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April 6, 2021

Why Your Revenue Pipeline Has Run Dry

It’s time to get back to basics. That means developing the sales prospecting techniques to reliably fill the pipeline with qualified opportunities.

Here’s a real-world example of what I’m talking about.

Back in 2019, I was chatting with a friend of mine, Carla, who worked at an agricultural consulting firm in Northern California. They help big-name wineries take advantage of their full technology spectrum. They audit, implement software/hardware changes and monitor outcomes to ensure adoption for long-term success. It was cutting-edge stuff, and they’d built a small but loyal customer base.  

That’s where the problem started. Carla had been brought in a month earlier as VP of Sales and Marketing, with one primary directive: Scale the business — and she was struggling.

She said, “Julie, we simply do not have enough qualified opportunities. It’s likely that 70% of my sales force doesn’t have enough leads to make quota. What do I do? Can you help me solve this?” 

She was in panic mode. 

I did what any good friend would do: I assured her that we’d work it out, and then, we started to backtrack. I wanted a picture of the entire sales process from filling the pipeline to efficiently working those opportunities to separating the shoppers from the buyers.

Let me tell you; I got the full picture. It was far from a masterpiece. 

She was dealing with a severe lack of consistency and standardized processes. Most of their leads came from brand awareness, which was nowhere near enough activity to grow the pipeline. Plus, the teams had low conversion rates, and little to no qualification was going on. 

How did we turn this mess around? 

We started by crafting a plan that I knew would build solid sales prospecting techniques, one that placed a renewed focus on daily actions and discipline. 

Carla had her managers start holding reps accountable. They started putting non-negotiable blocks of prospecting time on their calendars.

The approach was practical: We knew things would come up, but the key was to ensure that time was never canceled. The salespeople could move that block to later in the day or the week — and we wanted that weekly total to be around 10 hours. 

You know what? It worked. With five full teams working the phones, they conservatively created about $6.5M (USD) in pipeline in their first three days of call blocks. 

While I’m a firm believer in the power of the office phone, I also realize that everyone has their preferred method of communication. And when you're initiating outreach, you have no idea what that looks like. 

That’s why we took it a step further by using a multi-channel, strategically-choreographed approach. We had them start with an email that contained value-added information. Then they’d follow up two days later with a call. Then came the LinkedIn ask and another call three days after that. 

Our focus was consistency. In some cases, it took 15 to 17 attempts across 20 to 24 days, but by never going more than five business days between touches, they stayed top-of-mind and significantly increased their odds of connecting. 

These weren’t generic messages either. They did the research to develop personalized messages that resonated. They read everything from the latest copy of Wine Spectator to what decision-makers were liking and posting on LinkedIn to press releases and the latest financial reports. 

It was by no means easy, but the results speak for themselves: The quarter after implementing this approach, they had the best Q4 in the company’s 24-year history and went on to see a 131% increase in YOY revenue.

What happened to Carla? She’s now the CRO of a major manufacturing consulting firm — and their sales force uses the same strategy for prospecting. 

If you want to dive deeper into our research on developing an effective sales prospecting program, check out: 

Until next time, happy selling,

Julie