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Unclogging Your Sales Funnel

They completed each step: sent the letter, set the appointment, gathered requirements, presented the solution, completed the demonstration, prepared the quote, presented the proposal, negotiated but failed to close. They followed all the right steps.

So what went wrong?

Their sales funnel has plenty of opportunities going in but it must be clogged as too few make their way out. Is your sales funnel clogged? Check for the classic warning signs:

  • Salespeople are spending too much time servicing existing clients at the expense of finding new clients.
  • Salespeople are spending too much time with unqualified prospects, consequently spending too little time with qualified prospects.
  • Sales forecasts based on the information from salespeople are inaccurate.
  • Sales cycles are too long.
  • Closing ratios are too low.
  • Sales managers do not have a means of obtaining objective information to proactively uncover problems and therefore are waiting for problems to be brought to them by their salespeople.
  • Salespeople are looking at their prospects through rose-colored glasses, often underestimating the number of prospects necessary to reach their goals.

The truth is that most organizations look at sales as a linear flow. They follow the sales process in linear order and yet, in many cases, fail to close. The real question is not "Where did they go wrong" but rather "What does the sales process tell you about the buyer." The answer – nothing!

If you track the sales process, it tells you where you are in the process – what you have done. Although this is useful information, the more important focus is where the buyer is in the buying process. The buying process is unique for two reasons: it is non-linear and, like fingerprints, everyone is different. To successfully manage the buying process the salesperson must get inside the head of the buyer or prospect.

When you get inside the head of your prospect, you shift your thinking to the things that are important for them to make an educated buying decision. Along with this shift in thinking, you focus your sales efforts on the milestones that need to be accomplished based on how the buyer buys. These milestones can be categorized as: 1) person (Am I working with the decision maker(s)?); 2) need (Is there a fit between the prospect’s need and my product or service?); 3) time (Does the prospect have a timeframe within which to make a decision?); and 4) money (Do they have or can they allocate the budget?)

The sales person should work on gaining the information in each milestone that will position them for a buy decision – we call this the information or discovery phase. By understanding and guiding their sales people to ask the right questions in the information stage, sales managers can proactively see what’s going on inside the sales funnel.

If a sales cycle takes 6 months – it could remain in the information phase for 5 – 6 months while the sales person and the buyer are gathering information about each other. The sales cycle is only ready to move to the decision point when all milestones are complete. It is then that you have the greatest likelihood of success and should move to close.

If the sales person is unable to answer milestone questions in a reasonable timeframe, it is an indication that the sale is not moving forward and is at risk. By focusing on the milestone questions the sales manager can better see the progress that is being made or more importantly when a sale is stalled or at risk of being lost. This allows the sales manager early intervention time that could positively impact the outcome.

For many sales managers, the middle of the sales funnel is cloudy. We believe there are several reasons for this.

  • Don’t have enough time to be with every sales person on every opportunity
  • Sales people tell you what "you" want to know
  • Sales people tell the truth as they perceive it, but are often wrong
  • Sometimes sales people fudge
  • Sales people wear rose colored glasses

If any of these are true in your organization, then you really don’t know what goes on in the middle of your sales funnel.

Take the next step to discover a tool that can help drive the behavior in your sales team that is consistent with the buying process and, at the same time, help the sales manager gain visibility into the cloudy funnel.

Contact us to see if your organization can benefit from the latest tools for unclogging your sales funnel.

Contributions from my good friends Lisa and Mary at Black Diamond Associates