Tag Archive for 'Skip Miller'

Building and loading your small business sales pipeline

There are many maxims in professional selling, but perhaps the most important holds that selling is a numbers game. This is a generally accepted truth because of two realities:

 

1.  There are hundreds, nay thousands, of things that can go bump in the night and cause a fully qualified prospect to not complete a transaction, at least not on your preferred timeframe.

 

2.  Regardless of all of the bumps on the path to a signed contract, it’s still your job to produce enough sales revenue to stay in business. 

 

Enter the sales pipeline.

 

A pipeline is a planning concept that helps managers and salespeople forecast sales for any given period: week, month, quarter or year.  Think of your sales pipeline as overhead plumbing with faucets positioned at those calendar intervals, as your business model requires. From these faucets you draw the mother’s milk of any business – sales revenue.

 

Pipeline faucets have special screens that only allow a sale to pass through. So into the pipeline you load only those prospects of which you have asked enough questions to determine that, in a reasonable amount of time, what they want and your ability to deliver will combine to produce a faucet-conforming sale. Until then, a prospect is either on track to become a sale or a forecasting mistake to be removed.

 

As you record a prospect’s entry into the pipeline you must include what you know about their stage of decision-making, plus what you have to do to move them to customer status. Identifying what’s left to be done with each prospect – demo, trial, proposal, final close, etc. – will help you forecast which faucet – this week, next month, etc. – you can expect a sale to pour out of.

 

At this point, let’s refer to The Bard. In Act I, Scene III, of Hamlet, arguably Shakespeare’s most important work, Pelonius famously says, “This above all, to thine own self be true.” If you aren’t completely honest about a prospect’s progress to customerhood, you’re only setting yourself up for an unacceptable flow of sales as you turn on future faucets.

 

How much and how often you draw revenue from your sales pipeline depends on the twin standards of sales success: quantity and quality. You must load the pipeline with enough prospects on Monday (quantity) to have enough qualified prospects to close on Wednesday (quality) so that after all those “bumps” happen you can still draw the sales you need from your pipeline on Friday (success). 

 

Finally, I’ll leave you with Blasingame’s Law of the Sales Pipeline:  “Quantity, quality and to thine own self be true.”

Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, Skip Miller and I talk about the pipeline development process. Skip is President and founder of M3 Learning, and author of a number of books on sales and sales management. He is also a long-time member of my Brain Trust. Take a few minutes to listen my visit with Skip and leave your comments on how you’re building and loading your sales pipeline. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Don’t be stupid - eliminate barriers to customers of your small business

A while back, I needed to reach an acquaintance who worked in a local branch of one of the national banks. When I looked for the local number in the phone book, all I found was a toll-free number that connected me to a computer answering system. That’s right – a local business didn’t publish a local number in the phone book, and here’s the stupid part: The answering system didn’t offer an option to connect to any branch or person. I’m not making this up.

Don’t be stupid! Lesson 1
Don’t create barriers to customers and prospects. If you have any, take them down. NOW! I know you think you don’t, but in the name of efficiency and the advent of new technology, you might.

Undaunted, I called a local board member of that bank who gave me the local number (yes, they had one). When I called, I was told that my acquaintance, a loan officer, had recently been laid off.

“Why was he laid off?” I asked. Since the bank was losing money and, for the sake of the stock price the CEO needed to impress the stock analysts with his guidance on the next quarterly conference call. So an edict came down that almost 2,000 employees across the company would have to hit the bricks. Never mind how valuable they were, or what such cuts would ultimately do to the bank’s long-term ability to compete, “We’ve got to cut costs and the quickest way is to cut payroll.”

Don’t be stupid! Lesson 2
Quarterly goals are important for planning. For a publicly traded company, quarterly guidance to stock analysts is a counter-intuitive and dangerous practice for long-term success. Small businesses have to remember that customers don’t buy based on quarterly schedules, so don’t let your quarterly pressure on sales people cost you lost business and, worse, lost relationships.

I learned later that even though my acquaintance was the top loan producer, he was the last one hired, so he was the first to go. Now he’s no longer a payroll drain on this bank, but he is now kicking the backside of his former employer as a high-producer with a competitor.

Don’t be stupid! Lesson 3
In the 21st century, seniority doesn’t trump productivity.

Today, this bank is one of those that had to be bailed out by the government. The bank CEO, who allowed blind devotion to stock price undermine the tried-and-true management practices of building a strong team and taking care of customers, is now himself no longer a drag on that bank’s payroll.

How much business did this bank lose because of that phone answering strategy? What would have happened if this bank CEO had simply installed an answering system that made sure anyone who wanted to call a local branch could not only find that number easily, but quickly connect to a local person? The answer might be that the CEO would still have his job, and so would my friend and several hundred other former employees. Who knows? By simply adopting a customer-friendly phone system, this bank might have actually needed to hire more employees to handle all of the new business.

Don’t be stupid! Lesson 4
If you need more sales revenue, make sure your organization, including people, systems and policies, aren’t getting in the way of the prospects and customers who want to do business with you.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about the potential dangers of quarterly policies with sales management expert and Brain Trust member, Skip Miller (m3learning.com), author of The Ultimate Sales Tool Kit. Take a few minutes to listen to what this smart guy has to say. And be sure to leave your smart thoughts.




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