The Top 3 Sales Pipeline Leaks - And How to Repair Them

Posted by Michele Nichols on Fri, May 17, 2013

sales pipeline leaksAs good as our best intentions may be, most businesses experience leaks in their sales pipeline. Whether due to lack of understanding or poor processes, many companies unknowingly let leads and profits fall through the cracks. Here are the top three reasons for leaks we see with tech companies and what you can do about them:


1. The Black Hole Desk Drawer

Growing companies often believe they have a sales process but lack the sales management and tools to ensure leads are followed up intentionally and consistently. Too many times we’ve seen salespeople dig out lead sheets or cards from a trade show three months ago that have sat in their desk drawer untouched. Those leads aren’t going to magically turn into willing buyers; your sales team needs to maintain the discipline and preparation to actually follow up on them. Read our post on trade show follow-up best practices for tips on creating a plan of action.

Ideally, leads should be entered into an electronic spreadsheet or other database. Various lead management tools exist that can also help you stay organized. Molly Thompson of Demand Media suggests setting whatever system you use to send you reminders of when to follow up with leads, based on criteria you define. However, she also recommends keeping paper copies for quick reference for sales calls. 

Actions You Can Take

  1. Enter leads into a contact database or spreadsheet.
  2. Assign and prioritize leads regularly (monthly).
  3. Set lead follow-up reminders in Calendar, CRM, or other notification system.
  4. If you don’t already, start basic email marketing with a newsletter. Send quarterly to your contact database. 

more leads may not translate to more sales

2. The Time Vortex

The gap between your prospects' timeframe and your salespeople's in responding and quoting can be cause for lead leakage. Let’s start with some numbers:

  • Contacting leads within an hour is 7 times more effective than contacting them within 2 hours (and 60 times more effective than contacting them within 24 hours).
  • Contacting leads within 5 minutes is 21 times more effective than contacting them within 30 minutes (and the odds of reaching them to begin with are 100 times greater within 5 versus 30 minutes).
  • Only 37 percent of companies respond to queries within an hour.
  • Manufacturer customers and prospects expect RFQ responses in 2-3 days, while the typical response can actually take 1 week or more.

It’s “the sooner the better” when it comes to lead follow-up. Granted, there is a slight exception for trade show leads – waiting a few days after a show to contact attendees gives them some time to get readjusted to their daily routine. But in general, people are more likely to be open to discussing something when they’ve just been thinking about it, and speedy follow-up shows that you care that they’re thinking about your business.

Actions You Can Take

  1. Set up mobile notification for new web leads – email or other alert.
  2. For web leads, set up auto reply email to prospect – confirming receipt, and expected next step and time frame.
  3. Call or email best fit leads at your earliest convenience – include your contact info.
  4. For RFQs you will not pursue, communicate intentions with the sender. You may want to indicate why and the “best-fit” types of work for future reference.
  5. Add them to your contact database and send quarterly newsletter.

3. The Neglect Effect

Even if you make the initial contact, many leads suffer from a lack of nurturing. A ‘maybe’ could be a ‘yes’ soon enough, and a ‘no’ might not be a ‘no’ forever; but all leads will become stale if you don’t stay in front of them. Make it a habit of following up with prospects periodically, even if it’s as simple as including them in your e-newsletter distribution or pointing them to your LinkedIn page – just something to remind them of your brand. If they had shown interest in a particular product or service, point them to a relevant blog post or updated page on your website.

Keep in mind, also, that today’s sales funnel is more convoluted than it once was. Rather than being passive recipients of your marketing efforts, consumers will seek out information on your website or social media, so make sure have a varied and up-to-date cache of content for them to find. Read our 5 steps to creating quality content to learn how to keep customers in the loop, even when you’re not contacting them directly.

Actions You Can Take

  1. Connect with leads on social media networks: LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+.
  2. Conduct a webinar on a topic leads might find valuable.
  3. Create a free, resource [e.g., template, e-Book, how-to video] to engage leads and learn more about their interests.
  4. Invite them to an open house or other customer event. Set up a web-cam so those who can’t attend can participate virtually.
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Sometimes it takes someone on the outside to spot your pipeline leaks and to create a definitive plan for fixing them. That’s where we come in. Give us a call, and let us offer a fresh perspective. 

Topics: Business Insights, Lead Generation, Marketing Strategy