As many small businesses know, managing a sales pipeline is the lifeline for your business. You may have some excellent virtual marketing handled by a VA bringing in the business, but you need to have good processes in place. This will mean you don't miss any opportunities, you maximise your gains, and you nurture and develop your leads as efficiently and effectively as possible. We chatted to our very own Client Engagement Manager, Sarah, to gain some insight into how to manage a sales pipeline.
Structure Your Day
Like with any job, having structure to your day can mean you make the most of your time, ensuring your productivity is at a maximum. Sarah says she usually starts her day working through emails and admin, writing to-do lists and planning. She then spends the rest of the day speaking to new clients, nurturing potential leads, and following up with clients who perhaps weren’t ready the last time they spoke. Sarah then matches clients to our amazing pool of VAs, being a ‘commercial cupid’ as Sarah puts it!
Having a website that ranks highly with SEO in your industry can be an invaluable way of generating sales leads. Clients can contact you through your website, booking a call directly with you or they can send you a message to ask for further information.
Sarah explains that when she has clients booking consultation calls with her, they are prompted to provide more information about what they are looking for. This means that Sarah is ready for the call, having researched the company and read their requirements, she is armed with all the information she needs to get the call off to the best start. Sarah can ask the right questions, fill in gaps and get a full picture of what the client is after.
Another useful tip for generating leads is to have a strong, current blog with a call-to-action within each blog, encouraging your potential clients to get in touch. And finally, could you offer a referral scheme to your customers? They could get a little something when you get a new client or make a sale to someone they recommended.
There are some great ways to manage your sales leads to ensure you keep on top of every potential sale. Sarah uses Active Campaign to manage all her leads; she is able to divide them into various stages such as Backburner, Pending Proposal, Pending Sign Up, and more in between. It also makes it easy to move your potential leads around, with a handy drag and drop feature.
Sarah says, “AC is used religiously for notes, updates, and email content.” For those clients in the Backburner stage, having automated emails sent out to keep in touch can really help during busy times. “The automated emails were introduced to take the pressure off the manual process during busy spells, which really helps with a soft ‘keep-in-touch’ until I can manually reach back out. Keeping in touch is the key here whilst respecting client’s wishes and preferences, and being sensitive to their situations.”
The key thing is to ensure you use it every day and keep it as up to date as possible.
As important as it is to ensure that you make the most of every lead, you also need to know when a lead can be passed over. It can be easy to recognise leads that are not worth spending time on, and your criteria for this may vary.
Do you get the impression this lead is a strong one? Have they provided lots of information? Do you think they are in a ‘go situation’? Do they know what they want? Are you the right service for them? Have they given you an indication of budget? If so, does your service fit with their budget? Does your service fit their requirements, in general? Is the lead in the right country?
Finding your own relevant criteria will help you manage this process. It will also save you time, save the client’s time, and manage their expectations too. For Sarah, this is an important point. “Managing expectations about what we can and can't help with is part of the job.”
With our clients, for example, they may have specific requirements around availability and logistics, i.e. if a client needs evening work only, this isn't likely to work as our VAs typically work UK business hours.
Develop Your Leads
Nurturing and developing your leads is an important part of the pipeline. This is where you can show off how your business is different. What are your USPs? An effective way of developing leads is to drip feed the information. It gives you an opportunity to contact your potential client, but it also allows you to remind them why they should do business with you over a competitor.
Sarah likes to run through a brief overview of what sets us apart from our competitors on each call she takes. This could be our personal, bespoke service, the calibre of our VAs and their average 15 years’ relevant experience, the range of business types and sizes they have supported including big brand and global corporate names, or even having a dedicated Client Success Manager for any advice and to help them get the best out of their VA once they join us.
She always follows up her consultation calls with a personalised email, recapping on the plan and pricing the client is considering, encouraging questions, as well as attaching useful resources, whether that is a link to a blog post on our website or an e-book we have created for our clients.
Winning The Business
After sending out your initial proposal, it is important to follow up with your clients at the right time. You need to give your clients some time to get to, and read your email, but not give them too much time for them to forget about you!
What else can you offer? Can you offer any free resources? How can you be helpful to your client allowing you to win the business? Sarah uses ActiveCampaign to ensure she knows the status of all potential leads, including if the client is away, or if they need her to get back to them urgently. She also makes sure she always follows up whether it is 1 or 2 days after they have been sent the proposal or 1 or 2 days after they said they were returning from holiday.
Securing The Sale
Once you know the client is ready to go ahead, getting them over that final hurdle is an all-important step.
Have you answered all their questions and provided them with what they need? Have you ticked all their boxes? What final tweaks need to be done to get that client passed the finish line?
Once you have got them to this stage, it really should be a home run from there.
Do you run a business but feel overwhelmed by admin? Why not book in a call with Sarah to see how one of VAs could help you take the pressure off.