The entrepreneurs and business owners I work with are not natural-born salespeople. Their businesses usually didn’t come into existence from a strong urge to make cold calls. They created a product or developed a service they believe in, and they formed their company to bring that vision to life. Doing the less-than-glamorous stuff of sales was the farthest thing from their minds when they launched their business.
As a result, one of the last pieces to most entrepreneurs focus on when building a company is sales. For the uninitiated, sales can be a scary and spooky world. It can seem like an unpredictable and unreliable method for generating revenue, with your ability to keep putting food on the table entirely dependent on the whims and buying moods of the people you are selling to.
It takes time to build up your sales confidence, and to master the tools and techniques that allow you to see reliable results. Until you can start to see how all of these pieces come together, the process of sales seems daunting. It’s only when you can see the overall picture with greater resolution that things become more clear.
The scary part of sales isn’t the management or system-level foundation of a scalable sales process. What spooks people about sales is the person-to-person stuff. It’s not the activity of sales that people are afraid of, it’s the possibility of rejection.
Fear of rejection is a very real thing. It’s the same reason that so many people panic at the thought of public speaking. If you’re a front-line salesperson, calling people up all day and constantly going into sales meetings, you’re going to get a lot of rejection. For most people, that’s the definition of an uncomfortable job.
Once you understand the big picture, however, sales becomes much less intimidating. With a strong foundation in place, the sales process starts to look fairly linear. Being told “No thanks” by an individual decision maker loses its sting when you have a whole pipeline of qualified prospects to talk to that week. The more support the sales staff has, the less stressful and uncertain the job of sales becomes.
That confidence comes from having a strong sales foundation. The cornerstone of this foundation is the sales pipeline, a series of clearly defined stages to understand where the customer is in the buying process. It’s a roadmap showing the path from opportunity to completed sale.
A sales pipeline allows you to have a rough idea what an opportunity will look like at each stage of the sales process. It allows you to assign time values to each stage, helping you gauge how long it will take, on average, for a qualified prospect to make their final decision about whether or not to buy. This also allows for you to begin predicting your overall sales rates, and even assign dollar values to each stage of the pipeline.
By having a strong foundation and a well-designed sales pipeline in place, you now have a huge advantage: You can start to predict your sales. The more predictable the overall sales process becomes, the less intimidating any specific piece of it is.
Making any particular sale no longer carries the weight of being able to make this month’s rent payment. The fear and uncertainty of sales begins to evaporate, replaced with the confidence of a reliable, predictable system. Instead of being intimidated by the sales process, it becomes one of your greatest allies.