Your Sales Funnel Feels the Need for Speed
Maneuvering a high performance fighter jet requires finesse at both high and low speeds. While stalls and uncontrolled flight situations sometimes occur during training dogfights, pilots learn quickly that such slowdowns usually result in the competitor gaining a critical if not lethal advantage.
As a senior business manager responsible for revenue growth, you know that stalled opportunities in your sales pipeline are equally concerning. Steady funnel velocity is critical, and recognizing the signs of stalled or dead-end opportunities is essential to keeping your pipeline real.
A pipeline full of stalled opportunities is an inaccurate pipeline, and an inaccurate pipeline leads to erroneous forecasts. Here are a few tips for keeping the pipeline moving, and being real about stalled or dead opportunities:
- Do the definitions (criteria) for the various stages of your pipeline have timing limits? Apply an activity-based time limit to each funnel stage, particularly the early stages. An initial funnel stage for many B2B sales cycles should include something like: “An all-players meeting has been firmly scheduled within 45 days”. Subsequent funnel phases should include similar timing criteria, such that stalled opportunities no longer meet the definition of a legitimate sales/buying process.
- Focus sales reps on funnel velocity by establishing monthly activity metrics that promote pipeline progression and movement. Managing a full pipeline creates lots of distractions. Keep the team focused on the activities that lead to funnel movement and closed deals.
- Do funnel stage definitions include an understanding of a typical Buyer’s purchasing process? Don’t be guilty of defining funnel stages by Sales activity steps alone. What may look like a moving Sales Process, may not be a Buying Process at all. Ensure sales funnels are defined as a Buyer-Conscious process, and the sales team is acknowledging the right Buyer activity to warrant funnel progression.
- Opportunities that stall in the pipeline should be labeled as Closed-Lost, with a Lost Reason of “Stalled – Will Nurture”. Many know that some of the most successful deals ever accomplished stalled at some point. It happens. Accept the delay, and put a wisely cadenced Nurture Plan in place to keep in touch and encourage reconnection.
Apply rigor to examining the sales/buying process routinely, and recognize that it will change as you master your shifting markets and customer segments.
A healthy, accurate sales funnel with good velocity generates accurate forecasts, and is a great indicator of a solid company with strong sales management and marketplace moxie.
Jack Liles flew combat missions in the Navy F-14 Tomcat after graduating from The Citadel, and transitioned into a successful sales and marketing career following his 10 years of service. He has held leadership roles at the ad agency Leo Burnett, Coca-Cola, UPS, several start-up tech and consulting companies, and is an occasional military analyst on CNN. Jack is a Partner at TechCXO, focused on providing on-demand Chief Sales Officer leadership to B2B client companies in need of improved sales performance and structure. Jack serves clients as an interim Chief of Sales & Marketing, a consultant/coach to existing sales leadership teams, or as a Sales and Sales Management Trainer. Reach Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org