How to Jumpstart a Sluggish Sales Pipeline

For nearly any type of business, generating consistent sales takes far more effort than merely advertising and waiting for customers to appear at your doorstep.

An effective sales pipeline — the path a potential customer follows from lead to sale  — requires careful planning and an organized effort, says Barbara Findlay Schenck, a small-business strategist and the author of “Small Business Marketing Kit for Dummies.”

Here’s how to construct a sales pipeline that delivers results.

Define Your Ideal Prospect

Schenck says too many businesses panic about not generating enough leads when they haven’t even properly identified the customer they’re trying to attract. “They’re generating lots of people who are never going to buy from them,” she says.

Gaining large numbers of leads should not be the objective; gaining qualified leads should be. Keep in mind that the only person who is a real prospect for your product or service is someone who is able to and wants to buy from your business.

“If you’re selling vodka, 13-year-olds aren’t your prospect,” Schenck says. “If you’re selling enterprise software, you need companies of a certain size that aren’t already committed to an enterprise solution.”

To determine the profile of your ideal prospect, Schenck suggests taking a close look at your best customer. Explore how you reached that customer in the first place. If it’s a business-to-business transaction, give special attention to what level of the business you negotiated with to make the sale. For example, if your connection to your best customer is a CTO, then a CTO is probably your ideal prospect.

Studying this information, Schenck says, should help you develop an ideal prospect profile that explains who the customer is, where the customer is and how the customer buys.

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