In my experience as a sales performance expert, I have learned that mistakes are better teachers than successes.  With that in mind, it is my hope that there will be some valuable lessons for you as we review some of the most common mistakes to building a successful sales force:

Mistake #4:  There is no sales process in place. 

Very few companies have defined what differentiates a closable opportunity from a prospect, or understand how to move the prospect along to becoming closable.  They may not have defined whether or not to produce a proposal.  Frequently there is confusion as to the likelihood of whether an opportunity will close or not, which may have resource management implications and ultimately profitability implications.   These companies are lacking a standardized sales process.  Having a pipeline or funnel process alone does not help in closing sales.  Too frequently companies build pipeline stages around activities they perform as opposed to tying the stages to the likelihood the prospect will buy.  Many companies choose to believe that if they send a proposal or perform a demo that somehow, magically, the prospect is more likely to buy.  Your product may lend itself to an awesome demo that convinces the prospect to buy, but usually the act of performing the demo should not be the indication that a prospect is closer to buying.

Let me explain.  Salespeople sell to people, whether they are B2B or B2C.  People buy emotionally and use facts and figures to validate their emotional decisions.  Your pipeline should be tied to those emotions.

Pipeline Stages Defined:

First, the prospect is willing to meet with us.  This makes them slightly more qualified than someone we’ve never talked to but we are only at the discovery stage.  At the end of that meeting you either have a prospect or you don’t.  During this discovery phase you should determine what their real reason for buying is, and whether or not it is compelling enough to spend money on.

Next, you must create value in their mind.  What is this problem costing them and how might your solution solve their problem?  Does the prospect see the value in your solution and do they have the money to spend on that solution?

Third, do you know how they make their decisions?  Why are they doing what they are doing now, and why are they considering changing?  Who is involved in the decision making process?

Once you know all these things you may make a proposal, complete a demo, or prepare a quote.  This is a simplified overview that will enable managers and salespeople to talk the same language.  All these steps in the process may happen in one meeting or it may take several.  But, if you follow these general rules and hold your folks accountable to following the flow of the process, then you will create a more accurate pipeline, and your salespeople will quit wasting time on dead-end deals.

The best in class companies know exactly how many opportunities they need in each stage of the pipeline to meet their goals and can accurately make financial projections based on the pipeline.  You should be able to as well.

If you’re working on your pipeline, you may find this worksheet helpful:

Download Braveheart's "Get a Plan, Get Sales" Worksheet

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