Leslie Nolen is CEO of The Radial Group, which provides wellness businesses with seminars, publications and coaching on starting and managing profitable and personally rewarding businesses. E-mail her at [email protected] or visit www.radialgroup.com to subscribe to free weekly business tips tailored to wellness businesses.
In Part 1, we identified the four key stages of effective sales and marketing strategies:
Stage 1: Filling the pipeline with prospects
Stage 2: Following up with prospects
Stage 3: Exploring ways your business can help prospects
Stage 4: Closing sales
You analyzed your current sales and marketing efforts with a self-scoring quiz that prioritized the stage requiring urgent attention.
In Part 2, we will review tactics that help fill your pipeline with potential customers. Part 3 explores ways to follow up with potential customers in your pipeline. Part 4 tells you how to find the best fit between your business and your prospects and close the sale.
Stage 1: Filling The Pipeline
Every successful business has a pipeline of prospects/potential clients and customers. Use these tips to regain control over your pipeline:
1. Determine how many prospects you really need. Start with your revenue goal for the year. Divide that number by your average yearly sales per member or client. For example, if you want revenues of $320,000 and your average yearly revenue per member is $800, you need around 400 paying customers to achieve your revenue goal. If you need 400–but you only have 300–your goal is to fill your pipeline with enough prospects to produce 100 new paying members. If your club experiences significant member turnover, this number will be higher.
Now, not every prospect becomes a paying customer. So you’ll need to start with more prospects than the number of paying customers you ultimately want.
Use your historical close rate to estimate how many prospects you need in your pipeline. Say 10 percent of your prospects ultimately buy from you. Divide your customer goal by your historical close rate. For example, if you want 100 new members, you’ll need to talk to 1,000 prospects (100 divided by your 10 percent close rate).
If you don’t know your close rate, track it for the next four weeks. Then use that number to estimate the number of prospects you need in your pipeline to achieve your sales goals. Track monthly sales results and update your estimates accordingly.
2. Increase your visibility to potential customers. Look for public relations opportunities that increase awareness of your business and reinforce its credibility and expertise about healthy living. The best opportunities will reinforce the unique strengths and capabilities of your business.
Speak at meetings of groups whose members match your ideal customer profile. Offer brief demonstrations of your facility’s services. For example, showcase nutritional services by partnering with a local PTA to sponsor a healthy recipe contest and complimentary recipe makeovers by your in-house nutritionist. Provide a group fitness class at no charge to a women’s shelter, and let local media know about their remarkable accomplishments.
3. Increase the visibility of your business to potential sources of referrals. Your goal is to build relationships with the people and businesses that interact most with your potential customers.
For example, a health club that offers pre- and post-pregnancy workouts has a wonderful opportunity to work with “Moms’ Day Out” programs in local churches. Or, if your club targets busy professionals with an express workout, offer to speak to financial planning groups and estate attorneys.
4. Use caution when investing in traditional advertising. While direct mail quickly reaches thousands of people, most of them have zero interest in your business. Your postcard or mailer will go straight into the trash. This tactic makes sense only if you have a highly targeted and qualified lead list that will reach people very likely to be interested in your programs and services. Otherwise, avoid it.
Online search engines are quickly replacing the local phone book as the first place people look for local businesses. Again, think twice before buying phone book ads. Track the closed sales your ad actually produces so that you can decide whether to continue investing next year or drop it.
If you do have a strong lead list of qualified and interested prospects, consider calling them directly. Avoid jumping right into a sales pitch. You’ll feel awkward, and they’ll cringe. Instead, call them to offer something of value that will build their trust in your business. Examples include a free subscription to your monthly healthy living newsletter, an invitation to a special seminar or a heads-up about a new program that matches their interests.
5. Make sure your sales team has effective business communication and presentation skills. Effective communication has two components: carefully chosen content and strong communication skills. Choose content that reflects the unique perspective and strengths of your business. Don’t mimic other businesses. Don’t substitute fluffy marketing-speak for your unique voice. If you choose subject matter that you know and love, you’re bound to do a great job of delivering it.
Consider professional coaching on communication and presentation skills for you and your team. Staffers trained in active listening skills and question-based selling techniques are usually most effective in sales roles. The right skills and enough behind-the-scenes practice can overcome public speaking fears and a reluctance to talk to potential customers.
Now that you’ve regained control of your pipeline, be sure to check out May’s Part 3 article, which will show you how to use the tactics to stay on top of your follow-up process.