Breakthrough Selling: Get Real Prospects in the Funnel

‘Half of my reps have sales funnels full of old, worn out leads. No wonder we are struggling to grow.”

That’s the comment I heard recently while speaking with a sales manager. To which I responded, “How much of that is your fault?”

“What do you mean? I’m not the one prospecting or putting these names on the list.”

It’s true, as a manager you probably aren’t the one in the field making cold calls or going on first appointments.

And you probably aren’t the one updating the CRM software with names and opportunities. But for better or worse, you are influencing the accuracy and quality of your team’s funnels. Taking it one step further, their funnels provide insight into your management style.

Quantity Reigns


Are you a quantity or quality manager? During one-on-ones with reps to review their sales funnel, do you look for a high number of prospects or are you more concerned with the number of qualified prospects — prospects who have a defined business need with clear next steps in place? Everyone likes to see quantity, I understand. But if that’s what you focus on, you could be sending the wrong message and encouraging your team to fill their funnels with any old lead — good or bad. They eventually learn that the easiest way to keep you at bay is by having a long list, even if that means it’s not really a good one. These are the funnels that produce more headaches than revenue.

It’s easy to tell if this is happening on your team. Do you constantly see the same names on monthly forecasts, but when the month closes they never buy? Have names been in the funnel for more than six months with no real activity? If you answered yes, you might be focusing too much on quantity.

Better, Not More

Going forward, put more emphasis on quality. Doing so offers three benefits:

  • More accurate forecasting – Better information lets you forecast with more confidence and accuracy.
  • Better team assessment – Get clear on which sales reps need help.
  • Targeted development – The funnel exposes weakness. Do your reps have empty pipelines?

Maybe you should focus on lead generation. Do they have full pipelines but no sales? Maybe they’re having trouble with value creation. Clean up the funnels to know what you’re actually working with.

Making this shift is not hard. As you review funnels with your sales team, differentiate between leads and prospects. Decide on the criteria that define a qualified prospect and share them with your team. Then ask them to redo their funnels based on these criteria.

When you meet with reps, probe deeper about each name on the list: What is the business need (problem or opportunity)? What differentiates us? Who are the decision makers? What are their criteria? Do they have the resources? Time, money, infrastructure, team support? What are the next steps? (These should be clear and defined with time frames attached versus “I am going to follow up.”)

It’s the fourth quarter, time to get incredibly focused on every opportunity to hit the number. To ensure that happens, make sure everyone is working a funnel of real prospects and not just a wish list.


MENTOR November 2016;7(11):5.

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