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A sales pipeline can be described as a systematic approach that visually outlines all of the steps involved in the sales process used in any service business from prospecting to closing a sale to any subsequent follow-up.

Chances are, as a small business owner, you are already utilizing some form of a sales pipeline although you may not realize it or you may not be visualizing it. Having a well-documented sales pipeline not only allows you to estimate future sales and cash flow, but helps your sales team navigate their way through the selling process. In turn, you create predictable results each and every time a new lead enters your pipeline.

A basic sales pipeline usually consists of between five and seven stages. Automating this process is critical and can pay big dividends if implemented appropriately. Automation ensures that the critical steps in the sales process are being tended to consistently by every member of your sales team every day.

Automation also cuts down on labor-intensive tasks that your sales team may spend the majority of time working on.

At Callahan’s, we utilize the five stage process outlined below.

Stage 1: Prospecting is when a new lead contacts your company for an estimate or your sales team creates a new sales lead. Automation of this stage allows you to segment your potential customers based on service interest and then customize a marketing message specific to their needs and/or pain points.

Stage 2: Contacting is when you make an attempt to reach out to the prospect captured in Stage 1. In this stage, I rely heavily on automation to send personalized emails to the prospects. For example, if we are unable to get ahold of a prospect by phone, an automated email sequence is triggered; an email is sent to the prospect apologizing for not being able to connect with them, prompts them for a good time to talk and informs them that a sales representative will follow up in two days.

Automation then sends the sales representative an automated task assignment to place the follow-up call two days later to ensure we are actively following up when promised.

Stage 3: Engaging is like an interview. The snow removal company is still trying to qualify the potential consumer to determine if they are an “ideal client.”

At the same time, the potential customer is trying to determine if your snow service will meet their needs. Automation can be designed to send an email or letter to the prospect defining why your business is different and why the potential customer should do business with your firm. This email or letter copy should create a perceived value in the service you provide and hit on the common pain points your potential consumer suffers throughout the snow season.

Specifically outline how your firm will help them avoid these pain points. Automation will ensure this message is received each time a prospect enters into your sales pipeline. This automated educational information will allow you to sell at higher prices and differentiate your firm from the amateurs.

Stage 4: Qualifying is that point when the prospect realizes that your company can alleviate all of their pain points associated with snow and ice removal. If you have done your due diligence and effectively addressed all of the potential pain points in the previous engaging stage, every one of your leads should move to the qualified stage each and every time. Once you have moved the lead to this stage, you should send/deliver the bid and wait for the quote to be reviewed.

Automation also cuts down on labor-intensive tasks that your sales team may spend the majority of time working on.

Stage 5: Closing the sale is the final point where your sales representative follows up on the bid submitted and the bid is either “won” or “lost.” Automation can once again help by creating automated tasks for the sales person that will ensure follow up on the sale until it is won or lost. In addition, emails and letters can be sent to the client to follow up on the proposed bid.

Almost all sales pipelines can be outlined in this way. Once you have defined your company’s sales pipeline, I recommend using a customer relationship management (CRM) software to automate this process.

Once you have implemented this automation, your company will be able to guarantee increased meaningful communication with the prospect, better forecasting of where sales are within your pipeline and better predictions regarding when new sales will close.