In B2B marketing we devote a lot of time to creating not just todays sales, but a winning strategy for growing orders well into the future. This is because unlike consumer marketing, companies in the B2B arena tend to rely on a lower number of large spend orders, rather than lots of transactional smaller spends. In B2B sales pipeline creation, the focus is usually fairly narrow and specific, where consumer marketing tends to be broader in scope. Popular business theorist Michael Porter described this strategic difference in 1985 in his book, “Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance.”
Porter identified three different strategies which companies will adopt to succeed in their market. These are Cost Leadership, where they are the cheapest by adopting means of production which generates the most sales at a lower value than the competition. Differentiation, where a product is highly differentiated, feature rich and therefore costs more, so appeals to fewer. And finally, the Focus Strategy where companies concentrate on a particular niche, with a view to serving the unique needs of those customers within it, making their particular market segment less attractive to competitors.
The key to making a success of any of these strategies is to ensure that our marketing identifies and targets the right prospective clients, and that when these buyers are reached the interaction does a good job of communicating the benefits offered, nurturing a relationship, and gaining permission and interest for further contact. Hence the pipeline grows and strengthens with time. Understanding exactly what a sales pipeline is and how the process relates to your business is crucial if your company is going to achieve its full potential.
The first part of the sales pipeline is lead generation. This is where we find new customers, who are interested in your products and services – or reconnect with existing customers if you’re going to boost sales. One of the easiest and most effective ways of doing this is via the telephone. Run a telemarketing campaign to raise brand awareness and generate good quality leads. By using the telephone you’ll be able to cover much more ground than you would through face to face meetings or direct mail, plus – the telephone gives you the opportunity to lay the foundations for a productive relationship and solid customer base.
Once you’ve got new customers interested, you’ll need to follow up on your initial conversation if you want to take the sale further. In some cases, you’ll be able to do this in your very first call. However other contacts may take more cultivation. In some cases, you’ll need to call back a few times to ensure you speak to the right people, answer queries and bring your relationship to the point they’re ready to make a sale. As follow up can be a delicate part of the sales pipeline, it’s important you have your most capable members of staff handling it.
Customer support is an important part of the sales pipeline. If customers feel well looked after in the run up to making a purchase – they’ll have greater confidence in your company and will be more likely to invest in your services. Again, a lot of customer support can be carried out over the phone. Make sure your team is always on hand to answer customer queries and that they’re well informed about their subject if you want to make a good impression and come across as a leader in your field.
The final step in the sales pipeline is converting leads into sales. If you’ve managed the process in the right way, a sale should come as the natural next step. If customers aren’t quite ready to make a purchase, make sure you’ve answered all of their queries, check there’s no one else you can speak to and finally, ask to contact them again in the future.
A well-oiled sales pipeline will help your business to run more efficiently and more productively. To learn more about other powerful sales and marketing techniques, contact a member of our team today.