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The 4 People in Your Sales Pipeline You Must Know

by on March 8, 2012  

In order to be most productive with the  sales opportunities in your pipeline there are a number of people you need to know well. These people affect your chances of bringing deals to closure every day. Since a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, you may have 3 of these people covered, but that fourth one is going to do you in. You’re done in by lost sales, missed opportunities, misaligned goals, and “no’s” toward the end of a prospective customer’s long buying cycle.

Who are these people? Some are obvious. All are important.

1. Your prospect. We start with the obvious first. What is not obvious is all the detail you need to understand about your prospective customer’s world so that you have a real opportunity at their business. To be successful in complex deals, you must understand why the prospect is looking at solutions now as opposed to before or later. Is there urgency, or will this deal clog your pipeline for months? [note: clean up your pipeline by removing long stalled deals. Instead of just pushing them out time and again, remove them to a drip marketing program].

Other things you need to understand are what options your prospects have besides your solution, and what other issues they are dealing with. [bigger pressing issues will cause your deal to stall in many cases  – don’t be surprised about that – instead KNOW your prospect’s world better]

How stable or unstable is the prospect’s company, and how stable or unstable is their industry? Who does your prospect turn to for advice? Is there a board or other advisors involved, and if so, can you get in front of them?

Know thy prospect. It is job #1.

2. Your partners. Channel partners, strategic partners and referral partners all can affect revenue in your pipeline. A recent post discussed referral partners. There are many connections you have, whether in your channels, through other distribution arrangements, and with direct individuals who can impact deals and the bottom line. Are you communicating with them on a regular basis? Do they have any incentives to work hard? Are they feeling like your company takes them for granted? Do a quick analysis of who all of your partners – channel and otherwise – are, and what ideas you can come up with to help them bring more business your way.

3. Your internal team. If you don’t have the support internally for the big opportunity you are working on, chances are you need to sit down with those involved and get everyone on the same page. Tackle their concerns one at a time, and determine if this is profitable business for your company. If it is not as profitable but has other redeeming qualities, make a consensus decision so that you’ll have internal support once the deal closes. How many of us know of a renegade rep who closed a big deal – only to find out his company can’t or won’t support all aspects of it? Find out ahead of time – not after the fact, and reach out to solve your internal issues.

4. You (yes, you.) Are you aware that sellers ruin sales opportunities every day by some real rookie mistakes? Some of them include:

assuming that you understand the prospect’s full scenario

poor communication with your organization internally

poor communication with the prospect

slow follow-up

talking up the deal before it has come to closure

There are many ways to gain self-awareness, so many that we are devoting the next post all about that. In the meantime, ask yourself – am I aware of my strengths and areas I’m not as strong in? How do I compensate for the areas I’m weaker in? Does that affect my relationships with prospects?

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012 and speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.

  • Bruno Pierre Gebarski

    I constantly like to be reminded about the fundamentals of selling! A lot could be added to those four points but you basically covered the core issues! I would tend to say that point 1. is probably the worst covered by most hungry sales people because of not spending enough time “courting” their prospect into finding out the real issues followed by point 2. being the silo thinking prevailing in so many companies especially between sales & production! Thank you for the basics and again it is very good to be reminded of the fundamentals of proper etiquette vis à vis the art of selling products and services to our fellow human beings! @brunogebarski 

    • Lori Richardson

      Thanks for your comment. We find that it is the basic things about selling that many sellers forget. We’re so busy with product knowledge and company information that simple fundamentals can and do get overlooked. We will keep reminding everyone about them!

  • Judy Caroll

    Tweeted this;) Paying attention to which is which.  Regarding the fourth person, it’s very true that we need to know our strengths.  We need to figure out what energizes us and do more of that.  Discovering the strength/weakness is how every genuinely great business is built.