Pipe Line Management is fundamentally, a time management problem. It begins with answering the following questions.
Start with Balance
Here’s what should happen…. there should be a balance in every field sales person’s territory between prospecting, account maintenance and penetration. Now let’s define the differences.
Prospecting is essentially trying to find an opportunity where you have no sales activity and it may or may not have potential so there’s a constant churning. You don’t know the real potential until the account has gone through a qualification procedure. This is simply a process of questioning that helps determine what the customer is buying and how much of what they buy fits your line card. Qualifying a customer can be done by both inside and outside sales. What you’re trying to do with prospecting is look at the movement and buying influences in your industry. Cold calling is the most unproductive activity a field sales person can undertake. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you develop an inside sales support program for qualification of prospects.
Account Maintenance is the services you provide to major accounts where you have received maximum share of spend. Literally, this means there is little or no potential for increasing your sales at this account because they already buy everything they could possibly buy from you. Congratulations, you have done an excellent job at that account. You primary objective at that account is to protect your position and keep the customer happy. Usually, most sales people have but one or two accounts of this nature.
Account maintenance and Prospecting are the book ends of territory pipeline management. However, real growth opportunity, opportunity that has the largest rate of success, is the penetration of existing accounts that have a significant potential for an increased share of the customers spend.
I have an opportunity for a significant increase in sales in the next 90 days. – This is important. - A significant increase in sales in the next 90 days. - This kind of opportunity will only exist at accounts that you are currently doing business with and you have developed relationship equity at these accounts. In other words, they know you; they trust you and they believe in your company and your products. You just haven’t been able to get the maximum share of their purchasing dollars - yet. Notice I used the term, yet. There are several steps involved in creating a strategy to increase your penetration at these accounts with high growth potential. They include:
Once you accumulated this knowledge, utilize it. Develop your penetration strategy around the customer’s pains. What challenges do they face on a day to day basis? How do they make money? Where can you provide value, increase their ability to make profit. (This does not include price reductions). Employ all the resources in your company that are necessary to accomplish your growth objectives. (email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional penetration tips from the book, T. L. S. – Tier Level Selling – A Penetration Strategy)
Dr. Rick Johnson (email@example.com) is the founder of CEO Strategist LLC. an experienced based firm specializing in leadership for wholesale distribution. CEO Strategist LLC. works in an advisory capacity with company executives in board representation, executive coaching, team coaching and education and training to make the changes necessary to create or maintain competitive advantage. You can contact them by calling 352-750-0868, or visit http://www.ceostrategist.com for more information.
Rick received an MBA from Keller Graduate School in Chicago, Illinois and a Bachelor's degree in Operations Management from Capital University, Columbus Ohio. Rick recently completed his dissertation on Strategic Leadership and received his Ph. D. He’s also a published book author with four titles to his credit: “The Toolkit for Improved Business Performance in Distribution, ” the NWFA & NAFCD “Roadmap”, Lone Wolf-Lead Wolf—The Evolution of Sales” and a fiction novel “Shattered Innocence. ” Rick’s next book due in November is titled; Lone Wolf – LEad Wolf The Evolution of Leadership