Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Sales Funnel…the what?

     Many of you have heard of a funnel cloud…but what about a Sales Funnel?  A sales funnel is simply a sales process that uses a systematic approach to sell products and services.  There is a growing amount of published literature available that approaches Sales as a process, from the view of an engineering discipline.

     Why would you want to use this process?  Because you would have a well thought-out process that would include management of both the seller and buyer, standardized customer interactions, and measurable revenue generation.  One of the major advantages of approaching Sales as a process; there are a multitude of tested design and improvement tools available from other successful process-oriented businesses.  Applying the familiar principles of quality and process engineering should also work for a sales process.

    The steps or stages in a sales process will vary for each business, but they would usually follow the following elements;

 Initial contact
 Application of Initial Fit Criteria
 Sales lead
 Need identification
 Qualified prospect
 Deal Transaction

Or perhaps some alternative steps could be the following;

 Prospecting/Initial contact
 Approach-planning of the sale
 Needs assessment
 Meeting objections
 Gaining commitment

In general these are the typical steps taken in traditional sales, but they may vary depending upon the situation.  Mapping your process provides a starting point for analysis and continued improvement.  The elements in the list above have been described and flow-charted in published literature.  In at least one example they depicted a cross-functional approach that integrated areas such as sales, marketing, customer service, and information systems.

A sales process can reduce risk by controlling the flow of deals based upon information or execution of procedures that move you to the next step.  These steps walk a sales person from meeting the client to closing the deal.  An unpleasant sales experience can be analyzed and, in some cases, shown to have skipped essential steps.  A solid process can also dramatically impact forecasting accuracy and predictability in revenue results.

Some additional sources of information on this topic include;

Mind Tools, Essential skills for an excellent career

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com, The Sales Funnel Explained

Math Marketing, Sales Funnel Calculator

Sales Management Insight, Sales Funnel

The Funnel Principle: What Every Salesperson Must Know About Selling , by Mark Sellers

Success Secrets of the Sales Funnel: The Proven, Scientific Selling Method of Going from "Hello" to the Contract , by Ray Leone

Keeping the Funnel Full: The Definitive Authority on Solution Selling, by Don Thomson

Use one of the sales processes described in the publications above, or develop and tailor a Sales Funnel for your organization.

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