Lisa Mandell continues her series to help you nurture and grow your pipeline & new business strategy.
The first two articles in the series looked at the importance of focused targeting when it comes to lead generation [Article 1: How to avoid poor decision making under an empty pipeline] and highlighted my planning and approach strategy to secure their attention [Article 2: A three-pronged approach]. This third piece will discuss the importance of replenishing the new business pipeline in order to drive continued growth.
Replenishing the new business pipeline to drive continued growth
- You’ve reached a point where you’re confident you’ve identified market segments and businesses that your organisation is well placed to service;
- You’ve drafted a comprehensive plan with which to target them; and
- Gathered a team of motivated individuals (perhaps both internally and externally) to activate it.
- The team is gaining traction and already promising conversations are being had.
But, whilst it’s key that adequate capacity is allocated to converting a warm lead into a client win, it is absolutely essential that focus also remains on replenishing the new business pipeline, in order to continue driving business growth.
Jeb Blount’s much referred to manual, ‘Fanatical Prospecting’, puts great emphasis on the importance of continually feeding the business pipeline; after all, you have to keep winning to keep growing. He talks about the 30-Day Rule – any prospecting you do in a 30-day period will pay off in the next 90 days. And if you don’t prospect tomorrow, you will feel the effects of that in 90 days’ time.
Blount’s 30-Day Rule is sound advice. In this article, I will highlight further considerations that I believe to be key to effective pipeline management because if you continue to replenish business leads, learning from failures and capitalising on successes, you will start to be able to predict revenue and forecast financially. This will bring measureable benefits to your business as a whole.
Determining the true potential of leads
The nurturing of new business leads can take many months, and in some cases even years. It’s therefore fundamentally important to understand the potential value of a client, in order to determine how much time to invest in the relationship.
To aid the reviewing and qualifying of opportunities, consider using The Three Whys – Why change? Why now? Why us?
Ask yourself, why is the client going to change from their existing service provider? The only real reason to upset the status quo is if their goals and objectives are not being met. Are you able to identify and demonstrate this to the client in question?
Even once identified, however, there is often a reluctance on the part of B2B companies to change service providers immediately. Sales cycles, accounting years and budgets are all used as excuses to avoid decisive action. But this inaction ultimately represents a costly hesitation on their part. The best time to start a new program, product or service is always NOW. Come up with a way of showing the true cost of such inaction to the client, communicating your offering in true commercial terms.
This leaves the question of, why your agency or company? Be clear on how you will align with the client to realise what they see as success; demonstrate how you have worked previously with clients to deliver the very same results they are after, whilst providing each client with a unique edge.
It may also be that the client you are targeting has never engaged with the services that you offer; ask yourself why is that and why they would be open to it now? (Are their main competitors engaging with your sector?)
As some business leads will take months or sometimes years to convert, it’s key to regularly review and re-qualify the potential of each. On first glance, a client that doesn’t currently procure your services might appear to be too tough a nut to crack. But proactively generating a piece of industry analysis that benchmarks the client in question against key competitors, might highlight to them a previously unrecognised need for your services.
This type of approach could see you win their business without having to go through a costly pitch process!
How clean is your pipeline?
Once you’ve established that a lead is worth pursuing, it’s important to keep it active.
Whilst having as many leads as possible on the table can feel like the best position to be in, if those leads are not progressing through the sales funnel, they become nothing more than a mental barrier to seeking out more fruitful opportunities. It is of the utmost strategic importance to be realistic about client opportunities and to keep the pipeline ‘clean’ of stale leads.
Consider categorising leads into those that you are looking to close within the next 90 days, six months and a year. Whilst those that fall in the 90-day cycle will likely be more no more than 20% of your total leads, they should occupy 80% of your focus.
There is no shame in a lead being re-categorised. It is far better to explore and de-prioritise an opportunity than to ignore it altogether.
Analyse successes and failures
By questioning why some leads are being re-categorised and through keeping a detailed record of your success and failures, you can effectively identify areas for improvement within your new business planning. Be agile and wiling to adapt if the information you are gleaning is telling you to take a different tack. Question the following:
- Are you happy with your conversion rate? And does it align with stakeholders’ expectations?
- Where are those leads that are successfully converted, originating from?
- What reasons are clients giving when you are not appointed? Are there any recurring themes and what is being done to address this?
- Do you have the correct team in place to secure the business that you want, or do you need to consider additional and/ or different resource?
Effective targeting and sourcing of leads is central to driving business growth; but, as you can see, so too is the effective management and analysis of those leads.
A well-managed pipeline doesn’t just allow for business growth, it lays the foundation for effective financial forecasting, but this is only possible with a constantly replenished funnel and proactive approach to lead generation.
The fourth and final article in this series will look at the importance of investing in client relationships in order to drive growth. And if you would like to go back and read the first and second articles on related topics click on these links:
- Article One: How to avoid poor-decision-making under the pressure of an empty pipeline
- Article Two: Planning for success: a three-pronged approach to lead generation
To speak to me directly on the subject of lead generation or how Waypoint Partners could work with your business to unlock future potential and drive growth please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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