For all the Warrior Sales Managers out there…

Posted on January 21, 2011. Filed under: Funnel Audits, Lead Generation, Pipeline Measurement, Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Goals, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, Sales pipeline, Sales Quota, sales training, Sales Velocity, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

This blog entry is for the warriors out there, the sales managers.

The past several blogs from The Funnel Principle have been directed at salespeople and the opportunity that this time of year gives them to review, renew, and refocus on the upcoming sales year.

I’ve suggested they take a little time to learn from the past year and not let the numbers fool them (good or bad).  I’ve suggested they renew or establish good sales funnel habits.

So how do you add value?

You’re their leader.  That’s a big responsibility.   You have to carrot and stick your way through each day with each of your salespeople.  It’s a challenging but potentially very rewarding job.

I’m curious as to where the sales funnel fits into your priorities.  Take a second to complete my poll before reading on.

When it comes to the funnel your leadership is mostly around driving process.   If you’ve been through other change management programs you know that some people will buy into it, some will resist it, some won’t really care one way or the other.  Every program is subject to this kind of response.  Because of this you must be the ultimate salesperson every day in selling your team on the need to embrace the tools and processes to help them succeed.  And for all of these constituents my advice is to find ways to constantly make the funnel relevant.

One of the ways to make the funnel relevant is to use it within the cycle of the year.

At the beginning of the year funnel focus is on building a healthy funnel steadily.  A healthy funnel sets the salesperson up for a successful year and avoids the stress of scrambling to make numbers.  Your messaging this time of year is building good habits.  Since the results sometime lag the effort be sure to encourage  your people to keep up the good work.

At mid year the funnel focus is on how to prepare for the second half push.  If their funnels are healthy you want to focus on advancing and winning the higher percentage deals.  You also don’t want them to stop building a healthy funnel because you never know what surprises could occur.  If the funnel isn’t healthy and there’s still time to reverse that there’s probably a very short window of time available.  You’ll have to be very focused on selecting the right accounts and opportunities to develop and eventually win.  Finally, this is a good time to remind your sales people about the next year.  It’s never too early to be building a healthy funnel for the following year.

In the last couple of months the funnel focus is on winning the few deals that will make their year, and making a hard shift toward next year’s funnel.

Don’t look at this as having to work so hard to convince your people to use the process.  This is your job. And your salespeople deserve to be sold.

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The Missing Link in Opportunity Management

Posted on January 19, 2011. Filed under: Funnel Audits, Lead Generation, Pipeline Measurement, Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Goals, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, Sales pipeline, Sales Quota, sales training, Sales Velocity | Tags: , , , , , |

If you want your salesforce to be more effective at working sales opportunities through the process, the missing link could be the sales funnel.

Let me say it another way – using the funnel can help your sellers be more effective at qualifying and winning sales opportunities.

Recently I talked with a prospect, the VP of Sales of a successful high tech company.  He said he was using a method of selling from a well known company and wasn’t completely satisfied with the results.  His people were trying hard to follow this method, defining the opportunity, identifying the right people, getting to the decision makers, and learning their needs.  They’re doing ok but he thinks they could do better.

He wanted to know how a funnel could possibly help with opportunity management.   After doing some discovery I told him the funnel, when designed right, is the missing link.

This wasn’t obvious to him and I know it’s not obvious to much of the larger market, including some of you reading this blog.  There’s a clear explanation for this.  But first, why is it the missing link?

Sales pros have always had a mental map in their minds of the steps they need to take to advance and win sales.  Using this to guide their sales efforts for each deal is a great way to stay organized.  Being organized is valuable.

The funnel intuitively sets up a way to organize the steps.  You can easily visualize a deal starting at the top of the funnel, wiggling its way down and popping out the bottom as an order.

The challenge is in knowing what happens in between.  And you’ve got to do something very important with the funnel first.   You’ve got to temporarily set aside your steps for selling and replace them with the customer’s steps for buying.

The steps as a whole are the customer’s buying process.  The buying process is simply how a bunch of people are working together to figure out what to do about a problem or an opportunity for their company.  This is what you’re trying to discover when you sell.  They’re looking for a solution, but first they’re looking to understand the situation better.  And then they want to know if the situation (problem or opportunity) is worth the trouble and expense of fixing.  Then they want to find a solution that best fits their needs.  Then they buy it.  There’s always been this buying process dynamic going on even decades ago when the common sales approaches were much less customer friendly.  Today there are so many choices and so much access to information and opinion that customers have more control over their own buying process.   That’s ok because you don’t need to control things to be successful at selling.

Let’s bring in the selling steps.  The goal of any sales activity is to move the opportunity further toward a sale.  The biggest productivity killer for sellers is doing selling activities that are ill-timed and have little impact on advancing a sale.   For example, doing demos when the wrong people are in the room, spending hours preparing a proposal that will not be read, giving samples that will not be used, and more.  But sellers often do things to stay busy or in the hope that something positive will come out of the activity.

The funnel, when designed right, is the missing link because it serves as the productivity protector, the ideal check and balance system for deciding what selling activity to do next.

When it’s designed right the funnel tells the seller what the customer has committed to and how far along the process the customer is.  It then tells the seller what activities are most appropriate to do for this stage of the customer’s buying process.  For example, if the funnel design says do a demo once the customer tells you enough about the problems or vision of better,  then you’re less likely to do a demo before the customer has committed to sharing information with you.  Or, if the funnel says prepare a proposal after the customer commits to a proposal review with you, you’re more likely to get the customer to commit to a proposal review instead of emailing it and letting the main contact read it on his own.

If this sounds simple and straightforward that’s because it is.  However, I can tell you that over the past 15 years I’ve seen many salespeople, even accomplished ones, that don’t consistently sell this way.

The VP of Sales I talked to was not getting the right performance from his current sales method because it is not linked to the customer buying process.   The method had ideas and concepts that categorize aspects of the sale, things like labeling the players and their motivations and whether or not they’re champions or coaches for you.  This can be helpful.  But these categories are at best a collection of good isolated ideas.  They’re in no way intuitively connected to the buying process.

The funnel, when it’s designed the right way, makes this link and gives the categories a lot more relevance.

Ok, so why isn’t this missing link obvious to more people?  The simple reason is because of the traditional funnel.  You know, the funnel where the stages are defined by seller activity.  It’s been around forever.  It’s a seller centric design.   It’s what most people think of when they hear funnel.

As I said three years ago it’s time to rethink the funnel™.   One deal at a time.  The BuyCycle Funnel™.

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