The Inviqa Group is a web development and consultancy group from the United Kingdom with a large sales team. Being scientific and methodical in their work is at the core of Inviqa, and the same shines through in sales, where the highly analytical process set in place has brought success.
We spoke to Paul Wander, Inviqa’s co-founder and vice president of of sales and marketing, to find out how it defines its sales stages, and why the stage and lead qualification process needs to be rigorous and scientific. For Paul and Inviqa, the question “why” is ubiquitous – no lead gets qualified from stage to stage without strong reasoning – reasoning which brings clarity and definition – the two most important factors in sales, into the process. Here’s the interview in full.
What is your sales process like? What kind of stages do you go through?
We're running multiple pipelines in Pipedrive, and each pipeline has exactly the same stages. Idea - Engaged - Needs ID - Supplier Selection - Preferred - Commit.
What does stage-to-stage lead qualification entail? Does it mean that someone has opened or replied to an email?
Actually, it’s a bit more than that. I have an opportunity qualification spreadsheet, and we have a qualification question definition. At each stage, we have quite a strict definition for when a deal should be there.
For example, the definition for the needs engaged is: “you’re engaged with an influencing contact within a target market sector organization.”
The questions that we typically ask as a sales manager are:
Who is the contact? This should include their name, role, level, responsibility, and some proof of their influence. Who is their boss? You should have talked to them directly, either on the telephone or face to face. You should have proof that it is indeed a company in our chosen target market sector – and also confirm that this organization is within your territory as a salesperson.
Overall, we’re quite scientific here. The definitions and questions mean that the sales manager can have a good discussion with the salesperson. Every stage has a percentage weighting, which is also why they have strict explanations. The questions help the salesperson know if it’s in the stage or not.
A couple of examples:
The explanation for commit is – it’s a verbal yes, and you and us know the process of raising the relevant paperwork to confirm the order, which is why we consider it a 90% opportunity.
For supplier selection, the questions that I would ask are: What is the selection process? Who owns the process and who sponsors it internally? What are the timescales, stages, hoops, external consultants and decision makers in the process? What is the competition? Are they new, or already incumbent? Why are we better than the average? What sets us apart? How has that been articulated, and with whom? Who is your internal coach or champion at the company?
Unless the salesperson can answer those questions, it shouldn’t be at the supplier selection stage.
This rigorous process with the sales pipeline essentially means that everything is thought through down to details?
Yes. Because, a lot of sales unfortunately is based on feeling and, as much as I love my wife, feelings are not a good thing.
When it comes to sales, we want facts, figures and science to be on top of the process. So, for example, if a member of my team says they are engaged with a client, I ask whether they have talked to them directly. If someone says, “I’m engaged” when really they mean that they’ve sent an email and got an email back, then no, in reality you have not engaged with that person.
We’re trying to take away all of the soft crazy discussions that you have with salespeople. To be rigorous and disciplined about what makes an opportunity get to each stage is really important. And why is it important? Because it then becomes scalable. If all the salespeople are following the same definition, you can trust the pipeline.
Moving forward, how did you arrive to using Pipedrive?
In a previous company, I used Salesforce, then switched to SugarCRM. With both, I was left unimpressed by two things:
- the clunkiness of those solutions, and,
- most importantly, the lack of driving of the sales process.
Actually, I didn’t look for the name, “drive,” but I really like the name Pipedrive, because that’s what it does. Whenever I discuss an opportunity with a salesperson, my main question is, “What is the next step?” And in the past, I struggled to have a system that pushed for the next step. With Pipedrive, it is built in.
The red and yellow markers act as constant encouragement onto the next activity, as well as deal rotting for when you miss the next step, and activities. A deal is not going to move along the pipeline just by itself. It needs to be pushed with the next step.
Pipedrive also provides great user experience. You can drag and drop, and manage more with less. It’s a nice modern web application without the pain of SugarCRM and Salesforce. The overall clunkiness, the number of keystrokes and the number of mouse clicks required to manage a pipeline was crazy, and the really important stuff was hidden. So I did a full market analysis of all the tools out there; everything from Highrise through to Pipedrive.
