Thursday, February 14, 2008

THE SALES PIPELINE

Some call it a funnel and some call it a pipeline. Either way I'm talking about putting potential customers in one end with the hope they will come out the other side as a sale.

Selling is not a perfect business. There is emotion, fear, desire, and need involved. People buy for many different reasons. It would be nice if we could just walk up to a customer, show them our product and they write a check. Does it happen? Sure! Just not very often!

Instead of looking at sales as a one time thing, we need to look at selling as a process. Similar to how a farmer sows seeds into a field, you need to sow an interest in your products into your customers. Not every seed will sprout, just like some of your customers won't be interested in what you sell. That's why farmers sow so many seeds, they expect a percentage to fail.

Every time you show your products to a potential customer, they start to travel down your sales pipeline. Some slide right through and buy right away, some won't even consider going in the pipe and others meander down the pipe as they make their decision.

It often takes time for your customer to get to the end of your pipe. It could take days, it could take weeks. It doesn't matter! The point is to keep the pipeline full.

So how can you feed the people in your pipeline so they don't turn and walk out the way they came in? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Thank you cards. When someone shows interest in one of your products, but doesn't buy, send them a nice thank you card for considering what you're selling and let them know you will follow up at a later date, or offer a buying incentive. (so much off, free case, something like that)

2. If it's a trusted customer, offer to leave the product with them to test for a few days. This is called the "Puppy Dog Close". Once you get it in their hand and they get used to using it, they'll want to keep it.

3. Be sure to mention the product each time you see the customer. This is not being pushy. This simply gives them another opportunity to buy. Remember! We live in a busy world. We all need reminders from time-to-time.

While on the road, I take some time and ride with a few of my students when I can. Almost all the shear sales I see them make are not impulse buys, but the result of sowing interest in the shear over time.

How do you keep guiding customers into your pipeline? Well for starters, be sure your customers know you sell shears and other products. Then be sure you have some to show! You can't sell from an empty wagon and people like to touch and feel before they buy. Give them something to touch and feel!

One thing is certain, your customers WILL buy what you're selling from SOMEBODY. If you TAKE THE TIME to show them what you have, and remind them of it, they will eventually buy from YOU!

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