Create Predictable Pipeline By Moving Prospects Through an "Assembly Line"

by aaronross383 on April 2, 2009

You can’t predictably create revenue without predictable pipeline, and that requires ways to measure and track how pipeline gets created. Here’s how you can do that with your sales development reps / new business people.

An effective, easy-to-use sales automation or CRM system makes it convenient now to use a simple idea, the assembly line, as a model to “manufacture new pipeline”, implying a sales organization that can measurably, consistently and predictably produce new sales opportunities.

Besides a marketable product, effective message, a sales automation system, and other tidbits necessary for selling, a key piece of creating an assembly line is the “stages” or “statuses”.

These stages are used by sales development reps or sales reps to organize their cold & dead accounts where they don’t have current sales opportunities. They are separate and complementary to your sales process stages, because they precede the creation of a new sales opportunity.

Below is a sample of some assembly line stages you can use to track how you’re moving prospects through your prospecting process. They are meant to be used in the “Accounts” tab of your SFA/CRM system, but could be adapted to your Leads tab too.

Consider this an example, and realize that you might have to customize all this for how your own particular business works:

Bin: Cold
This should be pretty self-evident, but it’s accounts where you have no activity, and no real insight into whether they’re a fit or not. Often this bucket consists of data you’ve imported from someplace like Jigsaw and unresponsive accounts.

Bin: Working
This bucket includes all the prospects that a rep is actively touching and researching. A rep has some kind of conversation going on at this account, either by email or phone. They may not be sure if the company is a good prospect yet, if there’s interest, or even who the right influencers are.

The goal of a rep with an account in the “Working” status is NOT to generate a sales opportunity by any means necessary – the goal is to figure out the ‘truth’ of whether there is, or is not, an opportunity at this account in the next several weeks or months. If there isn’t…it’s better to move on than to generate a poor opportunity that will distract sales reps from ‘real’ ones.

“Output Bins”
Once a rep has determined whether or not there’s an opportunity, they know where to file it in one of these output bins…

Nurture Bin: Active Opportunity
When a rep generates a new sales opportunity and that opportunity is still alive, use this status to remove that account from the assembly line. For sales development reps, it makes it easy to check on the accounts and opportunities they’ve passed to their sales rep partners, to make sure no batons got dropped (which happens more than you’d like).

Nurture Bin: Check Back Quarterly
I like status names that speak for themselves 🙂 There’s no current opportunity here, but there should be someday.

Nurture Bin: Dead Opportunity
Accounts with a dead sales opportunity are special, and deserve their own category, because they are highly likely to become customers in the future.

Avoid Bin: Current Client
Small companies may not ‘get’ this, but trust me – as your customer base gets bigger and the data in your SFA/CRM system gets messier, it’s almost impossible to keep your sales development reps from calling on current customers. You want to make sure the team prospecting into cold accounts avoids current customers, and this is a way to help them do that.

Avoid Bin: Bad Fit
No business fit, or perhaps they’re out of business. It’s a waste of time to ever talk to this company.

Avoid Bin: Duplicate Account
Sometimes you don’t want to delete an account or lead. By marking it duplicate, you can make sure you avoid it in the future.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous July 2, 2009 at 3:22 pm

You should check out Brian Parsley's take on how to create connections for the long term.

Avril Shelton July 9, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Many sales professionals don't like to use CRM's, but they are a valuable tool that helps to organize your pipeline and keep the process running smoothly…

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