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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Sealing Cracks in Your Sales Pipeline

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In last month’s column, I described how to use tools such as AutoText and Text Lightning to write faster and better. For more info, go to my Web page productivity. Now let’s talk about how these and other technologies apply to your sales pipeline.

A sales pipeline is, by nature, a management mess. You work hard to get people in, but then they jump out. A few whoosh right along toward a buying decision. Some you nearly have to drag to the finish line, and others get ejected because they are so unpleasant as to make business or even life hardly worth living. A few jump back in.

Others who had been communicating go “dark.” A few buy when you did not expect it, and many you think are certain to become clients surprise you and take your ideas and go to a competitor.

The pipeline is a roiling, shifting, leaky affair. Your skill in managing the pipeline is vital. Certainly one skill is sealing the hated cracks.

A Scenario

Let’s suppose you have set a first appointment for Bob Loblaw four weeks down the road. He is a prominent consulting engineer but he will be out of the country for three of those weeks consulting on a bridge in Iceland. In four weeks, you can die in his mind. Or someone else can weasel in.

The usual way to confirm an appointment that is no more than a week or 10 days away is to send a confirmation email today. Send a letter a week before. Call the day before.

But what about the four weeks he’s mostly inIceland? Can you lightly place some emails in his inbox to keep your name alive?

You bet.

Key concept: Prepare your communication plan right now. Don’t write yourself reminders to “Send Bob an email.” Everything is fresh in your mind right now. Do the emails now. Send them later using a feature of Outlook called Delay Delivery.

A Law to Seal Cracks

Here it is: A prospect moving in the pipeline needs to hear from you at least once a week.

I want my name in front of Bob at least three times during the three weeks he is gone. My total contacts will be six.

1. Confirm the appointment by email today. AutoText is fine for this.

2. Print a confirmation letter. File it in a 1-31 file to mail seven days before the appointment.

3. Set reminder to call and confirm day before.

Now let’s fill the blank spot in the pipeline. Huge leak potential. Prepare three different emails right now, and use the “Delay Delivery” option in Microsoft Outlookto schedule delivery.

4. Send an article the day before he leaves. It should be related to one or more of his goals. Since you are using an attachment, set it up with Text Lightning. Your boiler plate email could read:


Here is an article I thought you should read. It offers some insightful remarks on the latest theories on how much you should consider withdrawing from your 401(k) once you retire.


P.S. Before you leave forIceland, send this to your iPad. You will certainly have some time on the plane for some quiet reading.

(Use your P.S. to personalize a boilerplate email.)

5. Send an article of general interest before he returns. Schedule it just a day or two before he flies home. Always keep several articles that you can send to people who are in a blank spot in your pipeline.


I found this piece on overcoming information overload. I was able to use some of its tips to do a better job of sorting through the fire hose of data I deal with every day. I thought it might be useful for you.


P.S. Since it’s a long flight, you might have time on the way back to give it some thought.

6. Send a “Welcome Back” email. You should have at least two “Welcome Back” pieces in your AutoText library. One would be to welcome someone home from a business trip, and the other from a vacation. Obviously, you fill in the brackets.


Welcome back from <where they went>. I hope it was both enjoyable and profitable.


P.S. I’m looking forward to our meeting next Tuesday. I hope the jet lag has faded by then.

Delay Delivery Problem

I set all my delayed emails for 6:30a.m.MountainTime. This most likely puts them at the top of my correspondent’s inbox. That’s where I want them.

By setting everything I have delayed to be sent at the same time, I can better deal with this sad fact: Delay Delivery does not always work. Sometime the email just sits in the outbox.

Using SaneBox, a Web service I will describe below, I have set an email reminder that hits my inbox at 6:30 each morning. It simply says, “Did my outbox clear?” If not, I go clear it. Once something gets stuck in your outbox, it’s stuck. You have to open it, copy the text, delete the old one and resend. Annoying? You bet. I am just waiting for a better solution and I will bail on Outlook.

Managing Email

Let’s talk about SaneBox. It makes your inbox sane. I have a special folder just for emails from my team. There are a lot of them. I don’t want client or prospect emails lost in the internal torrent. Love this.

There’s more. For me, SaneBox solved a longtime administrative problem: How can I know if someone who should have responded failed to do so?

This was the black hole for me. I might ask a member of my team, “Call Bob and find out blah blah.” Did it get done? How do I follow up? Keep separate lists of messages to which I expect a reply? Gag me.

Suppose a client calls in and leaves a voicemail message: “I can’t make our appointment today. Let’s push it off a couple of weeks.”

You send an email to reschedule.

How do you know he, and perhaps countless others, did not reply? Memory? (Gasp!)

I use the follow-up reminder service of SaneBox. (My subscription is $5 or something per month.)

Let’s say I send him an email:


Please call my assistant Lisa to reset that appointment for Tuesday.


If you have SaneBox, you can add this address to your bcc field: [email protected].

Friday morning at 6:00 a.m., that email comes back.

Check it. “Have I heard back?” If yes, delete. If no, send yourself a reminder-call email to call him at 5:30 p.m. You know he’s in his car on the way home.

SaneBox and Delay Delivery will help seal the cracks.


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