At the end of the day, one of the most essential pieces of an effective lead generation strategy is learning to close those leads. This is an art form unto itself, and something that is probably the most important part of your business.

This requires a process to do properly. There will be many prospects that come into your sales funnel, and knowing what to do with them can mean the difference between survival and bankruptcy.

Whether you’re operating alone or you’re planning to have a fully engaged sales team, it’s important that you have a set procedure for what to do from the second a lead is delivered to you.

What is a Sales Pipeline?

A sales pipeline is the process flow that a lead will go through in order to close a deal.

Sometimes, this can be as simple as having a salesperson make phone calls. But it can also be a little more complicated than that, depending on what you’re selling.

The sales pipeline needs to reflect the needs of your target audience first and foremost. Do they have time for lengthy demos? Do they have the budget to afford what you’re charging? Will your product or service really solve a problem that your targets are facing?

The pipeline also needs to work in conjunction with your marketing and advertising efforts. This is because these pieces set an expectation on what you’re offering. Having marketing and advertising collateral that doesn’t reflect what you’re going to be talking about in the sales process is really self-defeating.

Having Your Goals In Alignment

At the end of the day, sales begins with the goals that your potential customers are trying to accomplish. Your marketing should set you up not as the hero of their story, but as the guide that will assist the hero in fulfilling their goals and dreams.

Everything from your email marketing to your social media, landing pages, and especially your lead magnet itself should work several goals.

1. Collecting Contact Information

This is the job of your marketing and advertising. We’re mentioning this because the line between sales and marketing is the most murky around here. If a lead capture strategy involves some sort of content that’s set behind an email capture, then you really need to be focused on that content providing value.

But, it still has to be relevant to your sales team. This is why it’s a good idea to have your sales and marketing teams in alignment for this content.

The marketer’s job is to direct traffic, and specifically those leads, into your sales team’s funnel. If they’re going to produce a piece of content that’s worthy of a target’s personal information, it must be great content that is immediately useful.

2. Initiating Contact With Your Target Audience

The entire goal is to make contact in the right way under the right circumstances with your prospects. This means that you must know what their pain points are so that when you finally earn a few minutes of their time, you are striking the exact nerve you need to strike.

Do not expect to get a half hour or full hour meeting off of one initial contact. If this happens, then great! But do not think that it will be this way every time. And more often than not, you must be relentless yet respectful of their time.

Resist the urge to tell them too much about what you are offering in the beginning. First and foremost, it’s about listening to what the prospect’s needs are. This is the first step of the sales process — discovery.

Discovery is where you learn important facts about the prospective client. What do they need done? What are they currently doing to try and fix the problem? How much budget do they have available? What sort of market are they serving?

These questions will help you to formulate a proposal to send them. Just remember that initial contact is your first chance to fumble the ball. Make sure you do what is necessary to keep them in your sales pipeline, and let your process take care of the rest.

3. Educating Without Overwhelming

One of the most difficult things to do with static content, like your lead magnet, is balance the prospect’s pain points with your selling points. As such, the easiest way to do this is to make their pain points your selling points.

In this way, you “sell without selling” and have more space or time to get your feet wet in educating the prospect.

This is something that will take rounds of iteration to get right. Always make sure that you’re working to improve upon what you already have. It can almost always get better.

Preventing Confusion — Call The Ball

In baseball, outfielders have a lot of ground to cover to catch a fly ball. Sometimes, there are intersecting areas of coverage. In these cases, it’s essential for one of the players to call the ball.

This practice does two things that your sales team can learn from. First, it has one person claiming responsibility and accountability. Once it’s called, the others on the team become support.

The second thing this does is prevent catastrophes. In baseball, it’s very possible for two outfielders to collide if they aren’t paying attention and calling the ball. When they collide, no one is there to make the catch.

It’s also true of your sales pipeline. If there’s a question as to who is responsible and accountable for taking an individual lead, you’ve got a severe problem.

There’s an old expression: people do not rise to the occasion, they fall to the level of their training.

So, if things aren’t specific, yet you’re still succeeding, imagine how much more effective your lead conversion rate could be by employing this approach.

The truth is that assigning responsibility for leads to a single individual will save you a whole lot of time and frustration — not to mention revenue.

Practice Makes Perfect

This is cliche for a reason. Practice is really what’s important here. Whether it’s just you trying to sell your product or service, or you have a team, training must be on your mind.

Roleplay is a great tool for honing your skills and your team’s. Practice your process with people who are in the industry or have experience in sales. This will help you to cut out the things that lack importance, while boosting the things that are working well.

It isn’t enough to simply tell your team what to do and expect that they will do it well. They must practice, whether they want to or not. Do not neglect this part of the equation. The time you put into practicing these skills with your team will pay dividends.

Have a Clear Lead Reporting Strategy

When a lead comes into your business, where does it go? Who’s responsible? Who is managing the process and has “called the ball?” This is where the rubber starts to meet the road.

When your leads come in, you need to have a clear process. Lead generation is itself a pipeline from marketing and advertising. And, just like the plumbing in your house needs to have each piece of pipe connected to another, it’s the same with your sales pipeline.

There needs to be a clear connection and process for this.

For instance, you could have one special email address that receives leads from a form or some other source, then filters them to the appropriate person. You can use a Customer Relationship Management software, or CRM, to do this as well, such as the one offered by Hubspot.

With software like this, your leads can come in, be assigned to the right person, and follow-up can happen instantly. This brings us to the next point.

Make Contact As Soon As Possible

Once a lead comes in, there’s an invisible clock that starts. The longer you take to respond to your lead, the less likely they are to convert.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to call them on a Saturday night at 10 pm if that’s when a lead comes in. But you could.

In all actuality, you likely won’t be able to reach out to them until the following Monday. But, if you’re using something like a CRM, you can often have an initial contact email go out to them thanking them for signing up, and telling them when they can expect you to reach out next.

This lets them know that you have their information, and, above all, they haven’t been forgotten. Then, you will be set up for success.

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