In a previous post I discussed the definition of a sales funnel and why it is a powerful tool in achieving your goals. Here is where I show you how to put theory into practice. We take the principles learned in that post and implement them using a google sheet. In this way, you learn quickly how to organise your sales process, but it costs you no money and little time.
The main reason a sheet is useful is that it allows you to place your information in columns. Once done, you can sort your columns to get a clear picture of areas you want to focus on. More on that later. First let’s look at the 5 basic columns you’ll begin with:
- Name And Contact Channels
- Sales Stage
- Date Last Contacted
- Next Action And Its Due Date
- Notes From Every Exchange
1. Name And Contact Channels
It should be clear that you will need to store a lead’s name and contact details. What is not obvious is how thorough you need to be here. Most people settle with a name and an email address, but there are a myriad of channels within which you can engage someone. Here is a complete list and notes on each. Keep in mind, not every channel is appropriate for every lead, but every channel is an option to consider:
- Email. Most of the time their work email is sufficient and appropriate, but as your relationship deepens and it’s obvious the person is someone you could collaborate with long term, you may want to connect with them on their personal email.
- Phone Number. The only thing more valuable than a face-to-face meeting is a phone call, yet many people underestimate its power and don’t pick up the phone. A phone number also allows you to text which is personable and engaging as well.
- LinkedIn. Connecting with your lead on here is a great touch point, but also allows you to peruse their work history and education which gives you a better idea of who you are dealing with
- Twitter. Twitter is the watercooler of many industries. If they are tweeting, you should engage with them in a meaningful way, by adding positive feedback to their tweets.
- Instagram. This is super powerful if it relevant to your industry and useless if it is not. I’m not sure how many startups in the accounting space would find new corporate clients on this platform. On the other hand, if you are launching a company in the lifestyle space, this is a great way to connect with potential users and professionals.
- Facebook. Sometimes you meet someone professionally and you become friends. If that is the case, add them on Facebook, but of course only if you believe it is appropriate.
2. Sales Stage
Sales stages are the lifeblood of your pipeline. These are the major milestones your lead will pass through until they finally sign. I discussed this in the previous post where I defined the sales funnel, but let’s look at some examples again:
- Qualified Deals. This is the start of the sales cycle. Nothing happened here except you discovered an appropriate person you could potentially sell to. The key word here is qualified. That means you did not try to sell dog food to a person who only owns cats.
- Meeting Held. You contacted the qualified lead, they agreed to the meeting and you had that meeting.
- Proposal Sent. After the meeting you sent them a proposal with details on what you will sell them and for how much.
- Terms Accepted. They agreed to the terms of the deal.
- Deal Won. They signed the deal and sent you the money.
Once you have created stages appropriate to your funnel, assign one to each lead. In this way you can sort your list depending on what you want to focus on. For example, if the Proposal Sent stage is looking thin, then it’s time to crank up the cold emails and calls to set up meetings. Inversely, if you have so many meetings that you are struggling to keep up, it may be time to slow down the cold calls until you have more openings.
3. Date Last Contacted
You should always mark down the last time you spoke with a lead in a clear, sortable manner. That way when your team gets distracted by product development or a big marketing campaign, you can easily go back and see who has gone the longest without hearing from you and prioritize them. It is easy it is to forget a potential deal once you get busy with other aspects of your business. Keeping notes also adds a certain rigour to the process. Often a founder will ignore a lead because they ‘weren’t feeling like the prospect was hot’, but by making sure you follow up with everyone in a regular way you can get surprising results. Sometimes a win comes from where you least expect it.
4. Next Action And Its Due Date
After every event in your sales process, whether it be a call or a meeting or an email, you should know what the next step is. Never leave it open-ended. For example, if you had a meeting, tell them when you will send them a proposal. Even better, ask them how much time they will need to review it. If they say a week, than you follow up in 2 weeks. If they say a month, follow up in a month and a half. By marking this in your spreadsheet, you can sort by which action has the closest due date and therefore ensure you are on top of all conversations. Sales is very much about driving your prospect to a close and always having the next action in sight is crucial to this.
5. Notes From Every Exchange
This can get messy in a spreadsheet, so you may want to find an alternative system for storing notes, like a Google Doc, or using Evernote. But however you do it, make sure you do it. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in meetings and you will forget important details. And it’s not only about next actions. It’s about recording the insights of a story you bonded over, the names and ages of their kids, and what their favourite hobbies are. Remembering these details and bringing them up in conversation is a great way to make your client feel special. These notes serves as your virtual personal assistant. Much like the character Gary Walsh does for American Vice President Selina Myers in the show Veep.
Customer Relationship Management System
Once you have used a google sheet for awhile you will adjust it so that it works best for you. For example, if your way of acquiring customers is only through phone calls, you’re not going to have a ‘Held Meeting’ stage.
As your company grows, you will quickly find that a Google Sheet is too messy. That is when you will need a Customer Relationship Management System or CRM. These are products that allow you to replicate this process of tracking deals, but in a much cleaner, more efficient and impactful way.
Alternately, if you have a bit of cash, you may want to start immediately with a CRM. My favourite is Pipedrive, but here are a few others:
With every CRM the fundamental principles involved are identical. Each one focuses on tracking your relationship with customers in a meaningful way. How they differ is in features and user interface. For example. Close.io has tools that are powerful for teams that do a lot of phone calling, while Salesforce is a behemoth that integrates well with large corporate software infrastructure. It also costs an arm and a leg.
Lastly, keep in mind that a sales funnel is not just useful for selling, but also for fundraising, getting accepted into an accelerator and for getting a job. The goals are different, but the approach is the same. Talk to a bunch of investors until you get a check. Talk to a bunch of companies until you get a job. By looking at this as a ‘numbers game’, you remove the emotional element and encourage cool-headed thinking, a recipe for success.