How to feed your pipeline
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As a freelance trainer, the feast and famine rollercoaster of a packed training diary followed by an extended quiet period may be something you grapple with regularly. How can you feed your sales pipeline by lining up prospective clients? How do you find work for the future when you’re busy now? How do you know when you’ll next be quiet?
What is a sales pipeline?
Your sales pipeline is the process you go through to sell your training services, i.e. how you make contact with a potential customer right through to the point that you secure a training booking. For most businesses, the pipeline covers a five-step process of initial contact, qualification, meeting, proposal, and close.
The marketing you do helps to bring people into your pipeline.
It’s important to recognise that the marketing you do today is likely to bring in people to your pipeline three to six months down the line rather than overnight. Therefore, you shouldn’t wait until business goes quiet before you next think about your marketing as it could be half a year before you see any results. Instead, you should always be marketing with a view to securing bookings three to six months from now so that you have some idea of what your income will be in advance.
Small actions can make a big difference to your pipeline
Of course, finding time to feed your pipeline is easier said than done. When you’re rushed off your feet delivering training, I imagine your marketing is one of the first things to slide. My advice is ‘little but often’ – consistency is the key here; just focusing on your pipeline for five minutes a day could make a big difference.
To help you come up with a plan to consistently attract new business and repeat bookings to create a steady flow of work and income, I’ve put together my top tips for feeding your pipeline.
Build your mailing list
Your mailing list can be a powerful tool when it comes to feeding your pipeline. The contact details you have on your mailing list are from people who have expressly given their consent for you to contact them about your business and your services. But unlike followers on social media, the list belongs to you.
To grow your mailing list, you might consider adding an incentive to your website – this could be a white paper, a free ebook, a free online training session, a workbook or a taster introduction to your latest training.
The idea is to give something to your potential customers in exchange for their contact details. Go for a strong call-to-action and a short sign-up form that only asks for the essential information, e.g. their first name and email address.
You might also want to add a mechanism for signing up to your e-newsletter via your website, so you have a reason to regularly keep in touch with your latest news and views.
Maintain your database
According to some stats, the contact data in your customer database is probably decaying at a rate of two percent a month. In other words, people are moving jobs, changing email addresses, finding new service providers, and may no longer be contactable. Two percent may not sound like much, but this drip in your pipeline can be harmful if it’s left unplugged.
Reach out to people on your database and just let them know that you’re checking their contact details are still current and wondering whether they have any specific training needs. If you do find contact details that are no longer relevant, you can always ask who the right person to speak to will be from now on. This can be a helpful reminder that you have an existing training relationship with a company.
Keep in touch
In a past blog, I looked at why your existing clients represent the fast track to a better training business. I believe that one of the best things you can do for your business is to have a process in place for keeping in touch with your past and existing clients, as well as your network of contacts. It’s far easier to sell your services to warm leads who’ve already expressed an interest in what you do, and could be six to seven times cheaper than acquiring a new customer.
If you use a CRM system to manage your contacts, you could put some prompts in place to remind you to get in touch with your clients. Ask for immediate feedback on training you’ve delivered, check in a month later to see what difference it has made or whether the client has any questions, ask to feature them in a case study – these are all legitimate reasons to get in touch.
4. Nurture your leads
Sales experts recommend nurturing your hottest leads, as nurtured leads are more engaged, produce 20% more sales opportunities than non-nurtured leads, and spend up to 47% more with businesses that they feel care about them personally.
How do you nurture a lead?
- Respond quickly to enquiries and attempts to reach out to you – 35% to 50% of businesses go to the supplier who responds to them first and begins creating a relationship with them before anyone else.
- Ask questions about what they need and show how your training business can meet those needs.
- Follow-up with a tailored training proposal.
- Build conversations and keep in touch by giving your time and interest without the expectation of receiving.
Have a dream list
This is a method I have used successfully over the years. Your dream list is a list of ten companies that you would like to connect with as potential clients; your task is to do one thing to connect with one of those companies each week. This might be securing an introduction on LinkedIn, speaking to the decision-makers about training, or tweaking your website content to appeal to your target clients.
If one of your dream list of ten companies becomes a real client, remove them from your dream list and add a new company so that there are always ten businesses that you are working towards connecting with.