What’s scarier than staring at a virtually empty pipeline after coming back from a break? I’ll wait.
In traditional sales teams, this often led to management telling the team just to go “knock on doors” or “make more cold calls”. But as this post covered, both of those methods are already dead.
What activities will pay off? And what should we focus on to get the greatest result?
Here are the 5 daily tasks you, and your team, should be doing every day to build your pipeline and ultimately have more deals ready to close. As a special bonus, I’ve included what measures you should expect to ensure your activities are producing more results for your business.
1. Connect with every prospect on Linkedin
This is not just ensuring you are connected with all your ideal prospects. This also means reviewing your Ideal Client list and adding (and removing) any prospects for the new year.
Reviewing your ideal client persona is vital to the health of your pipeline. Garbage in equals garbage out. Continuing to pursue a listed prospect who no longer serves the growth of your company or helps you develop new service offerings limits the growth of your organization.
Everyone on your team should have an active list of approximately 120 (give or take 20) prospects they are targeting. These same prospects should also be targeted in your account-based marketing initiatives; Reaching out, creating targeted marketing content, and following client industry-specific trends and reports (more on that below).
Once you've reviewed and honed in on those 120 key prospects, connect with them on LinkedIn.
Do you need a personalized invite? Although there are a lot of opinions, I believe unless you have an urgent request, such as event sponsorship, or posted-content interviews, creating a personalized request may create delays to the act of just being connected. Once a person has accepted your request they'll naturally start to see your posts and content in their news feed, which is exactly where we want them to be within the first 30-days.
For additional impact send a “Thank you for connecting” message with one added closed-ended question about something within the person’s profile you are truly interested in. You cannot fake this level of genuine intrigue.
Time Needed: Focus on clarifying your ideal client persona (one day) and adding/removing any prospects to your list of 120. Spend the first week adding them to your connections (4 days plus continuously adding “people also viewed” along the way)
Expected results: For every 20 people added expect one to reach out wanting to know more about you or your posts, which is approximately 6 new meetings. To create greater results follow up with the “Thank You” message. Target activities to generate a 30% growth in the pipeline.
2. Post online
In virtual selling, we leverage our main tool of LinkedIn by creating discussions and rapport before the first prospect meeting. The age-old saying: People buy from those they like and trust. Posting online is an opportunity for your prospects to learn who you are and what you’re about. They will be much more willing to give you 20-minutes when they see your posts are creating conversation and value before asking for a meeting.
Posts can be anything from:
- Sharing an article you enjoyed with a comment about what stood out to you
- Polls (yes polls. The love/hate relationships for fast engagement)
- Videos (check out this article for selling predictions for 2022)
- And more inspiration can be found here
No matter what you post, the goal is not the post itself, but the result from that post. Are you creating an active conversation? One of the best ways to be involved in a conversation is to contribute to others. This is the value the premium version of LinkedIn, Sales Navigator, will provide you.
Sales Navigator allows you to add your list of ideal clients (see above) to a lead list in which the homepage opens to a curated news feed list.
It’s easy to lose (or never see) the posts from your targeted prospects, especially when you have 500+ LinkedIn connections. The curated news feed will now focus your feed on the posts of those you want to be involved in a conversation with.
Opening Sales Navigator on a daily basis will allow you to comment, like, and contribute to the conversations that they're involved in, in real-time, and will have you stand out because you are now interested in the same topics.
It’s easier to be noticed by being interested than it is to be interesting. Become part of the ecosystem in which your possible clients are already in discussion.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood - Steven Covey
With status updates post at least two times a week, with the goal to be at least once. The more you post, regardless of the engagement, you will consistently get better. Most salespeople strive to be top of mind for their clients. In today’s digital selling world, top of mind is equal to top of feed.
Time Needed: Set a timer for one hour a day to post, follow your prospect's posts, and comment on status updates. Make a goal to comment on three different status updates from your prospects each day. Post a minimum of twice per week. By the end of the month, you will have engaged with 60 status updates and posted 8 times.
