Thursday, April 15, 2010

 

Seven ways to build a sales pipeline without cold calling

Cold calling still works, but you don’t need to do it to build a qualified sales pipeline. Fresh leads are great, but occasionally that well too runs dry.

What then? Where can you get prospects and build your sales pipeline without leads or cold calling? Here are seven places to address and leverage for your own pipeline or business:

  1. Previously Lost Deals: They said no to you before, but that doesn’t always mean no forever. Circumstances change, they may have had (or are having) a bad experience with their current product or vendor, or they just plain weren’t ready. Don’t lose touch with those opportunities.
  2. Referrals: Are you asking your best customers who else they know? Are you inviting your customers to look good among their own peer group by enabling them to use your product or service as well? Many happy customers are more than happy to give you referrals, but they’re also busy. They don’t wake up in the morning wondering how to help you get more customers. But if you ask them – occasionally, and sometimes with an incentive – they can be an powerful source of highly-qualified new opportunities for you.
  3. Repeat Buyers: The biggest and most underutilized source of incremental business. What you’re selling and/or providing needs to overdeliver on its promise, but your customers will almost always buy less from you if you’re not proactively asking them for more business.
  4. Content: Simply put, write stuff. Write about topics that your customer cares about. Find out what their objectives are, and write about possible solutions (that have little or nothing to do with specifically what you sell). Find out about their challenges, and suggest answers. Your targets will be drawn to this content, and will want to learn more about the source.
  5. Networking: I’m not just talking cocktail parties and breakfast meetings. If your prospective customers are all part of the same LinkedIn Group, that counts. If there’s an active discussion forum somewhere, that counts too. Join the community, and participate as a peer. Don’t sell. Leverage your ideas and content to build new relationships based on a foundation of trust, credibility and selfless helpfulness. Those you write to, and those who merely see or read those interactions, will want to learn more about you.
  6. Partner Network: You’re not the only company working with your customers. Who else is in their ecosystem? Who else do they go to on a daily or weekly basis? Who else has influence over them? And how could those complimentary partners help increase visibility for you?
  7. Lead Nurturing: Most leads you work with won’t be ready to buy. What are you doing with those leads? Are you staying in touch? Are you keeping yourself top of mind so that, when they are ready to engage, they’re thinking of you vs. going to a competitor?

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