Survey Question #7 Could Your Pipeline Support You if You Lost a Substantial Customer?

You know the drill…

In attending a planning meeting this morning with one of our customers, the topic of 2013 sales forecasting was our top priority. As in typical fashion the first screen shot was that of the organizations customer listing. This is always an interesting piece if information since it reflects the present and future of the entire organization. Pure and simple, no customers, no organization – you know the drill.

The next slide was forecasted growth with each customer. The next step was to compare this figure to that of the 2013 number.

The room was filled with excitement in that there is only a 7% shortfall between forecasted growth and that if the 2013 sales target.

Check the numbers….

In looking at their Top 10 customer listing, the Top 5 comprises 60% of their total customer base. More specifically their first customer has 20%, their second 18% and so on.

The ultimate question…

During this portion of the discussion the question from the CEO was posed to the sales leader ‘can our existing pipeline support us should we lose a substantial customer’? The response was ‘of course’.

Looking back 6 months…

Allow me to be totally transparent. Six months ago my customer did not have a pipeline. In fact they were confused between a prospect list and a pipeline. So how did they reach this level of confidence?

Below are some of the questions posed from our initial training session around creating a solid pipeline:

  • What is the difference between a prospect list and a pipeline?
    • A pipeline begins with a group of qualified prospects, and measures their progress through the buying cycle and ends with account management.
  • How do we qualify a prospect?
    • In their case a prospect was qualified when their business objectives were understood, the decision makers were identified, their requirements and expectations were determined, their spend was shared, date range in making a change, the incumbent was identified, and a valid reason for a potential change was defined.
    • Once these factors are determined and a clear understanding is established, then they are placed into your pipeline.
  • What type of stages are important?
    • Many B2B products and services are purchased differently. Some begin with an RFI or RFQ process on the front end, other do not.
    • Some basic stages include identify, qualify, follow up, quote, present, closure. You can identify these as they apply to your specific industry and prospect.
  • How often should we assess and adjust?
    • Monthly, this too differs with the length if the buying cycle, and industry.
    • Delays occur and are part of the process. However, if steady progress is not made then it is is time to revisit the priorities with the decision makers. Perhaps their priorities, or roles have changed.
  • How large should our pipeline be?
    • In this case size does matter, but more importantly is the time that it takes to get a prospect through the process and their buying potential.
    • Not all qualified prospects turn into new customers. My rule of them has been a 10:1 ratio, i.e. if I am looking for 1 customer over a period of time, then I need 10 qualified prospects.

Today my customer is selling with confidence as they head into Q4 and very soon 2013.

You too can experience the same level of incidence and success by creating a healthy vibrant pipeline.

Selling is both a craft and profession. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your pipeline in greater detail, you can reach me here.

To your success,

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