It seems, as things were getting tougher, management was pushing sales to "go out and get more deals!" In an effort to keep their funnels full, the sales people were chasing bad deals. They were deals in which the customer had no real interest, urgency, or funding to go forward with a project. Deals in which my client's solutions were marginally competitive. Deals that were the wishful thinking of hungry sales people.
- The lower quality deals have significantly lower win rates, yet consume significantly more sales, pre-sales, and management time.
- The few times those deals were won, the cost of supporting those customers was much higher. Customer satisfaction was significantly lower--impacting the perception of my client in the market, customer support costs were higher, decreasing profitability, and too much sales and management time was involved in dealing with these situations.
- The "inflated" funnel set the wrong expectation in the business. Management could not really determine the real performance or expected performance of the sales organization and the gap to plan. Consequently, they were not implementing the right recovery strategies.
- The time spent chasing bad deals, robbed the time sales people have to prospect and find quality deals. They were missing good opportunities, simply because they were spending too much time managing low quality opportunities.
Maintaining a quality funnel in very tough economic times takes courage, but it is the only way sales professionals and management can optimize their business results. No individual or organization can afford to waste any time or resource on non-productive activities. Maintaining or increasing the quality of the funnel, is critical to maximizing results and sales productivity.
The fastest way to increase sales productivity and building quality funnels is to get sales people to focus on vicious disqualification. They must focus on deals where customers have an urgent need--in today's economy, organizations will only invest in the most urgent, highest return areas. Sales must focus on deals that hit their organization's sweet spot---these are deals that have a higher probability of winning. There may be real deals out there, but if they don't fit your capabilities and sweet spot, you probably have little chance of winning them.
If sales people focus on vicious disqualification, the quality of the funnel will improve dramatically. Win rates and productivity will soar. Management will be able to accurately forecast the state of the business and develop strategies to address gaps. Sales people, with lean, but quality funnels will have more time freed up to prospect and find more quality deals.
It may seem counter intuitive, but vicious disqualification and the highest quality funnels are the best way to maximize business and profitability in a down economy. Your thoughts?