The term “pipeline” is familiar to sales reps. The basic idea is to make enough cold calls so that eventually there is a “pool” so to speak, of prospects that will be closed. The larger the pool, the greater the odds of a deal happening. If you stop calling, the pool will eventually dry up. No deals are possible.
The pool can be modeled as a large bucket. The pipeline gets flowing when you get to dialing. The faster you dial, the faster the flow and the faster the bucket gets full. The bucket has leaks. These are ignored calls and calls that are aged and forgotten. Nobody calls you back after a certain number of days or weeks. The odds of a deal resulting from these old calls falls towards zero. You must call them again to get that prospect back in play.
Momentum and Inertia
Momentum is a less familiar concept in sales but equally important. In physics, momentum equals mass times velocity. The equation is p = mv. Imagine a ping-pong ball lobbed at your head. Small mass, small velocity, small momentum. No consider a bullet. Mass is still relatively small, but at 1000 feet per second (a mile in 5.8 seconds) velocity is very high. Thus momentum is large and unlike with the ping-pong ball, you will definitely feel the bullet. A train has such huge mass that even if barely moving it can crush anything in it’s path. At high velocities collisions can dramatically illustrate what momentum is about.
Newton’s First Law of Motion, also called the Law of Inertia, states (in so many words) that an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and one in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by an external force. Thus if you are sitting on your ass and goofing off it may take a boot to put you in motion (who supplies the boot is another issue, see article on Internal Motivation). If you are moving, you will let nothing stand in your way, or distract you, lest you find yourself stalled out again.
“Mental inertia” can be viewed as the amount of energy, or will power, needed to change behaviors. To change direction. Some people have more mental inertia than others. They dislike change, are prone to form strong habits, are less adaptable. The should not join start-ups or take on sales positions where things move fast and in unpredictable ways. Those with less mental inertia will enjoy and prefer change and can switch gears between prospecting and presentations and closing easily.
It takes a lot of will power to start cold calling. Most reps hate cold calling. They risk rejection. It is stressful. The avoid it as long as possible. At first it is slow and painful to get things moving. To make the opening statements sound natural, enthusiastic, persuasive. You must overcome a lot of mental “inertia.” After a few hours, or days, the cold calls happen more and more easily. Almost painlessly. You may even get to the point where you enjoy doing them.
The pipeline flows and the prospect pool grows. Soon you find yourself doing a few presentations. Then half your day or more is presentations. Then deals start to close. You rediscover the joys of closing deals. You start counting your commissions.
You stop cold calling.
Cold calling is not as fun and immediately rewarding as closing. The pipeline flow becomes a trickle and then dries up. You don’t notice. You are to energized and on a roll being the top gun closer! Then in a few days, or weeks, you go to the office and see there are no presentation appointments on your calendar. You start searching your records for another deal to close. Nothing. Oh no! You are face-to-face with the reality that you let your pipeline go dry and now must cold call.
Too bad you didn’t sustain the pipeline by making cold calls for a couple of hours each day. Or better yet, by asking every prospect for referrals.
Cold calls are the last refuge of the incompetent.
If you failed to keep your momentum going by asking for referrals or generating leads, then you cold call or just sit there.
The diagram above illustrates this concept. What makes the phenomenon insidious is the “lag time,” This is like the time between when a car pulls out from nowhere across your path while you are going 50 mph and the time when you t-bone it. Or the time between that fifth tequila and your sprint to the restroom.
You objective is to keep on top of the curve, momentum high, by closing and prospecting every day in an optimum ratio that results in maximum sales.