Throughout my Selling in a Recession series, one of the phrases you’ll hear me repeat is “overfill your pipeline.” What does that mean? In short, it means that you need to be fully aware of your sales process, study it carefully, and make sure that even after you vigorously prune your existing pipeline and remove expected transactions that will either fall by the wayside or be delayed, you’ll still have a sufficient number of genuine prospects to attain your sales goals this year.
Take note how your closing ratio has been impacted by the current economic downturn. If you don't know what your closing ratio is, that's a problem you need to fix right away. If you don't know how long typical prospects have been taking to move through each step of your sales process, that's another problem to address. And if you don't even have the steps defined in your sales process, that's yet another problem!
Bottom line, you need to study and fill your pipeline. Fortunately, an economic slowdown – and the associated change of pace – allows you to start thinking about working on your business instead of in your business, a hallmark of most great entrepreneurs. There are two steps to getting started:
- Have a clearly defined sales process in place. This may sound basic; however, it’s essential. What are the steps you’re taking before and after the close? How could you be expanding or streamlining those steps? What systems could you be using in order to monitor each step (handwritten notes, spreadsheets, CRM)?
- Update your toolbox. In the course of evaluating your sales process and the present situation, you’ll find that updating your toolbox is inevitable. This includes not only one-page proposals, but also the value propositions behind them. Your elevator pitch, three-sentence solicitation, financial analysis and everything else should fall in line with these changes as well.
Having made these adjustments, it’s time to put things into practice. Aside from pursuing appropriate leads, you should also be looking back through your previous prospects and customers. Now is the time to bring ignored, stalled or rejected proposals back to life.
How do you do that? Well, think about it. One of the main things to keep in mind is that since we are doing sales differently, the process has to change. It's possible that a failed proposal wasn’t compelling enough to capture the right decision-maker’s attention. Perhaps the decision-maker who did read it and decided to pass is no longer with the company – a victim of furlough or reassignment to a different role. There are so many factors that could have changed since the first time you submitted a proposal, and now that you’re armed with new pricing, lower-cost financing, a more compelling value proposition tied to non-utility-cost financial or non-financial benefits, and/or other new twists, you need to defibrillate those old proposals and bring them back to life.