Drive Channel Sales with Better Sales Funnel Strategy

Over the past 20 years of training and consulting my firm has had many clients that use non-direct, ‘channel’ salesforces to sell.  So how does the sales funnel best work with channel partners?

Focus and alignment. How common is it that your channel isn’t focused where you want it to be selling?  The problem sometimes is they bring you into deals too late to differentiate or that aren’t in your strategic wheelhouse.  The sales funnel can align and focus selling efforts with your channel.  One of our first significant clients was a division of a large company that sold industrial hoses.  Management asked me how a sales funnel process would benefit their 125 sellers.  I said I didn’t know.  Fortunately, they were smarter than me and hired us to make it work.  The sales funnel process brought greater collaboration and coordination of selling efforts.  That division later was sold to private equity and then bought by another major player in the industry.

  1. Defining funnel entries. One of the considerations is to define the opportunities on the funnel as either end user or distributor/channel.  For example, if your team wants to sell through a new distributor to get better coverage then selling the distributor is the funnel entry.  However, if end user pull through is your focus then funnel entries can be defined by end users like a contractor, a retailer, or a manufacturer.
  2. Better qualification. It’s not uncommon for a channel partner to bring you into deals late in the buying process.  It’s hard to differentiate beyond price and harder still to shape the solution to favor your capabilities. Chasing these deals wastes time.  A sales funnel process doesn’t eliminate this but should surely reduce the times it occurs.  The key is to have regular funnel inspections with your channel sellers.  In these conversations you can reset and confirm the deals and accounts both of you should focus on.
  3. Better accountability. Improving sales productivity and performance ultimately comes down to execution and holding people accountable.  You can’t be shy about demanding that kind of relationship with your channel partners.  The good ones will respect it.

 

Good selling,

 

Mark Sellers

Author, The Funnel Principle and soon to be released book Blindspots:  The Hidden Killer of Sales Coaching

 

 

Does Your Sales Funnel Lack Bench?

All professional sports teams eventually experience the setback of injuries to key players.  My Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team, having another successful year, lost captain Nick Foligno to a season ending injury on ‘x’. They lost key defender Josh Anderson on ‘x’.  Top scorer Cam Atkinson was out for ‘x’ due to a ‘x’ injury.

Next man up!  That’s what the coaches say.  As they should.  Any team depending solely on its starting lineup surviving the physical bashing of the entire season is exposed to too much risk.  The successful teams have a strong bench that is ready to spring into action.

As it is with your sales funnel.

A sales funnel needs the ‘strong bench’ of opportunities that make the funnel healthy.  Too often I see in our clients’ monthly Funnel Audit™conversations funnels that seemingly have enough TVR – enough funnel value to be 3:1 or 2:1 or whatever is the target size – only to see that most of the TVR is tied up in a very small number of opportunities.

The problem with that is it makes the salesperson vulnerable.  If one or two of those TVR deals falls out the funnel value is too low for the close rate to win enough of what’s left to hit the quota. There’s no bench to give the starters a break.

Here’s what you can do to manage through this.

Inspect the funnel regularly. Our clients avoid surprises by constantly looking at the ‘leading indicator’ of the funnel value, TVR.  If there’s not enough TVR they’re aware of it and can act on it.

Purge the funnel.  Purging the funnel once a year sounds wise but Lean would say that’s batching the work and it’s not efficient.  Instead, develop the habit of purging throughout the year. Every Funnel Audit™conversation is an opportunity to get rid of deals that artificially make the funnel look good. As they say, if it’s a pig lipstick won’t hide that fact.

Build a sales funnel full of singles and doubles, not home runs.  Who doesn’t like closing the home run sale?  But more hall of fame hitters get there by getting on base with a high percentage.  I’ve met a lot of successful sellers who close a lot of smaller or midsized sales. They make sure their funnel is full of those sales, as boring as they might be.  They pay lots of bills.

Good selling,

 

Mark Sellers

Author, The Funnel Principle and creator of the original BuyCycle Funnel sales model

Author of soon to be released book Blindspots:  The Hidden Killer of Sales Coaching

 

 

 

 

 

Sales Managers Can You Operate in Space? 

No, not that space. This is actually a photo of my brother in law Steve who once set the record for hours walked in space, but hey, records were meant to be broken.

The space I’m referring to is a brilliant phrase coined by a client of mine, the president of a sizeable industrial products company.

On a recent coaching call we talked about how the best sales managers he knows learned to operate in space.  When I asked him to explain he said these managers learned to think and manage in three dimensions, instead of being handcuffed by linear thinking.  You might call it situational adaptation.

For example, a manager that is hired from another company where she did the same job would have two options for how to do the new job.  One option is to fairly quickly apply proven processes, do some training, and make sure people get it.  That approach usually requires constantly hitting the compliance reset button.

Another option is to carefully observe the new environment over time, ask and learn a lot, process all of the inputs, then make conclusions about people, processes, about how things get done, whatever.  Maybe involve people in the solution design.  Eventually set a course and consistently lead it.

