Pulling a rabbit out of a hat is something magicians do (did?), not something that you should be doing to grow your firm. You probably want to sign up more clients. More than that, wouldn’t you prefer a  steady number of them, rather than a glut, followed by none at all? Managing your sales funnel helps you to do just that.

Magician and rabbit, like a sales funnel cc https://www.flickr.com/photos/foilman/11694299656/

Improving your sales funnel.

Improving your sales funnel might mean:

  • getting more from it (more new clients, from same number of leads).
  • that new clients would be welcome if they turned up at a steady (manageable) and predictable rate.
  • you realising that you simply need to put more prospects into your pipeline.

Each of these scenarios require a different solution. The problem is that the owners of most small firms don’t know which it is, and thus can’t fix the problem.

What’s this got to do with rabbits?

If you spent time training professional sales teams in the corporate sector (I did) you’ll meet some stereotypical sales people. One stereotype of salespeople who ‘talk a good talk’, are not the ones that help their company prosper. I’ve worked with many sales teams and helped them improve sales, but not by using “sales techniques“.

Inventednamebutreal PLC were having a bad year in their sector. They were struggling with cash flow and sales were sluggish. The MD made a personal appeal to the sales team which inspired them to action, for a short period. They managed to get round many of the excuses they’d been giving their sales director and magically produce new sales where there had been nothing. In 6 weeks the MD came back and they had pulled the proverbial rabbit from a hat. Everybody was pleased, especially the sales teams, who loved the adrenaline and recognition for saving the day.

The reality was that this happened on a regular basis, so we decided to change things.We improved sales and more importantly the regularity and predictability of sales. We got the sales teams to focus on a sales process. One company I worked with even changed their bonus system to reward use of the process, rather than reward overall sales. They got an even bigger increase in total sales.

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How could a sales process help my small firm?

You might be the only person signing clients up. It might be that you have one, two, or even more other staff signing up clients for you. A process will help you know what’s going on in your sales funnel. It will also help your business development staff focus on the right activities, and your ability to manage your team (prospective clients and yourself).

That means more clients signing up and you seeing a steady stream, rather than a glut all at once (with subsequent problems managing your onboarding process).

What is a sales process?

In simple terms, it’s a series of steps that you and your prospective client go through until they become a client. Each step involves something definite and makes it more likely that you will get the sale. There will be an exchange of commitment at each step, so you know that you have now moved into a new step. The exchange of commitment means your prospect has more invested in the process, and so do you. Prospects who are disinterested won’t exchange more commitments with you, nor you with them. A well constructed sales process will help you to sell more and help you to manage the others in the firm that are involved in selling.

The process element means it is what you do every time, repeatedly. It means that there are measured points to say where you are in the process and that every prospects point in the pipeline is visible. In other words, it fulfills one of my tests of a good process – it can be actively managed.

What are exchanges of commitment in a sales funnel?

A genuine person will be willing to trade some commitment with you, a “tyre-kicker” won’t. What can you ask them to do?

  • Give 2 years of accounts before you give a free consultation? You both exchanged some commitment.
  • Complete a questionnaire?
  • Provide specific information?
  • Commit to meet up?

These are all examples of exchanges of commitment that could be appropriate at different stages. That will help you know somebody really is interested rather than wasting time with people who want things for free.

How might you change the way you manage your sales funnel?

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Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access

Photo used under creative commons licence. For more information, click here.