Top sales people feed off of pools of prospects. These sales achievers successfully maintain these pools of prospects at a constant, optimized level. This feeding process is referred to, in common parlance, as a funnel. The premise is that the right feeding interval (the phenomenon of gravity pulling material through the tube of a funnel) in conjunction with the right volume of prospects in one of these pools (meaning the amount of material added to the cup portion of a funnel) will result in a successful engagement whereby the sales person is paid an attractive compensation (commission) while the business realizes or exceeds the amount of revenue included in the sales plan.
Maintaining the funnel should constitute the majority of sales activity for sales staff. Sales management should take the steps required to ensure that funnels are in good shape across the entire sales organization. Monitoring funnel conditions can be as easy as keeping an eye out for high pressure sales activity and, conversely, inertia together with a lack of a sense of urgency.
The former condition is indicative of a lack of volume in the funnel and a need to force every “precious” opportunity through to a close. I’ve learned over time that a sales person who calls on the same prospect too frequently is a sales person who lacks the right number of prospects.
The latter condition, inertia together with a lack of a sense of urgency, is indicative of a sales person who has overestimated the prospect volume in the funnel; in other words, a sales person who has either over estimated the probability of sales, or a sales person who is marching to a different drummer, perhaps assuming that the firm will pick up the tab on compensation just to keep his or her at the job.
Generally it is much easier to manage high pressure sales people than the laggards. After all, high pressure sales people are, at least, adequately committed to the sales activity to deliver, under effective management satisfactory results. Better to jettison the laggards to keep the business afloat.
Above all, management activity must be largely directed to establish and maintain profitable funnel activity for each and every sales person. For a telemarketing operation this generally means monitoring outbound sales call volume together with the number of substantial conversations (generally conversations of 5 minutes or more on the telephone) on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. As a rule of thumb, for every set of 100 outbound calls, look for somewhere between 10 and 15 meaningful conversations. Any proportion less than a 10 – 15% prospect engagement rate should be analyzed. Keep an eye out for a poor call list or an ineffective sales person. Take remedial action promptly to avoid problems.
For an outbound sales staff the measure should be a top account list with an adequate flow of prospects into the list together with a reasonable close rate as predetermined by the sales plan.
For either type of sales staff, the method is to take remedial action promptly or else risk failure.
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