Your sales pipeline is your business's lifeline. You live and die by the size of your pipeline. If it's fast, robust, and well-built, your business can continue to grow indefinitely. On the other hand, if your sales pipeline is, like most companies', inadequate, you're going to find yourself struggling to see the growth you really want for your company.
You don't want to get stuck where you are.
You don't want to find yourself struggling to acquire qualified leads or to move them through your sales pipeline.
Many businesses fail before they even start moving customers through the sales pipeline. Why? They don't really understand their customers. They know what they're selling. But they may not fully understand the problems it solves for their customers, and they may not really, on a deeper level, know who those customers are and what they need.
Is your sales pipeline falling short? Is it smaller, less robust, and harder to keep full than you want, especially as you start to grow and scale your business?
Addressing the Top Challenges of Your Sales Pipeline
It Starts with Defining Your Client
Your sales pipeline starts by establishing who you're selling to. When someone contacts your business, you should know immediately how valuable they're likely to be to your business.
You do that by clearly defining the people that you're most likely to sell to. If you don't intimately know your target audience:
- You can't find them
- Unable to answer how you can help solve their critical problems; and
- You can't move them through your sales funnel.
Getting to know your target audience takes more effort than many business owners think. You may assume that you can just do a little basic research, put together a couple of buyer personas, and go from there. The truth, however, is that you need an up-close and personal look at exactly who your clients are and what makes them tick.
Understanding Your Clients' Industries and Companies
Your clients may come from more highly specific industries than you think. Pay attention to the specific clients who have the greatest interest in and use for your business. Consider the companies you're most likely to sell to. What attributes do they have in common? You need to know:
What Industry Your Clients Come From
If you offer a service that is most valuable for clients in accounting, then you may not have the same reach for clients in IT or cybersecurity -- and that's okay. You need to focus your marketing materials and efforts on meeting the needs of clients in the industry you actually serve.
The Company's Average Revenue
You know what your services cost and what size companies are likely to use them. If you offer large-scale services to huge corporations, you may need a company with a steady revenue stream that's able to easily pay your asking price. On the other hand, if you usually serve small or medium businesses, you may be focused on companies with a smaller overall revenue stream. In fact, you may not (yet) have the resources you need to provide the same services to larger businesses.
The Number of Employees the Company Has
If you provide SaaS solutions, in particular, you may note that your software has the potential to support a certain number of employees. Suppose, for example, that you're offering communication solutions for the office environment. A company that has just 3-5 employees might not benefit from communication software that focuses on organizing large groups and high-value projects. On the other hand, your software might not support the needs of a company with thousands of employees. It's important to know that, both as you market your product and as you qualify your leads.
The Company's Perceived Problem
What problem does your target have that your company can solve? Get specific about the problems that you're able to address and how the company perceives them. Carefully consider those problems from the company's perspective. If you don't understand the problem, you can't get specific about how you can solve it and alleviate the company's overall pain points.
The Company's Culture
You may not think that company culture matters that much when you're selling to a company. After all, you aren't looking to work there! However, when you get to know your target audience's company culture, you also get to know what they need from you as a brand. How do they communicate? Do they tend to be more casual with one another, or highly professional? Will they respond best to, for example, a lunch out with a sales representative? Or a sales call directly from you? The better you know the company's culture, the more you can focus your efforts on providing exactly what they need. And the more likely your target audience is to respond to your efforts.
Digging Deeper Into the Decision-Maker
You may have to present your product to more than one person at a company. There's the face -- the person that you're actually talking to. But behind that, there may be a specific department or decision-maker who must make the ultimate decision about whether to choose your services.
Take a look at who you'll be presenting your product to and who they'll need to get approval from in order to move forward with the purchase. Ask yourself about:
What title do they hold in the company? What role do they fill? If you're pitching directly to the CEO, you may not have to worry about middlemen. It's important to know the job role filled by the people who are most likely to appreciate, have a need for, and actually use your product as part of their job responsibilities.
How Much Seniority They Have
How senior in the company is the person who will receive the pitch about your product? This information is absolutely critical for one key reason: you may not just be presenting to the person who holds a specific job title.
Suppose, for example, that the IT department wants to purchase a new hardware or software solution for the company as a whole. The IT team is convinced. The head of the IT team is convinced. Your solution will streamline their daily processes, speed up functionality for the business as a whole, and solve a lot of problems.
The CEO or CFO, however, may be less convinced. The IT team will have to make a case for your product. Including why they should choose your product instead of your competitors' -- and encourage the CEO or CFO to make that vital final sales decision. As a result, you need to prepare marketing content and information directed at two key parties, not just one.
What Channels They Use for Research
Different people will naturally research products in different ways. Some people will focus on search-based research: they'll dig deep into your website, check out the video content you've created, and read your blog. If your content isn't search engine optimized, your target audience may never find it.
Others will prefer to use social media channels as the primary source for their research. They're more likely to connect with your business on Facebook, check out your LinkedIn profile, or even sign up for your email list to give them a chance to learn more about what you have to offer.
Keep in mind that some clients will do much more research than others, often based on the complexity and cost of the solution you offer. But sometimes simply based on the specific needs of the business.
Common Demographic Information
Who is most likely to fill the role that usually makes the decision about your product? How old is the decision-maker? The information you present to a baby boomer may be very different from the information that you present to a millennial, in part because they often have very different concerns related to their decision-making.
