Need A Robust Sales System? Build These 6 Stages For Your Startup

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You just got the news. You stand up from your cubicle and announce excitedly "Team, We got our funding." There is a loud cheer in the room as everyone gets up and starts clapping vigorously.


You are grinning ear to ear. Soon everyone is shaking your hands, and you are still smiling. It feels great like a huge load is off your head.

You feel light like a gentle breeze. And then, the phone rings. It's your lead investor on the line.

"Congrats. Now can we start our sales from tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow? I still haven't cut the cake" you feel like saying. But instead, you say "Yeah, sure, we are already on it."

As the line disconnects, you slump back into your chair. While everyone is still jumping around and making plans for the grand party in the evening, you are wondering "Heck, I need to get so many things organized. Where do I start? I think I am going to skip the party."


Celebration is part of life, and you should never lose an opportunity to celebrate with your team. Go, rock it!

What you need is sequencing of your next steps for sales and here's a handy plan for you:

Step 1: Who is my customer?

"Anybody who needs my product" you may say.

That is a good starting point, but you need to drill down to what is the need that the product is fulfilling. Then, go one step back and ask "What is the problem I am solving or the opportunity that I am helping the customer access?"

This probing helps in looking at it from the customer's perspective. It helps in identifying the pain points which the customer has.

Solving the pain points of the customers is the fastest way to grow your business.

Understanding the pain points also helps in understanding the awareness stage of the customer

Step 2: What is my stage of awareness of the customer?

The stages are Problem Unaware, Problem Aware, Solution Aware, Product Aware and Most Aware.

Most aware customers are your low hanging fruits. These customers are aware of your products and are close to the buying decision.

Problem unaware customers, at the other end of the spectrum, are those who have still not realized their problem and hence far away from your solution. You need to do concept selling to them. Convincing these customers will take a longer time but will result in deeper and long lasting relationships.

Related: The 10 Laws of Sales Success

Step 3: What do my sales funnel look like?

Once you have plotted down who is the customer and what stage of the awareness they are, you need to map out your sales funnel.

The sales funnel is a system by which you will lead prospects from problem unaware stage to raving fans stage.

The conventional model is AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action.

I prefer the buyer's journey model which maps the following stages

  1. Unqualified Prospect: Visitor comes to your site or becomes aware of her problem she wants to solve and downloads/reads some material to solve the problem
  2. Qualified Prospect: you have made first contact with the visitor or unqualified prospect and have identified the customer as problem aware
  3. Qualified Lead: You have provided material through your site or App or sales visit which has made the prospect solution aware, and you have her details in your database
  4. Sale: The customer has bought into your solution and has purchased/used your solution
  5. Raving Fan: You have nurtured your customer and continued providing her solutions, and now your customer is your raving fan talking about your product to her social networks. These fans drive new visitors to your site or calls to your customer service line.

This journey enables you to track how the customer is progressing in the funnel.

Sales at its heart is a conversion process. So you need to track conversion at every stage of your funnel. Some of the metrics you need to track could be:

  • How many prospect visits did it take to convert from unqualified to qualified?
  • How many qualified prospects converted into qualified leads?
  • How many qualified leads came to the shopping cart or buying decision and followed through?
  • Did those who drop through purchased from competition or have redefined their problem?

Step 4: What is my lead sales strategy?

The sales funnel along with your product, and your business plans will lead you to decide on whether you will have offline or online or both mediums for your sales.

Offline means the door-to-door salesmanship where you visit prospects and convert them into paying customers.

Online is where visitors come to your website or e-commerce site and convert to customers.

You may use a combination of both. E.g. Use the online to generate offline meeting leads.

Step 5: What kind of people should I hire?

The sales funnel and your lead sales strategy will decide the kind of people you need.

It will also determine the number of trained vs. fresh sales persons you will hire. Always aim for a good balance.

The number one quality you should look for is speed. While strategy can always be supported from outside, these are qualities which are more important:

  • the speed of execution,
  • promptness,
  • delivery focused

These qualities also make sure that your customer is always delighted. Your customer develops trust in your organization and can see your advantage in action.

Related: 5 Mistakes to Avoid in Sales

Step 6: Agency or Own Salespeople?

One of the questions I get asked is should I outsource sales or hire my own people?

Hire your own.

If you have followed the above steps, the primary task would be to convert a qualified lead into sales.

The decision rule to use is:

  • To convert a qualified prospect into qualified lead use either a web solution or outsourced sales or call center
  • To convert a qualified lead into sales, use an in-house sales person.

Peter Drucker said, "The heart of a business is to create and retain a customer."

My preference is an in-house sales person doing the above. Over time as the sales expand, you may have outsourced plus in-house depending on the objectives.

You now have the blueprint for your sales. Make your own roadmap. Keep testing for higher conversion. Make your team hungry to get new customers. Make them passionate to delight your customers.

You will then build a strong foundation to grow your idea into a unicorn business.

Step outside. Get your first sale.