Selling Strategies: Sizing Up the Sales Funnel

One of the biggest blunders made by sales reps and managers is the inability to place opportunities into the correct sales stage. The value of being able to clearly identify and own the present position of a sales opportunity cannot be underestimated.

It indicates the health of your business and measures future success or failure. What are the stages of the sales funnel? Here’s a review, along with the estimated weighted percentage your deal has of closing:

PROSPECTING — 0%

In this stage, you might have a list, a business card, or a handshake at a networking meeting. That is it. You don’t know anything about the person or the company. In fact, I often call these prospects “suspects,” as they have yet to be qualified.

OLM26250/ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES PLUS

CONTACTING — 0%

Now that you’ve made the decision to call or email the prospect to introduce yourself, you’ve started the sales process. At this point, you’ll begin to document your “touches” to the prospect. Never underestimate the amount of time this stage might take. It has been said that it takes as many as 11 touches to gain an appointment. If you’d like to see more traction, ensure your message is compelling and informative. Do NOT leave the same voicemail or send the same email each time you reach out. Instead, craft several voice messages or emails that tout different problems your product might help solve. Keep track of which email you sent so you don’t repeat it. Another tactic is to call your prospect six times — doing so every 4 to 6 days at different times of the day. Reaching out at various times increases your chance of connecting.

Once you’ve finally connected with the prospect, it’s time to qualify him or her. If you’re certain that the prospect is a qualified lead, skip this step. However, if you’re not, have set criteria that the prospect needs to meet before you schedule an appointment. A good example might be that the prospect just signed a 2-year contract with a competitor, in which case you have no need to visit— though the client is certainly a qualified lead. Keep this prospect in your sales funnel and stay in touch.

Once you’ve set the appointment, you can move your opportunity to the next stage of the sales funnel: scoping.

SCOPING — 25%

With the appointment set, the weighted funnel stage moves to a 25% chance of closing. Scoping means you’ve set the appointment, you have a clear and agreed upon agenda for the meeting, and you are in the process of uncovering everything needed to prepare a proposal. There is a lot of work outlined in the previous sentence, and if you are missing any pieces, you are probably not yet ready for the scoping stage.

PROPOSING — 50%

You’ve uncovered everything you need to provide a proposal, and you’re in the process of gathering your story to tell. The proposal has not yet been submitted, though the client is anticipating it.

PROPOSAL SUBMITTED — 60%

You’ve submitted your proposal to the client for review.

PROPOSAL SUBMITTED — YOUR COMPANY LEADS — 70%

The client has indicated that you are leading and the company is leaning toward giving you its business.

CONTRACTING — 90%

The prospect has given you the go-ahead, and now you are submitting all necessary paperwork, getting signatures signed, etc. The opportunity is still not closed, so you still have work to do.

CLOSED WON — 100%

All signatures have been obtained and the order has shipped or the funds have been received.

When you are able to clearly identify where your opportunity lands in the above sales cycle, you can have a solid, data-driven review of what you have coming down the sales pike. Take a look at your current sales funnel — where is the bulk of your opportunities? Do you see any trends? Are you properly positioning your current deals? Also, take a moment to use the weighted percentage with your current opportunities — do you see how this percentage might improve your forecasting accuracy?

The above is a quick review of the sales funnel, which has become the language I use when coaching my clients. It’s imperative that a deal is placed in the right stage so that you can forecast and discuss the next step of your deal from the appropriate angle.

From MENTOR. June 2017;8(6): 6-7.

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