The Power Of The Pipe

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The Power Of The Pipe

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Salespeople spend a lot of time generating conversations, discussing value and developing relationships – but how much time do they spend looking at how well they’re doing all these things?

That’s the question we asked with Ian Selbie, a sales trainer who began his career with Apple and holds the title as one of their top salespeople. Today, he assists sales teams with understanding not only what to do to sell more, but also helps them understand why.

If you don’t know where every one of your prospects is on their way to becoming a customer, it’s time to stand up a pipeline or tighten up your existing pipeline. A pipeline can be the foundation of your sales systems as it directs the campaigns, outreach and even scripts based upon where a prospect is in their sales cycle.

Because we’re trimming hope from our sales strategy, we’ll use the acronym TRIM to guide us through creating a system with a trigger, ensuring it’s repeatable, building in ways to improve it and of course, ensuring it’s measurable and getting us results.

T – Trigger: The trigger for using a pipeline is whenever a new prospect is contacted. If an account is not created immediately, it is too easy for a prospect to float outside the defined stages of your pipeline, making them impossible to track.

For existing prospects, if you can’t see everyone in each stage of your buying cycle at a glance, it’s time to map out all the prospects you’re pursuing and define which buying/pipeline stage they’re in.

R – Repeatable: To make a pipeline repeatable, CRMs become invaluable as they are all made to see prospects at-a-glance across buying stages. Additionally, a CRM can often even contain the requirements for each stage of your pipeline in the pipeline name itself.

In order to establish or improve a pipeline, there need to be established and well-defines ‘stages’ for prospects. These can be based on your sales cycle as you take a prospect from cold to becoming a customer. Ian recommends the following as a guideline for the verticals in a good pipeline:

Activities: Things to do to reach out.
Interested: You have a scheduled meeting to discover decision makers
Discovered: Decision makers have been identified and need has been assessed
Qualified: Budget has been assessed and buying windows/purchase timeframe identified
Selected: An active proposal or purchase order is submitted
Close: The business has been ‘won’
Reference: The salesperson is ensuring their customer is achieving ROI and asks for testimonials

I – Improvable: To improve your pipeline flow, pay attention to which prospects are becoming stuck at which stages in your pipeline. If you notice a lot of prospects in the ‘Activities’ stage, you know you need to book more meetings, for instance. Contingency plans can be built to ‘unclog’ each stage of a pipeline so you know exactly what to do when you see a bottleneck occurring.

M – Measurable: Ian recommends measuring the interested-to-close ratio as a great metric to monitor. With that, a salesperson can learn how many conversations we have in relationship to how many of those deals end up closing.

An additional measurement to track within a pipeline is source-of-leads. By doing that, you’ll be able to keep your pipeline full of prospects well into the future.

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