Let’s say we’re the new person in our sales and marketing organization. It’s the first real day of work, after orientation, after employee on-boarding, after signing the employee handbook and dealing with all the paperwork of a new job. We’re seated at our desk, our phone is freshly sanitized, our inboxes are empty and our corporate email is finally working. We’ve had a sit-down with our new sales manager and they’ve given us our quota for the quarter.
Where do we start? How do we build a sales pipeline robust enough to hit our quota when we’ve nothing but a blank pad of paper, an empty contact list, and a fresh inbox?
In this series, we’ll look at how to build a sales pipeline from scratch, using the most modern digital tools and techniques at an individual level.
Before we can begin any discussion of building a sales pipeline, we must tackle 3 prerequisites.
A Product Worth Buying
The first and most important prerequisite is also the one that we as sales and marketing professionals have no control over unless we are in product marketing. Yet, it is the most important prerequisite in order for us to do our jobs well and succeed in sales.
We need a product or service worth buying.
No matter how skilled we are as salespeople, no matter how skilled we are as marketers, if we are selling junk, our careers will be at best fraught with difficulty and at worst, an abysmal failure. We will never build customer loyalty, we will never earn referrals or recommendations, we will never garner any level of trust if we sell a product or service that sucks.
If we happen to work for a company whose products or services are terrible and the company has absolutely no inclination to improve what they’ve asked us to sell, it’s time to look for another sales job.
Early in our sales career, the quality of what we sell doesn’t matter as much, but as time goes by, we are expected to bring a book of business with us when we join a new sales organization. If all we’ve been selling for our entire careers is garbage, we will have no book of business, we will have no rolodex, we will have no referrals or loyal customers who will follow us from place to place. We will forever be starting from scratch, and that seriously limits our income potential.
An Audience of Buyers
The second prerequisite for our sales career is an audience that wants to buy our product. Even if a product is the highest quality or our service is impeccable, if there is no audience for what we’re selling, we will have a short and frustrating sales career. We need to know that the company, the product or service, is viable. We need to know that people want at least the product category, if not the company by name.
For example, the app store is filled with applications people didn’t ask for and don’t need. Go to the local dollar store and look around. How much junk is there that no one wants to buy, that never made it on the racks of bigger name brand stores? Look at the bottom of the barrel on eCommerce giants like Amazon.com. Look at the products with a sales rank of 1 million or 5 million – an indicator that no one is buying the thing. Are these products or services things people actually want?
The Way People Buy
The third prerequisite for our successful sales career is a basic understanding of the customer journey, how people buy today. The old days, the days of Mad Men, Glengarry Glen Ross, and the Boiler Room are long over. The conventional wisdom of “grab them by the tie and choke them till they buy” no longer works in an era when customers can choose from a nearly infinite product selection on their smartphones. We must understand how people purchase today, how the customer journey truly works, how the rigid sales funnel is no longer an accurate depiction of the way people want to do business with us.
If we have met all three prerequisites, then we are ready to begin the discussion of how to build a sales pipeline from scratch. If we are missing any of these prerequisites, we must pause and consider our options. We will experience significant difficulties if any one of these prerequisites is not met; if we work for an organization in which two out of three are not present or all three are not present, our sales career is doomed before it begins.
Next: Modern Sales Infrastructure
In the next post in this series, we will consider the options available to us in sales infrastructure, in the tools and technologies we need to be as successful as possible in our selling careers. Stay tuned!
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