Startup incubators are fascinating places because the people who gravitate there have gone to great lengths to bring innovative ideas to life. What I learned from my incubator days is that most entrepreneurs typically don’t invest enough time thinking through how they intend to bring their product to market.
We work with startups and small businesses because, frankly they need the most help. Business owners must understand that sales is just like any other discipline. It begins by designing a repeatable process that can be measured, adjusted, and continuously refined. The greatest need I saw in the incubator was not capital, but rather instruction on how to build a sales pipeline because that’s what makes or breaks all companies.
Every business has its own unique sales process and a book I highly recommend is The Funnel Principle by Mark Sellers because it emphasizes that the steps in the process should be defined by the buyer’s progression not the seller’s activities.
The stages of the sales process should be defined by specific actions of the buyer that cause them to move to the next stage. Otherwise, the sales person will execute a recipe of actions without really understanding if the buyer is advancing in tandem.
The sales process should be a diagram showing how prospects move through the buying decision. If the stages are too generic without specifics, they will be open for interpretation and will produce bad data. Each stage should have key metrics and you want to extract data that answers questions like these:
• How many prospects move into and out of each stage every month?
• Are there stages where prospects appear to become stalled?
• Are there bottlenecks or points where the procession could be sped up?
• How many prospects fall out of the sales process, and at what stages?
• What is the average length of the sales cycle and the win/loss rate.
These are the data points which will help refine the process and enable you to build a far more accurate sales forecast and manage your business more effectively.
Most importantly, if you invest the time in designing a well-planned sales process, it will substantially improve the success of your sales team.