One way we can help our clients is by sharing our own experiences… the good, the bad and the ugly. Every business that expands will normally experience an increase in pipeline, but a decrease in conversion rates. And we’re no different. But we’ve been on a pretty steep learning curve over the past six months that’s paid off.
At the back end of 2018, we noted a large growth spike – an increase in pipeline – with what I call ‘phantom deals’. They’re not even leads. They’re just tyre kickers dressed up like opportunities. In a business like ours, we can spend a huge amount of time helping a client kick a tyre without knowing they will ever be an opportunity.
So, it was no surprise that the pipeline had increased but conversions were not pulling through. If we were to continue growing at a sustainable rate, I needed to address the issue. And this is how I did it:
#1 Confirmation, not solution
In my experience, people in the sales process like to feel busy. And sending out proposals is one way to make them feel busy and justify their productivity and effectiveness to their boss. Putting these types of proposals into the pipeline is the wrong thing to do. The proposal should always be the confirmation, never the solution. By the time you pull an air-tight proposal together, the client should be almost ready to sign.
We made this mistake previously, like many other businesses I’ve worked with… but now we better qualify opportunities which means our pipeline is a truer reflection of what’s really likely to convert. And we only invest time in proposals when we know the client has serious intent and the budget to move forward.
#2 Understand your customer and understand what you do
Sales is about the same two things. Understanding your customer and understanding what you do. It’s pretty much the same as it’s always been. But it’s easy to stray from this path, particularly in big tech companies where you’re bombarded with opportunities to buy more products/services and usually on the basis of not understanding the solution.
Take an account success role for example. It’s dressed up to help your success but in reality, it’s to sell you more. It isn’t true customer success, it’s customer success with a number.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with this approach – providing the individual in the role has the right knowledge. If they can’t guide the client with knowledge and insights, they cannot add value.
#3 Always always, add value
If you’re involved with a customer but don’t have the right knowledge or ability to add value, you’re operating in a transactional space. For B2B businesses, this is dangerous territory. Your customer needs to feel like you’re a trusted advisor and a true B2B partner. If you fall into the transactional trap the customer will feel like you’re only there as and when they’re ready to buy something. This has a massive effect on your conversion rates – and not in a good way.
Our business, at times, has slipped into this mode. And while it’s easily done, we’ve taken steps in terms of our people, roles and structure to ensure that at every touchpoint we are geared up to add value.
These were not the only areas we addressed as part of our pipeline and conversion strategy review – but they were the three major wins. Be wary of building a huge pipeline that’s full of noise and instead focus on fixing the problems, like we did. And if you’re focused, you’ll be on the right path to realising the results that we did in just six months…