How to Build a Strong Sales Pipeline During a Global Crisis

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The year 2020 hasn’t been kind to businesses. The lack of demand and economic activity has forced many businesses to shut down, and lay off staff. The ones that haven’t closed down yet are likely operating on lower revenues and face uncertainty.

In times like these, it’s especially important to be nimble and creative to continue selling. From re-working your products to optimizing your sales processes, here are strategies to revive the momentum in your sales pipeline and keep generating cash for your business. 

1. Double down on the right lead generation channels

An economic crisis can cripple your inbound lead generating channels. This might include your website traffic, email engagement, and signups.

If the majority of your lead generation channels are hit during a crisis, don’t try to get all of them operating back to normal. In such cases, focus on channels that are stable, or even growing in such circumstances. If webinars have been driving lead consistently, consider shifting more resources to double down there to nurture your pipeline.

Consider exploring new channels as well. For example, Linkedin lead generation allows you to find groups and organizations where your product could solve problems, and reach out to decision makers within them. 

Your focus shouldn’t necessarily be around the volume of leads you generate from these channels. Quality or better converting leads of higher value should be your measurement of success. Shifting your focus towards the new or stable channels along with capturing high quality leads with intent will ensure you still have a healthy sales pipeline.  

2. Increase engagement among decision-makers

When you’re selling under tough market conditions, middle-management and associate level connections will usually not be as helpful as they were before. Decision making tends to move higher up, and upper management is responsible for a lot of buying decisions. 

Therefore you’ll want to escalate your ongoing conversations with the top-level management within your target accounts. This will help you gain better context of your prospect’s position with respect to the deal and help you close quicker. Find ways to create extra value. For example, by providing unique insights through webinars, your contact may want to loop in upper management. How can you provide something that will make your contact seem like an all-star to their manager?

Talking with decision-makers will also help you understand what’s going on within your target market, and help you position and pitch your product more effectively under current circumstances. 

3. Capitalize on your clients’ success

If your existing clients are seeing growth and success during times of crisis while using your services, it’s a big opportunity for you to nurture prospective clients. Businesses might be wary of making investment and purchase decisions, so social proof goes a long way in helping to ease it. Publish case studies with a focus on product outcomes like efficiency and growth and you’ll be able to grow your pipeline.

Additionally, ask your existing customers for referrals. A number of your potential customers might not seek to buy from you directly, but are willing to listen to referrals from trusted relationships. Referrals from well-known organizations and institutions who use your products can help you find new, intent-rich leads who are likely to make a purchase decision quicker.

4. Adjust sales forecasts and adopt

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If you’re seeing a drop in conversions and new leads adjust your month and quarter ending forecasts accordingly. In case your sales don’t recover back to your previous peaks, your previous forecasts would no longer be accurate. Apart from causing unrest within the team, not correcting your forecasts would also give the organization’s leaders a false sense of security. On the other hand, making adjustments would have enabled you to act on it. Many operational decisions are made based on sales, and missing sales numbers could result in unexpected outcomes like cash burn and employee churn.

Correct your sales forecasts based on the decline in conversions and increase in drop-offs. Make adjustments for growth coming in from your sales channels, and make sure that your forecasts are realistic to manage expectations. The idea behind doing this is to recognize that your sales might take a hit while at the same time to figure out what you can do to recover from it.

5. Cut costs and optimize

To make the most of the leads you’re generating during tough market conditions, be a consultant to your leads and close them as quickly as possible. Leads with intent to buy can make quick decisions during times of crisis, since there may be a sense of urgency to use a product that improves their operations. Try to identify and move on it. 

To lower costs, spending too much on marketing might only increase your cost per lead. Scale back and stick to organic channels and those that consistently perform to save on costs.

Additionally, when you generate new leads, make the buying process as simple, seamless and quick as possible. To ensure this, cut down on the number of touches it usually takes to close a lead. Respond to messages and emails as quickly as possible and preemptively address frequently asked questions. When you invariably don’t get responses, follow-up regularly and use best practices

Operationally, refine your processes so your team can be more productive. Use outreach tools to send emails or LinkedIn messages at scale and test subject lines that can improve your open rates. Prioritize low hanging fruit to get some quick wins and build your sales pipeline.

6. Innovate on product offerings

If demand for your existing product offerings is slowing, there may be a good reason for it. Perhaps competitors have more compelling offerings or there is no longer the same need for your product. Talk to your existing and potential customers about their needs and pitch them reworked versions of your existing product. How can you tweak your product to meet their evolving needs?

Depending on what insights your customers provide, you can rework your price-feature mapping so that customers can derive more value out of your product, you can build additional features that go well with existing offerings, or you can bundle your products with other vendors. The bottom line is you’ll want to find creative ways to modify your existing offerings to meet customer needs and help build your sales pipeline.

7. Hire a rainmaker

Having experts and veterans on your team with a track record of selling through their network can work out great in times of crisis. A seasoned sales professional can make quick and crucial connections within target accounts through their existing network. This will help you get to decision-makers early on, and expedite closing with the through influence and credibility. 

Moreover, a top sales professional can set a high bar for your entire team. In a challenging sales environment, if someone on your team can find ways to succeed, it becomes a blueprint for the rest of your team to follow.

During an economic crash, there are businesses that continue to earn while others struggle and shut down. The difference between both types of businesses is their ability to sell under these circumstances. 

Cutting costs, selling revamped products, focusing on the right sales channels, and hiring rainmakers, among other strategies, can help you keep selling during a crisis and grow your business. If you’re able to adapt to sell effectively during tough times, you’ll be well-positioned for further growth when the economy recovers.

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