A Winning Pipeline Design for 2017

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New activity is the fuel for your sales pipeline. If you want to achieve the ambitious goals you set for yourself, you need to prioritize your business around finding new opportunities.

Eric Schmidt, the 100th richest person in the world with a resume that includes work at Google and Apple, once said, “Revenue solves everything.” This is the ideal outlook to adopt as you plan for explosive growth in 2017.

When you have money consistently coming in the door, few problems are too big to tackle. You can hire new staff. You can bring in experts. You can outsource the work you aren’t good at or don’t particularly want to do.

As long as the business is moving forward, you will likely have the resources and the morale to handle new challenges. When new revenue (from completely new clients) stops coming in — despite how much momentum and power consistent revenue gives a business — a strange thing happens. Advisors turn their attention to almost everything but finding new business.

When they perhaps need growth the most, they instead fiddle with the backend of their businesses. They check and recheck their drip systems. They adjust their LinkedIn profiles. They check in with existing clients. They obsessively fine tune the plans and packages they offer. But they don’t make new sales calls. They become a party host so obsessed with getting everything just right for the big event that they forget to invite anyone.When times are good, sell. When times are hard, sell even more. No matter how good your sales numbers were in 2016, you can do better in 2017.

Build a Pipeline Focused on Closing Sales, Not on Generating Leads

In fact, you should set up your sales pipeline in such a way that you almost have no choice but to sell. For example, in our business, we have two dedicated sales people. They are good at what they do, but we never hand them leads. If we hand them leads, we have just put obstacles between them and what they do best. If too many of those obstacles pile up, they will find little excuses here and there to avoid calling the leads or to call them as aggressively as they should.

They aren’t bad salespeople. This is just a natural human tendency.

Instead of handing leads to our sales people, we give them to a dedicated appointment setter. This individual has one job, and one job only. There is no side work or easier call to make. They set appointments for our sales team, giving our sales team a steady supply of new business opportunities that they have no excuse but to take. The lead has been vetted and the appointment has been set. The salesman can enter the opportunity focused entirely on the sale.

While it’s true that converting a cold lead to an appointment is technically a part of the sales process, we’ve found that setting an appointment is itself a sort of sales process, and that process is different enough from the rest of the sale that it warrants its own expert. We’ve seen a great deal of success with this model in our business and in the businesses of advisors we work with.

For advisors, handing off everything but the actual sale itself provides two big picture benefits: The advisor can spend more time on growth, and the advisor eliminates the excuses or distractions that might have kept him or her from seeking out new sales opportunities. Under this structure, growth remains the priority. Always.

Adopt a Revenue-Focused Sales Mindset

Jordan Belfort entered mainstream public consciousness with the box-office-busting Wolf of Wall Street. His vices and unscrupulous behavior aside, Belfort was undeniably a juggernaut of sales technique. At the close of the movie, Belfort hosts a post-prison sales seminar in Australia. He pulls a pen from his pocket, walks to an audience member, hands over the pen and says, “Sell me this pen.”

The audience member looks at the pen and says, “Oh, well, this is a nice pen…” and goes on to start describing more features of the pen, trying to make it sound great. Belfort yanks the pen back and moves to the next person. And on, and on and on.

This scene illustrates the pitfall that many salespeople — advisors included — fall into: They fixate on what makes their products great, and everything else disappears into the background. They become one of those audience members who looks down at the pen in their hands and ignores every factor around them: The person they’re selling to, the room they’re in, and the dozens of hungry salespeople right next to them waiting to get their shot at selling that pen.

We fall into this trap because it’s comfortable. We know our products and services, and it’s easier to focus the conversation on that familiar ground. Real growth — that explosive exponential growth that rockets your business to an entirely new level — requires discomfort. You have to get away from selling a pen.

Here’s how:

1. Stop selling pens

Your approach should set you apart from every other advisor who has talked to your prospect. If you fall back into the routine of describing products and features, your prospect will likely tune out. You need to be different. That doesn’t mean being disingenuous. Instead, it means finding what makes you stand out and leveraging that in your sales process.

2. Challenge your prospect

Remember that you are unseating the incumbent, and that’s a big deal in the mind of your prospect. To get your prospect to make this sort of change in his or her business, you have to change their thinking. Teach them something about their business or industry that they didn’t know, relative to what you are there to discuss. Reveal a problem that they aren’t addressing and show them how your services can be the solution.

3. Do your homework

To challenge your prospect in a meaningful way, you will need to have intel to work from beforehand. The obvious places to explore are their website, their social media pages, and any news articles that might have been written about them. From there, you should check your network to see if anyone you know has a connection with the prospect. Ask your staff, check your LinkedIn connections, and ping your professional partners as well. If someone’s cousin’s husband works there, that can crack the door open a little bit farther for you.

4. Keep the sales experience consistent

You should expect your high-value prospects to be savvy individuals, which means that they are likely to do their homework as well. It might not be the same direct conversation as an actual meeting, but your website and your social media presence will say a lot about who you are and what you bring to the table. Take the time to keep those properties up to date and in sync with the dialog you plan to have with your prospects.

Set the Stage for Explosive Growth in 2017

Explosive growth is possible, but you can’t use the same old approach. Revitalize and step outside your comfort zone to capture new opportunities. With a fresh take on your sales process backed by a pipeline designed exclusively for getting you in front of high-value business owners, you position yourself to rise above the distractions and excuses that will bog down your competitors.

About the Author

John PojetaJoe Pojeta is Vice President of Business Development at the PT Services Group, where he initiates and manages strategic, corporate-level relationships. Previously, he owned and operated an Ameriprise Financial Services franchise for 16 years.

For more information, email him at john@theptservicesgroup.com.

About The PT Services Group

pt-logoThe PT Services Group is committed to helping you open the doors to new prospects and new business. While the methodology and expertise behind our appointment setting, business intelligence, and data collection programs are powerful tools, the secret to their effectiveness is the people using them. We are owned, operated, and staffed by professionals with expert knowledge of the financial services and insurance industries.