Let me guess what happened in your last sales meeting or your last sales funnel review?
- Close dates were moved further out
- Opportunities listed as a 90% probability have no potential values or close dates are not listed
- Opportunities are listed without contact names or the product/service being sold
- There is nothing listed for next steps, sources of business, or even what the account is, however there is a dollar value
- There are blank expressions on faces when questions are asked about the opportunities that disappeared
If you have experienced any of these during your weekly sales meetings, you may want to keep reading.
Having reviewed several sales funnels for friends and clients, it has become apparent that many sales people and sales managers have a lot of “hope” in their sales funnel and the last time I checked, “hope” is not very strategic.
Most sales funnels are full of opportunities that don’t have a clear closing date, have no rational probability, are not dealing with the decision maker, and have no idea about the prospect being able to afford what you are selling. The sales funnel is full of grey matter and variables that do not allow you to accurately predict what your sales could be.
Don’t feel bad if this describes your sales funnel. I would guess 90% of the companies that actually have a sales funnel have this lack of clarity. This is most likely because there were no standards developed or processes institutionalized when new sales people started or the CRM system was set up.
To compound the problems that the lack of clarity in the sales funnel causes, sales people and sales managers are also allowing their futures to be controlled by their prospects. They are not taking control of their opportunities. They are allowing the prospects to control both the pace and the outcome of the sales. There are no intentional or deliberate actions being taken to drive the sales.
I suggest the following three steps as the solution to cure the funnel grey matter and lack of control: focus on real opportunities, gain commitment early, and identify clear next steps at every stage of the sales process.
Focus on real opportunities as the first step
Real opportunities are those that come from an ideal prospect that has been fully qualified through proper questioning.
Proper questions are those that focus on the prospect and their needs. They are the questions that help you identify whether or not the opportunity is real. Too many sales people still “show up and throw up”. They start talking about their product or their company without even finding out the simplest information, such as if the person in front of them even works there.
Utilizing questions help you identify if the prospect is able to afford your product and service, help you identify who the decision maker is, help you determine if they have a problem that your product or service solves, and whether they are looking to purchase your solution in the next 90 days. These are the questions that help you identify what I refer to as BANTT. Budget, Authority, Need, Timing, and Trust.
These questions should be strategically in order. For instance, if they do not have the budget to afford your services, you really need to walk away early. If they have the budget but the person in front of you is not the decision maker, then you need to find the correct person to talk to. If they have the money and you have the right person but your product or service is not the right solution, then you need to find an opportunity where your product or service is a fit. If they have the budget, you have the right person, your product or service is perfect, but they are looking to make a decision in preparation for next year, then the timing is not for now. It’s not a “no”, it is just a “not yet” and hence you will have to find additional opportunities that will close sooner. I think you get the picture and the “trust” part should be pretty clear. If they have allowed you to ask all of the questions to find out the information you need up to this point, they probably trust you. Of course, it helps to have a strong referral source and a credible reputation as well.
BANTT can serve as a lighthouse for the probability of closing the sale. If you assign a 20% figure to each of the letters in the acronym, you should have a pretty good idea of how qualified the opportunity really is. An opportunity that has all of the BANTT identified should be at 100%. If they don’t trust you then you might be at 80% and so on.
This can also serve as a great coaching tool for the sales manager or the person that is in charge of the sales people. If you have an opportunity that is supposed to close in 30 days but only has a 20% probability to close, you may want to ask a few questions about how qualified the opportunity really was to begin with.
Developing a full list of open-ended questions based on the budget the prospect has, the decision makers you need to talk to, the problem that you are looking to solve, and timing of their decision should be in your near future as well as using the probability rating scale.
The goal is to focus on real opportunities with realistic solutions that you can provide and not to waste time on potential opportunities that are not in your wheelhouse, are obscure in details, or are not fully qualified
Gain commitment early as the second step
When you fully qualify an opportunity through proper questioning, there is always a moment when you realize that the particular opportunity would lead to a great partnership. All of the parts are there. They have the Budget, you are dealing with the authority, you can fill the need as expected, they want to purchase within the next 90 days, and they trust you. There is an opportunity here to shorten the sales cycle by gaining commitment earlier in the sales process.
How did you leave your last sales conversation? Did the prospect tell you to send them something? Did they tell you that they would be in touch? Or, did you ask them if they would work with you if you spent time and resources on developing a solution that could meet their needs? If you are interested in shortening the sales cycle, why not close the sale earlier?
Try integrating these sales related questions into your sales conversation to gain commitment earlier:
- When we show you how we will help you fix this situation, can we expect you to sign with us to move forward?
- What do you need to see from us to gain your commitment?What else needs to happen for us to work with you?
- When would you like us to come back to talk about integrating with you to on this?
Many sales opportunities are left uncommitted to by the buyer because you failed to ask for any kind of commitment even though you committed more time and energy to helping them. How much time and resources did your sales team waste on the last sale they made because they failed to gain commitment early?
Identify clear next actions as the third step
When you do not fully qualify an opportunity through proper questioning, there is always a moment when you realize that the particular opportunity might lead to a great partnership but not of the parts are there. They might have the Budget, you might be dealing with the authority, you might be able to fill the need as expected, they might want to purchase within the next 90 days, and they might trust you.
So, how did you leave that sales conversation? Did they tell you to send them something? Did they tell you that they would be in touch? Did they tell you they would pass your information along? Or, did you ask them what else needs to happen or who else you might need to talk to keep this opportunity moving forward?
Try integrating these sales related questions into your sales conversation to identify a clear next action:
- If we have shown you enough about how we might be able to help you, who else needs to see or talk to for this to work for you?
- What else do you need to see and who else needs to see this us to work together?
- If you are not comfortable with saying “yes” to this, who needs to see it to be able to do so?What is the next step with this?
Many sales opportunities are left uncommitted by the buyer because you failed to even ask for any kind of a next step. Do you want the sale or do you want to leave that meeting feeling good about getting the meeting?
By following these three steps, the sales funnel can be your crystal ball if you want it to be. 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 rate.
What, you didn’t have a sales meeting or a funnel review? You might have bigger issues then.
Feel free to contact us to talk about how you can integrate these practices to drive your sales funnel and ultimately your pay check.