Stop playing with pipelines start selling in circles
Stop playing with pipelines start selling in circles. Sales pipelines and sales funnels are one dimensional and deliver some return on your marketing investment but to really grasp the long term benefits you need to start viewing the pipeline as a circle.
Every sales manager knows that to replace one repeat customer, they must convert seven new leads. Research consistently finds the same ratio, indicating that no matter how modern sales and marketing techniques evolve, existing customers are more profitable than new in the long run.
If that wasn’t enough, customer service consultants Bain & Co found that a 10% increase in customer retention levels results in a 30% increase in the value of the company.
So if these fundamental truths of doing business are well known, why do so many corporate sales and marketing frameworks ignore it?
The problem with pipes
Every sales professional will be familiar with the concept of a ‘pipeline’. From a database populated with contact details (of varying quality depending on where the records came from), individuals move along the pipe as they meet certain predefined ‘qualifications’. Eventually they exit the other end of the pipe as a converted customer when a sale is made.
The pipeline narrows towards the end through natural attrition – not every contact will convert.
It is worth noting that the traditional sales pipeline is controlled by the sales team; prospects are pushed through the process.
Even more importantly, the pipeline has a beginning and an end, but more on that shortly.
The folly of funnels
The modern customer tends to do complete much of the product research and pre-sales process themselves. As John Neeson, managing director of industry consultancy SiriusDecisions once pointed out:
“Buyers agree that they navigate at least the top third and at most, the first two-thirds of the sales cycle without sales.”
To accommodate this, many modern marketers have turned the traditional sales pipeline on its side to create a ‘sales funnel’:
The funnel recognises the change in the marketplace, brought about by inbound marketing techniques and the customer’s own willingness to hunt down the information they need to make informed decisions; prospects pull themselves down the funnel to the point of conversion. As before, the funnel narrows as a result of natural attrition.
And again, the funnel has a beginning and an end – which is where sales and marketing processes built on funnels fail.
Building a sales circle
Both pipeline and funnel are actually built to fail because neither is designed to drive repeat business. They take leads in, and spit customers out – but they don’t have a way to feed existing customers back in for repeat sales.
The modern sales cycle is a two-stage process; first, the funnel that allows prospects to manage the relationship through to conversion. The second stage uses the same inbound marketing techniques – blogging, whitepapers, emails – to build a circle, using triggers and automation to inform existing customers of other products and services that complement their purchases.
This new sales circle uses the key stages of inbound marketing – awareness, consideration and conversion – to keep customers “warm”, introducing them to other solutions that can solve other business problems.
Without this second circular structure, repeat business from existing customers is not built in the sales and marketing process. Without this second stage, your marketing process is failing.
Contact Bias Digital today for more help and advice on building a sales cycle that encourages your existing customers to buy more, and helps draw new leads into your inbound marketing funnel. Your shareholders will thank you!