“The secret to selling is to be in front of qualified prospects when they’re ready to buy, not when you need to make a sale.”
-Bill Brooks, Sales Techniques
The Perfect Time for Reflection
It is natural for prospecting to slow down at the end of a fiscal period as salespeople focus on closing existing opportunities. This occurs at the end of a month, quarter, or year. For most companies, December scores a hat trick, as it represents the end of all three.
That makes right now the perfect time for managers to evaluate their sales funnel. When the out-of-office replies start rolling in, take a few moments and answer these five questions so your team can hit the ground running in 2023.
1. Does Your CRM Simplify Pipeline Management?
Your CRM should be an easy-to-use tool that mirrors your sales process. You will find it is not only difficult to coach people when they are using different sales techniques and strategies, but even more difficult to see what is going on simply by looking in your CRM. That should never be the case.
Before you can optimize your sales funnel for 2023, you’ll need to get your salespeople on the same page. Once everyone on your team is using the same process, they will all speak a common language and use the same terminology to describe where opportunities are in their pipeline.
Assuming your team is properly updating the CRM, pipeline management will become much easier. You’ll be able to see ratios for progressing an opportunity from one phase of your selling process to the next. This aggregate data will enable you to assess the health of any individual’s pipeline.
2. Do You Know Each Salesperson’s Ratios?
Understanding the shape of your funnel and advancement percentages from phase to phase in your process are both key sales enablement tools.
We tend to visualize funnels in a perfectly conical shape, but they seldom are. A salesperson may have more opportunities in the middle or bottom than they do at the top. You can tell if this is a problem by comparing their numbers to their previous performance and your team’s average.
Similarly, you will want to know what percentage of opportunities make it from one stage to the next. Not to belabor the point, but this is where naming and explaining each stage becomes vitally important. “Prospecting” is too broad of a term. “Initiating contact”, “Qualifying decision maker”, “Assessing needs”, and “Presenting value”, are not only more specific, but also remind salespeople what they should be doing in each phase.
When you see advancement percentages that don’t follow the team’s average or a rep’s usual ratios, you will know where to focus to help that rep.
3. Have You Defined What Makes a Qualified Prospect?
Salespeople can sometimes be overly optimistic about an opportunity. If your marketing team is sending your sales team leads, it’s important to make a distinction between a marketing qualified lead (MQL), and a sales qualified lead (SQL).
Your sales team needs to have strict criteria for identifying the characteristics of a qualified prospect. At The Brooks Group, we believe a prospect is qualified when they:
- Are aware they have a need.
- Have the authority and ability to buy.
- Have a sense of urgency.
- Trust your rep and your organization.
- Are willing to listen.
It is the salesperson’s responsibility to continue qualifying prospects until all five of these characteristics exist, as it is unlikely a prospect will make a purchase until they do. If you have a salesperson who continually has deals that “get stuck”, meaning they are expected to close this month but keep getting delayed from month to month, that salesperson is likely not qualifying properly.
4. Do You Regularly Clean House?
Most salespeople have a series of opportunities that keep getting pushed forward.
While there’s no real penalty for doing that, it can make a rep’s funnel look bigger than it really is. Every once in a while you need to do some funnel cleaning. Think of it like dusting. You don’t have to dust your house every day, but if you don’t do it for a year, the dust is going to build up and people will notice.
The end of any fiscal period (month, quarter, year) is a great time to have conversations about any opportunity that has been in the CRM for too long. How long is too long? Just look at the average time an opportunity spends in each phase and you’ll know. If a rep can’t give you a clear explanation for why an opportunity needs more time, then you may have an unqualified or dead deal that you need to get rid of.
Work with your marketing team to put those prospects back into a nurture sequence.
5. What’s Your Plan for Existing Customers?
Make sure you are measuring touchpoints with existing customers at the start of the year. Clients may have just spent their budget as the year came to a close, but they’re thinking about next year’s budget. Client budgets aren’t always finalized in January, making it a great time to help clients plan for the future.
Any existing customers who didn’t make a purchase in Q4, or who your salespeople haven’t spoken with in over a month or two are in need of a phone call and possibly a meeting.
Every sales rep should have a recurring New Year’s Resolution to find out what their existing customers’ plans are for the coming year.
Do You Need Help Managing and Running Your Funnel?
If you feel like you don’t have the right tools, or need to learn more about funnel management, then consider The Brooks Group’s Sales Leadership Accelerator. The instructor-led training program will give you a proven strategy to improve your team’s performance with tactical steps on where to focus your attention, and how to coach to the strengths and weaknesses of individual reps. The program is offered virtually across six sessions or in-person over two days.
You can learn more about the topics covered, hear client testimonials, or view the upcoming open enrollment dates here.