My last several blogs have been about smoothing out the ups and downs of that sales roller coaster, and creating something that brings you peace of mind.
To recap, there are three primary elements in creating a smooth sales pipeline (also called a sales forecast). Number one: good data. Number two: market segmentation. And number three: developing sales stages.
This blog focuses on element three - sales stages, aka where the rubber meets the road. How do people buy from you? What are the stages they go through during the buying process? What do you need to know to help them?
Very often, we use identifiers such as hot, warm or cold when we put a forecast or pipeline in place. But what do these mean? They certainly aren't real stages – they’re indicators reflecting how we feel an opportunity might go. They aren’t measured against any real facts and they give you no numerical validation or timelines to forecast with.
To build a measurable, predictable sales pipeline, you need strategic stages that are clearly defined (and that you hold yourself accountable to). Sales stages will vary depending on your business needs. At Acadia, we use six sales stages, ranging from prospecting all the way to the official commitment. We understand how our clients buy from us so we take them through that buying cycle using those stages.
Let’s break it down further. Here’s what we do for each stage:
Stage 0: Prospect prospect prospect!
Stage 1: Identify that prospect’s problem.
Stage 2: Identify the problem’s impact on the prospect’s business. How financially painful is this problem for them?
Stage 3: Verify that the prospect is ready and financially committed to solving that problem.
Stage 4: Understand the prospect’s selection criteria and present a solution (proposal time).
Stage 5: Obtain an official commitment, e.g., a PO.
Moving a client through each stage of your buying cycle requires you to obtain a great deal of information. However, when followed with diligence, the results are consistent and trackable.
Your next step could be to assign each stage a “likelihood” or a win percentage. This allows sales to move prospects through the buying process using tangible goals. Additionally, each prospective project can then be assigned a dollar amount and will fit nicely into your sales pipeline.
Yes, the truth will set you free - and most importantly will smooth out the ride!