Like many B2B companies positioning and selling complex solutions in a challenging marketplace… your sales funnel is likely swollen with invalid leads and prospects, creating nagging symptoms adversely affecting your management results and culture.
An overinflated sales pipeline resembles an unexplained swollen knee after a long run or an aggressive day on the slopes. There’s a reason for it, and unpleasant side effects from allowing it to persist untreated.
What causes funnel inflammation?
- Unqualified leads or opportunities entering the funnel at Stage 1
- Stalled sales opportunities lingering well beyond their lifespan (see Accelerating Pipeline Velocity and Recognizing Stalls )
- Loosely defined sales stage criteria
- Seller-focused sales stage definitions that fail to represent the Buyer’s decision-making and buying process
- Lack of ongoing management help and diligence validating individual pipelines with each sales resource
The business effects of living with funnel inflammation?
- Inaccurate forecasts and a trend of drastically reducing the committed number as reporting period deadlines approach
- A contagious smoke-and-mirrors strategy by sales resources to give the appearance of activity and pending success
- Contentious sales meetings that drag out and sound more like a reality tv reunion show than a professional business meeting (see The Sales Meeting as Diagnostic Tool)
- The inability to accurately diagnose where marketing and sales ailments need attention
- Poor business management and decision-making caused by inaccurately measuring short and long-term revenue scenarios and marketplace needs
- Start with a couple of aspirin and a glass of water. You likely need it.
- Create lead qualification and sales funnel stage definitions and criteria that recognize and match your Buyer’s journey and path to a decision. Be sure to include some form of timing restriction to each funnel stage.
- Utilizing your new pipeline stage criteria, flush out your existing funnel with a dose of reality and common sense based on where your prospects really are with respect to signing a contract. (prepare Marketing for a large infusion of new “nurture” accounts from your funnel purge)
- Warning: You may need a few more aspirin at this point.
- Regularly hold each sales resource accountable for an accurate sales funnel, abiding by your new stage definitions, versus “…well, I was hoping…”
- And as a dose of shameless self-promotion… find an objective 3rd party expert to help. This is change you and your organization will naturally resist and dilute.
A clean, orderly and disciplined sales funnel allows for the proactive management of your business along with a fresh element of realism. It also sends a culture-impacting message of integrity to your team as a whole. Reduce the swelling and condition your team for healthier results.
Jack Liles is a Partner at TechCXO, providing on-demand Chief Sales Officer duties to client companies in need of go-to-market plan development, improved sales performance, leadership and structure. Jack is a veteran Naval Officer and recovering F-14 Tomcat flyer. He’s held leadership roles at the ad agency Leo Burnett, Coca-Cola, UPS and at numerous successful (and unsuccessful) start-ups. Connect with Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org.