Prioritizing Sales Efforts as a Startup

The clock is running. As a startup sales leader, you need to generate revenue as quickly as possible, bring in long-term clients that won’t churn, develop a world-class sales narrative, hire and train a sales team, and continue to evolve the company’s sales strategy and tactics. How does one effectively manage one’s time in this environment?

During my career, I have found that the ICE framework (Impact, Confidence, Ease) is an easy, low-touch way to prioritize your early-stage sales efforts. The framework has many benefits:

  • You can put together a comprehensive prioritization effort in as little as 30 minutes.
  • You don’t need to purchase any software — you only need Google Sheets or Excel.
  • You don’t need to learn any new software products or spend time with implementation.
  • The framework will highlight the “nice to haves” in your sales efforts that can wait until you have a larger team or more resources.
  • You can share the prioritized list with your team for feedback.

Here is how you can create your own ICE framework step-by-step:

  1. Start off by opening Google Sheets or Excel.
  2. Add the following column headings: A. Project Name, B. Impact, C. Confidence, D. Ease, E. ICE Score. You can also add the following columns at your preference: F. Status, and G. Notes — I like tracking the status of projects in my framework sheet, as well as having a freehand notes column to got down thoughts and data points.
  3. Write down the names of your projects, improvement ideas, etc. For example “hire a designer to build high-quality sales decks,” “implement Salesforce dashboard to track rep performance,” etc.
  4. Rate* each item on three dimensions on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the least, 10 being the most): Impact, Confidence, and Ease. These numbers are subjective, but they force you to think about the details.
  5. Add an average function to the “ICE Score (E)” column that averages the values of columns B, C, and D (Impact, Confidence, and Ease) to calculate the ICE Score for the first project in your list. Use the built-in average function: =AVERAGE(B2:B4)
  6. Drag the function down column E to calculate the total ICE score for each project.
  7. Sort the ICE Score (E) column from highest to lowest ICE score.

And there you have it, you now have a stack ranked list of projects. The benefit is that it forces you to rate everything, and it auto-calculates a prioritization score that clearly defines where you should focus your time. Is it perfect? Of course not, but it’s a lot better than NOT having any kind of prioritization effort. I hope this article helps increase your efficiency. Good luck!

*One of the criticisms of the framework is that the rating system is subjective, which is true. However, how can you objectively determine the impact or ease of implementation of something unless you actually test it? You can’t.

Additional Reading: There is an excellent article on the Growth Hacker Blog on about the ICE framework. You can find it here.

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