How to Bolster Your Startup’s Sales Pipeline

Every year, more than 50 million new businesses are started. How many startups do you think survive for more than a few years? The answer may shock you: less than 10%, and many of those failures are due to bad business models and lack of sales. As a startup owner, you’ve likely given a lot of thought to your startup development model, and hopefully you’ve realized that your sales pipeline is an important part of it. However, some startups don’t evenfully understand what a sales pipeline is, let alone how to put one in place that will fuel their success.

What is a Sales Pipeline?

Simply stated, a sales pipelines is your method of getting a visual snapshot of your anticipated sales, and it’s crucial when you’re developing approaches to grow a startup. It lets you (and your salespeople) see what you anticipate closing in the next week, month, and quarter, and helps you quickly identify where in the sales process each prospect is. A good pipeline will also help you identify how to take prospects to the next stage of the selling process and alert you when you’re getting low on potential sales. Though the stages of the process will differ from company to company, most pipelines consider the following stages:

Prospecting  Once you’ve identified that a person or company is interested in your product or service, they become a prospect. In this stage, you’ve probably had a conversation with them at an event or over the phone, or they have signed up for your newsletter or a free trial on your website.

Qualification  This stage of the process involves verifying that the prospect is interested in your product or service and that they are in a position to buy. You may need to ensure they are the decision-maker or that they have the budget to spend on your services.

Needs assessment  Do you know what your prospect’s pain points are and how your product or service will help them solve it? The needs assessment ensures that, if a sale is made, your customer will be happy with the result.

Proposal  Once you’ve determined the prospect is interested, ready to buy, and is a fit for your services, it’s time to provide a proposal or a contract for them to sign. This stage may also involve turning a prospect on a free trial into a paying customer.

Deal  When your qualified prospect signs the contract or provides payment information, you’ve completed the sales process and gained a new customer.

How to Bolster Your Sales Pipeline

Your pipeline is a roadmap to success and, like a map, if you don’t use the proper guidance you are likely going to get lost. Here are four startup tips on developing an effective pipeline that leads to your desired location—success!

Identify your target markets Creating buyer personas and your ideal target markets are vital to your pipeline. Marketing to and trying to close prospects who have no interest in or ability to buy your products is a recipe for disaster. Choose specific demographics based on past sales, your competition, and the type of people who need what you sell.

Find the best ways to reach your target market  How can you best reach your target market and engage them? Your approach should include a robust social media and blogging campaign, and you should further get more involved in local networking circles and events related to your industry. Where you spend the most time and energy on marketing will ultimately depend heavily on what your ideal clients respond to.  

Build a replicable sales cycle  You’ve probably seen (or been a part of) companies that have one or two superstar salespeople, while the rest lag far behind. This is the result of a poorly designed sales cycle. All of your salespeople—including you—need to use a replicable process that is consistent and reliable. A key aspect of this cycle should be a referral or loyalty program that keeps past customers coming back for more. Loyalty programs should be easy to use, provide plenty of value, and reinforce your brand. The My Starbucks Rewards program is a great example of one that engages customers in real time and reinforces the lifestyle enhancement aspect of their products.

Use a CRM  New business consultants agree it is vital to put an effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program in place to assist your sales team in making sales, and to help you stay organized. A good CRM will help your team keep track of where prospects are in the sales process, help them take customers to the next step, and assist with customer retention. Three of the top CRMs available to startups today are AgileCRM, Salesforce, and Pipedrive.

  • AgileCRM starts at just $14.99 per month and is a web-based platform that is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses. With features like appointment management, auto dialing, behavior tracking, and campaign management, Agile is popular among startups for its many features, but some users cite difficulty in implementing its related marketing automation features.
  • Salesforce is a cloud-based CRM and the number one ranked in the marketplace. Supporting all browsers, Salesforce requires no software installation and startups can get started with its hundreds of features instantly. The full version, however, can be costly at $125 per month, and some users feel there are too many limits in place on certain features.
  • Pipedrive scores high on usability and affordability (it starts at just $12 per month), and integrates seamlessly with Google apps. Pipedrive does not integrate with Outlook, however, and some users feel it lacks the features of more robust CRMs.

An effectively developed sales pipeline will ensure that your entire team is on the same page and following the steps necessary to continually move prospects forward in the sales process, … and ultimately, grow your startup. To figure out what CRM is best for your team to build a solid pipeline, meet with one of our sales and growth hacking experts today.



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