Do you have the right stages in your sales pipeline?

Do you have a sales process that is based on stages of the sale? Many companies do. By stage of the sale we typically see things like New Lead, Contact Made, Meeting Completed, Evaluation in Progress, Proposal Sent and Sold.

Sales Pipeline by Stage
If you use a similar set of stages, then review the deals that you didn’t win. Look at the stage you got to in each opportunity and ask yourself whether there is a common theme.

For example:

– Do you often get to the proposal stage but then they never make a decision?

– Do people say great things about your product but then you lose out to a competitor?

– Do you have great meetings but then find the opportunity stalls?

If that is the case then maybe you are concentrating too much on the mechanics of the sales process instead of focusing on your buyer’s decision making process?

Review the stages above and imagine that Contact Made was with a bored, office junior. You probably could arrange a meeting with that person. They probably would be very interested in trying your product. I’m sure they would like to receive a proposal, but let’s face it, when they take that proposal to their boss are really going to get it signed off?

To avoid wasting your time on the wrong opportunities and to ensure a successful outcome to the right opportunities, you need to identify the real decision maker and confirm that you understand their issues and desired outcomes. Do they see a reason to change? Does your offering match their requirements? It’s one of the first things you learn in sales but quite often it’s assumed or overlooked as you get wrapped up in your own sales process.

Perhaps somewhere in your sales stages you need a stage that draws your attention to the person who actually has the authority to purchase your product?

To improve your chances of success, consider rewording your stages. Rather than Contact Made perhaps you could use Suspect Contacted, to indicate that at this stage you don’t know who the ultimate decision maker will be and whether your initial contact is a valid prospect. Perhaps you could rename Meeting Completed or add a new stage for Decision Maker Qualified. You will need to judge for yourself where this should sit in your sales stages. Generally it needs to occur before the Proposal Sent stage. After all, should you be spending time writing proposals without knowing who is going to sign it off and why?

Here’s how you might adjust the stages above:

– Suspect Contacted
– Qualified Prospect
– Decision Maker Qualified
– Evaluation in Progress
– Proposal Sent
– Sold

With some slight tweaks to your sales stages you can help yourself stay focused on the buyer’s decision making process rather than your own selling process. This should help improve your chances in the good opportunities. More importantly it will help you to stop wasting valuable selling time on deals that you were never going to win.

I hope that helps. I would be interested to know what stages you use and whether you think it makes a difference.

Date: 25th October 2013

Author: Duncan Gillingwater