got a whole field of ponies, waiting to literally run towards this job…’ This approach kept him going for quite a few episodes until Lord Sugar decided to fire him.
  2. Synonymous with failure: According to an article I read in The Story Telling Blog, in the 1800s small travelling circuses without big headline acts or a menagerie of exotic animals were known as dog and pony shows. The very average acts on the programme were derided as ‘one trick ponies’

No one, it seems, wants to be a one trick pony, with only one talent, one skill and one way of standing out.  I would go further and say that in our fast-developing world, it is very hard to keep growing your company based on a very limited offer. This is why so many companies look to acquire additional talent through acquisition and joint projects. Appealing to new markets and developing new products all depend greatly on demonstrating relevant skills and knowledge. In the world of business, ‘a field of ponies’ is therefore definitely better than a ‘one trick pony’.

Why not apply this to your marketing strategy, then?

In my experience two main factors affect your marketing strategy:

  1. Looking for the magic bullet: so many people I come across look to over-simplify their marketing approach by believing that they must choose one discipline to promote their organisations.
  2. Staying within your comfort zone: Knowing what you are good at and how you wish to come across, is very important. Still it’s easy to confuse this with only choosing marketing strategies we relate to and understand.

It might surprise you to consider that the important choices to make in your marketing strategy relate to your target markets and the priority in which you want to approach them. The tools and platforms you wish to use can vary and are driven by where your target markets choose to consume information, and not the other way around.

When considering how to approach your target market, it is therefore very important to keep an open mind and not try to limit yourself to your own comfort zone. Having realised this ourselves, we have joined forces with Make Digital Work to create a cross platform product aimed at starting sales conversations. You can find out more about this here.