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Business Coaching: Filling a Sales Pipeline

April 4, 2012

Spring is a perfect time to reach out in new directions. Give this  “sales pipeline building” exercise a try. It really works!

Pipeline is the big funnel of contacts or possible customers or people who know you or people you’ve heard of. One of the basic ways to build  your business is to identify and “work” your pipeline list.  This works whichever stage of business you are in whether you are in Pre-Formulation or Momentum. (see Business Coaching Exercise #1 from January 3rd 2012)

Pull out a piece of paper, set a timer for 10 minutes and write. When you write down ideas at first just keep your pen to paper and keep writing – even if you write the same name 3 times. You are getting that part of your brain cooking without too much thought in this first round. Turn off the analyst and just say yes to each name. Then schedule another 10 minutes later today and do it again – adding names to each category. Do the same thing tomorrow. Ask a friend or colleague for more ideas.

Here are the steps:

1. Write down 5 family/friends who might know of people who could be customers

2. Write down 10 contacts (people you know outside of your family/friend circle who just might be interested in your services at some point.

3. Review your local newspaper for 3 names of people who might be in need of your services or nodes for more contacts (Chamber president, Bank manager, local florist)

4. Think outside the box, get random, and write down 2 names of people you’d love to work with or you’ve heard about but never considered it possible that they might want to work with you.

Next, (this takes some work at first but you’ll use it again and again) make a chart where you can track your pipeline on a big piece of paper, an excel spreadsheet, or a table using the following columns (modify as you need).

a. last name
b. first name
c. phone number
d. email
e. source (where did their name come from)
f. next step (e.g. send an email introducing myself)
g. status (i.e. on vacation, call after 4/15)
h. notes

Now chose 10 names from your list and put them in the table. Fill out all of the columns, paying particular attention to identifying your next step with a date when you will do it.

Now! The fun begins. (Really, it is lots more fun than wishing you were working more! )  Set aside some time. What works best for you – 10 minutes/day or 1 hour a week? Make those calls!! Send out an email and put a date when you will follow up. Think about a give-away or something you might send them that would perk their interest.

And make the calls. That’s the bottom line.

What to say? Keep it simple. Tell them who you are, what you love about your work, who you love to work with. Ask them if they are interested in learning more or who they suggest that you should talk to. Ask them for their advice. Everyone loves to be asked.

Sometimes you’ll feel like it’s tough. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at their receptivity. Sometimes their generosity will blow your mind.  It might feel like it’s hard to talk about yourself or that your confidence is getting wobbly in the midst of making those calls. Remember to use some of our tips and techniques like taking a breath before you pick up the phone (all the way in and out!) and focusing on the good – remembering other times when you are confident (as a mom? in the kitchen? on the job?).

Because I love seeing small business people succeed I’ve developed the Business Boost Seminar where you learn to place yourself and your business in the right level of business growth with just the right activities to boost you to the next level. The next one starts Thursday, 6/21.


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