There is almost nothing more important to a start-up or small business than sales. Sales are the engine that grows your small businesses into a corporation, that turn your products into brands and that turn your brands into household names. Often small businesses focus on marketing, advertising and sales without taking the time to create or formalize a sales pipeline or funnel and yet a sales is a way of ensuring success and growth. Sales pipelines or sales funnels are critical elements for sales success and the How to Develop a Sales Funnel for Your Small Business course will show you how easy it is to create and implement a sound sales funnel strategy for your own small business. A sales funnel is best for business with large volumes of customers with low sales values like coffee shops or for eBook stores. Sales pipelines are ideal for businesses with smaller volumes of customers with high value. This article will show you how to create a sales pipeline for your small business or start-up.
Large organizations have been using sales process management and sales pipelines for years to ensure the success of their operations. Small businesses seldom formalize this process and yet successful sales are essential to grow a small business into a large one. Sales pipelines use the sales process to create the pipeline that represents the sales process and allows you to measure the performance of the sales process, much in the same way that a sales funnel does. For some insights into how to create a sales funnel, read Sales Funnel: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Customers.
Creating a sales pipeline is like creating fertilizer for your sales garden and a well structured pipeline can help you to create a streamlined, efficient sales process that will help you to support your sales team and improve your sales.
What a Sales Pipeline Is
A sales pipeline is a tool that describes your current sales process and then adds tools that allow you to measure success. It describes the various stages of the sales processes involved in your organization. Once the sales process has been formalized and described, a sales pipeline then adds weights and measures to determine the averages and probabilities of the sales contained within the process.
It may sound complicated, but no matter how big or small your company is, you most likely already have most of the process outlined and described in some form. You probably have a way of recording incoming leads, a way of recording quotations and contacts with customers and a way of recording successful sales. Most business require some sort of paperwork for each step of the sales process and these documents can help you setup your own sales pipeline based on your unique needs as a business.
What a Sales Pipeline Will Do for Your Business
The bottom line is: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Taking the time to formalize your sales process will give you the tools you need to effectively manage your company growth and development. Managing a sales team is not about ensuring your sales team are setting up appointments and calling clients. It’s about effectively managing your company’s total sales potential from creating leads to closing the sale.
A sales pipeline offers you a great opportunity to view your complete sales process to determine the efficiency of the process as a whole, as well as being able to identify and assess each step of the process. By creating a framework for the sales process, you will be able to identify areas where your organization can improve and areas that you and your sales team excel at. The Sales and Persuasion Skills for Startups course makes creating sales objectives for a small business simpler for entrepreneurs who want to ensure the success of their business.
Sales pipelines also allow you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your particular sales team and then focus training to support your sales teams in areas where they really need support. The process allows you to effectively manage your team giving you the tools to assign the right sales people to the right stages of the process based on their skills and abilities.
Sales pipelines also allow you better financial management of your business. A good sales pipeline will provide you with fairly accurate cash flow estimates for your company, allowing you better financial management of your current operations and future growth.
How to Create Your Own Sales Pipeline
Since the sales pipeline is a formalization of your sales process, the best place to start creating your sales pipeline is by examining the documents and processes you already use. To create an effective pipeline you need to marry your processes with the various stages of the sales process. Your business may not have all the processes, but it’s important to ensure that you include the processes that your business requires.
So let’s examine the various sales process stages so that you can determine the stages that apply to your sales pipeline and your own business.
Different Stages in a Sales Pipeline
Leads form the first stage in your pipeline. This stage includes how you create and identify new potential customers for your business. Leads include customers you have not spoken to but that have been identified as being potential future customers of your business.
The next stage of the sales pipeline keeps track of prospects. A prospect is a customer that has a confirmed interest in your product or service as opposed to a perceived interest. The Sales Prospecting for Beginners course will teach you how to overcome phone fear, how to beat the gatekeeper and build trust with potential leads to help you turn leads into prospects.
Once a customer has confirmed their interest in your product or service, it’s time to qualify them as a customer. Qualified customers in your sales pipeline are customers who have not only confirmed their interest in your product but who also have a confirmed budget or purchase value to your company.
The next stage of the sales pipeline should monitor demonstrations, quotations and proposals to ensure that customers receive the highest quality of customer service to meet their needs and requirements.
Finally a sales pipeline keeps track of successful conversions, deals won and lost, as well as delays in the sales process.
An Investment Broker Sales Pipeline – A Practical Example
Let’s take a small investment brokerage and create a sales pipeline for our business.
To start your sales pipeline, start with your potential leads. Write down and formalize how leads are recorded and where they originate from. They may be people who follow your investment advice blog posts, people you know or client referrals or even people who follow your investment advice on Facebook. You may be amazed by how many people you actually connect with through your borkerage. For some great tips on how to create potential customers for your growing business, read Lead Nurturing: A Beginner’s Guide to Better Conversion on the Udemy blog.
Then write down which leads actually express interest in your services. How many calls do you get? Where are those calls coming from and where did they hear about your services? What kind of calls are they and are they becoming qualified leads? In this case for example, are they asking for advice or tips?
Then write down or formalize how many of those customers actually ask for a quote. How many prospects have expressed interest in your services to manage their portfolio for example?
Then write down how many customers have actually invested money based on your advice. How many have taken advantage of the services you offer?
And finally, you need to keep track of clients or customers that make further investments with your brokerage.
By creating a “formalized” sales pipeline for our fictitiousbusiness, we can assess how many people we are reaching, how many of those are becoming customers and also how many customers return. The pipeline will allow us to see where we can improve the process and where we are losing potential customers. Should we advertise more? Should we call clients more often? Should we improve our customer experience or offer other services? Only by creating and recording our sales pipeline, do we have access to the vital sales information we need, both now and in the future.
Measuring the Pipeline
The last stage in creating a sales pipeline is creating measurements for the pipeline. Measurements include recording how many customers move through the pipeline as well as the average sales of those customers.
Creating measurements for the pipeline will allow us to estimate cash flow implications of increased social networking or increased advertising. If we know for example that ten percent of leads become clients when you offer certain investment advice, then you can accurately predict your income in a given period. You can also create similar offers or ideas to grow your business.
For a great introduction on how to create a sales process for your new small business, the Sales Strategy for Start Ups – The Beginners Guide course, will show you how to create an effective sales strategy that will help you grow your business.