Lead generation is most sales team’s biggest headache. More specifically, filling their sales pipeline with high-quality leads often turns lead gen into a mess!
What if I told you that you can simply fill your pipeline with new leads to close deals faster than ever before? Top sales professionals are doing it, so why not you?
We’re sharing the simple, straightforward 6-step process that top salespeople use to fill their pipelines with high-quality leads.
The sad reality is that, unless you fill your pipeline with high-quality leads, then the rest of your selling process is likely to be an extreme disaster! By that, we mean:
- The sales cycle will drag on forever;
- Your leads will regularly ghost you; and
- Your sales efforts will never match your actual sales outcomes.
Bottom line: Filling your pipeline with quality leads in little time is the equivalent of a slam dunk. Whether or not that happens is 100% up to you!
What Is a Sales Pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a sales tool that outlines and organizes the sales and customer journeys.
Within a pipeline are leads at different stages of the buying process. As they go further down the pipeline, leads get closer to making a purchasing decision.
Overall, pipelines are a sales tool used to organize the selling process depending on where a customer is at in their buyer’s journey.
Sales Pipelines vs. Sales Funnels
Are you new around here?
If so, we’ve got something to say: Sales funnels aren’t your friend! While widely used and regarded as an amazing tool or frame of reference, sales funnels, which are supposed to model the buyer’s journey, are nothing but mumbo-jumbo.
Unfortunately, sales funnels are usually lumped in with pipelines, so many sales teams confuse the two.
However, while pipelines work as a solid organization tool for the selling process, sales funnels are anything but effective.
6 Steps to Fill Your Sales Pipeline With Quality Potential Customers
Here is the simple 6-step process that leading sales professionals use to simply fill their sales pipeline with high-quality leads. Not only is the process probably more straightforward than any other method you’ve used before, but it’s also certainly more effective.
By more effective, we mean that you’ll identify the most high-quality leads in less time so that you can close out lead generation on a high note. On top of that, you’ll close out the entire sales cycle with more signatures on dotted lines than ever before.
Remember, top sales professionals are achieving success with this exact process, so why shouldn’t you?
1. Clarify Exactly What You Want
First things first: How do you expect to get something good without ever knowing what you want?
As simple as it sounds, many sales teams simply wing lead gen without ever defining their exact goals or taking a step back to see how filling their pipeline with qualified leads fits into the big picture.
Moreover, sales teams expect great lead gen results without ever defining what results they want or how they want to achieve them!
That said, the first step to filling your pipeline and separating yourself from the pack is setting specific and measurable lead gen sales goals.
If you jump into lead gen without clarifying your intentions, then filling your pipeline with solid leads will be nothing short of disastrous.
Why Are You Doing This?
When it comes to filling your pipeline, it’s extremely important to take a step back and get some perspective on your situation. More specifically, it’s important to zoom out and ask yourself why you’re doing this all in the first place and how it fits into the big picture.
Whether it be in sales or regular life, we often get stuck in so-called ‘ruts’ or ‘funks’ because we only see the problems right in front of us. When all you see is problems, it’s extremely difficult to keep pressing forward because you don’t see what will happen after overcoming the problems. Moreover, you have no reason to press forward because all you see are discouraging problems!
That said, before you think about setting and accomplishing sales pipeline-related goals, take a second to zoom out and get some perspective on the situation. Most importantly, consider how sales prospecting plays a role in the manifestation of your business vision.
Only start setting goals after you’ve gained the right, broad perspective.
Only One Thing At a Time
So, you have some perspective on your situation and have measurable sales pipeline-related goals... Now what? It’s time to get to work, right? Well, not so fast.
At this point, many sales leaders start to overwhelm themselves. In an effort to smash the goals and manifest their business vision, their attention goes to a thousand different places at once.
You probably don’t need us to tell you that multitasking is extremely destructive to productivity. Just because you feel like you’re busy and doing a lot doesn’t really mean that you’re accomplishing anything!
That said, before diving headfirst into your pipeline, start organizing, prioritizing, and delegating. The last thing you want to do is set a bunch of goals only to not achieve them before you’re overwhelmed with junk on your plate.
Hype Up Your Enthusiasm
Never forget that your energy is infectious. Whatever energy you’re feeling will inevitably infect the people around you, particularly your team members and potential customers.
So, the final thing to do before diving into lead gen is to get your energy in check! More specifically, you need to hype up enthusiasm while kicking fear to the curb.
Believe it or not, most sales professionals are regularly overwhelmed with fear. In fact, about 50% of them report that they’re afraid to make simple cold calls! And, as much as you try to hide your fear, it’s virtually impossible. Before you know it, fear will be driving both your team members and customers into the ground.
Therefore, to foster a healthy sales pipeline, you need to get your energy in check! Having fear or some other negative energy stand in the way of sales success is silly, to say the least.
