Technology has evolved, but has your approach to your sales pipeline? This list of 10 Tips for Building a Strong Sales Pipeline includes modern approaches and shows you how to apply technology to update a few classics that never go out of style.
No matter your organization’s size or industry, the need for a robust pipeline is something every salesperson has in common. Sadly, most leads aren’t ready to close right away. That means building and maintaining a pipeline is vital. Nothing is worse than closing a string of deals… only to realize you’ve neglected the top of the funnel and there’s nothing left in the pipeline.
These 10 Tips for Building a Strong Sales Pipeline will help jump-start the top of the funnel and be more effective as you work your way to the close.
1. Use LinkedIn for prospecting
LinkedIn has implemented a ton of changes recently that make it usable for more than just a job search. It’s become an excellent resource for networking and research. Use the ability to efficiently identify prospects by company, location, or industry to your advantage. According to LinkedIn, salespeople focused on new business who exceed quota perform 52% more people searches each month.
2. Look a level deeper when identifying decision makers
Once you identify your “in,” don’t be afraid to
stalk explore the person’s profile for mutual connections, common universities, discussions they’ve participated in. These are all great conversation starters. At Salesloft, we’ve made reaching out to your prospects even easier with our LinkedIn integration. We help you find mutual connections and provide timely insights about when your connections change companies or roles.
3. Ask for referrals
Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals from personal and professional networks. Finding a common acquaintance is the quickest way to turn a cold call into a warm call. Seeing an acquaintance’s name on an email will improve that first open rate dramatically! In fact, referral leads convert 30% better than leads from other channels, and they have a 16% higher lifetime value (Hubspot).
4. Slow your roll
Take time to have discovery calls with people within prospect organizations. Don’t try to pitch them – use the steps to the top as a way to learn. Take that intel, and use it to A) figure out the best way to address a pain point and B) get past the final gatekeeper. By the time you get to the decision maker, you must know enough to give them insights into their own business. With 77% of buyers saying that they won’t engage with a salesperson if they don’t do the homework giving them knowledge into their business, it’s practically an expectation (LinkedIn State of Sales Report, 2017).
5. Use the Google machine
If you search: “CEO of Salesloft,” I guarantee you’ll come up with lots of information from interviews, articles, personal blogs, YouTube videos, Twitter handles, and more. It’s all fair game! Use this to learn what makes your prospect “tick.”
Pro tip: You’ll probably also get a corporate website in the search returns. You’d be surprised by the information that is in plain view on that About page. Even if you can’t find an email, you’ll likely find the naming scheme.
6. Build your personal brand
The internet makes it incredibly easy to get your name out there. Make sure you’re representing yourself in the best possible light. Google yourself and see what comes up. On social media, be sure to include a professional headshot in your social profiles, craft a well-written description of your role, share insightful content, and engage with your peers and prospects in a way that adds value to the discussion.
7. Be a thought leader
According to research from Bambu, 92% of B2B buyers use social media platforms specifically to engage with thought leaders in their industry. Start writing short articles to share on blogs or social media. Participate in discussion boards. If you position yourself as a reliable source of knowledge (read: not a pushy salesperson), people will pay attention and remember your name when they are looking for solutions.
8. Write solid sales emails
Email open rates were as high as 85% to 95% in the early days of email. According to MailChimp, today it’s just above 20%. Improve your open rate by grabbing attention early. Here are a few ideas:
- Try using a social proof in the subject line: “50,000 CMOs are improving their open rates with…”
- Use a creative, personalized subject line. If you share an alma mater, you might write the following: “128 Days Until Yellow Jacket Football”
- Keep it concise, conversational, and get to the point (see #9 below)
9. Make it easy to reply
Many leaders save time in their day with efficient emails. They typically responded with few words. Did anyone else read this Buzzfeed article on Mark Cuban’s notoriously terse email replies? He is known for responding right away, often with just one word. Make it even easier for leaders to do this by giving them options. What could be easier than only needing to reply with 1, 2, or 3? Here’s an example:
Would you like to learn more about how to save time in your day with my insanely cool technology?
- Try me in 2 weeks
10. Be a consultant
Know your customers better than your competitors do. If your target feels you genuinely understand them and their needs and you can put forward a solution that reflects that, they’ll choose you over the competition… possibly even at a higher price point. Research backs this up. Nearly 64% of B2B buyers report that they appreciate hearing from a salesperson who provides knowledge or insight about their business. Use the research techniques above in combination with your initial conversations to create a better buyer experience and move prospects down the funnel.
Now that you have these new ideas, make sure you’re delivering the right message at the right time. At each stage of the buying process, your prospect has needs and wants. Beyond the content itself, consider frequency and method of contact. Creating a cadence with defined stages allows teams to almost effortlessly keep track of pipeline stages. Work smarter, not harder. In the end, it provides a better experience for your buyer (and you!).