If any of the following happened in your last sales review, you will want to keep reading:
- Prospects were listed with no contact details or the product/service being sold
- Prospects were listed with a dollar value but no list of next steps or other backgrounds
- Closing dates were postponed
- Prospects with a high sale probability are listed with no closing dates or values attached
- You are met with blank expressions about the opportunities that disappeared
Having reviewed several sales funnels, it’s always very clear that the salespeople involved have a lot of “hope” in the sales funnel, but unfortunately relying on hope is not a very strategic way to approach your success in sales.
Having plenty of opportunities without a clear closing date, rational probability, the decision maker or any idea what the prospect can afford, means the sales funnel is full of grey matter. Grey matter referring to all the variables that won’t allow you to accurately predict your sales success.
This lack of clarity is likely due to standard processes not being installed along with the CRM or not being available when new people start.
Essentially sales teams are allowing their futures to be controlled by their prospects because they’re not taking control of their opportunities. Without clarity in the sales funnel, there are no calculated actions being taken to drive the sales and prospects are left to control both the pace and the outcome of the sales.
My solution to cure the funnel grey matter and lack of control are the following three steps:
1.Focus on real opportunities
Real opportunities are those prospects that have been fully qualified by a set of questions that will identify whether the prospect in front of you is concrete or not.
Develop questions that discover if the prospect can afford your offer, who the decision maker is if they have a problem that your offer will solve and whether they are in the market to buy a solution soon.
These questions should be strategically in order starting with the budget.
- If the prospect can’t afford your services, you can walk away early and find a new opportunity to focus on.
- If the budget is in order but the person in front of you is not the decision maker, then you need to find the correct person to talk to.
- If the budget and decision maker is in order but your offer is not the right solution, then you need to move along to the next opportunity where your product or service is a fit.
- If all the above is in order, but the timing is not right you will have to find additional opportunities in the meantime that will close sooner.
- Having a good referral position and a credible reputation is advisable, but a prospect that has allowed you to ask all these questions, probably trust you and makes for the perfect opportunity to pursue.
Developing a full list of open-ended questions based on the budget, the decision makers, the problem/solution and the timing should become second nature
as well as using a probability rating scale.
By allocating a percentage figure to each of the answers, you should have a pretty good idea of how qualified the opportunity really is. An opportunity that possesses all the criteria should be at a 100% probability. If the timing is not right, you might be at 80% probability and so on.
“Sales managers can leverage the qualifying process as a great coaching tool to demonstrate the importance of clarifying the sales funnel.”
The goal is to focus on real opportunities and not to waste time on prospects that are obscure in details or not fully qualified.
2.Gain commitment early
When a prospect has been fully qualified, and you have that clear moment of realisation that the prospect could lead to a great partnership - you should look at shortening the sales cycle and gaining commitment earlier in the process.
Many sales opportunities are left unattached by the buyer even though you committed lots of time and energy to help them.
If it all fits with the budget, you are dealing with the authority, you can fill the need as expected, they want to purchase in the near future and they trust you – what is holding you back to close the deal sooner?
How much time and resources were wasted on your last sales cycle because you failed to gain commitment early?
Here are a few examples of questions that you could integrate into your sales conversation to speed things up:- When I demonstrate how we will help you solve your situation, can I expect you to sign with us to move forward?
- What do you need to see from our side to secure your commitment?
- When would it be most convenient for me to return and continue talking about getting started?
3.Identify clear next actions
Many sales opportunities are also left uncommitted by the buyer because the sales rep failed to suggest the next step.
Salespeople need to decide if they want to make the sale or leave the meeting feeling good about catching up.
Ask yourself this; after investing your time and resources into pursuing an opportunity, did you leave your last sales conversation with a lukewarm, half-hearted conclusion?Did the prospect tell you to send them something, that they’ll be in touch or pass your details on? Or, did you take action by asking them what else needs to happen or who else needs to be talked to in order to keep the process moving forward?
Here are a few examples of questions that you could integrate into your sales conversation to clearly identify the next action:- If we have shown you enough, who else needs to see it or who do we talk to for this to work for you?- If you are not comfortable with making the decision, is there someone else who might need to see to be able to do so?- What would you like to see happening next and when can we schedule it?
By focusing on real opportunities, gaining commitment early, and identifying clear next steps at every stage of the sales process, your sales funnel will be filled with higher quality opportunities with a shorter sales cycle and a higher closing ratio.
Predictable Success can examine your sales processes and deliver an accurate roadmap after determining where you’re on track and where you need a course correction. Predictable Success can provide a cost/benefit analysis and expert recommendations to improve your sales performance on every level.