Friendly violent debates are really a lot of fun. They’re also the best way to practice selling complex ideas. Fortunately for me, there are lots of folks ready, willing and able to have no-holds-barred, free-for-all arguments about my allegedly brilliant ideas. One of my favorites involves the traditional “sales funnel” metaphor.
I still hold it near and dear. For me, it’s the bedrock upon which sales process improvement is built. A trusted colleague thinks I’m missing the boat and that an “incubator” metaphor is more appropriate. His contention is that sales is non-linear, and needs to be able to deal with whatever new circumstances come along.
In my view, he’s right about the non-linear nature of establishing and nurturing business relationships with individuals. He’s dead wrong, though, when it comes to managing opportunities. My job as a sales rep is to help my customers solve problems and exploit opportunities. No touchy-feely nurturing stuff here. This is bare-knuckle business. Crush that problem. Exploit that market situation. (Yeah, exploit, not just take advantage of!) Be disciplined, methodical and relentless about it. To do either of those things, I need to thoroughly understand and, using a defined sales process, work through four sets of information:
- The existing circumstances – Who, what, when, where why and how? What – precisely what – is the “Before” picture?
- The desired circumstances – Who, what, when, where why and how? What – precisely what – is the “After” picture?
- The transition – How do I help my customer progress from “Before” to “After?”
- The “So what?” – What does “Before” cost? What does “After” cost? What does the transition cost? What is the ROI, Break-Even Point and discounted cash flow associated with my recommendation?
I just described a process; a funnel management process. Nothing non-linear about it. Sure I need to do all that non-linear relationship and credibility building stuff, but when it comes to identifying an opportunity and selling something related to it, I’ll take the good old funnel mentality every time.
What do you think?
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