The Issue with Funnel Bloat
Many of the sales managers I have worked with at over 100 technology companies believed that having more deals in the sales funnel translated to a greater likelihood of hitting their sales goals. While they looked at the size of the sales funnel (revenue potential), they forgot to consider when the deals were put on the sales funnel. They also neglected to determine if the deals were really viable.
In general, the rule of thumb is that sales funnels should be about 3X-6X the revenue objective to ensure that revenue targets are met. Most of my clients showed me sales funnels that exceeded this range. At first glance, I thought that the Sales Managers were doing well at managing sales funnel growth, but as I browsed further, I discovered that 80-90% of the deals were over 2 years old and not viable. Week after week, these Sales Managers would review the deals, and week after week their Reps convinced them that the older deals would close at some point in the future.
The next issue that I uncovered with my clients’ sales funnels was the viability of the newer deals being added to the funnel. After the initial call, Sales Reps should be validating the quality of the lead. Questions to determine viability can vary: Has a decision maker been contacted? Is there real need and pain established? Is the prospect looking at solutions to solve these problems within a reasonable time period? Did the prospect indicate some interest but didn’t have a real need?
One of my clients believed that every prospecting onsite meeting was a true indicator that the prospect was interested in the solution. The Sales Manager required that a quote/contract be left with the prospect after every meeting. When I worked with my client, I found that the Sales Reps did a good job of “showing” the solution. However, they were ineffective at qualifying for need, interest, decision process, and timeframe. This client’s prospects were in the State and Local Government space, where prospects are more willing to meet and see presentations. My client had hundreds of deals on the sales funnel; however, he never hit his sales targets.
Finally, the last issue that I uncovered was movement of deals from the top of the funnel to the “closed” or “closed-lost” stage. Many deals were stalled in the various stages of the funnel prior to “closed” or “closed-lost” for many months or even years.
These funnel symptoms created a false impression that the client’s sales funnels were healthy and viable. These issues arise when a Sales Manager lacks a good sales methodology or has not made sure that their Reps understand the methodology. In any case, all three symptoms kept my clients from hitting their targets.
6 Steps to Cure the Sales Funnel Bloat
Even though Funnel Bloat can be deadly to a sales team’s ability to hit targets, it can, fortunately, be cured. Follow these 6 steps to continue finding leads and ensure that you don’t fall victim to Funnel Bloat:
STEP 1: Develop a sales methodology that works for your company.
Determine the following:
- Who are your targets?
- What pain does your solution solve?
- What is an average time frame in which most deals should close?
STEP 2: Once you know these elements, figure out the number of stages most of your deals go through. Is the number of stages 5 or more? During each stage, decide what triggers must happen before the deals move to the next stage.
STEP 3: Retrain your team on the new sales methodology and make sure that they understand it.
STEP 4: Take a fine-toothed comb to your current funnel. Any deal that is older than your required time frame, whether that is 3-months, 9-months or 18-months on average, should be removed and re-qualified or put into a nurture program.
STEP 5: Build Sales Engagement tools that support the movement of each deal through the sales funnel. For example, build an ROI calculator which is easy to use and shows cost savings or build a “standard” demo that can be used by your team in a middle stage to keep prospects interested.
In the final stage, before close, send your prospect a Memorandum of Understanding. The MOU should outline an overview of the prospect’s needs/pains, how your solution can solve their problem, the outlined ROI, and the agreed price. The MOU should also include a date for when the prospect will finalize and legally sign documents and procure the product.
STEP 6: Be ruthless with any deal that is added to the funnel. Your Reps should have to justify why a deal should be added based upon your company’s sales methodology. One of my Sales VP’s used to say, “Get the bad news early.” If there isn’t really pain or necessity, then you don’t really have a deal.
After the cure has been applied, though painful, you will have a viable sales funnel. Once you have a viable sales funnel, you will probably need to ramp up your marketing efforts to get the sales funnel to a level of 3x-6x your revenue objective. Funnel bloat is deadly, so apply the cure and hit your revenue targets.