In the opening sequence of the classic television show, The Beverly Hillbillies, the character of Uncle Jed (played by the actor Buddy Epsen) is chasing a rabbit and fires his rifle - missing the rabbit and only ends up taking a big chunk of dirt out of the ground. But, miraculously, “up from the ground comes the bubblin’ crude”. He and his family had struck it rich with a single random shot from the old trusty family hunting rifle.
In our “hunt” for anew business leads to help create sales however, it’s likely going to take considerably more effort than one or even a few random shots to create a steady stream of prospects. Only with both sustained and intentional effort can we generate the ability to acquire the correct prospecting targets initially and, the right customers eventually.
For many years now, the funnel has been used as a diagram in countless sales and prospecting discussions. Sales training has often focused on bringing prospects through the “sales funnel”. But that is absolutely the wrong picture to have in our heads. In building a sales (marketing and sales support) list of qualified prospects, the proper image should be one of a pipeline. Something that has a continuous flow of prospects, not a voluminous, unqualified top end.
Your revenue pipeline is likely going to take more time, energy, and resources than you may hope for or be comfortable with. But there are rarely any shortcuts to building a process that will deliver a steady stream of prospects in the long run. Though the tactics will change depending on your business, industry and circumstances, consider implementing the following 3 concepts when building your pipeline.
Identify. For each of your particular products or services – find those customers most likely to buy. Spend some effort profiling your existing best customers. What are the common characteristics? In all probability, similar people or businesses exist who share the same needs and values and would make ideal prospects. And therefore, are more likely buyers of your services.
Communicate. Very hard to get people excited if you told them you winked at them and the room was dark. After you have targeted people who may want what you offer – let them know who you are and what you do. Multi-channel communication tactics in the current day present an almost limitless number of options that include; print, mail, web, mobile and social. Effective communications help establish and control the perceptions of your intended audience as well as offering them the timing and methods they prefer.
Evaluate. Some things will work. Some things will not. One of the demonstrations I usually give in my speaking engagements is to offer a member of the audience a high quality pair of athletic shoes that will “guarantee” the recipient to run faster and jump higher. After picking one of the many eager participants I hand them a pair of size 17 sneakers. Again, after the usual laughter I ask the moral of the lesson. It is, obviously, one size doesn’t fit all. What worked at one time may not (and probably will not) work forever. Marketing, by its’ very nature, is experimental. To be successful in the 21st century and a hyper-competitive marketplace, your marketing program must become sophisticated and constantly measure what works and, what doesn’t.
Maybe you’ve been like Uncle Jed and from time to time hit the one lucky shot that led to some prospects and some customers. But in the long run, leaving the success of your organization to a few lucky shots is unwise. Hope is not a strategy. Instead use identifying, communicating and evaluating to build a pipeline that will bring you a steady flow of business for as far into the future as you can see. It may take more time, effort and resources but it is the only way to enjoy sustained success in the long run.