In this post, I’m going to talk a little bit about how we manage our sales pipeline and look after our clients once we’ve won their business.
This will be a little different for everyone depending on their business and clients, but this is simply just what works for us at Stada Media. This is the Diary of an Entrepreneur!
Know your sales pipeline
Knowing your sales pipeline and what it looks like is super important. It gives you a snapshot of what your business could or could not look like in the future, depending on how busy you are. I didn’t used to be a fan of the sales pipeline and thought it was overanalysing. Now, however, I can see it’s MEGA important.
Our sales pipeline is broken down into business classification, so we mainly have B2B clients and agency clients. Then, each of those is broken into what stage that sales journey is currently at.
The main 5 stages of our sales pipeline
Stage 1: Contact – The first initial contact we have with the prospect, whether that’s an email, direct message, phone call, an in-person chat. We’ve both discovered that there’s a synergy there, and there’s the potential that we’ll bring value to you and your business.
Stage 2: Qualification – Are they the right kind of client for us? Do they have the kind of budget for the work that we’re able to bring them? Is there longevity in this client? Do they REALLY have a project for us? We get a lot of people dangling carrots, and a lot of time and effort goes into the sales process, so we have to qualify this.
Stage 3: Briefing – Now, we’re actually physically talking about a project. If a client’s in the ‘Briefing’ column on Pipedrive (the software we use for sales), it means we’re getting to the bottom of that project before we go onto the next step.
Stage 4: Proposal – Basically, quoting. Getting the numbers to do the work that we’ve just briefed on. This could be a 60-slide PowerPoint presentation if it’s a massive project, or it could be one slide – either way, it’s the breakdown of what the client gets for their investment. Then, once that’s done and it’s sent to the client, they go over into the ‘Decision’ column.
Stage 5: Decision – This is where a lot of activity happens. A lot of projects end up in ‘Decision’ for quite some time – depending on how big the organisation is and how urgently they need the work completed, it can be a lengthy process.
Within each of these stages, there are a lot of touchpoints that we need to achieve to keep the momentum going, get the sales over the line and ready for production to begin.
For these touchpoints we use notes and reminders to make sure nothing is missed, because missing something or ignoring a potential sale in your pipeline could cost your business MANY thousands of pounds.
Therefore, you have to dedicate lots of time in your week to keep on top of that. If you’re the only salesperson in your business, you should be dedicating the majority of your week to this process – otherwise I 100% guarantee that your business will move very slowly, and you’ll miss out on sales.
Laying the foundation
Especially if you’re going to be hiring sales staff in the future, laying that foundation now is so important. Figure out what the sales journey looks like, and of course, it’ll be different depending on what you’re selling.
I’ll go into Pipedrive and I can see really clearly how busy we are, insights about how many projects we’ve quoted for this month, how many we’ve sold, our win rate, and so on. And it’s exciting! When we win a job, we click the ‘win’ button and out pops a little animation and it feels like ringing a bell.
If you don’t use Pipedrive or any other cloud-based apps, use a spreadsheet – it can be just as effective.
Looking after and retaining your clients
This is a very important and often overlooked aspect of sales.
At the moment, our retention rate is very high. 9.9 times out of 10, we get repeat business from new clients – after getting one video from us, they want more. This is because we deliver a great service, we offer great value for money and we’re good at building relationships that go beyond sales.
We don’t look at the client as a transaction or a number – we care about the investment the client is about to make. We’ve actually turned clients away, saying they don’t need to spend that money because they’ve got other options available to them… and they’ve still come back later and spent money with us. So, we genuinely care!
I won’t lie to you – there was a time when it was just a money in, money out situation. However, over the last few years we’ve grown and matured, and we CARE about that investment.
I think that’s really important for anybody in business to remember: don’t look at the client as a pound sign. Look at them as individuals, people!
They’ve got jobs, goals, visions and aspirations of their own, and if we can play an important role in that and deliver results, we’re going to get repeat business. It’s a win-win all round: we get the relationships, but we also get the business.
