Managing all of the prospects in your pipeline requires a certain finesse. You juggle a lot of tasks and must carefully track what each prospective customer needs to get them to close.

Sales puts your time management, writing, persuasion, relationship building, and negotiation skills to the test every day. (Among plenty of other things.)

So, to more effectively move prospects through the deal cycle, focus on applying those skills to these 3 areas.

Immediate outreach

When you get a new lead from the marketing team or find a prospect on your own who you know has a problem you can solve, don’t waste time. The sales cycle can’t start unless you actually reach out to someone and start a conversation.

If it’s taking hours to reach out to a new lead (and it’s not the middle of the night of course) something is wrong. Or if you find leads slipping through the cracks and never getting contacted, something is even more wrong.

In either case, before fixing anything else about your sales process, you need to fix the timing of your outreach. That’s how you fully optimize your lead nurturing.

Especially if someone is in the exploratory stages of choosing a solution and is contacting you as well as your competitors to learn more, you want to give them every reason to talk with you first. Lessen the risk that they choose someone else by initiating conversation as soon as possible.

Ideally, you’d send a text message to make first contact. Maybe accompany it with an email just so you cover your bases. But texting works great because it indicates a level of urgency without inconveniencing people. Plus, it’s more personal than calls, emails, or LinkedIn messages.

Regardless of the communication method you prefer for contacting new leads, just do it fast.

Consistent follow-up

The fortune is in the follow-up.

Once you establish contact — and especially if you don’t connect — keep it going. Don’t be afraid to “double text” and touch base. (As much as people like to compare selling and dating, you can’t treat leads like a date you’re afraid of contacting because you don’t want to seem too interested.)

People won’t always reply to your first message, even if they came to your site for info. Keep following up to keep that lead as hot as possible. Don’t let yourself be the weak link that results in them purchasing from a competitor.

For prospects who do engage and respond, give them a reason to keep responding by being attentive.

Deals close when sales people act as the “project manager.” Keep track of all your conversations and when you need to talk next, along with what tasks you and your prospect need to accomplish between meetings.

Send reminders, whether that’s text messages, voicemails, or emails. Probably a combo of all three will really make you successful.

Consistent follow-up also works best when you engage back as quickly as possible. When people call, email, or text you, don’t leave them hanging. This is one reason texting is such a valuable way to stay in touch regardless of the stage a prospect is in your pipeline. It’s fast and convenient and doesn’t require significant effort on anyone’s end.

Poor follow-up can turn even the hottest prospects and “perfect customers” into unengaged, disinterested prospects.

Personalized content

To nurture your prospects and relationships, you need to deliver a personalized experience. Yes, even if you’re not doing account-based marketing and selling, targeted messages need to be the standard.

When working with inbound leads, initially your messages will relate to what solution they contacted you about. Whatever they want to buy from you, focus on starting a conversation about that solution and its related problems first.

If you do B2B sales, you might get lucky and know where they work based off their email address. So do your research and take advantage of whatever small details you find.

Once you get to a discovery call, then you can start digging into more of what they really need. At that point you really start to learn the crux of what they hope to solve and how you fit in.

All your messages and follow-up after those first interactions need to keep building off each other.

Be specific in what you send/say and reference previous conversations. Clearly show prospects that you listened and absorbed what they were saying so you could provide them with relevant information. That requires you to take detailed notes and save the info some place easy to access when you need it. (CRMs are pretty great!)

Regardless of how you do your follow-up, whether that’s email or text messaging or a combination of both and a few other things, delivering clearly personalized messages that read like a human wrote them makes them want to keep talking to you. When people can count on you to be a real person taking the time to help, they trust you and what you have to say.

That then makes them all the more likely to buy.

Improving the buying experience

Ultimately, to effectively move prospects through the deal cycle, you need to focus on them as a person. Yes, you can and should automate your outreach and follow-up if at all possible. But each of those elements work better when you take the time to create a process for personalization as well.

People buy from people, even when they want to buy something from you for their business. So improve the buying experience and make it easier to close by treating people like people.

When you’re ready to take on this challenge, check out these tips for how to add text messaging to the deal cycle to help you get there.