This made me think of someone I know who took a new job with a title similar to one he had in the past, but with a company that was in a wildly different industry than any he had experienced.  The worst thing he could have done was quickly apply processes, frameworks, systems, etc. that he used in previous positions to this new environment. Looking back we both believe he would not have survived.  Instead, he was patient in coming to conclusions yet aggressive in absorbing everything around him.  His superior and colleagues say he’s made an incredible impact at this company in a very short couple of years.

It also made me think about the careers of some musicians.   Neil Young didn’t seem interested in making Harvest 2 and Harvest 3 and 4 and 5 as much as he preferred to create new works like Live Rust (1979 with Crazy Horse), Trans (1982), Broken Arrow (1996), Everybody’s Rockin (1983 with the Shocking Pinks).  Compare those to Silver and Gold or Comes a Time.  Same with Bob Dylan. Compare Blonde on Blonde (1966) to Oh Mercy (1989). By contrast will Jon Bon Jovi be performing You Give Love a Bad Name at your local Holiday Inn in 2025? Sorry, I hear he’s a good guy!

In trying to figure out the secret formula here, this is as close as I‘ve come:

Operating in spacemeans you have learned how to learn.

This isn’t the same as what you’ve learned as in a body of knowledge, or how much you’ve learned about a subject or market.  This is more about how you take the lessons and learnings of your past and apply them to new situations in your present.  This is hard, but it isn’t hard like getting buy-in to something you did 3 times before at 3 different companies or forcing your process on a ‘skeptical’ group.

By definition isn’t every new rep that a sales manager hires an entirely new experience?  Doesn’t that new experience demand a truly fresh, unbiased and tailored approach to being coached?

If you’re up for the challenge your impact could be outta this world.

 

Good Selling,

 

Mark Sellers

Author, The Funnel Principle

Founder, Breakthrough Sales Performance

Soon to be released sales coaching book Blindspots:  The Hidden Killer Of Sales Coaching

 

 

Selling to the Financial Decision Maker

Welcome to another Breakthrough Sales Tip.

You ever find yourself reluctant to ‘take the next step?’

I’m talking about some important decisions you’ve considered. Maybe join the gym? Take your first yoga class? Join a group at church? Decide to downsize? Decide to buy a house?

Taking the next step can be hard for the people you’re selling to. Especially the people we call PFAs. The PFA is the person with financial authority for a purchase. Think final approval. Veto power. Obviously, a very important stakeholder to your sales success.

One way to improve your success in selling to the PFA is to learn about ‘risk’, learn how risky the PFA believes it is to take the next step.

Recently I was with a client that sells mechanical services and major project services to the energy and construction industries.

One of the salesmen shared his approach to a deal he was working on. At a sales call recently his prospect said they needed a cooling solution for a server room. The salesperson threw out a number to the PFA, a ballpark price to see how the he would react.

Another salesman in our meeting suggested a different approach. He said why not ask the PFA questions about risk?   Is there a problem now with cooling, or is something happening that could become a problem? For example, if the business need is because the company is growing and wanting to attract more customers, then the risk of not having a solution is not growing. That sounds pretty important. And how’d you like to be the one stakeholder ultimately responsible for getting in the way of growth?

I also recommend acknowledging the risk, not discounting it. When people feel nervous about something, telling them to not feel nervous, or worse telling them they have nothing to worry about, doesn’t make them feel any better. You’re not going to make any emotional connections with that approach. When you acknowledge the PFA’s concerns about risk, you’ll gain the PFA’s respect.

In our Funnel Principle Selling system we see the PFA’s risk as a ‘stage 2’ issue. The PFA hasn’t committed to spending money on ANY solution yet. There needs to be a compelling enough risk of doing nothing, or, he can choose the less risky option, do nothing.

In my experience risk is always tied closely to emotional and personal issues. It’s not about the money for example; rather, it’s about being seen as making a poor decision with the company’s money. See the distinction?

If you liked this tip and want to learn more I encourage you to contact me at the information on the screen. I’d really enjoy hearing from you.

As always, I wish you the best success, and good selling.

Mark Sellers

Author The Funnel Principle

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4 Tips for Making Better Sales Calls

Welcome to another Breakthrough Sales Tip.

I’m a consultative salesperson with a confession to make: For years I thought my line of selling was somehow a notch above the world of transactional selling. It was more complicated. More challenging. It required more skill and technique and intelligence. Shame on me.

To all you exceptional transactional sellers, I apologize. I realize I can learn from you. I’ve been observing and learning how the best transactional sellers get it done. And I’m blown away.

First, a quick definition. By consultative selling I mean the type of selling that usually takes more than one call to close and often requires calling on more than one stakeholder.

By transactional selling I mean the type of selling that often takes only one call to close and where only one stakeholder is involved. I realize both of these are very simplistic but nonetheless directionally suitable for this column.

