Build a Pipeline for New Business Even When Business is Great

We all get so busy in our businesses and often forget to keep a pipeline of new prospects flowing for when things are slower…

I know I do!

It is so easy to stop marketing when you have so much work to do that you cannot imagine taking on new business. The very idea might make you cringe.

So, when do most businesspeople market? When things are slower, and you need more customers or clients. The challenge is you could get desperate and compromise your choices and take on bad customers at discounted prices.

When Is the Best Time to Market?

Perhaps based on my comments above you might think that the correct answer is  – all the time, every day.

I suggest no, don’t do that, unless…

…you can give the same level of results that will keep people happy with your deliverables. Clearly it makes no sense to bring on more business if your systems are not adequate to deliver the outcomes you are committed to deliver.

There are a few critical things you must know:

  1. Where do you get your sales from?
  2. What is the length of time from prospecting to actual onboarding a new customer/client?
  3. Can your pipeline be turned on and off with ease?
  4. How can you ramp up your operational capacity to handle new business?
  5. What are your bottlenecks when onboarding?
  6. What are your numbers? In other words, how many contacts at each stage of your sales cycle do you need, to approach before a sale is made?

Where do Your Sales Come From?

It is better to focus on one or two excellent sales channels and invest time and money in those than it is to scatter your resources across multiple channels.

I ask business owners this question all the time – do you know how many sales occur from a particular sales channel?

And the surprising answer is often “ no, I don’t”, or a rambling, vague answer often around hits and likes on social media, which is pretty useless as a measurement if no sales come out of it!

How Long Is Your Sales Cycle?

You need to know how long it will take from initial prospecting to sales meetings to decision point. If you have a long sales cycle of months (or in some cases years) you will need to plan carefully.

If you need new business next month, and your sales cycle is 6 months you could be in trouble!

On the other hand, if you turn on your pipeline and get a gush of new business that you cannot serve with integrity then you will create the proverbial revolving door – in the front and out the back – and with unhappy customers who will spread the bad news.

Can You Turn Your Pipeline On and Off with Ease?

I like to think of marketing as a rhythm, and I like to break it down into 90 day bursts.

For example, let’s say you are looking at a marketing calendar for 2020.

In Quarter 1 you may do a 90 day blitz. You work your pipeline – call referral sources, meet with them, ask for referrals, place ads…you get the idea.

Then as work starts to come in, you then integrate that new business and ease off a bit.

Then once you have integrated that new business, you do another 90 day marketing blitz.

In this example, let’s assume that you got a lot of new business shortly after that 90 day blitz, and spent the next 6 months integrating it – hiring and training people, and maybe buying new equipment even.

Then after 6 months, you start your 2nd 90 day blitz in 2020 in the 4th quarter.

In my example, I am assuming a 90 day sales cycle, and a 6 months integration cycle.

This is why you must know the length of the sales cycle for your business.

Ramping Up Your Capacity

To meet the sales coming in make sure you have enough trained people, equipment, store space, supplies, raw materials if you are manufacturer, or finished goods if you sell inventory.

Determine Your Bottlenecks

You may have an aspect to your business that is a kind of bottleneck. It might be in human resources, raw materials procurement, or equipment capacity.

You need to know this so you can either re-engineer around the bottleneck, effectively eliminating it, or take into account the delay in your planning.

In my own business, the bottleneck is often in the length of time to convert a client from legacy software to cloud-based software. Very few people on our Team are skilled at that part of the business, so it often falls on my shoulders which means I can only do so much, and this slows down the cycles of integration.

One of our clients has a very, very long raw material procurement process with some ingredients taking up to a year to purchase and ship from around the world. They have to take that into account in ramping up sales, if they don’t have enough product to sell!

Know Your Numbers

It is vital to know how many contacts you need at each step of your sales cycle.

Imagine you are doing a direct mail campaign and you know your numbers. (By the way, this is a great example of being able to turn a pipeline on and off).

You send out 1,000 letters. You get 100 sent back undeliverable. Now you are down to 900.

You follow-up with  phone calls and reach 450 (50%) of those.

Only 20% actually read your letter.

You are down to 90 possibilities. (These are not prospects by the way, they are just possibilities).

Of those 90 you set 10 appointments.

From those 10 appointments you get 3 new good clients.

What is the average sale per client?

What is the lifetime value of those clients?

Now you have your numbers. Out of 1,000 letters you got 3 new good clients.

The last number to know is the cost per client of that sales pipeline.

In Conclusion

Here are the 6 things you need to know:

  1. Where your sales come from
  2. The length of time to onboard new customers
  3. How to turn your pipeline on and off at ease
  4. How to ensure you can ramp up your capacity
  5. How to deal with bottlenecks
  6. Know your numbers

Lastly, when your sales blitz is over, make sure you keep some aspect of your pipeline humming along on idle or it will be too difficult to jump start your marketing blitz from a cold stand still.

You can do that by writing blogs, sending newsletters, and calling referral sources just to check in with them and say hello.

Thanks for reading…