Tag Archives: sales funnel

No News Is Bad News


No News is Bad News

General rule in life (if you’re an optimist like me)…No news is good news.  Example: “My kid is away at summer camp, and no news is good news.”

But in sales there is a natural law…
No news is BAD news.

However you track your sales process – whether it’s a sales funnel, a buyer’s process, sales stages, contract milestones, etc., No news is BAD news.

Here’s what I mean…

As your potential customer gets closer to awarding you the business, you should see an ever increasing dialogue.  You should receive more and more questions, objections, clarifications, contracts red lines, requests for references, etc.

If you are seeing less and less communication, you’re dead meat.  It may be because humans don’t like to deliver bad news, or it may be that they don’t have time to keep the losers up to speed on their decision making process (because they are too busy finalizing things with the winners!).  In the end it does not matter why.

20 years has taught me, as you’re approaching the moment of truth, there had better be more talking!

Green Bananas


One day earlier this month, I got up for my morning routine and went to pack my breakfast – which, since my wife became a nutrition coach and got me on a solid path, usually consists of some whole grains and fresh fruit. I’d been craving a banana and had not had one in a while. I rounded the corner to my kitchen, filled up my coffee, reached into the fruit basket and without even looking broke off a banana from the bunch. The ensuing “snap” let me know what my eyes now confirmed – it was a [very] green banana and was not going to do me any good that day. “Maybe by the end of the week,” I said. The more familiar scenario in my house is that we find there are several brown spotted bananas which we quickly convert to banana bread and all is well. But as I completed my commute to work that day it got me thinking. Do we have any “green bananas” in our pipeline?

Looking at my firm’s business after the big push to the finish in 2011 had my team wondering about the top of our sales funnel, which we had not done in a while.

After spending so much time nurturing the mature opportunities through the more time-consuming stages of qualification, proposals, contracts, and closure, we turned our eyes to the top of the funnel, and were not happy with what we saw. We had just baked a big loaf of banana bread but the basket was lower than we liked, except for a some [very] green bananas.

How many times have you found yourself dealing with the mature deals in your pipeline like those ripe bananas and wondering, “Now what?” Or, looking at a bunch of green bananas and wondering how long it would be until you could eat?

Well, it’s all about managing your produce.

  1. Block out time and buy some green bananas. Treat your demand generation and lead follow-up time as sacred. Book time during your week for this “appointment” of new sales activities and keep that meeting no matter what. Bring in the fresh stock!
  2. Spend time balancing ripeness. Get face-to-face with your clients.  Never Eat Alone. Use coffee in the morning and lunch in the afternoon as ways to strike up conversations in your network to keep the produce moving through the process. It may not pay off today, but your deals will mature when you need them down the line. Personally, I’m finding more people willing to grab a quick coffee or be treated to an eat-in lunch at their office these days than taking time for dinners or playing rounds of golf like the heyday.  The point is, you need to spend one-on-one time to ripen your deals.
  3. Rotate your stock. My firm uses salesforce.com for CRM (full disclosure, we also do consulting on the product and it is my personal favorite after using many over the years – contact me if you’s like to learn more) but whatever CRM system you use, be sure that it serves its core purpose – to allocate your precious resources across the portfolio of opportunities to maximize your business by helping your customers. To do this, you need to be sure about where you are in the buying/selling process. You need to know that you are taking the right action and applying the right resources. Use your CRM system to ensure you are not ignoring new opportunities while you’re focused exclusively on the “closing” end of the funnel. You need to spend time in each stage to get the most out of your produce.

Stick with this more balanced approach to your selling activities and you’ll create a more balanced sales funnel. You’ll have some nice green bananas, some delicious yellow ripe ones – and yes, hopefully, you’ll also be making lots of bread!

Sales People – Play Your *Position (*It’s Changed)


Parents who have watched their children growing up playing soccer can appreciate this.  It’s the phenomenon I call “swarm-ball” where the young kids cluster around the ball, eyes fixed on it, and move as a swarm up and down the field, flitting around to the brink of exhaustion.

