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How To Work Your Sales Funnel

Here are some practical tips for you to consider using, broken out by stage. Everyone’s team and process is a little different, but a lot of these are fundamental across most types of teams. The stages of a basic sales funnel are: Lead, Opportunity, Closed Customer (your team may have other stages in between, but these are the big ones, I think).

  • Each stage of your sales funnel has associated sales activities

  • All sales activities are tied back to your defined sales process

  • All of that is lined up with your Buyer’s Journey (stages of awareness, consideration and decision)

Lead Stage Tip #1 (Prospecting):

Look for trigger events or some kind of relevant business reason before calling your lead. Make it about them, not about you. If you focus on certain industries, follow that industry’s news and frequently interview industry business leaders to become an authority in their space. The state of social media has made it easier than ever to be a thought leader and influencer. If you don’t already, you should follow Jill Rowley for more ideas on social selling. I can’t really stress enough how important I think it is to be helpful. All of your activity should come from a place of wanting to help the right kinds of businesses do better. That’s good sales.

Lead Stage Tip #2 (Prospecting):

Work in volume. The top of your funnel directly dictates your revenue outcome. As a rep, you take your quota and work backwards to set goals. As a manager, you can roll up your whole team’s quotas. Like this: What is your average sale price? How many deals does it take using the average sale price to hit quota? How many Opportunities need to be in your pipeline in any given month to close that number of customers (what is your close %)? Then- how many leads do you need to work in order to generate that number of Opportunities? There is your prospecting plan for the month. *It helps to book time on your calendar every single day to Prospect. The key is consistency.

Opportunity Stage Tip #1 (Connecting):

Reach out to multiple stakeholders within any given company. Create trust with influencers to help you reach high, and have a relevant business reason to engage each one. Have something of value to bring to the call. Remember to be helpful first, and the conversation will fall into place. Instead of starting with your pitch (cringe), try asking questions (and always follow up with “why” to really understand your prospects). By asking a high value question, you can gather awesome information- and build credibility too. When you start all your calls with genuine curiosity and willingness to help, it makes a difference. You’ll find you are having real business conversations vs. throwing stuff at the wall. And, it is better for your buyer.

Opportunity Stage Tip #2 (Connecting) :

When emailing… personalize. Instead of: “Could you put me in touch with the person in charge of such and such a decision”…. try using the same technique that would on the phone (read: be human!) Use your prospect’s name, mention something of note that you saw or heard about them or their company. If you have inbound leads, it becomes really easy here, because you can ask them questions specifically about the content that they came to you for. Relate all that back to how you can help them. Offer a specific time to connect for a few minutes by phone (which will be your full discovery call).

Opportunity Stage Tip #3 (Presenting):

Customize every presentation/ demo. If you are doing a good job qualifying your opportunities- they are well worth your time. Invest 60 minutes into your prep (this will get shorter the more you do it). Present with a story, and base the presentation on your prospect’s goals. If you took the time in your discovery/ qualification call to do this, you’ll have all the info on your prospects goals and challenges to present within the context of their business. Instead of giving a tour of your product or service features- try to use you presentation to demonstrate outcome and success for your prospect. The amount of trust and credibility you will build will be huge, I promise. You’ll find you are able to challenge your prospects as their advisor vs. just another salesperson.

Opportunity Stage Tip #4 (Follow Up):

I know I sound like a total Mom, but be prompt in your follow up and never skip it. It matters a lot. Follow up like your life depends on it. Try to block 30 minutes after your presentations to do follow up. Doing really quick follow up enables you to clearly remember how the presentation went, right down to the tone that your prospects had on the the phone or in the meeting. You’ll know what you need to emphasize, plus it makes an amazing impression on your prospect. Additionally, a tight follow up is like your second chance to “close”. This is your moment to thoughtfully nail down the value and the timeline for purchase. Don’t forget that this follow up may be shared with others in the organization that were not on calls with you, so be sure that there is a lot of context.

Closing Tip #1 (Asking for the sale):

If you are waiting to ask for your prospect’s business till the end of your demonstration or presentation, you are probably too late. Try asking for your prospect’s business much earlier in your process based on your understanding of their business goals, your ability to provide the right plan/ strategy/solution, and their willingness to take your help. Early commitments from your prospects= better close rates. It becomes much easier to hold your prospects accountable for taking your help when it has already been agreed to that they want and need your help. The demo should really just be a formality.

Closing Tip #2 (Reaching your individual or team quota goals):

Being organized and consistent really helps. Really the key to everything in sales (and I happen to think in most of life) is consistency. Having clearly defined stages in your pipeline is important whether you are a rep or a manager. Those stages should line up directly with your sales process. When you run your business this way, you start to get a really good handle on which prospects are in your pipeline, what stage they are at, what you need to do to close, and when that will happen. If you can’t easily answer those questions for each opportunity you probably have some unqualified opportunities in the pipe that do not belong there. Personally, I’d rather have 5 opps in the closing stage of the pipeline that I feel 85% confident will close, than have 10 opps that I am not confident in. That’s even more important when you run a whole team. I can then reinvest that time and energy into new opps at the top of the funnel, and accurately forecast/ have some predictability to my business.

Final thought:

Pick just one area to focus on improving at a time. Pick a stage of your funnel that you want to work on and create a game plan to get it done (give yourself a short deadline and create action items). Knock that stage out, and move onto the next stage. Please feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to help you.

Questions for you:

Which stage of the funnel needs the most improvement for you or your sales team (look for your least efficient part of the funnel.. is it # of leads you have to work? Your rate of converting lead to Qualified Opportunity? Qualified opportunity to Customer?)

What is your biggest obstacle to improving that conversion rate? Are you seeing the same problem across the whole team or is it on an individual rep basis?

If this was helpful, you might also consider how all your sales activities, especially your qualification in making sure that you can really help this prospect, tie back to your Customer’s Success.

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