It’s no secret that sales leaders are obsessed with metrics. And pipeline velocity is a metric that every sales leader lives and dies by.
Your sales pipeline velocity is the rate at which deals move through your sales process. Basically, it’s how fast people go from being prospects to paying customers.
This is incredibly important for business planning, too. When you know how long, on average, it takes your sales team to rake in a paying customer, you can plan your finances accordingly.
That sounds well and good, but what happens if you’ve got a lethargic pipeline velocity?
Let’s dive into how you can improve your pipeline velocity, and why getting a fast, “No,” from a customer is the best thing that’ll ever happen to you.
A long, slow “Maybe” will destroy your sales team’s momentum, and if the goal is rapid and scalable growth, momentum is everything.
1 – When Your Prospect Tells You “No”, Say “Thank You.”
How many times have you wasted your breath nurturing a prospect who’s straight-up not interested? It’s awful. Someone saying “No” seems like the end of the world when you’re in sales, but they’re really just setting you free to find prospects who will actually buy.
When you get a “No” from the prospect or customer, say “thank you”,” gather their feedback, and move onto the next deal. You can retreat to your Manhattan or Old Fashioned later. In case this concept of thanking your prospects for turning you down is new to you, here are a few things you might say:
- Thank you for your consideration and your time.
- Thank you for being honest and for letting us know quickly.
- Thank you for trusting us with your critical challenges.
Be sincere and authentic. Ask that they provide feedback about the process of receiving the sales proposal.
2 – Force Your Prospect’s Hand with Smarter Proposals.
Regardless of how well you structure the proposal, some customers won’t respond. They forget, run out of time, lose their budget, pick a competitor, the project will be delayed until the next fiscal year or the New Moon, etc. That slows down your pipeline velocity to a standstill.
Unpopular opinion: When a customer or prospect ignores your proposal, they feel bad about it. This is an emotion you can capitalize on.
It happens often—more than we’d like to think.
Speed up your pipeline by forcing a prospect’s hand. Add an expiration date on every proposal so they need to respond by a certain date.
That way, each party is aligned upfront and expectations are clear. When the expiration date comes and goes, the customer would need to send a clear signal to keep those “terms” alive.
After the date, you would then need to recalibrate your resources and reset expectations with your customer or prospect. If you have a good Sales Operations Manager, they will have an SOP in place to handle this kind of deal and get it out of your sales pipeline.
3 – Treat the Sales Proposal Like a Deliverable.
Share the sales proposal internally so your team can weigh in and provide perspective from other projects and make it matter.
Assume every single proposal you make will:
- be shared externally and be a representation of not only your company and capabilities, but also of your customer.
- be saved and stored for weeks, months, and even years so the company can review the offer in the future.
- be used as a way to compare my company’s offer against other competitors.
- be reassessed and revisited in future years.
You get the drift. Every proposal is a reflection of your company, so make it a good one. It just could jumpstart your pipeline velocity down the line.
4 – Learn on the Job—Accountability Metrics.
When you lose, you lose.
When you win you win.
Learning is the investment in either case.
When you lose a proposal, ask more questions about why you lost and what you could have done differently.
Every month, quarter, and year analyze the most common reasons your customers give you for losing the proposal. Know and study this data. This data will inform either your assumptions about the market, your product, your pricing/packaging, or how well your company pitches its work
The Bottom Line
Improving your sales pipeline velocity is simple:
Do fewer proposals, ask more questions, and learn from your losses.
Jumpstart your sales and get more prospects to the finish line. Be grateful for customers dropping out of your pipeline, add an expiration date to each proposal, treat proposals like a deliverable, and learn from your past failures. That’s the key to a sales pipeline that jettisons people from prospect to loyal customer in no time.