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“Funnel” vs. “Incubator”

By April 18, 2010July 15th, 2018Process Thinking

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.

Hey, Schnick.  Hey, Payton.  Any comments?  Or do you concede?

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Gary Johnson says:

    Hi Todd,

    I’d argue that you’re both wrong. They’re not mutually exclusive and both take place throughout the sales cycle. To take the metaphor a step further… What goes on inside the egg is very structured, without it – no chicken. However without the warmth of the incubator, throughout the entire process – no chicken.

    My two cents,

  • Todd Schnick says:

    Gary’s point is a good one, and what it says to me is that there is a lose combination of care + feeding (different for each prospects) and some element of structure.

    Many initially feel the incubator method, at least in how I apply it, means no structure.

    This is incorrect. Each prospect I attempt to do business with makes their buying decision differently. I have failed where I have tried to throw all prospects into one funnel. It gets clogged.

    Some need thought leadership to better understand and gain confidence. Some need third party buy-in. Some need more knowledge. Some need potential ROI. Some need emotional buttons pushed.

    All require different care and feeding, and all require different structure to incubate. The sales funnel, to me, feels to one-size-fits-all and “insert prospect name here”…

  • Rick Howe says:

    FUNNELS STILL RULE!….BUT they are only as good as your Sales Process. A poor process can create the “clog” or lose the “warm touch” required to move through the various stages.

  • Perhaps we’ve been closer to holding basically the same position all along. The funnel portion of the baseline YPS Methodical Sales Process does indeed have specific, linear stages. Each of those stages has very specific completion criteria. (For “Conduct Discovery” it’s “All information required to write a compelling proposal has been

    Each stage also consists of a variety of “best” practices, some subset of which are used for each specific opportunity depending on the unique circumstances. In Discovery for example, “Understand the customer’s decision process and criteria,” “clearly define requirements and issues” and “Establish a basis to customize and justify use of my products/services” are commonly used “best” practices.

    The funnel itself is very structured and helps prevent omission of key steps. A high degree of customization is possible – necessary – within each stage. The completion criteria for each stage, however, is also very specific.

    It’s all about “Creative Discipline.” It’s flexibility within a formal overall funnel structure.

  • Stone Payton says:

    Cool ! — Amazing what one can learn from publicly challenging a long-held idea . . . and genuinely entertaining the response with an open mind.

    What I’m realizing through this exchange — It’s not the Actions / Process associated with the Funnel I take issue with — It really is the Metaphor itself, the Imagery . . . which I now more strongly than ever contend . . . prevents many from properly planning and executing all the very important steps that Todd Y, Gary, Rick and others are advocating.

    WHAT IF everything you guys are describing (such as: “Understand the customer’s decision process and criteria,” “clearly define requirements and issues” and “Establish a basis to customize and justify use of my products/services”) were taught to, and executed by a salesforce that had never seen a “funnel” — but rather . . . envisioned all of these Best Practices as critical in sustaining their Incubator?

    I THINK . . . They would embrace the actions more readily, feel better about themselves, actually DO the work, and do a much better job for the customer and their organization.

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