At any one time, your prospecting pipeline consists of players in these categories:
Hot. The first appointment has been set. In case you are wondering, the sale begins with the first appointment.
Red Cherry. A “red cherry” is someone who is interested and financially qualified to do business with you within a reasonably short period of time. Typically, this person has requested information from you. They might stay in this condition for weeks, or even months, as you gently nudge them to the point they are interested enough to set the first appointment.
Green Cherry. This prospect is interested but either cannot make a decision now, or does not have funds available now. The “funds due date” or “decision date” can be months or years down the road.
Green Cherry (conditional). This prospect is interested but does not know when the funds will be available, or when a decision can be made. Example: A prospect could be going through a messy divorce. It might conclude tomorrow, or in two years. Another example: A prospect tells you, “We’re going to sell the beach house.”
You know where it is. You know it’s worth $2 million or so. You also know that in the current real estate market it might be weeks, months or years.
Info Lead. You normally encounter this prospect only when cold calling. It’s someone who says, “Just send me the information.”
Pitch and Miss. These are the people who told you “No.” To avoid filling your pipeline with junk, police this carefully. To classify a prospect as a Pitch and Miss, it should be someone you have had one or more conversations with, possibly met with and really want to have as a client. If you don’t care about them, mark them a “Pit” and move on.
The two critters below are ejected from the pipeline:
Pit. Pits come into the pipeline looking perhaps like cherries, but they’re not. They are pits — not interested, not qualified, perhaps cross or irritable. Just dump them back into the mass mail list from which they came.
Perm Off. These are the folks who you don’t ever wish to speak to again, and undoubtedly, they don’t want to talk to you. They’re rude, offensive, demand to get off your list and so forth. You need to keep them in your database and mark them “Perm Off.” When you add new names or import a list from a list broker, you might get them back. If your software has the capability to check for duplicates, you’ll see them and get rid of them again.
The menagerie I just gave you (minus Pits and Perm Offs) is your complete pipeline. It’s everyone you are following up with. Your Sales Pipeline is only your Hots.
This article focuses on them and managing these boys and girls correctly.
Keep Them Moving
The purpose of a professional-grade sales procedure is to bring the prospect to a point he or she will make a decision. The flipside of this is that failure to bring them to a point of decision will clog up your pipeline with a bunch of nice people who may be genetically incapable of decision. As your pipeline fills up, your incentive to prospect decreases because you have more people than you can talk to. Sadly, many salespeople are afraid to close for fear they will lose a prospect.
Count on losing them. The process is intended to move the non-buyers off the runway by forcing them to make a decision. This opens up a spot in your pipeline for a fresh prospect.