What Is Your Pipeline

This posting expands the content of our previous blog.

When you use the term business sales pipeline, or some derivation of it, are you thinking simply about a list of potential sales opportunities that are tracked through a series of development stages? This kind of thinking may reflect too limiting a view, leading us to forget, or neglect, other critical elements necessary for sales success.

A better definition of pipeline would be the foundational support structure upon which your business development life-cycle sits. That means, if we are going to talk about creating and developing a successful, fully functional pipeline we have to deal with all phases of the process. To be complete, these need to include: 1) Branding and Marketing 2) Pipeline Planning / Research / Development / and Management and 3) Proposing, to include Oral Presentations.

At 90Degrees we refer to this life-cycle as the B4P process: Brand - Promote - Pursue - Propose - Present. In blog entries at our site, and through the dissemination of information via PIPES, we do our best to offer insights that help you to up your game at B4P. A starting point, to understand what you want to accomplish, requires a few thoughts on the key attributes of B4P process stages:

Brand – this is the definition of your unique position in the marketplace, with emphasis on unique. If your message just says your good, or you do things right - you are a commodity. Tough place to live.
Promote – having a great message does not do you a lot of good if no one hears it. And, waiting to tell someone when you send them your Sources Sought and/or Proposal is too late. Messaging is successful because of repetition over time. Hearing something once or twice before being asked to make a buying decision will not benefit you. Don’t be just a message – be a messenger!
Pursue – this is where you actually identify an opportunity, gather the intelligence you need to be smart in pursuing it, get to know your customer, put together your solution, team up and prepare your win strategy (how you are going to tell your story to this customer.) If possible, try out the key elements of your story with the customer before you write the proposal. You might change their thinking; at the very least you want to adapt your story to their feedback. Keep in mind that the emphasis here is on story, not solution or management approach or team … Story is the totality of the winning elements you have been able to assemble, woven together into a cohesive portrait that answers one essential question – why you?
Propose – now tell them the story you built with their input, but never assume you are the only one they are interested in. So make your proposal compelling, visually – factually – and textually. It’s like food, it tastes better when it also smells good and looks good. Taste alone does not win the bake-off.
Present - Round two for presenting your story. It does not matter what they asked you to talk about, you have to bring the conversation back to your story, and you have to be personally compelling. Oral presentation content is important, but the primary purpose of orals is for the customer to meet you. You do not have to be a professional presenter, you need to be a comfortable, confident and competent version of you – just leave the conceited part (yes, we all have it) at home.