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Frozen Pipes and Pipelines

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 1/3/18 1:05 PM

The founder of a SaaS software startup company that I just started working with is located in the same region as I am. Here in the Northeast, the past few weeks have been brutally cold with double-digit sub zero temperatures at night and highs in the single digits during the day. Not only have pipes been freezing in homes and businesses, but some cities main water lines are freezing too.

If you have lived in this type of climate before you know that to prevent this from happening you should leave your faucets on enough to drip. The constant water flow make the pipe less likely to freeze.

As we were talking about his sales opportunities, all of them were in the same stage they had been for weeks and months. To which I said;

“A healthy pipeline isn’t just about the size or number, it also has to have movement. New ones in, current ones moving at the agreed pace with the buyer, or disqualified out.”

Pipelines that have no movement will freeze, just like the water pipes. And just like the water pipes it WILL cause damage- a lot more than you think.

There are things you can do to get the movement you need to either move opportunities forward, or eliminate and replace them. Here are a few questions to ask yourself and suggestions on what to do:

  • Are you talking with the decision maker?
    This doesn’t mean you ignore anyone who is not the person who signs the front of the check. You need to gain consensus with everyone involved, but remember that what your influencers, champions, and end users focus on and believe to be important are likely not the same as the decision makers. You will need to work with them, through them, and even around them if need be. Ask questions like:
    • Was this your idea, or someone else’s?
    • Who put this on your plate? What did they say their expectations are?
    • What has the talk around the office been about the ABC problem or opportunity?
    • What do you believe the solution should look like? What do they think it should be?
    • How is this going to impact what the decision maker cares about? Oh, not sure? How do we get them involved in this conversation?
  • Who wants this more?
    Of course you want to mark the deal as closed won right? But if are you pushing the agenda and doing frequent follow-ups that sound like “Just wanted to check in...get an update…” and getting no response, then you are driving the process, not them. Which means you have missed the compelling reason to change the status quo and the timeline it needs to happen by. If you find opportunities like this frozen in your pipeline, here are some ways to get movement:
    • Call into the front desk, ask them their first name, and then ask if your point of contact is okay. When they reply, or ask why, explain, “Oh phew- glad to hear they are not ill or some emergency happened. Are they on vacation? No? Hmmm, that is odd. We were having an exchange and then they suddenly stop responding. Would you do me a favor and put a sticky note on their monitor with my name and number?”
    • Forward the last email back to them and ask, “Did you decide to go in another direction?” or “No reply?”
    • Call into the decision maker and ask, “Is this how you wanted things to go?"
  • Why are you holding on to this frozen opportunity?
    There are a lot of reasons why salespeople just won’t move on. More often than not the fact that there isn’t a lot of opportunities to fall back on cause salespeople (and managers) to not want to rock the boat on the ones they do have. But do you really have an opportunity? You can’t lose what you don’t have, and until the payment clears the bank- you don’t have it. Consistent prospecting solves all pipeline perspective problems. As the saying goes, the best way to get over someone is to find someone else. Here are a few of the prospecting strategies I coach salespeople on:
    • Have a regular cadence of contact with your network. The relationships you have with customers you have sold a solution to, people you have worked with in the past, your peers and industry colleagues are all sources of introductions and referrals. If the only time they hear from you is when you want something, that is not a relationship. If you aren’t talking with your previously sold clients or customers on a regular basis to find out if the promises you made are being met, you will never have the opportunity to ask; “Who has complimented you on what you have been able to do? Who have you been bragging to? Would we get along? How would you like to introduce us?”
    • Get proactive. Don’t just wait for your company to deliver leads to you. Build your own targeted list of companies and contacts that you work well with and be everywhere they are until they don’t remember a day when you weren’t around.
    • Build your own following. You have conversations every day around the circumstances and problems that your buyers struggle with. (hopefully anyway…) Showcase your expertise by sharing the insights behind these conversations. Write on LinkedIn publisher, comment on other’s updates, follow your best possible customers, share other’s relevant content on Twitter, create a video blog… you get the idea.
    • Don’t be afraid of the phone. So much of the nuance of conversation can be lost in email- our voices are a powerful tool. My simple advice is be yourself, focus your mind on what the other person is saying, ask the obvious questions to learn what is most important to them, and have fun. If you can get even a chuckle from the other person on the line, it helps to break down a lot of barriers.

Download the scientific 'Layered Questions Framework' below to align your sales process to your ideal buyer's process and discover what questions you are missing and should be asking in your sales process.

Map the steps.

Topics: entrepreneur, sales coaching, pipeline management, salespeople