2. Connect With Your Current Customers
With all the clarity you need, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of sales prospecting! Moreover, it’s time to start filling your pipeline with the kinds of sales targets who will make it all the way to the end of the pipeline.
The first place to start: checking in with your current customers.
Yes, if you want to gain new customers, then you need to start by referring back to current or previous customers for special insights.
Believe it or not, many of the answers to all of your pipeline-related issues are currently sitting right under your nose! AKA, they’re in the hands of your current customers, and all you need to do is simply ask for them.
That said, what you need to do is reach out to between 3 and 5 of your current or previous customers and ask them to speak for a short 10 minutes in which you’ll ask them some questions about how you can improve your product/service.
Ultimately, these 10-minute conversations will make the biggest difference in the health of your pipeline.
Ask for Honest Feedback
To begin with, start the conversation by asking for genuine, honest feedback on your product/service, the delivery of your product/service, and the customer’s buyer’s journey.
For example, ask:
- What you are doing well at;
- What you could have done better at;
- How else you could have helped the customer solve their problem; and
- Why the customer chose to work with you in the first place.
While it might be difficult to swallow, you want to be sure that you’re getting genuine feedback.
If it does prove difficult to get feedback, just know that those momentary discomforts will save you from even worse discomfort down the road!
Dig Deep Into the Customer’s Problems
Next and VERY importantly, ask customers about the biggest problems that they’re currently facing.
And, don’t just stay on the surface... Rather, dig beneath the surface by asking in-depth questions, such as:
- What are the biggest challenges that you’re currently facing?
- What ripple effects do these challenges create?
- How do these challenges stand in the way of you accomplishing your big picture goals?
Then, take the answers to these questions and ask yourself about the role that you play in solving them, particularly:
- What they will learn from you; and
- How will they overall benefit from you and your services?
The answers to these two questions play a major role in your pipeline and overall sales success.
Ask for Referrals
Lastly, don’t just get the answers you need and leave the call. There’s still more to gain!
Before thanking the customer and hanging up, ask them if they know of anyone else who would benefit from your services.
More likely than not, current customers will be more than happy to hand over solid referrals because you took the time to ask questions about their experiences.
Don’t miss the chance to snatch a hot lead or new opportunity for your pipeline!
3. Define Your Unique Value Proposition
Now it’s time to take the information that you gathered from those 10-minute calls with current customers and turn them into sales pipeline gold!
By gold, we mean it’s time to turn the insights you gathered and use them to leverage your position with potential new customers.
For starters, take the insights you gained to define your company’s unique value proposition (UVP).
Remember, a UVP is the special factor that makes your company different from all the rest. It’s the special factor that makes customers say, “We chose you because you did/said/made us feel X.”
Thanks to your 10 minutes calls, you probably have this information on hand, particularly because you asked customers about why they chose to work with you in the first place and what kinds of problems they’re currently facing.
Eventually, you’ll use the UVP to enhance your entire cold outreach lead gen process.
See how those 10-minute phone calls are suddenly becoming gold?
What Pathway Do You Pave? (Important!)
Remember how you asked your customers what problems they’re currently facing and why they chose to work with you in the first place? It’s time to take the answers to those two questions and blow them up into a bigger picture.
Moreover, it’s time to put into perspective the true impact that you create for your customers.
For example, maybe your product/service directly solves pain point X, but solving pain point X helps pave the pathway for customers to reach their bigger revenue goals.
Another more specific example: Perhaps you sell sales strategy services because customers lack an overall strategy, but implementing your services does way more than simply check the customer’s strategy box. Rather, developing a strategy directly helps them increase the number of deals they make in less time.
Furthermore, the idea is to think deeper about the pathway that you create for your customers. What direction are you taking them in, and how are you taking them there with your deliverable?
At the end of the day, your competitors might have a similar product/service as you, but what makes you different and defines your UVP is the ultimate outcome that you’re helping prospects get to.
4. Outline Your Ideal Customer
Next up, take the information from your 10-minute calls to develop an ideal customer profile and ideal buyer persona.
Also known as an ideal prospect profile, an ideal customer profile (IPP) is a company-wide representation of your ideal client. Some of the most important factors to consider are company size and revenue.
Second, an ideal buyer persona (IBP) outlines the buyer’s persona, more specifically the personas of the top stakeholders doing the decision-making. Unlike the IPP, the IBP hones in on the top decision-makers rather than the entire company.
Just like how you dug beneath the surface with your UVP, dig deep with your deal customers!
Having a clear ideal customer outlined significantly reduces the odds that you run into major problems down the road.
Specifically, having clear outlines before you even reach out reduces the odds that you’ll waste time on totally unqualified leads further down the pipeline.
Ideal Customer Profile
To begin with, think about the companies of your current customers with whom you just spoke to on the phone. Particularly, think about the company’s:
- Company culture and values
- Size - revenue and employees
And don’t just stop here! Use as many factors as you can possibly think of to outline an ideal company.
