“The less I see of what’s his name? The more I forget him.” Anon
Failing to focus salespeople’s activity reduces efficiency and consequently reduces results, because there isn’t a salesperson alive that believes they have enough time in their working week to complete all the activities they want to achieve! Time is a huge constraint on salespeople’s activities so that when their manager asks them for more, it’s no wonder that they are overwhelmed.
Poor Quality Activity
Secondly, but equally important, salespeople often aren’t clear about how to identify the prospects most likely to have a genuine need for their product or service. Without an objective way to prioritize which prospects to contact first and/or an efficient strategy for contacting them, salespeople are doomed to waste a large percentage of their time.
Another huge dilemma for many salespeople is how to divide their time between servicing existing clients and generating new business from new prospects. Existing clients frequently make requests for service that could be dealt with by support staff. But salespeople who lack a disciplined, future-orientated plan for generating new contacts and sales, often find themselves spending more time attending to “urgent” tasks for existing accounts instead.
A common approach among salespeople can be summarized in the saying “If you throw enough mud against the wall, some of it is bound to stick.” This approach is exhausting, demoralizing, extremely unproductive, and very expensive in the long term.
Far too frequently, competent salespeople are expected to channel their own activities into the areas that will produce the quickest wins.
Unfortunately, left to their own devices, they don’t develop and pursue a formal strategy for moving a sale tangibly forward during each prospect interaction, neither do they have a clearly defined set of goals against which to measure the progress they are making. Typically, their judgment is based on gut reaction and is purely subjective – i.e. “Oh yes, I’ll get that order, he likes me.” – because salespeople have to be optimistic by nature. They end up “dancing around” with prospects, in the hope that eventually they will get to their chosen point on the dance-floor – i.e. the sale. In this scenario, the customer has complete control.
Controlling Sales Activity
The Sales Funnel concept has been around for a few years, but I took it and tailored it to meet the needs of my own teams very effectively. Essentially, it is designed to assist salespeople in managing their sales time more effectively, subsequently translating that time into real money. It is also a time-management tool which will help them to accomplish the following essential selling tasks:
- Collating their numerous sales objectives into three categories/levels of the Sales Funnel.
- Monitoring each sales objective’s progress, as it moves from one level into the next.
- Setting priorities for working on the objectives in each level of the Funnel – to ensure they do not neglect any one of the three.
- Dedicating time to the objectives, in each level of the Funnel, in a way that is appropriate to their specific situation.
- Forecasting future income – based on how their objectives are moving through the three levels of the Funnel.
Sales Funnel is conceptually divided into three distinct parts, or levels, which correspond to the three different types of selling work. To enable salespeople to utilize the Funnel concept efficiently, they must first sort their sales objectives into these three levels:
- Above the Funnel – Prospect & Qualify
- In The Funnel – Cover the Bases
- Best Few – Close the Order
Above the Funnel
The pre-requisite is that they have data that suggests a fit between their company’s products and the prospect’s needs – all of this type of work requires qualifying.
In The Funnel
The pre-requisite here is that all the opportunities have been qualified and at least one buying influencer has been met. They then need to “cover the bases” – i.e. identify all the buying influencers and ensure each one is contacted by the person best qualified to do so.
It is important that the salesperson understands the response mode of each buyer, and identifies the results each buyer needs in order “to win”, and ensures they understand that the proposal will serve his/her individual criteria.
Finally, at this stage of the cycle, they need to continually reassess “the sales picture” and eliminate areas of perceived weakness within their bid, using the principle of capitalizing on their strengths.
Logically, the pre-requisite here is that they have all but eliminated luck and uncertainty as factors in the final buying decision – this can of course be subjective!
The tasks involved are end-tasks, like overcoming last minute objections, agreeing terms and conditions and signing orders, etc.
As sales professionals, they must be able to do all three kinds of work, but obviously they will have several possible orders that they are working on at the same time. Since they will all be at different stages of completion, they will not be doing the same kind of work on all of them at the same time.
By following this system they could potentially reduce the normal sales cycle by 50%!
Using Sales Funnel over time helps to plan time required ahead of time. The eventual objective in utilizing the Sales Funnel concept, is to be able to move the various sales opportunities down the Funnel at a steady and predictable rate. This, in turn, will mean that income and achievement level is steady and predictable.
To achieve this, there is a need to work on two interrelated tasks:
- Setting appropriate priorities for the three kinds of selling work which need to be done.
- Allocating limited selling time, so that the three kinds of work always get completed on a consistent basis. The simple rule of thumb is: “Every Time You Close Something, Prospect or Qualify Something Else.”
Finally, Let’s Not Forget Good Old Villfredo Pareto And His 80/20 Rule
The sales that a salesperson completes today were made possible only by activities performed in the past. Equally, it’s what they do today that will create their future sales results. Because there is a time delay between activities and results, salespeople have an opportunity to improve their sales results by undertaking sales productivity planning and implementing an effective prospecting system. Generally, since 80% of sales are generated from 20% of customers, 80% of salespeople’s time should be focused on 20% of the biggest customers.