Saturday, 14 July 2012

Build sales pipeline and you will build an empire like Julius Caesar

Build sales pipeline and you will build an empire like Julius Caesar: by Jason Li 2012 ©

All empires started small...

Whether it was the Romans or Darth Vader...

Empire builders saw a target region to attack and went for it...

Even after so many victories.

It’s a formula that’s worked so many times over the centuries so why change a winning formula. Although you don’t need to wear a warriors helmut like a Roman or breath funny like Darth Vader to succeed; however, I did come across someone who explained his security services and then pulled out a balaclava to give prospects the shock of what it is like to meet a masked robber and this prop worked really well.

The balaclava chap, just like Caesar never stops prospecting to build sales pipeline. It’s very easy to bag some orders and stop. Some businesses have a scheme incentive where if you hit your target for the day you can go home early. That’s great in the short run. But why not build up a sales pipeline for the week so that you over achieve for the whole week. Or meaningfully incentivise the sales person when they bring in more business, or just leave an hour early. This is a danger for businesses when they have a good day: taking the foot off the gas.

Fill the Ferris wheel

The worst thing that can happen is having a good week and then finding the week after your sales pipeline is small. One way to keep you motivated is to imagine a Ferris wheel.

As you know, a Ferris wheel is always turning. People get on and if you have a queue then you will continue filling the carriages until all the people in the queue are on the wheel. But a problem for the business is that people are continuously getting off once it goes full circle. So if the sales pipeline is small the business needs to keep finding new people to fill the Ferris wheel.

Although it is hard to imagine your business like this when you get orders, a Ferris wheel will show you how easy it is to have empty carriages if you let off the gas.

You’ve got to put in the wood to keep the fire going

Of course, a Ferris wheel is limited by the number of carriages you have on the wheel. (Think of the carriages as the number of orders your business can handle.)

However, if you build a fire, it can be up to you how big the fire is. If you think of the fire as your business, you control the fire; and if you want, it will go on to be a big roaring one at that. The only ingredient you need is more wood. Looking at your business this way will help you look at pipeline sales leads as feeding the fire; without it the fire will shrink. If you want a bigger business, keep thinking of putting in the wood to keep the fire going.

Marketing and selling

When I was a business advisor, I found that many small businesses were very comfortable with their skill set such as being an accountant or fixing computers, but not so comfortable in trying to win new business. In fact, when I asked many said they did things like put an ad in Yell and will do leaflet drops to get in clients.

Unfortunately business doesn’t work like that. Many successful business owners tell me that you can’t make much money by advertising on Yell, and if you do you have to know how to do Yell advertising effectively in the same way an expert uses AdWords keyword advertising.

There are good ways to bring in incoming leads using effective marketing techniques. But it takes a lot of trial and error as any digital marketing or print advertising professional will tell you to test ads that get good response rates, so don’t take it personally if your response rate is low or even none existent. But you do need for people to fill your Ferris wheel so you should also consider face-to-face sales to fill your carriages too.

In fact, the businesses who struggled were the ones who knew internally how good their product or service was but were not willing to step out of their comfort zone to meet people face-to-face. Personally I found initially it is not natural to be good at meeting people, it is a learned process. All the great networkers, public speakers, sales people are highly trained and practice for hours on end on their new craft.

Selling face-to-face to strangers is not really natural but a learned process. But it is the necessary change that transitions a person from say the employed computer administrator to fully fledged business person. I can’t blame you if you hate sales or hate being asked if you are a sales person, but business is really commission only sales. Without wood you have no fire, and no fire means no commission or money. (On the flip side lots of wood means a huge fire and big money: the nice car and holidays await you. Oh yes, the rewards are unlimited!)

So just being good at what you do when you were employed won’t get you a sales pipeline. Also response led advertising or waiting for a flood of referrals don’t always work. You really have to get out there and learn how to meet people face-to-face and win orders.

Easy way to start selling comfortably

However, the good news is that sales can be learned, and you don’t have to be a slick snake oil sales person. In fact, if you are an accountant or can fix computers, just chat and consult your prospective customer rather than start selling, and if they ask for help then you might have an order. Keep doing this to people you meet as an initial step change to face-to-face sales. By just chatting to people you are building a sales pipeline and it will be a more comfortable experience.

Make it fun, talk about the experience you’ve had from changing from an employee to being a business owner. Talk about funny things you notice in your field such as how PCs might take 5 minutes to load up so it gives you time to make a cup of tea. Little things like this allow prospective customers to know about you and know you are an expert and not a typical snake oil sales person. I’m sure you can do this pretty well once you get the hang of it.

You don’t really have to beat people into submission like Julius Caesar to win orders, but you might have to learn how to effectively win work by building up your sales pipeline.


  1. Very inspiring post! Yes, it's true every business starts from small to big. You need to work hard and need to find creative ways to improve your business performance. Sales pipeline is one of the effective ways to overcome business successfully. The sales pipeline module from PanXpan can definitely help with sharing your pipeline of sales prospects. Its a great way to make sure everyone on the team knows whats going on.