There is no middle of the funnel or bottom of the funnel without the top of the sales funnel. Most of the challenges that sales organizations have in making their number stem from the fact that they are weak at the top of the funnel. It’s not that they aren’t good salespeople, that they don’t have a good process, or that they lack the right methodologies. Most of the time what holds them back is not having enough opportunities (although I know there are exceptions, and I’ve seen some organizations with too many opportunities to effectively pursue them all).
The problems you experience in the middle of the funnel usually fall into one of two categories. The first class is non-opportunities. These are the “deals” that aren’t really opportunities at all. Maybe you mistake receptivity for a real compelling event that could cause your dream client to move. This problem is easily resolved; you push these non-opportunities down to target because they are really still leads. The second group is stalled opportunities. These opportunities are usually missing some of the commitments necessary to move them forward. These problems can be resolved, albeit not easily, with good coaching and big conversations with your dream clients.
The end of the funnel problems are usually around capturing value (or negotiating price) or dealing with legal issues and such. These issues can be difficult, but they’re normally easier to deal with than stalled deals.
But top of the funnel problems are far more pernicious. Without new opportunities coming into the funnel, you don’t have enough opportunities to make your number. So you’re reluctant to move non-opportunities back to targets; you feel that you can’t afford to. You can’t afford to have a stuck deal because doing so means you miss your number. You get desperate about stalled deals. At the end of the funnel, you cave on price because you can’t afford to push back.
Think about how a funnel works. If you feed it in dribs and drabs you get dribs and drabs out of the other end. But if you keep a nice steady stream pouring into the funnel, you get a nice steady stream out of the skinny end.
Worry first—and most—about the top of the sales funnel.
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