One of the biggest difficulties businesses have with forecasting is the inconsistency of their sales team’s success. It happens in a lot of areas, but in sales it’s an issue that can have a massive impact on the business: your sales peek and trough and it’s difficult to manage a business around them.
Of course there are environmental and market forces that influence the levels of sales we can achieve but one of the easiest ways to address the balance of your sales is nurture your pipeline.
However, this is often where sales people struggle: how do you nurture your pipeline and keep in touch with the people that want to buy in a few months without A) p*ssing them off; B) neglecting those who are ready to buy soon.
The answer is pretty simple: Stop Trying to Sell!
OK, so you need a certain amount of selling with those people who are ready to buy, but your sales activities don’t need to be about selling at all – especially to those that aren’t ready for a real conversation for a few months. The main thing to focus on here is point A) how to keep in touch with your future prospects without p*ssing them off.
Firstly, whatever way you choose to keep in touch with your prospects you have to do so on their terms: if they’ve said they don’t want to hear from you for a few months, calling them once a fortnight isn’t going to make them like you anymore.
Second, every time you communicate with your prospects (and customers, and pretty much everyone for that matter) make sure it’s relevant. This is what we find to be the key to pipeline nurturing – sending relevant information. A few years ago Royal Mail used the term “I saw this and thought of you” as the focus of their marketing activities. I’ve got no idea how successful that was (probably not very considering their recent situations) but the point is that nobody minds being thought of. “I saw this and thought of you” means firstly you’re thinking of them and therefore they’re important to you, and secondly that you have something of interest to them. That could be your latest blog or a video you saw on YouTube, it really doesn’t matter as long as it’s relevant and personal to them.
Or, as long as it looks as though it’s personal to them. This is where we address the second issue: not neglecting your immediate prospects. By finding, or even better creating content that will be relevant to a lot of people in your pipeline you can automate your contact with them without using the time you need to win your immediate business. Social media and email marketing systems are a fantastic development in this area – you can load up your systems on a weekly or monthly basis and let it keep in touch with your prospects for you. But don’t forget to say something directly to them every now and then as well – nothing works as well as a genuine interaction.
So, by keeping in regular contact with your future opportunities and still delivering to your current prospects you’re able to ensure that you’re winning sales now and influencing them for the future. You’re also managing your time better so you can continue to focus on your existing clients, increasing the potential of repeat business.
All of these will help to remove some of the peaks and troughs from your sales, allow you to forecast better and adapt your business to cope with the changes that you genuinely can’t control.