ONE OF THE MOST common problems that small business owners encounter is successfully transitioning a new contact from a hesitant prospect to a happy customer. Consider the following scenario and see if it sounds familiar to you:
Kelli is a financial planner just starting her business. Like many in her position, she is attending networking meetings, local Chamber of Commerce events, and after-hours mixers. She’s been successful at meeting a variety of new people, and has a calendar booked with follow-up appointments–usually at a local coffee shop. Kelli is busy, and she’s landed some new clients, but she still feels like her efforts aren’t paying off as well as they should be. She wants and needs more accounts, but she’s having a hard time getting past those coffee meetings and onto real business. Intuitively she knows that a breakdown is happening, but she’s not sure how to diagnose the problem.
What Kelli needs in this situation is a way to manage her sales pipeline. She would benefit from a bird’s-eye-view of exactly who her prospective clients are and where they are on the spectrum between contact and client. And she needs to pinpoint where on this spectrum the breakdown is happening.
Kelli needs to Map her Sales Pipeline so that she can better manage her time and close more deals.
Mapping and Managing your sales pipeline is a simple and quick way to gain excellent insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your business. In just a few minutes, and with a basic sketch, a business owner can identify:
- Where breakdowns in the sales process are happening,
- When to tell that it’s time to hit the pavement again,
- When to focus on details like contracts and thanks you’s,
- and What skills need practice.
Take advantage of this simple tactic today and Keep Reading for a Step-by-step how-to for your own Sales Pipeline Map.
Note: the following worksheet is designed primarily for business owners who are providing services, but could be modified for those selling products.
Creating Your Pipeline Worksheet
Step ONE: Take out a blank sheet of paper and lay it out lengthwise (or open a new document or spreadsheet on your laptop)
Step TWO: Roughly divide the page into 7 columns, labeling each as follows from left to right:
- Column One: Schedule Appointment
- Column Two: Consultation
- Column Three: Proposal/Bid
- Column Four: Contract Signed
- Column Five: Work In Progress
- Column Six: Completed and Paid
- Column Seven: Follow Up
Step THREE: Now think about the contacts you currently have and place them in the appropriate columns as follows:
- Schedule: these are the people you’ve met, perhaps at networking events or through referrals, that you need to schedule appointments or consultations with.
- Consultation: these are the people you’ve had consultations/meetings with that are now awaiting proposals/bids from you based on your product or service.
- Proposal: these are the people you’ve submitted a proposal/bid to but who have not signed a contract with you yet.
- Contract: these are the people who’ve signed a contract with you but whose work you have not started.
- Work in Progress: these are the people you are currently working on projects/providing services for.
- Completed & Paid: these are the people you’ve finished working for and have received payment from.
- Follow Up: finally, these are your completed customers who you need to thank and follow up with on a routine basis.
How To Interpret Your Map For Valuable Insight
Ask yourself the following questions to gain insight into the strengths and weakness of your business, and for hints about what you should focus on this week:
Do you have any log jams? Places where your contacts are pooling up? If so, this is likely the area that you need to focus on. For instance, if you notice that your contacts are pooling up in the proposal/bid phase, then that is a sign that you need to work on your closing skills. If they are pooling in the consultation column, then that is an indication that you need to work on transitioning them from someone you had coffee with to a prospective client by sending them a formal bid.
Did you notice any missing pieces? For instance, are you missing the contract step because you don’t have a formalized bidding and contract system in place? Then now is a great time nail down those details . Or perhaps you don’t have anything set up after the product is sold or the service is complete. If so, consider your strategy now, and remember that former clients are one of your best sources for new business.
Are all of your contacts in the latter columns on your worksheet? Then you need to focus on getting new leads into your pipeline. Likewise, if your contacts are all piling up in the first few columns then you need to work on pulling them through your pipeline.
And if you have a nice even spacing then Well Done. Feel free to share your tips for success with us here or tweet them to @StephHillberry.
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