Our sales funnel does not provide enough qualified prospects. Do I go out and find them on my own, or should I address this through management? – Yamila in Cheyenne, Wyoming
Yamila, how are you defining “qualified prospects”? Are you defining “qualified” as giving you an immediate response? Today, in many industries, the sales cycle is longer than ever. It takes a lot of pursuit and contact, building relationships to get to the point of moving a sale to the finish line. Your question needs to take into account a much bigger picture. I want you to broaden your idea of a “qualified” prospect and think more about long-term sales strategy.
Before you do anything, go out and rent the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s a timeless story about working in sales. In the film, the pressure is on to sell a fabulous new real estate subdivision. Everyone on the team wants the “good leads,” but the boss isn’t giving them out. He wants to see what they can do. This tale shows how quickly people can become shortsighted due to the pressures of selling in the present.
How do you define the quality and quantity of leads? You need to evaluate if having a lack of qualified prospects is a fair assumption. The criteria are going to depend upon your own sales process within the organization. The sales cycle is radically different between industries and whether you’re selling a product or service. If you have a breakout product, sales are going to be much faster. But it’s not the norm to have a “fantastic” product or “breakthrough” service.
All industries are different, but again, most sales take time. Keep in mind that the people to whom you’re trying sell are busy with other obligations. They have things to deal with, while your desire is to break through all that clutter and noise. In most cases with sales work, you’re going to have to start chipping away at it. Think of sales as getting the butter out of the refrigerator. You’re going to want to get it warmed up before trying to cut it up. It will make everything much easier.
The bottom line is to first look at your sales funnel as a long-term strategy. I know that’s not easy, because you’re trying to make sales now. But you should approach each contact by providing value. How do you do this? Give them confidence and assurance by having a genuine interest in their situation. Everyone has pain points, so be sure your product or service will address those pain points. Sales begin with nurturing each and every lead.
When your company gives you a sales prospect, quickly establish what real use they have for your product or service. They may not need it right now, but products and services, as well as the prospect’s needs, change over time. They might not need you at the moment, so look at every contact as a long-term relationship. Indeed, they may become your very best customer in the not-too-distant future.
Look again at how you’re defining these leads and the sales timeline. Your thoughts on this might be too shortsighted. Realize that your funnel is at the beginning. You could be focusing too much on sales before having solid conversations and nurturing your prospect. Think long-term, and once you have built great relationships, you can then ask for referrals. That’s the best way to find your own prospects.
I’m glad you wanted to take things into your own hands. Every sales person is entrepreneurial by nature. If not, I would wonder what they are doing in sales.
Stay with your company’s sales funnel and learn to maximize what they give you. Define what a quality lead is, determine what that means to you, and seek the benefits of establishing long-term relationships. When looking at things this way, management, and their sales funnel, will look much better. You won’t see your job as simply sale/no sale. Instead, you’ll see your role as determining if your products and services are a good fit and building life-long connections.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.