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Pipeline! What's the First Stage?

Let's talk about the First Stage of the Pipeline. I call it "Finding Them." It's a really simple stage yet it can involve a tremendous amount of creativity for most in order for it to really work well. Most sales professionals call it prospecting, yet it really is not what most think it is. Prospecting for those in sales is the identification of people who are possible candidates for products or services. I see this as a Secondary Stage and one that should be played out only after the First Stage is put in place.

What stage is this first one? There is a step just before the prospecting phase that many would benefit by calling it what it truly is, "Suspecting." Suspecting must be done & done effectively if your pipeline flow is to be strong. It's leads generation at its finest and it entails finding names as ...

  • Leads - Contact names found thru resources that do not involve any direct contact with a third party personal source. (IE: You got'em all by yourself.) This might be accomplished as simply as creating a system where the names come to you or by you tracking them down yourself.

  • Referrals - Contact names obtained thru persons identifying you as a provider of services or product that came thru other persons recommending the connection. (IE: You got'em thru someone else and there is a personal connection thru this third party involvement.) Sometimes this is done by request and other times it's by reputation. Either way is a win.

In either case, the Suspecting Process is finding names and moving these resources toward the Second Stage which is "Developing Them." (More on this stage next time.) The difference between Prospecting and Suspecting is simple. If we define Prospecting as "seeing potential in someone as a candidate for purchasing from you," then Suspecting is "the process of locating, retrieving, identifying or finding names that you suspect could be candidates."

Again, the distinction here is that a "prospect" as someone who does qualify no matter whether they will buy or not and a "suspect" as someone who may qualify but with no assurance yet. Suspects require further qualifying, which is part of the Second Stage.

And yes, the process you put in place to find these names makes all the difference in the world, especially if you're finding names that will never qualify as candidates. This means you have to do your Suspecting in a manner that will increase your chances of obtaining good Prospects.

Without the process of "Finding Them" or "Suspecting," very little flow would occur in a pipeline since there would be no one to move thru the process.

Talking with literally hundreds of business professionals over the years, I've come to find that the very First Stage of any effective operation owes its effectiveness to the systematic approach that the specific industry uses to "find them" names. It impacts all other activities in the pipeline. Case in point, if the quality of the suspects located is such that only 1% are candidates for services and only 25% of them are going to purchase, then the filtering mechanism in the Second Stage, determining if a person qualifies can really get bogged down. It has to filter out 99.75% of what's coming thru.

Effective/Efficient First Stage: What's in it for you? Ask yourself how good your process is at finding leads and obtaining referrals. On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate yourself at the effectiveness in this area and let's not forget the efficiency (Return on investment in this endeavor.) What should be added to make it a perfect Ten if it's not? A good Stage One creates abundance of flow which is what is needed in all high producing pipelines.

Food for thought? Good! Catch up with us next week when we cover Stage Two!

[Interested in receiving a graphic of the pipeline? Send a request to the following E-mail address Pipeline Request.

Have a BODACIOUS week!


Coach John S. Nagy is CEO and Lead Business Coach for Coaching for Success. Inc., a Business Coaching Service specifically designed for top level decision makers dedicated to peak performance in all facets of their activities. He's hired to focus them continuously in activities that bring higher returns on their resource use. His programs are for the seriously committed. This means having his clients work "ON" their businesses, not just "IN" it. He's a published author and a multi-degree professional with a nationwide client base. Coach Nagy can be reached through his E-mail address at his website at http://www.coach.net and by calling 813-949-0718.


Copyright 1999 John S. Nagy

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