Sales Pipeline management is best conducted with heavy emphasis on fully qualifying opportunities. The better an opportunity is qualified early on in the sales process, the easier the sale is going to go and the less risky it’s going to be.
An important part of qualifying opportunities is the understanding and tracking of buyer patterns. Without this factor taken into account, there is much that can go wrong as the sales cycle progresses. For example, a target company approves its budget quarterly—and not knowing that, you think that a sales cycle that started at the beginning of the quarter is likely to come in at the end of the month. Or not being fully apprised of the decision-making process, you don’t know that a purchase of the size you are trying to sell must be passed on by the senior executives—who are away at an executive retreat during the time you’ll need the purchase approved.
There are 4 key factors to tracking buying patterns that must be taken into account.
#1: Decision-Making Process
If the person who originally contacted you is the primary decision-maker in the company, good for you! You’re off and running. But often that person is not the primary decision-maker and can only make recommendations for a purchase. Knowing your buyer is a key issue.
The decision-making process can be fairly straightforward or agonizingly complex. It might consist of one or two individuals, or it might have to go through your contact’s bosses, then their boss, then the CFO. In that case it becomes a matter of not only closing your prospect on the sale itself, but closing your contact to push the approval through as quickly as can be done.
Your prospect company’s purchase decision-making process is very important to know as close to the beginning of the sales cycle as possible. That is the only way you’re going to be able to fully predict when the sale is going to come in, and who you may have to interact with (besides your original contact) in order to obtain a close.
#2: How Often They Buy
For some of the more affluent companies purchases can be made whenever they are needed. Others are on a schedule of only making large purchases periodically. Many government agencies, while they can make purchases throughout the year, have their budget approved once per year and if your product isn’t in there, you’ve lost out. This is very important for B2B sales process. So as part of sales pipeline management it is very good to know going in how often the company you are dealing with makes purchases of the kind of product or service you are selling.
#3: How They Buy
While this piece of information is similar to the decision-making process, it is actually much simpler. You want to know how payment is normally made; for example some companies only pay for larger purchases with terms of net 60—meaning two months following the purchase. If they pay earlier than that they expect a small discount off the total bill. Very few will pony up the total purchase price right at delivery. This is another factor you must take into account in predicting the sales cycle.
#4: Buying Milestones
While this factor isn’t as important as the ones above, it is good to know the general buying history of the company you’re doing business with. What large purchases have they made in the past, and what were they? If any of them are comparable to what you are trying to sell, you might be able to positively use that information as part of the close.
Free Account Profiler Tool for Your Sales Pipeline Management
As one of four free tools we are offering for evaluating opportunities, the Account Profiler tool offers you the ability to track the buying behavior of each sale you are working.
In addition to utilizing such a tool, it is best if you incorporate this kind of information into your sales process and CRM solution. That way it is accessible to anyone needing it, including yourself and your sales management.
As part of sales pipeline management, make sure you track buying patterns for each of your prospects. Know before you go—and be greatly more successful on the other end.
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