02 Feb 2016

How to build a sales pipeline: Our three golden rules

By Ben

Last week Matt Webb came in to talk to the teams about how to build their sales pipeline. For a man who purportedly hates sales, he really knew his stuff. We’ve taken some of the learnings from the workshop and distilled it into our three golden rules for how to build sales for your startup.

Rule 1: Have a sales hypothesis (and go out there and test it early on).

Develop a hypothesis about what your business model is – what is your route to market and how you are going to make money? There are loads of ways you can go out and test this, without having to build anything.

You don’t need a fancy website or a fully formed product. You can build a landing page, test some Facebook ads, gauge interest by talking to people. Is anyone else selling what you’re selling? If not, think about why not.

Rule 2: If you want your boomerang to come back, you need to throw it first (tell people about what you are doing).

If you’re a new company and you want people to buy from you then you need to tell them about it. This may sound simple but early companies often forget.

Messages spread in multiple ways. You need to figure out what people need to know so that the message can stick in their head and they can tell others about it (check out our blog on communications to find out more about tailoring the right message for the right audience).

Talk to people, update them with emails and Twitter about what you’re doing. People love to know you are alive and growing.

Rule 3: Track your sales pipeline.

It’s really important that you have a system for managing your sales pipeline. It doesn’t have to be anything hugely complicated, you can whip something up on google sheets or Excel in the beginning. Other good tools to use include pipedrive, base and trello. Figure out what stages people need to go through from first hearing about your product or service to paying for it (for more on this, check out our interview with Jennie Winhall).

Think about how you are going to move people through these stages, and make it easy for them to say yes. That said, it’s important that you ask them questions they can say no to to make sure you’re not wasting your time.

At the end of the day, your sales process is what drives your business forward. Your business isn’t just the physical thing you give people or the service you deliver. It’s the entire journey that people go through from hearing about your business, to using your product or service, to making sure that people come back again. And that’s all sales really is.