When salespeople are in an industry with long buying cycles or buying windows, prospects will often weeks or months before they are in a buying mode – and a lot can change in that time. A formerly viable account could lose funding, interest, need or even go out of business altogether!
We recently sat down with Alex Texeira, a sales manager in just such an industry. He shared the process he uses with his salespeople to ensure they regularly remove unproductive accounts from their pipelines.
If salespeople are going to manage pipelines and keep viable accounts in play, it means knowing how, when and why to close accounts that aren’t likely to become clients.
Because we’re trimming hope from our sales strategy, we’ll use the acronym TRIM to guide us through creating a system with a trigger, ensuring it’s repeatable, building in ways to improve it and of course, ensuring it’s measurable and getting us results.
T – Trigger: In order to know when to close an account, the first thing to do is define what keeps an account in play. In Alex’s industry, it means that a prospect mentions being interested and willing to consider their service when a buying cycle occurs. “I could potentially use that/be interested,” are the words Alex trains his salespeople to listen for.
Like many salespeople, this means a longer buying cycle where a lot can happen in a prospect’s company between conversations. It’s in those lengthy buying cycles that prospects’ situations sometimes change and move them further from becoming a customer. The trigger for the prospect elimination process is when we’ve gone a while between contact points or the prospect self-selects out of future conversations.
It’s the former that trips many salespeople up. How do we know an account isn’t viable if we haven’t had contact with them in a while?
R – Repeatable: To make the system repeatable across multiple accounts while (re)qualifying them, Alex advises to first begin with a phone call on a these accounts and following up with an email to see if the prospect is still viable. Additionally, Alex advises his team uses omni-channel/blended communication by alternating between phone calls, emails, and social media messaging to ensure they do have a conversation to see if the prospect is still interested/able to have a sales meeting.
I – Improvable: In order to improve the number of qualified prospects salespeople carry in their pipelines and eliminate the ones who aren’t, Alex advises monthly reviews of salespeople’s pipelines to ensure the opportunities are actually opportunities and not simply the salesperson hoping the prospect is qualified.
If the account does have a history of purchasing your product or service but doesn’t have an immediate need, salespeople can improve their pipeline conversion by removing prospects who aren’t going to be buying and ensuring there are next steps in place on all the accounts that will purchase in the future.
M – Measurable: Alex had some great insight to give in this area. He doesn’t look at gross calls as the main indicator of success is removing accounts in a pipeline, but rather whether the outreach process is being followed. Accordingly, he first tracks whether his salespeople are following great follow-up processes, as the ones who do tend to have the call numbers and conversations that lead to accounts staying in play an ultimately, to a salesperson’s success.