Years go by.  Then, something magical happens.  All the coaching sinks in and like a light-switch, the players lock into the concept of playing their position.  Suddenly all the lost energy becomes focused and efficient.  Players are making passes, assists, and goals more often with less exertion and more accuracy.

Sales people have a position to play in a selling process too – and it’s changed.  Radically.

In recent years, as the internet has exploded and buyers are more educated than ever, sales people can no longer afford to just “chase the ball.”  Buyers don’t like it.  They won’t tell you – they just won’t buy from you.

It boils down to this, you are no longer the source of information on your product or service.  Whether they have it or not, clients will come to you feeling as though they have all the knowledge about their purchase (want proof of this trend? Ask your Doctor if Web MD has caused her any frustration in this area with the medically “brilliant” patients she now must deal with).  Clients do their homework first.  We all do this when we buy. 

My respected friend, Ardath Albee (follow her on Twitter immediately if you don’t yet – http://twitter.com/#!/ardath421 )  is a thought-leader in content marketing.  This is the art and science of generating interest, attention, value, and engagement (that leads to YOU and the active selling position you play).   Here is Ardath’s new concept of a sales funnel:

The bottom line is that you as a sales person no longer work the entire funnel.  You and your organization need to need to put good, valuable content out there to capture the interest, gain the attention of, communicate value to, and Engage potential buyers.  This is where your position kicks in.  At this point is where you can make a huge difference as a sales person.  You can have more qualified sales conversations, and close more sales, if you play your position

Don’t to shoe-horn your clients into being “sold” on your product.  Instead, play your position by leveraging content marketing techniques to engage clients in the front end of the funnel while you bring value to buyers in key conversations and their decisions to buy. Be the best possible player you can be from “engagement” onward in this funnel and you will score more goals!

Throw Away Your Sales Funnel


In the past five years, as the internet explosion spilled over from technology  hobbyists into full use by the general public, and finally adoption by the business world, it added velocity to a trend that I would argue was already underway  – the death of sales.

Sounds ominous (and a bit like a play starring Dustin Hoffman) but it’s true. The traditional sales approach is dead.

As a career sales rep and process wonk who for many years has practiced and studied both sales and marketing processes, I have analyzed my fair share of process models. For many decades, the conventional thinking in this area focused on affecting or acting on the customer, “selling them,” “generating demand,” ” qualifying them,” etc.

Your buyers have rendered this approach irrelevant. The consumer is now in charge of both the initiation and pace of the sales and marketing processes. No room in this post to argue that fact, so if you’re struggling with it, just take a leap of faith and read on.

Organizations that understand this new buyer-driven reality can capitalize on the new model and thrive, but not with the same old funnel.

You have to abandon the traditional sales funnel (generate leads, qualify opportunity, propose, close) and adopt one that manages the new reality.

The ways in which authors and analysts are depicting the traditional sales and marketing funnel model is also changing (finally). I ran across one particular funnel that really impressed me. I think it is dead-on.

Ardath Albee, an emarketing expert and author you should check out immediately, has conceived a funnel that truly addresses today’s sales and marketing realities. I have included an image of it in this post.

You’ll first notice that it is a horizontal funnel. This is brilliant way to visually depict that the process is not one of seller throwing buyer into a hopper to be squeezed and refined as if by gravity into a sale, but one of myriad, opt-in choices that the prospective buyer must be attracted to in the marketplace. It fully acknowledges that content and value attract buyers.

The model then goes on to show a largely buyer-driven process (acknowledging that business buyers rarely act alone but rather in committees or teams). Only then do we see some traditional selling tenants kick in, and even they are more collaborative in nature.

You should definitely check this model out. Here is a link to Ardath’s blog entry for more information.

By the way, Ardath also wrote a book called “eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale” which explains her philosophy on creating the unique and nurturing content that will attract your buyers to the front end of this funnel.  I’m currently reading it and will post more on this topic in later posts.