Use this information to make a list of which companies you should be reaching out to during lead gen.
Ideal Buyer Persona
Second, think about the decision-makers at your current companies. These are the people who you just spoke with on the phone.
What about them makes them ideal customers for you? Consider factors like:
- Their values
- Title or seniority level
- Other personality factors
Again, don’t just stop here!
The idea is to create a literal caricature of an ideal decision-maker using the information you have about your current customers.
Soon, you’ll use these caricatures as guidance during the outreach process.
5. Reach Out to New Leads & Hook Them
With your UVP and ideal customer outlined, it’s time to start reaching out to the leads on your list via phone call, email, or social media to siphon them into the pipeline.
In addition to your ideal customer list, be sure to have an organized CRM software system ready to go. The last thing you want to do is spend all your time dealing with a messy excel spreadsheet or something of the sort.
There are a few keys to pushing leads into the pipeline via cold outreach, including:
- Being straightforward, direct, and clear
- Adding immediate value
- Consistently and quickly following-up
Contrary to popular belief, cold outreach isn’t difficult and doesn’t have to be painful. Sure, it’s challenging, but that doesn’t mean that it's complex or headache-inducing! That is, at least, as long as you don’t make it that way.
Go Directly to the Decision-Makers
There’s this pervasive and outright false narrative that being direct is somehow aggressive and unappealing. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you aren’t direct with leads, then the odds that you siphon them into the pipeline are close to zero.
Therefore, be extremely direct with your cold outreach process! By that, we mean reach directly out to the decision-makers rather than someone lower on the chain of command.
Forget about social norms that make you think that it’s inappropriate or rude to go to the decision-makers. They’re just social constructs, not the truth.
Set Your Hook
There is no such thing as something for nothing. Whether it be the B2B sales world or regular life, you can’t expect to get without giving first.
That said, what makes you think you’ll get a prospect to respond to you without doing something for them first? In short, you’ll never get a prospect to respond unless you hook them with some initial value!
So, when you’re sending a cold message, use the subject line as a hook that makes leads feel as if you’re offering them something instead of wanting to take from them.
For example, subject lines such as “We have insights for you” suggest that you want to offer something valuable rather than take from them.
Then, use your UVP as a selling point for the hook. Instead of writing a long and drawn-out message, propose a pathway forward for the prospect. Intrigue them with the fact that you’re not just going to help them solve a problem, but bring them close to their goals.
Lastly, keep in mind that your hook and UVP-infused message don’t have to be perfect. Rather, they just need to grab attention and provide immediate value!
Follow-Up Until You Get a Response
The not-so-secret secret to having a high conversion rate is consistently following-up with leads!
Just because you make a cold call or email and don’t hear back the first or second time doesn’t mean that you simply walk away. Instead, follow up until you get a response!
The secret to getting quick responses is following up quickly. More specifically, after your initial outreach attempt, follow up within 24 hours if you don’t hear back. If you’re still only hearing crickets, reach out again within 12 hours, and keep going until you get a response.
Remember, you’re there to help prospects solve their pain points, so don’t be shy with the outreach.
6. Move Into the Next Stage With Qualified Leads
So, you got a lead to respond to your initial outreach and you’re ready to move into the next stage of the pipeline: lead qualification. Awesome! You successfully siphoned a lead into your pipeline.
If you did things correctly up until this point, then qualifying leads should be easy-peasy. Think about it: You did your due diligence reaching out to current customers for insights, used those insights to define your target audience and UVP, and then successfully hooked your leads with cold outreach tactics.
Moreover, the majority of the hard work is done!
From here on out, the key to pipeline success is keeping the sales process moving along quickly. The absolute last thing you want to do is let sales opportunities slip out of your hands simply because you aren’t moving fast enough.
Conduct a Sales Pipeline Review
Once you’re through each stage of your pipeline, get with your sales team to conduct a sales pipeline review.
During that review, cover some of your key sales pipeline metrics, specifically:
- Lead to paying-customer conversion rate
- Pipeline velocity
Ask one another what you all can do to help make the process run more smoothly in the future. For example, consider delegating different phases of the cycle to one another, upgrading the CRM, or even outsourcing.
At the end of the day, sales success is the core of business success, and getting leads into your pipeline is one of the major keys to overall sales success.
Putting everything under review in order to decipher how to make the sales pipeline stages run even smoother is a means to better business results.
Final Thoughts on Filling Your Pipeline With High-Quality Leads
Having a high sales velocity depends on you being able to quickly fill your pipeline with awesome sales leads.
And while you might be used to lead gen and sales pipeline disasters, just keep in mind that it doesn’t have to stay that way. Just because the majority of sales reps hardcore struggle generating leads doesn’t mean that it’s normal or okay!
If you want to kick off the sales process on a high note, close more deals in less time, and experience way fewer headaches in the process, then start HERE.
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