I saw Pipedrive’s YouTube videos, and instantly thought: “Wow, this looks really good.”
You know, salespeople can be the laziest people in the world. They will give you every excuse not to close a deal. One of the key excuses is, “Well, your admin system or your CRM system is crap, and it’s preventing me doing my job.” With Pipedrive, that excuse is no longer valid.
In a previous conversation, you said Pipedrive “pushes you forward, pushes you to kill it or win it” – what’s your story behind this?
Some salespeople like a really fat pipeline. I don’t. I like a really realistic pipeline. There’s no point in having hundreds and hundreds of opportunities when you’re only closing two a year. It’s mental. So all of Pipedrive’s features – the rotting, the flags, the reporting, the statistics – drive you as a salesperson to qualify an opportunity out, or to push it to the next stage, which I love.
We have other departments using Pipedrive, too. One of them is HR, where you have a straightforward process, a procedural process.
The HR team use Pipedrive stages for candidate applications:
- [coding] test sent
- test received
- test review
- first interview
- second interview
- offer made
- offer accepted
For HR, these are the most important stages. And because they’re pretty much straightforward left to right, it’s easy to track progress and the team enjoys using it.
How do you as a sales director use Pipedrive?
I am directly involved in selling, so as a sales guy I use it. And as a sales director, we have a weekly sales meeting and use Pipedrive to produce statistics for us on sales activities. So really, I look at two things: activities and sales. Activities are more from our demand-generation team: how many calls, how many tasks have you done, how many emails have you sent?
And for the salespeople it’s the straightforward, sales closed against targets. The targets are very simple – money against time.
You have a fascinating way of analyzing sales trends and profitability by channel, using the data from Pipedrive outside of it – can you explain how it works?
I produce a board report spreadsheet. I take out open and closed deals from Pipedrive, and perform an analysis by channel. From these reports, I can see how effective sales are. Whether or not the team is following up on deals is also included in the reports.
On the spreadsheet, we have all the channels on the left. We look at five main items:
- The number of leads divided up by month, to give me a trend report.
- Are sales following up? For example, if there was a lead from marketing, I’d ask “Are you qualifying it? Are you on top of it?”
- Are leads turning into opportunities? Do you have lead management in place? Essentially this looks at whether deals are moving along in the pipeline.
- Are leads turning into closed deals?
- The money – how much does it cost? I need to know how much I’m spending per closed opportunity in each channel, so that I can decide next year where to spend more money.
I pick the profitable channels. And if something’s not working, then we stop doing it. We’re trying to be measuring all the time, and all of the underlying data comes from Pipedrive.
What’s your favorite sales management tip or philosophy?
In a nice way, we’ve already covered it. My opportunity qualification definitions are really important to me.
As a sales management technique, it’s all about clarity. I mentioned salespeople can be lazy, but we’re also very good at talking. I don’t want to have bullshit with salespeople; I like good well-defined conversations. That’s why the stages, the explanation, the definition of a stage, and the kind of questions that allow a deal to be in a certain stage, are really important to us.
We have a concept here internally of having polite confrontation. We enjoy polite confrontation. We’ll say: “That opportunity or deal – you’re saying it’s in the Stage X. If we look at the questions that I’ve defined for something to be in Stage X, I can tell you that deal is not in Stage X. Let’s have a discussion about it.” And then we’ll decide to leave it there, or move it backwards or forwards. And then we can still go to the pub and have a drink. It’s no problem at all.
So, for me the main sales management tip is clarity and definition.
We’ve come to a close now. Have you got any news to share about Inviqa?
We’re very acquisitive as a business, and recently brought a German firm called Jarlssen (now rebranded as Session Digital Germany) into The Inviqa Group. Coincidentally though, they were also a Pipedrive user, which I was really pleased to find. We’re now migrating them into a pipeline in our installation of Pipedrive, so they are on board with our way of thinking.
We are always on the lookout for the right businesses to join our group, and they will all be forced (in the nicest possible way) into the Pipedrive way of thinking.