What’s more, I believe we will deliver the results, because we care. We’re spending time creating campaigns and content that we KNOW will deliver because we’re not solely focused on the pound signs.
Self-awareness, honesty and transparency
In addition, we’re super self-aware as a business. We’re far from perfect and we would never claim to be.
Plus, we’re honest! It could be a potential client reading this blog post right now, and I don’t mind saying that we are FAR from perfect. However, we are self-aware enough to know what we need to work on and we are constantly learning, developing and improving, which pays off dividends for our clients.
And let’s be honest – no business is perfect. Our clients’ businesses are far from perfect. That’s why they’re hiring us to help them build and progress! So, one of our values is being honest and transparent in everything that we do – and we take that to the extreme with our clients.
It’s all about having that honest conversation, and people aren’t stupid. You can profess to be the best, but people see right through that!
So, just get straight to the point. After all, that’s the kind of relationship you want in life AND in business. We make mistakes, but we learn quickly and deliver a better service as a result. Generally – touch wood – they’re tiny mistakes that are easily fixable and shouldn’t cause any project issues.
Keep in touch like you would a loved one
We’ve had times where we’ve been guilty of chasing that next thing and forgetting about what we already have. If I’m honest, I’m ashamed of this. In the early days of business, I would get a client through the door, we would do the work, hand it over and I’d be onto the next thing, completely forgetting they exist!
But I’ve worked hard to get this right. We appreciate and nurture the clients that we have and don’t just leave them to look after themselves when we’re ready for the next big thing.
Even after projects have finished, we’re constantly in contact – and not always to sell to them either. It could just be, ‘How are you getting on? How’s business?’ to keep that relationship going.
From the very early days of the business, we’ve had an account management system in place with the sole responsibility of looking after the clients and their needs. I can’t do it all on my own, that’s for sure – and I’m sure most clients wouldn’t want to hear from just me all the time. It’s good to work with a team.
Keep your clients happy forever
Staying in touch, being honest and delivering amazing results will keep your clients happy forever. Yes, you can go off and chase those big new clients, but ignore your current clients at your peril.
We’ve made this mistake before, and sometimes we all need a little wake-up call. We’ve had clients point out that they’re spending this money with us but they feel like they’re getting ignored. And that sends a rocket up your backside!
Today, and for the last few years, we’ve been super keen on looking after clients who’ve put their trust and investment in us as a business. Let’s be honest, there are plenty of companies out there that they could have chosen, so we’re super grateful that they’ve chosen to work with us and we want to pay that back.
There’s a lot of competition, and people will be hot on your heels trying to steal your clients. However, if you get all of these things right, they’ll be loyal to you – even if the person next door’s coming in cheaper. It’s not always about costs, and sometimes we get a little lost on that as well.
Getting clients to come back and continue to use your business will be one of your, and has been one of our, BIGGEST contributors for growth.
- There are plenty of clients out there for your products and services. Finding them isn’t easy – but sitting and staring at your phone or inbox isn’t going to make things happen any time soon.
- Look at what you’re good at when it comes to sales and double down on that. If you’re really good at in-person communication, focus on that. If marketing is your strong point, then use those skills to find clients.
- Hiring someone with exceptional sales acumen as SOON as you can afford it – if not, a little sooner – could be a winner.
- Set goals upfront. At the minute, we’ve got goals for 10 years, 5 years, 3 years, 12 months, 3 months and 1 month in the future – and they ALL bleed into each other.
- Have a system in place for measuring against those goals. It’s alright having goals, but what happens if you’re not measuring against them? How do you know if you’re winning or not?
- Know what your sales pipeline looks like.
All very important lessons I’ve definitely learned for myself over the years!
Thank you for reading this chapter of the Diary of an Entrepreneur. I must stress, I’m not trying to teach you anything. I’m just sharing my journey, and if it motivates you, then great – job done!
If you’d like to chat more business, feel free to get in touch with me here or you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.