Updated March 29 at 1:29pm

Leads down the pipeline


For millions of small businesses, a sales “pipeline” is tantamount to a business lifeline. Without a supply of new prospective customers or clients in various stages of conversion, your business can suffer long-term. That’s your pipeline.

But many small companies – especially those that have expanded beyond more modest beginnings – may be managing sales the wrong way. They set quotas for individual salespeople and hope the best of them will carry the day, and the others will at least contribute.

Here are some things to consider trying.

• Establish sales specialization. Instead of having each individual salesperson be responsible for prospecting, qualifying leads, nurturing leads and closing sales, try segmenting those roles. Of course if you have a sales team of one, this isn’t an option. But even with just two people, you might be able to at least start the process.

A person who’s great at bringing in leads might be terrible at closing sales, or vice versa. So why not split the roles and keep people doing what they do best?

“You won’t be successful unless you have prospectors prospecting, closers closing and inbound lead qualifying done by someone in a dedicated qualifying role,” said Aaron Ross, author of the best-selling book Predictable Revenue. “If you do that, usually companies triple how fast a qualified lead is generated.”

• Use email first. Email, not phone calls, is today’s standard for making initial contact with a prospect. People consider phone calls invasive, and rarely engage that way in the prospecting stage. If a prospect is interested, they will respond in some way by email.

• Define your best targets: A sales effort will be far more successful if you take time in advance to define – in as much detail as possible – the profile of your ideal target customer or client. For one thing, you should be targeting those with the biggest revenue potential, and should know something about them before you attempt any contact. In general, it’s better to think in terms of quality rather than quantity.

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