Can you feel it? It’s that time of year again. Football season, schools are in session, and soon the changing colors of autumn will dazzle our eyes. Autumn triggers an internal cycle for many sellers too – time to purge your sales funnels!
This rite of fall is fueled by many sales managers who send the message to their salespeople that this year’s numbers are at stake if sellers get distracted by anything less than the best deals on their funnels. They have to focus on winning the year-making deals that will take salespeople across the finish line with a gold medal around their necks. The other reason for sales funnel purging is to get next year’s funnels in shape to get a fast start to a successful 2012.
While the intentions of this purging exercise are good, it’s a stressful approach for you and your salespeople for several reasons.
Funnel purging doesn’t attack the root cause of the problem. Like a bad diet that doesn’t focus on changing the behaviors that let the weight creep back on, sales funnel purging alone doesn’t change the behaviors that let the funnel get full of bad data in the first place. The salesperson will likely commit the same mistakes again unless he is taught and coached to avoid these mistakes.
Funnel purges send the wrong message. Purging one time of the year, or even multiple times, with no attention to the right funnel discipline the rest of the year suggests that purging your funnel somehow is a suitable compromise for poor funnel management. A more effective message is to tell your salespeople that they’ll be coached and expected to stop bringing bad deals onto their funnels, to update purchase dates for deals as they learn of new information, and to challenge their assumptions about deal placement.
It takes bad funnel habits to get a funnel into a messy condition, and it will take good funnel habits to keep it out of that mess in the future. Here are some tips.
Commit to a schedule of funnel inspections. Most of our sales manager clients have a monthly schedule of our Funnel Audits™ and a few with really long sales cycles do Audits every 60 days. If there’s one thing you should do different in 2012 commit to a schedule of funnel inspections. It has high payoff.
Don’t confuse deal reviews with funnel inspections. This is a common and costly mistake I see sales managers make. Both tasks are important, but they are different. A deal review is a conversation about a sales opportunity and updating your strategy to qualify and win it. A funnel inspection (Funnel Audit™) is a powerful, structured conversation that assesses a funnel’s health and sets a short term action plan to work the funnel until the next Audit.
Make sure the deals go where they belong on the funnel. Remember, a deal’s funnel placement is determined by the commitment the customer has made (customer buying process, BuyCycle Funnel™) not by the selling activity that the seller has made. Listen for the language your sellers use when they talk about where a deal is and what’s next. A good habit to coach to is to discuss ‘what’s next’ in terms of the customer’s commitment. That is, what’s next that the customer has to do to move the sale along.
Get away from funnel purges and get into coaching funnel discipline and good habits that ensure good data and efficient use of valuable selling resources.
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In his ground breaking book, The Funnel Principle, author Mark Sellers, CEO and Founder of sales consulting company Breakthrough SalesPerformance® presents the first sales book and method to comprehensively describe how to sell more effectively by using the sales funnel to understand the customer’s buying process.
Companies hire Mark and his network of agents to implement his 5 Step Process for using the sales funnel to win more sales and to most effectively manage sales priorities. Clients report significant increases in revenue, shorter sales cycles, and higher win rates by using The Funnel Principle. http://www.funnelprinciple.com/