Expected results: If one in 15 people you engage with turns into a natural conversation and invites for a meeting you will have 4 new possible deals. Target pipeline growth of 20%. Just remember this isn’t a month-long activity but part of a long-term initiative.
3. Send emails
Sending emails isn’t new and should be done every day. It’s time to make stronger emails that lead to growth in your pipeline.
Consider gamifying the process and creating a more fun environment for yourself. Instead of focusing on sending 10 emails a day, try starting at the number 10 and reducing until you get to zero. Once you achieve your goal reward yourself with a walk, watching some videos, or reading your favorite book.
More importantly, get better at emails. (Watch this video)
For instance, we practice the five-sentence email.
Research has shown that emails of less than 100 words receive the greatest response rates from recipients.
Had I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter - Mark Twain
Spend more time on creating and editing concise emails. But don’t leave it at one. Reply back to your original email two more times within a 7 day period with a short “are you interested in learning more?” to increase engagement even further.
Time Needed: At the beginning, it may take as long as 45 minutes per 5-sentence email. Make it your goal to send an initial email to each of the 120 targeted accounts with the additional second and third interaction. This will be the most time-consuming of all the activities. Dedicate 20 hours per week to emails, research, and interactions
Expected results: Great emails get results. Expect a 30% response rate leading to meetings. See as much as a pipeline increase of 400%
4. Read industry news and reports
As part of your ongoing success ask yourself: What are my clients are most interested in? Find materials, industry news, and market reports they are following. Subscribe to newsletters. Be ahead of the conversation before your clients hear about it. You will become a resource to your prospects, and who would say they aren’t interested in learning about the trends in their industry?
Want ideas on what your prospects are researching? Reach out to those brand new prospects and start a conversation. Ask them directly what are some of their favorite industry subscriptions they follow?
Time Needed: Spend a maximum of 4 hours on this activity by researching and finding new topics. If you haven’t reached out to all your new LinkedIn connections, this is a great time to follow up with a specific request. You will create credibility because it shows you are genuinely interested in what they are learning about.
Expected results: This will be a harder one to measure specifically as the result will come from greater deal sizes as opposed to brand new deals. In general, expect about 20% of your deals to be larger than average when you incorporate more industry-specific information into the sales conversations.
5. Practice your sales skills
Sales is an ever-evolving skillset. The sales that were taught more than 10-years ago should not be the same sales we are taught today. Sales is about taking your skills and practicing it until you become a master. Then adding how you can engage with younger buyers, new mediums, and with the digital transformation, many companies are navigating.
Would you consider yourself to be a master at creating a 10-second video?
Do you get the information you need from a 20-minute meeting instead of one hour?
Are your emails all 100 words or less?
I know what it’s like to start a new skill. I remember the first time creating a 2-minute video and agonizing for hours on what to say. I wrote down my entire speech, practiced it while I took my dog for a walk, and then sat down in front of my camera. It only took 20 takes to be happy with the output.
Videos, 20-minute meetings, negotiations, and emails all take time to practice.
Like any sport or skill that requires more than one person, practice is always more effective when you have someone else involved.
Writing an email only captures what the writer is thinking. Having that same email reviewed by a peer and receiving feedback on how a prospect may respond opens you up to becoming better. How we approach language and emotional tone in an email will compel the recipient to respond back with a quick yes or no.
There are plenty of growing forums and groups that allow individuals and companies to practice these skills in safe environments. Set your team up to have a weekly touchpoint dedicated to skill development or join one of the many already in practice.
Like the gym, it only works if you do. The same goes for sales skills. Practice makes perfect. Perfect comes from practice.
Time Needed: One hour per week, every week. Dedicate this time to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and trying new approaches. Also, bring in current and past deals and try your hand at seeing if you could have approached it better and ultimately closed the deal faster, and for more money.
Expected results: Again this will not be an immediate gratification pipeline growth. However, you will see results from the percentages of email responses you receive and how many people engage on LinkedIn. You will also start to see deals coming faster and less time prospecting.