There are two major problems salespeople have with their sales pipeline.  

The first, is having too few prospects to reach the level of sales you desire and the second, is having more prospects in your pipeline than you can possibly follow-up with in a reasonable amount of time.  The first can be resolved with consistent hard work and the second, through better focus and more effective follow-up.  

Successful salespeople have developed a plan of action for closing each prospect.  The key to success in selling is found in what you do after you identify the opportunity.  The number one reason salespeople don’t make more sales is poor follow-up.  You can find all the prospects or opportunities in the world, but if you don’t effectively follow-up, they may never know enough about you, your company and products, to make a decision.

Your sales pipeline is not a holding tank.  It more closely resembles a production line.  Once a prospect is added to your pipeline, the objective is to move them through the sales process.  Think of the process as a production line, where certain things are added and formed; where individual components are turned into a finished product.  The sales pipeline works exactly the same way.  You are taking an opportunity, or an interested prospect and turning them into a sale.  The mere fact you have found an opportunity does not mean it will eventually become a sale.  They need to be processed or manufactured into a sale.  This is the difference between an order taker and a salesperson.  When someone takes an order, they don’t need to do anything to process or manufacture the opportunity.  It is already complete, nothing more needs to be done except filling out the order form.  Salespeople have the responsibility of finding the opportunity and then turning the opportunity into a sale.  The process involves the following steps:

  1. Building trust in you and your company.

  2. Understanding the specific needs of the prospect.

  3. Presenting the best solution for their needs.

  4. Demonstrating that your solution is exactly what they need.

  5. Resolving the prospect’s concerns.

I refer to these five steps as “romancing the sale.”  The word romancing has a much deeper meaning than following up.  Romancing suggests a deeper, more sincere purpose and personal action, not just showing up.  It takes the specific action of romancing to process a prospect from an opportunity to a customer.  It is the act of romancing that manufactures the raw opportunity of a prospect into the finished product of a customer.  The better you romance, the better the finished product.  Think for a moment about the characteristics of your very best customer.  What made them your very best customer?  There could be several reasons, but I would be willing to wager that building trust in you and your company, understanding their situation, presenting the best solution to their needs, demonstrating your solution and resolving their concerns, were all responsible for them becoming your best customers.

Selling doesn’t happen just because you find an opportunity.  Selling is the result of processing that opportunity as it travels along the production line of the sales process.  With the exception of the prospects who clearly know what they need to solve their problems, the salesperson must personally move them through the sales processing pipeline in order to make the sale.  

Consider the sales opportunities you have found that never resulted in a sale.  Did you move them through your pipeline by applying the five steps of the process, or did you just put them at the beginning of your pipeline and hoped eventually they would come out the other end as a sale?  Selling takes effort, and it far exceeds the initial activity of finding the opportunity.  If you don’t move the prospect through the pipeline by effectively romancing the sale, your success will be limited.  Sales success is in direct proportion to your personal effort in cultivating your prospect through romancing.  You will know when you are romancing effectively when the prospect does the following:

  • Asks questions when you stop by.

  • Thanks you for the valuable information you have shared with them.

  • Discusses the value of your offering.

  • Begins to negotiate.

  • Asks how quickly the product can be delivered.