5 Tips for Building a Sales Pipeline for Your Startup
Building your sales pipeline requires a strategy that will vary from startup to startup, but it is always one of the most complicated and stressful parts of building a company. We'll be hosting a webinar on October 26 on the topic of building and maintaining a sales pipeline, but here are a few tips in advance.
1. Figure out how you create value for your customer
You should always ask yourself these three questions: In what way does my solution add value to this specific customer? Which problems or challenges does my proposition solve? What customer needs are we really exceeding?
With the answers to this question, you then create the value proposition for your customers.
2. Find the right tools
You should not be trying to recreate the wheel with your salesforce. Figure out which tools can streamline your specific sales process and utilize them to increase productivity. With a few tools, you can empower just a few salespeople to achieve the productivity formerly achieved only by much larger organizations.
Check out this list of sales enablement tools on Product Hunt.
3. LinkedIn is still useful! Don't underestimate the power of social selling.
Utilize social selling. Cold emailing used to be the norm in B2B sales, but social selling has become integral to good sales. Koka Sexton writes about social selling:
It helps salespeople gain customer insight and helps them “listen” to what the customers have to say, without having to make cold calls or establish any direct communication, for that matter. Simply put, it is a means to identify grounds on which to build relationships with potential clients.
Don't be afraid to use social media to build your sales pipeline, but make sure you are NOT being creepy when doing so. Do not send a blind request to connect via LinkedIn. Send a message when connecting that shows "clearly and professionally how you relate to the connect, and how the connection would help their business agenda."
4. Make your cold emails a little bit warmer
Read this post by Noah Kagan about one of the best cold emails he's ever received. In the post, he outlines some of the characteristics of a great sales email. It must be relevant, interesting, demonstrate what you can do for the potential customer, show that you have your sh*t together, and show a little bit of validation of what you are selling.
Here is a list of his tips about what a cold email should contain:
5. Recruit the right people!
Do not make emotional decisions when hiring salespeople. Use data. Or rather, force the applicant to use data. Lars Dalgaard of Andreesen Horowitz takes this to the extreme. He advises this test for hiring salespeople.
Before the interview, have recruiting (or you can) ask the candidate to submit their W2 and fill it in with information that foots to their W2 — the previous years payroll — including commission in the last X-years they’ve been a sales rep. Put that data together by year and preferably quarters and then calculate numbers of deals done. Then let the spreadsheet show vs. tell their average and median deal size. You will find it often paints a different picture than the one people highlighted on the outside. It’s like an x-ray: Immediately, a pattern — is this a consistent killer performer or a lucky puncher? — emerges around their performance, which helps determine their likelihood of success in your particular business and its dynamics.
If you have a less sadistic mindset, there are other ways to get candidates to prove via data that they are a strong candidate. We'll discuss some of those in our upcoming webinar.
These are just a few ways to start building a strong sales pipeline. Join us for a webinar on Wednesday at 12pm ET to learn more about this topic from a panel of experts.