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How to Actually Unclog Your Sales Pipeline

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pipelineYou can’t choose your family, but you can choose your clients.

You see the warning signs a mile away—prospects who push you on price, threaten to take their business to your competitors, make unreasonable demands, don’t return phone calls, masquerade as decision-makers when they have no real buying authority. Yet, they expect fast, complete, and reliable delivery of your service.

These are the “pain in the ass” (PITA) prospects in your sales pipeline. And if you’re not careful, they could easily become PITA clients.

PITA customers are never happy. They drain your energy, test your patience, and waste your time. They demoralize your entire sales team. Yet, companies continue to accept this bad business, thinking it must be better than no business. It’s not!

Do you already have a PITA client, or perhaps more than one? It’s time to dump the junk and fill your sales pipeline with ideal clients—those who make life easy on your sales reps while boosting revenue and helping you get referrals to other ideal clients.

Some Customers Aren’t Worth the Headache!

PITA clients push you to do more for less. Once you say yes, you’ve locked yourself into a downward spiral. Sure, they pay their bills. But you pay the hidden cost—the lost opportunity to use your resources going after and servicing the phenomenal clients you want and need to make money! Collect too many PITA customers and watch your profits dwindle … not a compelling scenario.

But wait, there’s more:

  • You’ll be nickel-and-dimed and then expected to deliver additional services—quickly and at no charge.
  • They’ll challenge the expertise of your sales reps and question their every move.
  • Your resources (and energy) will be drained.
  • Your team will consider mutiny, but be too exhausted, frustrated, and demoralized to follow through with it.
  • Your profit margins will be squeezed.
  • Because PITAs hang out with other PITAs, you’ll only get referrals to other demanding, stingy people.

Why Are PITAs in Your Sales Pipeline?

Because your sales reps have a quota, and they believe:

  • This one is a big fish. If I do the deal, I’ll go to President’s Club. (They’re already picturing where they’ll spend the hefty bonus you’ll give them.)
  • My company insists I do the deal, so I should just stay quiet about my concerns.
  • My company wants this new logo for their website and case studies.
  • The client will be someone else’s problem once the deal is done.

Many sales leaders create unrealistic expectations that they can turn a bad situation into a good one. Are you dreaming? Bad business is bad business. Period. If prospects push you too hard, be willing to walk away. That really turns the tables.

What if the company really “needs” that coveted logo? Then you’d better charge the client more, and prepare your team for the harassment they might get and the re-work they’ll need to do. One of my readers suggested this:

I had a client who wanted to get rid of some customers. She set up in her billing system a billing rate known as PITA … the rate was 25 percent higher than her typical rate, assuming it would drive those she didn’t want away. A number of those “special” clients just ended up paying more.

How Can Sales Leaders Stop This Madness?

Unfortunately, the power to fire clients is frequently reserved for the top brass. Likewise, in most sales organizations, sales reps don’t get to say no to business. But with the right prospecting strategy, sales leaders can help their teams get only ideal clients into the sales pipeline.

Like attracts like. PITAs hang out with other PITAs. But the fantastic clients you love to serve probably know other people just like themselves. Simply put: When we get referrals from ideal clients, we get introduced to ideal clients.

Want to weed out potential PITAs? Here’s where to start:

1. Create a crisp profile of your ideal client. This way, you recognize perfect opportunities when they arise and can help your referral sources make great connections for you. Consider the ideal industries, job titles, and locations of the prospects you most want to meet. Also stress the ideal personality traits, and the typical situation or need your company addresses.

2. Ensure everyone in your organization focuses on attracting only ideal clients. Empower your team to recognize PITA prospects and get rid of them before they ever get into the pipeline. No questions asked.

3. Get referrals from your ideal clients. When you implement a rigorous referral program, you continue to attract only ideal clients to your company.

Adopt a referral program and your sales process collapses. Your sales reps earn trust and credibility immediately; your competition disappears; and you convert prospects into clients well more than 50 percent of the time. No other sales or marketing strategy comes close to these results.

You have a choice about the kind of clients you attract. Make the right one!

Ready to put a referral program in place for your organization? Check out No More Cold Calling’s programs for sales leaders and their teams.

Connect with No More Cold Calling

Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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