Here are 4 things I’ve been learning about exceptional transactional salespeople:

  1. They make a connection. Excellent transactional sellers get it that the emotional drive leads the logical drive. So they make it a priority to connect with that emotion. Often they only get one chance right, in a one-call sale? Unless they’re laser focused on looking for that connection they’ll likely miss it and maybe lose a sale.   An excellent book on this is by John Maxwell, Everyone Communicates Few Connect.
  1. They make you feel like you’re the only thing that matters right now. Think of how easy it is to be distracted by your over booked calendar and pressure to perform. It’s hard to fake this ‘you matter’ thing. Think of when someone sold to you and you felt his or her total attention on you. When it happens it’s special.
  1. They create a path to purchase.   Transactional sellers need to make a living too. What impresses me about the exceptional ones is how they respect my buying process but still keep the sale moving. Their call strategies seem designed to put the customer buying process milestones in front of the customer and then let the customer decide if and when she’s ready to proceed.
  1. They give me control. With exceptional transactional sellers I never feel like I’m being railroaded or backed into a features-benefit corner. They seem to have intuitive pacing around how I want to buy. This is the ultimate show of respect. Wow, what a way to build credibility.

So go out there today and make your next sales call really count – for your customer. If you succeed, it will really count too for you.

As always, I wish you the best success, and good selling.

Mark

get on Mark’s calendar here

buy The Funnel Principle here

Know Your Win Rate

 

Below is a transcript of this week’s video sales tip.  

As someone who has spent the last 15 years exploring, learning, training and consulting on the sales funnel, I often get asked ‘how important is it to know your win rate’?

It’s very important. When you know your win rate you’re able to know how big your sales funnel should be to hit your quota.

For example if you have a 1M quota and you have a 50% win rate, you should have $2M of funnel value. We call funnel value TVR, Total Viable Revenue.

But if you have a 33% win rate then your funnel should be $3m.

And if your win rate is 25% your funnel should be $4M.

Those are some big variations in funnel value, aren’t they? You don’t want to miss this by a mile.

Unfortunately I have learned that few salespeople and their sales organizations really know their win rates.

It’s easy to calculate. Create a list of all of the sales opportunities you try to win. Then list the ones you do win. The number of sales you win divided by the number you try to win is your win rate.

For example if you win 3 but try to win 10 then your win rate is 30%.

Now what I’m about to say is really important. When you calculate your funnel value you don’t want to just add up the dollar value of all sales opportunities at all stages. You add up only the deals at the mid to late stages because with these opportunities the customer has committed to making a change. That means they commit to either replacing what they’re using with something else, commit to add to what they’re using, or commit to using a different approach altogether.

If you think of your sales funnel right now, you can probably think of deals that haven’t gotten to the customer commitment stage yet, can’t you? These deals might still be very much worth your time to keep working on, just don’t count them toward funnel value.

The problem comes when your sales funnel doesn’t have enough of these ‘commit funding’ opportunities. Your funnel value is too small.  Your focus and priority is to get more funnel value, TVR.

If you liked this tip and want to learn more I encourage you to contact me at the information on the screen. I’d really enjoy hearing from you.

As always, I wish you the best success, and good selling.

Mark

get on Mark’s calendar here

buy The Funnel Principle here

614.571.8267

 

Work The (Sales) Process

I know sports is an often over used reference for analogies and making points in the business world, but when I see a brilliant, even courageous example I’ve just got to share it.

Maybe you saw it too.  It was the New England Patriots’ performance in the 2nd half of this year’s Super Bowl.  (disqualifier:  I’m not a Patriot’s fan, but I am a fan of winners)

Two things took place in the second half.

The first was something that was missing.   Maybe you saw it too.  Panic.

The Tom Brady-led offense marched down the field in typical, grinding Patriot fashion and scored.  I think that drive took 7 or 8 minutes.  That’s a lot of time off the clock.  The defense then did its job. Then the offense marched down and scored again.  And of course the rest is history.

Instead of panicking the Patriots committed to their process . The one that brought them to the dance. The one that has brought five rings for team Brady and Belichick.

There are two occasions where committing to a sales process pays off. One is when you’re down and need a comeback kind of year. Best to double down on the process. It’s really the only thing you do that you can control.

The other occasion is when you’re up and having a great year. Doubling down on your sales process prevents you from forgetting that effort, not luck will make you successful, year after year.

The second thing that took place at the Super Bowl second half was adjustments. Belichick didn’t do exactly the same game plan used in the first half because it wasn’t working in the first half. Adjustments were made within the process.

If your salespeople are struggling, you might need to coach to some adjustments, maybe related to target accounts, or messaging for sales calls, or even pricing strategies. But I hope you keep those adjustments within your sales process. Be sure your salespeople understand that’s what’s going on .

Good Selling,

Mark Sellers

Author The Funnel Principle (buy it here)

Next book: Blindspots: The Hidden Killer of Sales Coaching

Interview of Mark by Red Cap Consulting Hugh Liddle

Interview of Mark by Linked In Guru Ted Prodromou