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Entrepreneurship, Lessons Learned, Sales/Business Development

And When I Looked There, the Pipeline Was Bare

From the title, you can imagine how this post is going to read. In a nutshell, I need to do a better job of keeping my pipeline filled. Today I spent the whole day calling, emailing and LinkedInning with potential prospects and partners because when I looked at my pipeline AND bank account it was bare.

This summer has been a real learning experience in balancing the needs of the business with the needs of the customers. When I spoke to a prospect, after profusely apologizing for not calling sooner, she asked me, “Why did it take so long to reach out to her?”

My answer was simple and one that many of us have when starting out, especially those in the consulting business. I was so focused on going a great job for my current customers that I forgot to focus on bringing in new business. What doesn’t make this chapter of my entrepreneur journey any better is that I saw the potential for this entrepreneur rookie mistake. I saw the pile of cards that I collected through networking pile up. I knew that my days of following up within 24 hours had extended to days, weeks and in a couple of instances months and yet I still waited. I waited until I don’t have a steady stream of income coming in to do what I should have done initially.

The good news is that when I after calling, emailing, and LinkedInning I realized that no one else followed up and opportunities still exist. Luckily, I was able to get meetings that might turn into revenue for my company. Here are a few of the lessons learned from this:

  • Be disciplined. I need to follow my sales process.
  • Take the time every day to sell. Customers can’t buy from you if you don’t give them the opportunity.
  • Do a great job with current customers. Finish the project. Ask for referrals.

We all have a sales process so your first step might be to document your own. It will change as you grow but if you are going to hire sales help, having a process that can be modified is important. Below is a high level look at my process and can start as a starting point for your company.

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “And When I Looked There, the Pipeline Was Bare

  1. Maisha, such important points in this post, most particularly around having a sales process and following it.

    Additionally, I would suggest implementing a system to support your process and automating as much of it as possible to reduce your workload while increasing the volume you can manage. After all, not every lead will turn into a client and even the ones that do won’t all run along the same timeline from initial contact to close, so you want to maintain connection with as many qualified, warm leads as possible to keep moving them through the sales funnel.

    Like

    Posted by Lauren Fleshler | September 18, 2012, 6:32 pm
    • Hi Lauren and thanks for the comment. I agree 100% that having a system to support your sales efforts are crucial. I spoke about setting up a CRM system in this post, https://maishaslemonadestand.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/what-every-business-should-have-in-its-sales-and-marketing-tool-kit-part-2/. However, if we as business owners don’t have the discipline to follow them then its just another tool that we don’t use. Alas, empty pipelines!
      I am curious to hear what elements of the sales process you feel can be automated. I am familiar with marketing automation tools but not the sales ones.

      Like

      Posted by Maisha B. Hoye | September 20, 2012, 2:24 pm
      • Hi, Maisha, sorry for this delayed response.

        Basically, while it depends somewhat on your business, you should be able to integrate some if not quite a lot of automation into your sales and or follow-up process…From your basic automated CRM scheduling that ensures your sales tasks are included on your to-do lists and/or calendar to carrying out entire sales cycles. For instance, certain sales funnels are designed to step prospects through automated communications, which are triggered by prospect action or inaction after entering the sales funnel. Only when the prospect arrives at a point, basically the point of sale, is the business notified to actually contact the prospect and close the deal. Or, at that same juncture, the prospect may simply be given access to the business’ appointment calendar to be allowed to schedule a consultation.

        Now, this may not work for every business, but I would hazard to say that nearly every business can use templates and content modules to make it as easy as possible to fulfill their sales tasks, so all that’s needed for, say, email correspondence is to add a short customized intro and/or outro to give it a personal touch thereby reducing the onus considerably. And, add to that a systems that allows you to create those customizations and schedule delivery in advance so you can prepare all your sales correspondence for the week ahead of time, then you have a powerful combination. This allows you to take care of your sales follow-up when it’s convenient for you, but actually fulfill your sales follow-up through automated scheduling when you believe it will be most effective to reach your prospects.

        Hope this helps you see more clearly how you can automate sales in addition to marketing. I believe a lot of businesses confuse the two and granted it can be a blurry line.

        Feel free to reach out to me via email if you’d like more info or specific resources for you or your clients.

        Like

        Posted by Lauren Fleshler | September 25, 2012, 12:53 pm

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