If you’ve been following me for a while you know I believe the BuyCycle Funnel can improve your selling in many ways. One of those ways is making better sales calls.
Let me get us on the same page first. If you’re making a sales call then your goal should be to get closer toward a sale. If it’s not a sales call then this goal isn’t valid. For example, a service call on an existing customer isn’t a sales call.
Let’s say you’re making the first sales call on a new prospect. The VP of Stuff has agreed to meet you because you’ve been referred by one of your clients. He has a broad idea of what you sell. You want to find out if VP of Stuff has a need for your services and eventually if he or someone else is committed to spending money with you.
How do you prepare to make that outcome happen? First you need to define what that outcome should look like. The funnel can help you do this as long as it’s a commitment-driven model like our BuyCycle Funnel.
The BuyCycle Funnel defines the customer buying process by defining the stages as customer commitments. That’s because for a purchase to happen the customer must commit. Early in the buying process the customer is recognizing a problem or opportunity. To go further in the process the customer needs to commit to understanding the economic or financial effect of the problem. Otherwise he’s not as likely to make a change, eg buy your products or services.
Therefore, your call plan should be designed around getting the VP of Stuff to commit to exploring the financial effect of the problem. That could be achieved in many ways, maybe the VP introducing you to someone on his team who plays a key role in the buying process, or setting up a walkthrough of the facilities himself. Building your call plan around this outcome helps you qualify the opportunity better. If you get the commitments you seek then the sale is moving forward. If not, then you know the sale isn’t moving and you try another approach.
Your funnel model is most productive if you’ve defined specific, high impact selling activities to do at a stage like this one. Those activities could include getting executive alignment or the customer commits to a needs assessment.
With each stage of the funnel representing a commitment the customer must make to move further in the buying process it’s easier to define your objectives for each sales call.
- The Sales Funnel – Much More than the Latest Technology (funnelprinciple.com)
- Sales Velocity and the Funnel (funnelprinciple.com)
When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years. ~Mark Twain
As I get older (just had another birthday) I am reminded that the son becomes more like the father each year. Dad, this is meant to be a compliment. Really.
For sons and daughters alike, this is the curse of every generation that it doesn’t like to admit.
Nowhere is this more public than with technology. Every generation looks upon the next one with a degree of confusion and disdain regarding technology. For my generation two examples are texting and music. My daughters are model residents in the 24/7 texting community. Landline phones are for old people. As for music, the hits, hooks and downloads have replaced the album. Take Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same. The marketability of committing an entire album side to one song, 27 minutes of Dazed and Confused, doesn’t stand a chance in a world of SSAS – Super Short Attention Span.
Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t see technology as an either or choice. I embrace it. On my terms.
I also embrace technology with the sales funnel. The technology I refer to is mainly CRM because CRM is often perceived by sales leaders as the equivalent to ‘the funnel’.
When I’m prospecting I’ll ask a VP of sales to tell me about her funnel or funnel process and the reply often begins with “we use XYZ CRM.” If this sounds like you, this perspective could be costing you a lot of money. Let me suggest a Funnel Principle perspective.
CRM Technology has supported funnel management process mainly in two ways: visibility and reporting.
With visibility salespeople and managers and VPs of sales can see any funnel at the click or two of a mouse. Reports can be run on everything like the value of the funnel (TVR), or opportunities by stages or size or geography or key accounts, and more. It’s powerful information.
As long as it’s real.
The fact is many funnels have ‘bad data’. Reps routinely place opportunities at the wrong stages of the funnel. I’m not indicting sellers; rather, they deserve the benefit of the doubt. They’re often doing the best they can. But without the right funnel process the placement task is hard and open to too many interpretations. It’s a problem with minimal downside when it’s one funnel that’s off. But when most of the funnels are not real it’s a nightmare on Elm Street for the VP of sales.
Bad funnel data is not an indictment of technology either. Don’t shoot the messenger. It’s garbage in, garbage out. It’s about selling behaviors. Therefore the fix for bad funnel data needs to help sellers execute the right behaviors. They need the right funnel process.
An example of this is funnel stages in the CRM. Simply changing the stages, even to reflect a customer buying process like our BuyCycle Funnel™ will not by itself change selling behaviors. Sending a memo to the salesforce telling it to start selling this way would be about as effective.
Sellers need context, training, coaching and reinforcement to sell to the customer’s buying process. It’s a project because you’re undoing old habits. Many of these old habits are older than, well me.
Another example is having automated reminders and coaching tips embedded in the CRM. This is an awesome idea that has been rendered ineffective by the lack of context, training, coaching, and reinforcement. Both have value but one must precede the other.
Wisdom says we’ve got to strike the right balance between new technology and how we did stuff before the technology. It’s more than about balance though. It’s putting technology in its place. It’s not asking technology to replace proven means for driving selling behavior.
This technology stuff has a lot of mojo. If we’re not careful we’ll miss the real value it can provide.
Maybe Robert Plant was thinking about the sales funnel when he crooned in The Song Remains the Same, “I had a dream. Crazy dream. Ohh…hear my song, yeah…people won’t you listen now. Sing along yeah. You don’t know what you’re missing now. ..”
- The Missing Link in Opportunity Management (funnelprinciple.com)
It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference. Paul Bryant
If you’re VP of sales with sales managers reporting to you how do you coach the funnel for your team?
First, it all starts with you. If you think that better funnel process across your enterprise will make an important difference you’ve got to do more than write the check to the vendor. I suggest you think of your mission here as creating a ‘funnel culture’, a term I introduced in my book The Funnel Principle. At your level of the organization funnel coaching goes beyond your immediate circle of influence – your salesforce. It crosses naturally into other functions that don’t directly report to you, like marketing, customer service, even manufacturing. I’ve had three conversations this week alone with people asking how the funnel can help the plant know how much to build.
Creating and driving the culture includes things like this:
Lead by example with Funnel Audits. If you expect your sales managers to conduct Audits (funnel inspection) every 30 days, you should be Auditing the sales managers with some frequency too. Even if it’s every other month or even quarterly, this sends the right message to everyone about the importance of this part of the process. I have a client that is still doing Audits 8 years after the initial roll out.
Offer training and more to the nonsales functions. Karen, a VP of North American Sales for a $1B healthcare company had me make a one hour presentation early in the implementation to people that worked in the plant and in other very non-sales type functions. If there’s even one positive outcome from that short presentation it could easily have a financial benefit to her company.
Introduce the system to national or global accounts. One of my clients had me design a funnel process to more efficiently coordinate national accounts efforts with the field salesforce. We published the results of that effort in SAMA’s Velocity magazine.
Get IT to find ways to use technology, like CRM, to help the sellers be more efficient. Mike Fox, the president and owner of a small HVAC company saw the value of this and had his IT department completely modify the company’s CRM system after we had defined the funnel process. It’s one of the most efficient CRM funnel tools I’ve seen.
Integrate the funnel into existing business processes. Mitch, a Worldwide VP of Sales and Applications for a high tech company devoted for one entire year 50% of his bi-weekly worldwide sales call to reinforcing the funnel process we rolled out to his global organization. It was a tremendous display of leadership of sales process at the highest level.
Much of your role as funnel coach for the VP of Sales is about giving your team the tools it needs and finding ways to reinforce and drive the funnel as a business process.
- For all the Warrior Sales Managers out there… (funnelprinciple.com)
- The One Time Trust Means Nothing in Sales (funnelprinciple.com)
- Use Your Sales Funnel to Drive Deal Reviews (funnelprinciple.com)