Once you know what each month has to look like - the total budget - you need to consider what kind of sales are reasonable to expect to hit that number.
No doubt, each month you will need some big deals and small deals; a mix of renewals, upsells, and new business in just the right combination. Some sales have longer sales cycles than others, so it’s key to hit a balanced portfolio of deals each month. Your prospecting must reflect that same balanced portfolio.
Does it? Do the targets you are prospecting right now enable or prevent you from reaching your ideal month?
If it usually takes you 10 first appointments to close a deal, don’t expect that you’ll be able to cut that number down to 5. Recognize any tendencies you have in terms of sending proposals too early in the process and be sure to address them as you build your pipeline standard.
Envision the most realistic, yet best-case version of an ideal pipeline which is based on your own sales ratios and experience. This will help give you direction and focus so you’re able to create a picture of the sales pipeline you need.
Step 2: Focus On Qualifying First
There is always an average sales cycle.
Look back on the last 10, 20, or 100 sales that you have closed. How long was it between the first meeting and signed contract in your hand and/or first check in your pocket? That is your average.
If your average sales cycle is, say, six months—but an “on-fire” sale is one month, you can conclude there is room to improve your sales velocity, or speed at which a lead closes.
Why isn’t every sale taking only four weeks? That would be your normal sales cycle if you only pursued sales that were ready to buy now.
A common situation and the usual root cause of long sales cycles is a lack of prospecting and personal marketing.
Most sellers simply take a shot in the dark, rather than consider their long-range sales cycle goals in everything they do. They only prospect to generate just enough opportunities, rather than continue prospecting until they can finally find a sale that can be closed sooner.
It’s essential to start recognizing sales opportunities that are not likely to close quickly at an earlier point in the sales process in order to shorten the sales cycle, stop wasting time, and start building momentum.
Being qualified is all of the above plus “Can my offering connect with what they are doing now or plan to do next?”
If yes, then your prospect should easily be able to cobble together the internal support they need in order to drive a decision and a budget.
If not, they may tell you your sale is relevant, but they will end up putting it on the back burner which is what happens to most sales and a primary reason sales cycles end up becoming too long, which ultimately stifles momentum.
Step 3: Keep the Conversation Going
There’s definitely a spectrum to how salespeople handle follow-ups, requests for subsequent meetings, proposal submissions, etc. Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules on what will work every time and what will completely turn a buyer off.
Hopefully you’re already following-up and scheduling appropriate next steps with your prospects, but we want to share two rules that will encourage you to focus on the right activities and keep moving forward.
Rule #1: Follow up no matter what.
Even if a sales call went completely south - you should at the very least send an email thanking the prospect for their time.
They may not have a need for what you’re offering now, but you never know when someone may change jobs and then be in a position to invest in your solution or offer a referral. Maintaining relationships is critical.
If a prospect has shown interest, but hasn’t replied to an email about scheduling a call - you should consider following up by gently inquiring about alternative dates and times.
The people you are trying to reach are busy and bombarded with messages on a daily basis. It’s important to be proactive in your communication and remember to follow up with them regularly.
Rule #2: Know when to let it go.
No one should be chasing something or someone indefinitely. That’s why having inspection standards for analyzing your pipeline will help you understand patterns that may indicate when you’re simply wasting your time with follow-ups that will lead nowhere.
If an assumed prospect has been entirely unresponsive after an initial call despite having left them several voicemails and follow-up emails, then it could be time to pause your activity on this account for a little while.
That’s not to say you should completely give up on it, but allow time to pass before initiating contact again. Whether that’s a month or a year is dependent on the situation and your business.
Conclusion: Keep Optimizing
Your goal should be to keep improving in everything you do, every time you do it. When we do something for the first time, we do it differently than we do when repeating it for the 100th time.
Consider how you open a meeting, present your company’s offering, and interview the customer to get the right information. Are you doing it by rote?
By constantly adjusting and focusing on your behavior that has probably become routine by now, you will be able to make optimizations and modifications to become more efficient and ultimately, more successful.
Remember, stay focused on the right things to build your sales momentum.
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Steve Bookbinder is the CEO and sales expert at DM Training. He has delivered more than 5,000 workshops and speeches to clients all over the world and has trained, coached, and managed more than 50,000 salespeople and managers. Steve continuously refreshes his training content to reflect his latest first-hand observations. Through him, participants in his trainings learn the best practices of today’s most successful sellers and managers across industries. Steve understands that sales is a competitive game. To out-perform competitors and our own personal best results, we need to out-prospect, out-qualify, out-present and out-negotiate everyone else, not merely know how to sell. Through his specialty programs
in Prospect Management, Personal Marketing, Great First Meetings, Sales Negotiating, and
Sales Coaching, Steve trains sales teams to master the skills they need to overcome the
challenges they face in today’s world… and keep improving results year over year.