You Don’t Just “Build” a Sales Pipeline

The best predictor of consistent success in sales is determined by the continued health of your sales pipeline. It’s a visual representation that includes all opportunities—from new prospects to the deals that are ready to close—and maps out each buyer’s journey.

But success here is in the details. Remember that famous line in the film Field of Dreams: “if you build it, they will come?” Sadly that doesn’t apply to sales pipelines. You must do more than just build yours: you also have to keep being there for it, so that it remains healthy and thriving.

Getting this right is especially important these days. At minimum, it’s wrap-up time for many on their first-quarter sales results for the year. But there’s a deeper reason, too. These continue to be uncertain times in the marketplace: many salespeople are just one corporate restructuring away from having to rebuild their pipeline from scratch. Don’t make that mistake!

Be there for your pipeline. Here are six field-tested ways to make that happen.

1) Make the time

This is an especially acute problem I see among seasoned salespeople: they mistakenly hitch their future success on a legacy of existing business, believing that pipeline building and maintenance is just for rookies. You must consistently dedicate time to building and maintaining your pipeline. No one else will do this for you and it sure won’t happen on its own. My recommendation is always that you carve out a two-hour time block for this work and build the habit to do it consistently. Every day. No excuses.

2) Perpetual research

You can never know enough about your customer or your sales territory—particularly when that sales ground continues to shift right beneath your feet. Success stories are one of the best ways to engage in perpetual research. Find ones that showcase how you and your company’s solution have delivered powerful value to your customers. And don’t just limit your search to your own sales territory: look for success stories in other territories or that involve different use cases than the ones you typically focus on.

3) Tempo triad

I dedicated an entire chapter of my book, Right on the Money, to talk about this important concept. Your tempo triad is the multi-platform strategy you must use in healthy pipeline building/maintenance. Never settle on just that single platform you’re familiar with. Pick at least three (e.g., YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn) and determine to who you reach, how you reach them and what you want them to do next. Your reach scales more effectively this way, because you can’t predict which platform will have your best leads. One my clients based in Latin America began adopting this approach—sending emails and scheduling calls via leads found within their top-three picks—and in this quarter alone, they generated over $600,000 in their new business pipeline.

4) Always ask for referrals

It’s astonishing: 78% of happy clients want to give out referrals, but only 8% of salespeople ask for them! Don’t make that painfully common mistake. You’ll find referrals in three places: among your current and previous customers, among their partners and related suppliers, and among others in your organization who might be connected with the company you’re targeting. Reach out directly. This ask is deeply personal.

5) Mine the gold in your CRM

Your CRM never forgets. That makes it a veritable gold mine for new opportunities among all your past deals. Typically I recommend looking back by up to 24 months. Reach out and find out what’s changed in the customer’s world. What new challenges are they dealing with that can be solved with your newest solutions? Look at the opportunities you worked on before and ask about their long-term results. These are easy calls to make because they’re not cold calls. Remember: you are known to them and there’s a wealth of goodwill earned from your previous experiences together.

6) Know your Critical Mass Influence

Building and maintaining your pipeline involves more than just your customers. It includes the wider network of people they trust and do business with. Know the vector of people who affect your ability to complete transactions within a tight timeframe daily: that’s your Critical Mass Influence. Look to grow your network of connections. One of our clients here at Engage did that by partnering up with their Customer Success team to conduct a quarterly business review with an existing customer. That generated a $200,000 opportunity that they otherwise would never have known about.

Summing up: think of your sales pipeline the same way you do your own health. Attentively being there for it is a constant, necessary task. And as you can see in the examples I’ve shared, healthy pipeline management isn’t just about mitigating risk. There are powerful sales opportunities in that work as well.