Keeping the Funnel Full: How 2 Build a Sales Pipeline
The generation of early sales is critical for startups. Securing initial customers validates the need for your idea and provides the necessary funding to keep the business moving. But for entrepreneurs who don’t have a finished product yet, or solopreneurs who will be juggling the role of salesman with other key responsibilities, the sales process can be daunting. According to Babson Entrepreneur in Residence Priya Iyer, however, early-stage entrepreneurs should hone their craft as salespeople and starting building a pipeline even before their product is completely finished. Earlier this month the Blank Center welcomed Priya for a How2Tuesday event, How 2 Build and Manage Your Sales Pipeline. Here are some of her other key insights for founders looking to start selling!
Before hiring outside salespeople, try selling to customers yourself
Priya emphasized the importance of founders starting the sales process themselves prior to looking for outside sales help. For one, talking to prospects as you develop your product allows you to tailor it to their needs. Based on these initial sales conversations, you’ll be able to provide your first sales hires with the necessary information about your target customers and sales process.
Filling the top of your sales funnel is not just up to sales
Much of Priya’s How2Tuesday was focused on helping the founders in the room map their ventures’ sales funnels. Important to all ventures is making sure the top of the funnel is full of potential clients who can then move down the funnel towards closing. But the responsibility for filling the funnel extends beyond sales. Priya suggests hiring a marketing person before a salesperson in order to generate interest among prospects, filling the top of your sales funnel. Some key strategies for generating interest include building and optimizing your website, starting to use a customer relationship management database, and posting blogs and articles which can be shared with your prospects.
Remember not to mistake “selection” for closing
At the end of your sales funnel, the ultimate goal is closing and landing clients. Priya warned us to be careful at this stage of the sales process. Even if a client appears to be in agreement with you, there are plenty of factors which can sour a potential deal before officially agreeing to terms. At this stage of the process, potential clients will be looking for any risks involved with your product or service. Presenting them with new value propositions could delay or derail a closing by giving them more to consider. Priya also reminded us that new decision-makers for your clients could enter the picture during the closing, so you will need to be prepared to repeat the selling process with them to keep the sales process moving.
We hope you enjoyed these sales insights from Priya’s talk, and that you check out the Blank Center’s How 2 Tuesday events throughout the semester! On Tuesday, October 15, we’ll be hosting How 2 Have a Successful Startup with serial CTO and investor John Landry. Note that this event will be held in Luksic 101. Register for the event at https://h2success.eventbrite.com, and check out this semester’s entire How 2 Tuesdays schedule at http://bit.ly/2019h2tuesdays.