Even good businesses lose about 40 percent or more of the prospective customers that they could be serving. They have leaky sales pipelines. Before you increase your marketing to pump more prospects into your business, analyze where you’re losing opportunities with the prospects you already attract.

Think of your marketing like a funnel with a series of pipes and filters that prospects pass through. When I’ve done this with clients, we’ve found ways to increase customers by over 20% from the prospects they already have. Let’s look down your sales pipeline to see where you can gain improved results.

Attract ideal prospects.

How many people are learning about your business and what it offers? Are they the right people? That is, do they need your distinctive value, are they willing to pay, and are they a pleasure to serve? These are prospective ideal customers.

Many businesses have leaky sales pipelines because they attract prospects whom they don’t want or aren’t well positioned to serve. Such interest is a waste of your time. It also weakens the integrity of your sales process. Since you don’t want many people whom you attract, you become indifferent about losing prospective customers.

A Fortune 100 company was so out of whack in its marketing that 75% of inquirers did not qualify for its product. It wasted huge amounts of time and resources and burned up precious goodwill turning people down. We rushed to turn this situation around before its business imploded.

If less than 80 percent of the people you attract are not ideal prospects, you need to sharpen your marketing focus. If you can’t focus more narrowly, then give inquirers appealing ways to qualify their own needs and interests. Prospects like self-scoring checklists to help them evaluate how products and services fit them. Don’t let people who aren’t ideal prospects clog your sales pipeline.

Develop prospects into solid inquiries.

How many ideal prospects who visit your store or web site, attend a presentation, or otherwise contact your business take the next step to learn more? They need three types of information: (a) the value you offer, (b) how your product or service works, and (c) why your business is the best choice for them.

What are you doing to help prospects move through this stage of the sales pipeline? Stay close to your ideal prospects. Don’t assume that their initial interest will be enough to motivate action. Experience has shown that prospects need seven to ten exposures to information about a product or service before they make their first purchase.

You’ll want at least 90% of ideal prospects to become solid inquiries. Measure this rate and modify your strategies and tactics to achieve your target.

Sign up solid inquiries to become customers.

In a well-functioning sales pipeline, your business should enjoy an 80 percent conversion of solid inquiries into customers. What I typically see in otherwise healthy businesses are rates of only 55 to 65 percent. Why? Some sales people talk about tools rather than benefits and value. Others simply fail to ask for the order. They don’t take a stand for what the prospects need and what they want for them.

Engage customers to become fully ideal.

How many customers commit to the full amount of products and services that they need? Track the difference between what you recommend that they purchase and what they actually buy. There’s often a 15 to 20 percent increase in sales revenue available for you. Why aren’t they buying all of what you know that they need?

Use examples of how other customers have benefited from the full recommendation. Such examples encourage customers to perceive the value rather than view the discussion as a negotiation with you to reduce costs in the purchase.

Keep customers coming back for more.

A good sales pipeline keeps customers in a loop rather than dumping them out at the end. Many businesses neglect this back end of the sales process. For example, a professional services firm struggled to get more clients in the door to achieve its growth targets. Meanwhile, its back office personnel sent letters to clients confirming completion of the current matters and advised them that they would destroy the files. The unintended message was good-bye and get lost.

Analyze your sales pipeline from start to finish. There’s gold in those leaky pipes.