This blog was first published at: http://www.startit.be/blog/detail/6-steps-to-build-a-quality-pipeline-part-1
When I ask startups questions on their forecast and pipeline, I always get a lot of contradicting answers. Either the numbers don’t add up or it looks too good to be true. If we ignore the over optimistic sales representative, I see that in most cases there is no internal alignment on what exactly each stage in a pipeline means. Jim Barksdale has a good answer to this problem:
This blog will give you a pragmatic approach on how, where and when do you put a deal in each stage of your pipeline. Anybody within the company should be able to look at the pipeline and know in which stage each deal is. Your goal is to create a common ground where you can draw conclusions and predictions based on correct sales data.
Use 6 steps in your pipeline
We discussed qualification in our previous blogpost. Use the BANT criteria to qualify a deal. Then move it from a lead (the stage before qualification) to a qualified deal. As of this moment we start talking about a real potential prospect that you can manage. We got passed the fluffy ‘there is something out there’ concept. - See more at: http://chaomatic.be/archive/6-steps-to-build-a-quality-pipeline-part-1/#sthash.Sy3jLJAE.dpuf
At this step you have been at the customer and you have presented your solution. You did personalise your presentation so that the prospect felt familiar with the content. This way you increase your perceived value and create trust that you can deliver what you promise. This stage is all about extracting as much information as possible from them. How do they perceive the problem? How does their current process look like? What would be their dream solution? So please don’t do what many sales persons do and keep talking. You need to set a frame where you explain what you do and then you ask questions… many questions.
People love to talk. It is your job to guide that conversation towards content that you can use to fine-tune your offer. Don’t get stuck in wanting to show all your beautiful slides. Use your PowerPoint or demo as a background canvas and keep looking at their attention span. When they start making notes you have hit their interest or pain. The best presentations are the ones where you do an introduction and a next action wrap-up. In the middle they should be talking.
TIP 1: Personalise your presentations! Do bother to put your prospects logo’s. Go to LinkedIn and check the people that are in the meeting. Use their names, their photo, show & prove you have done the trouble of researching them. Try mentioning their first names during a conversation to make your speech more personal. You’ll see that this simple trick will soften them and you’ll create bonds faster. At this stage, it is all about gaining trust and confidence that you’re able to do what you promise.
As you had a lot of valuable input during the presentation, you will use this to generate more revenue. Build a personalised offer for them by adding their quotes, their stories and their numbers. The final decision is in most cases not with the person you are talking to but rather with his manager. Don’t forget that even CFO’s and CTO’s need approval from their board or CEO. Make sure this proposal has all the elements to get that approval from the final decision maker. If you are not sure on some content, don’t hesitate to contact them to ask.
Always try to build a trustworthy relationship where communication is flowing in two directions. Make sure the information is easy digestible and don’t send 50 slides with at the end a proposal slide. Think of yourself: will you go through that much content when you are busy and under pressure? Rather make a personalised quote that you add as a separate PDF and add a PDF copy of your presentation. Make clear in your mail what the next action items are and put a timing on it. Don’t repeat what is in the quote already. When you have done a good job in the previous phase, you will use their own internal timings & actions.
TIP 2: Always leave some room to negotiate. Everybody wants to make a good deal so use that psychology for the negotiation. Another trick is to work on your pricing and offer different modules. It is better to discuss 3 levels of pricing than only one. Discount is easy to give but going up in price is a Greek tragedy. Don’t give your services or product for free even if you planned to get that first customers. At least show how much it would cost and then give discount so they perceive the value. The worst thing that can happen is that you give it for free and your future customers doesn’t realise the value and puts your project at the end of the line.