Eric Wolfram's Writing, How To Sell -- Sales Pipeline

Sales Lead Tracking -- Your Pipeline is the key to selling your pants off

A sales pipeline is a very important concept in selling because it is the recognition of the origin and result of each sale. Each sale starts as a lead -- which is a phone number, a name, an email addres, a referal or someone who walks into your store -- they are leads. From there, you qualify the lead, which means, you make sure this person is capible of becoming a customer -- either they have enough money or the right size outfit for your product. For instance, you might sell mini-vans, and a good qualifying question is: Do you have any children. If so, you might try to sell this person. If not, you would try to sell them another vehicle that isn't so family oriented. From there, after you've qualified a lead, you sell to them and you either get a "continue", an "advance" or a "decline." I'll explane those later. A "continue" can turn into an "advance" which can turn into a customer -- or a sale. chiching.

So a sales pipeline goes like this:
lead ---> qualified lead --> continue/advance --> customer --> repeat customer

Some products have a quick pipeline. Some products have a longer pipeline. Generally, the more expensive the product, the longer the pipeline (although that is only a general rule.)

An important part of selling is to keep track of the ratios and numbers so you can understand your pipeline and improve it. How many calls does it take to get an appointment? How many appointments does it take to get a sale? And so on. Eventually, you'll find that it generally takes 10 calls to make an appointment and 10 appointments to make a sale, for instance. Then you'll realize that if you made 1000 calls last month and made $5000, then you'll want to make 2000 calls to make $10,000. Once you start knowing your numbers, you start to understand your pipeline.

Suppose you make 100 calls one month and get 20 appointments for the next month, but that next month you're busy going to appointments so you didn't make any calls -- how many appointments will you have on the third month? None. That's because you didn't feed the pipeline.

Of course, if you've done any sales already, you're quick to realize that If you made $20000 in sales this month, it's because you made 2000 calls last month. Or something like that. That's the sales pipeline in reality.

You can draw sales pipeline like this:

*     Leads         *
 * qualified leads *
  * cont.        *
    *advances *
That's a pretty lousy ascii graph of an inverted pyramid -- basically -- it takes many leads to make one sale.

The key to selling is making the calls. You have to get in front of 20 people every day, belly to belly, and talk to them. This keeps your pipeline full. I can tell you how you can never fail in sales -- don't make a call.

Leading the Leads Down Your Pipeline
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