How picky are you about who you let into your sales pipeline? Do you place everyone who might have in interest in what you sell into your pipeline, or do you make them qualify first?
This was an interesting conversation we had in our Sandler Sales President’s Club recently – the idea of being careful about who you let into your pipeline. In this conversation we were differentiating between your list (potentials & prospects) and your sales pipeline – that group of people who you are really paying attention to and following up with.
Some folks may define this group as those people who you believe you have a 60% chance or better of closing. Your criteria may be different, but the important point is to have some criteria for defining which contacts and deals you should be focusing on. You will still have other people and deals in your database, but they might not be in that “active” pipeline.
The obvious reason for qualifying who goes into your active pipeline is to help you focus your time and resources on those follow up activities that are going to help you close deals. Chances are you don’t have time to give the same amount of attention to everyone in your pipeline, so you need a way to prioritize your activities.
A less obvious reason is this approach also helps you focus on making sure you have the right types of contacts and deals in your pipeline. Being busy is not the same as being effective (or successful). It is easy stay busy with activity, but if all of your activity is related to deals that have a very low chance of closing, you are going to struggle to meet your goals.
This is a great discussion for sales people to have with their marketing folks – when is a lead “sales ready”. In addition to confirming that a prospect meets your ideal customer profile, try to determine the steps or actions prospects should take in order to qualify to enter your active pipeline. Depending on your business these actions may include anything from visiting particular pages on your website, attending a webinar or demo, or maybe completing some “homework” before your first meeting.
Determining when a prospect is “sales ready” is not just an exercise for big companies. Even if you perform both the marketing and sales roles in your company, you will benefit from having a clear definition of which leads you should be nurturing and educating vs. those who are ready for an active sales conversation.
So before you through that next contact into your pipeline, ask yourself these questions:
- Do they deserve to be in your pipeline yet?
- Have they qualified?
- How do you know?
- What actions or behaviors give you a good indication that someone is 60% likely to buy from you?
Make sure the people in your pipeline qualify to be there and watch you sales cycle shorten.
photo credit - Mykl Roventine on Flickr