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Channel Coach: How to Build Your Sales Funnel

Success breeds success. Just about anyone can identify who the “Top Dog” salesperson is in their company. They often are easy to spot — just look for the person with the great smile, great car and great clothes. They probably have the biggest commission check, too. But these are the results of success, not the cause. So what causes their success? What do they do and — equally important — not do that makes them that way?

This month we’ll look inside success and discuss the one key area that absolutely will assure the success of every salesperson and, therefore, their company: The Sales Prospect Pipeline a.k.a. the Sales Funnel. Using a funnel is a great way to visually depict the sales process: Just dump a sizeable number of good prospects and potential buyers into the top of the funnel and out come a steady stream of new customers. Sounds easy? Not so fast. If it was that easy, we wouldn’t value salespeople as highly as we do and pay them the big bucks. Finding those prospects and getting them into the funnel is no easy task. It takes time, patience, tenacity, knowledge and, most importantly, the ability to understand clients’ needs and then show them how a decision to use your products and services is their best business decision.

So where do we go to find these prospects? Using a fishing analogy, we would go to waters where there were lots of fish available — think fishing in Alaska when the salmon are running upstream. We also could go fishing where there are fewer people fishing — think a lake reachable only by a long hike or seaplane. In these two examples, we identified more prospects in one case and less competition in the other. Both are good strategies and both require a little thought, research and planning. Where can you go to find either or perhaps both?

Work your base. I am often surprised when working with clients that they overlook a place to fish that is often teeming with prospects and is one of the best and fastest ways to build their pipeline — the existing customer base! We recommend to our clients developing a program to contact every active and maybe even inactive customer on a regular basis. A phone call, visit or, depending upon their size and potential, a breakfast or lunch are all good ways to uncover opportunities and increase your sales funnel. One of the best things about selling to existing clients is they already know you. If your service has been good, the sales process should be easier, shorter and potentially more profitable. So work your base.

Go prospecting in areas or industries where no one else is working. How about a day or two of cold calling in a part of the town, city or county where there isn’t a lot of sales traffic? I’ve found some of our best prospects and future clients in places where nobody was looking. Look at the businesses in your area that have potential to grow in challenging financial times. With bankruptcies and restructurings, many businesses will be looking for ways to better serve their clients and your products and services may be a good match. Find and work underserved markets where there is great potential.

Make prospecting a team-building event. When I was a sales manager, we held prospecting “Blitz Days.” On Blitz Days, every sales rep went into a single salesperson’s territory and went cold calling for appointments. At the end of the day we would get together to compare notes, results and give out prizes. The day was capped by a terrific team-building dinner at a local restaurant. We scheduled Blitz Days for each salesperson and each territory, so everyone had the benefit of a concentrated effort to build their sales funnel. Work together and have fun!

Join a lead-sharing network. There are plenty around such as LeTip, BNI and Toastmasters. Choose the group that best fits you, paying particular attention to assure the chemistry is right between you and the other members. Joining a lead-sharing group harnesses the power of referrals. Next to a base client, there is nothing better than a referral to increase your chances for success. One caveat to this approach: Be sure you have exclusive rights to leads for your business type. There ideally should be only one vendor in the group providing your type of services — YOU! If you can’t find a group that has room for you or the chemistry just isn’t right, consider putting together your own group.

By following these tips, you will be on your way to becoming the one of those people with the great smile!

Got Questions?
Ask the Channel Coach. Send your questions to wbtaylor@corporateladders.com. Please include your name, city, state and a phone number where you can be reached. First names and locations only will be published.

Bill Taylor is president of Corporate Ladders, a management, sales and business development consulting and coaching firm specializing in technology, telecom, Internet, health care and financial services companies. He can be reached at +1 201 825 8296 or wbtaylor@corporateladders.com.


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