Millennials tend to focus on convenience and accessibility: they want to be able to access their work environments from anywhere, to speed up processes, or to make common tasks easier so they can focus on creativity and innovation. Baby boomers, on the other hand, may be more focused on cutting costs or simplifying technology that they might not understand. It's important to consider how that information will impact their decision in favor of or against what your business has to offer.
You may also want to consider how average race, gender, or income levels impact decision-makers. How much stress do they usually face as part of their daily job tasks? What are their worries -- including those that have nothing to do with your business or the product you offer? The better you get to know those key demographics, the better you can align your sales materials and your pipeline with that information.
As you get to know your target audience better, you can also segment your marketing materials to better appeal to specific demographics. It's not just about generation, though that can play a role. You may also want to consider how other demographic factors impact decision-making and how you can alter your marketing to reflect those needs.
Common Concerns Shared by Your Buyers
What concerns do your buyers face that your product or solutions can help eliminate? They may have concerns that relate directly to your product and the problem that you're able to solve. But they also may worry about how they will be perceived if they bring in your product. Is it easy to adopt? Is it expensive, especially compared to other tools or solutions within the industry?
Develop a solid understanding of the challenges your buyers face. Get to know them on a deeper level. The more you know about them, the better you can address those problems. And the more you can streamline your sales pipeline.
Getting to Know Your Product (And the Challenges it Solves)
Your product is designed to solve a problem. Most of the time, businesses don't come looking for a solution unless they have a specific problem that they need to solve. In many cases, that problem has been deeply entrenched for a long time. It may even have become a natural part of the business.
Suppose, for example, that you offer a business communication solution. It helps connect different departments, manages projects, and makes it easier for departments to share information. For many businesses, that communication challenge is just part of doing business. The sales and marketing department might chat around the water cooler occasionally, but internal communications take time to go through. And IT? Well, they're a necessary part of the business, but unless it's a company-wide meeting, they're fairly unlikely to be involved. Many departments are simply isolated. While it poses some barriers, the company is unlikely to address it until it poses a much more serious problem.
Then, the company starts to notice that there are issues that enhanced communication would solve. Bringing in the sales team while the marketing team is constructing materials could lead to a better understanding of target demographics. The IT team knows the answer to a challenge that has haunted the sales team for weeks -- but no one knew that they were having problems.
Now, they've discovered that they need a communication solution -- and your business could pose the answer. Before you can convince them to buy your product, however, you'll have to show that it adds enough value to make it worth the cost.
Knowing your product makes a huge difference.
Take a look at the basics of the problem your product solves. Does it enhance communication? Improve marketing? Make a business more secure? Clearly answer all the details of that problem. Then, add:
What are the potential barriers to adopting your product as a solution?
Is it costly? Will someone higher up in the decision-making chain struggle to accept the product and make the shift? Does your product take a long time to adopt--perhaps longer than the average product in your industry? The better you know your product and your buyers, the better you can address those potential hurdles. You may provide excellent customer support that will help streamline the adoption process and decrease time to value. You might offer a more robust solution than other, similar products in your industry, accounting for a price increase. By clearly laying out the answers to those obstacles, you can often help set your business up for a higher level of success.
What problems do you solve that your targets might not even know about yet?
Your business may offer more solutions than your clients think. In addition to the basic range of problems you answer, do you offer additional solutions, including solutions to problems that the clients haven't even acknowledged yet? Often, answering those questions can be just the push your clients need to make a buying decision.
Going Deeper: Integrating Your Product with the Business's Bigger Issues
Decision-makers at your target business aren't just looking at the simple problem that you have to deal with. They have a variety of challenges that come across their desks every day. By acknowledging those issues, you can set your business up for greater levels of success. Take a look at these common concerns.
Overall Financial Challenges
Revenue is always a concern for your clients. They're frequently looking for ways to increase overall revenue, just like you are. They may also want to reduce overall costs, which will, in turn, give them money to invest back into the company. Even if your product is an expensive solution, it may help your clients cut costs in other ways. Take a hard look at how you can help your target buyers increase their overall revenue streams and improve financial flow.
Losses--loss of a customer base; loss of revenue; loss of assets or place in the market--can prove devastating for many businesses. By addressing the potential for losses and providing your clients with an idea of how you can help them avoid those losses, you can often identify with them more deeply and help them solve potential future problems that they may not yet have even identified.
Remaining Relevant and Cutting-Edge
Businesses want to be at the forefront of their industries as much as possible. They want to stay relevant and connect with their customers as fully as possible.
Your business offers solutions that can help them achieve that goal, whether it's a strategy that helps streamline their overall communications with their customers or a technology solution that helps keep them at the cutting edge of their industry. Take a look at how you can help your clients stay relevant and engaged -- and how you can help connect them.
Your sales pipeline is one of the most important parts of your business--and it starts here, with getting to know your customers so that you can provide them with a more comprehensive look at how you can solve their most common problems. The better you know your customers, the better you can deliver.
It's not a short process. It's not an easy one. It is, however, one of the most valuable things you can do as you scale your business: setting your sales pipeline up for success from the beginning.
Do you want to accelerate your sales pipeline and get a better idea of exactly who your target audience is? We can help. Sign up for the Deal Flow Accelerator program today to help you start better defining your target audience and addressing many of the challenges that you will face as you establish your sales pipeline and help move people through it.