By Jeff Beals
Anyone who has studied sales or has worked in the field has probably heard of the “marketing funnel.” It is also known as the “sales funnel,” “purchasing funnel,” “pipeline” or a handful of other names.
Whatever you call it, the principles are the same. Picture a funnel in your head. The broad, wide top represents all persons who are demographically eligible to be your clients. Some call these people “suspects.”
As you move down the funnel, its size becomes smaller and narrower. Just below the wide top of the funnel would be prospects—those people you know you can help and who have an initial interest in what you offer. As you continue down the tapering funnel, there are fewer and fewer people at each stage in the selling process. Finally, those people at the very bottom, the few who “drip” out of the funnel, are your “done deals,” signed-up clients.
Prospecting is a top-of-funnel activity. Delivering sales pitches and answering objections are middle-of-funnel activities. Negotiating final terms and closing sales are bottom-of-funnel activities. What’s more important? Top, middle or bottom? Most people would quickly answer “the bottom!”
But that question cannot be answered without further clarification. The degree of importance of each depends on where you are in your work. If you’re just starting out, top-of-funnel activity is probably most important. If you’re established in business, you’re probably more focused on closing deals.
In general, the wise salesperson spends the majority of time with the most serious prospective clients who have worked their way down the funnel and are getting really close to signing their names on the dotted lines. The farther down a person is on the funnel, the more time you spend on him. This is only logical. But a problem can develop when so much time is spent with bottom-of-funnel people that no time is left for prospecting.
Prospecting neglect usually occurs when a salesperson is enjoying an unusually large number of prospects who are arriving at the closing stage at about the same time. This is a heady experience when it happens. Such a situation creates a frenzy of activity and a rush of adrenaline as you do whatever it takes to bring the deals home while fantasizing about all the money you’ll make as soon as everything is finalized.
Eventually, all those bottom-of-funnel people will flow out. You hope they become your clients. Some could ultimately choose to go a different route as some deals blow up just before closing. In either case, the time will come when there are no more clients to work. If you haven’t done enough prospecting during your busy times, you’ll be left with a mostly empty funnel. You then have a long lag time before closing your next sale because it takes time to push new prospects down through each funnel stage.
The trick is to work people at each stage constantly, so the flow of done deals is never really interrupted. No matter how busy you are, and no matter how successful you have been, never, ever stop prospecting. Make a perpetual commitment to be a great prospector, an originator of business, a generator of revenue. Be the type of person who other salespersons envy. If selling is the lifeblood of an organization, then prospecting is the lifeblood of selling.
Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 637-9300.
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