Sales Funnels Are Funny Shaped Things

Posted by Shawna Henderson on January 26, 2015
Sales Funnels Are Funny Shaped Things
One challenge seems to be at the forefront of a lot of the discussions I'm having with colleagues and associates these last few weeks is sales. Closing sales. Making the sale. Getting some traction...getting any movement at all...

Mark Mitchell is a sales and marketing consultant for the building materials industry who writes a good blog. I have been reading Mark's blog for a little while now, diving into the archives and really finding some good direction on sales and marketing that apply to our industry as a whole. Another blogger with excellent insights in sales and marketing is Mike Rogers at OmStout.

So I thought I'd repost a couple of articles by these two guys that might be of interest to anyone in sales (ahem...anyone?).

Mike wrote about sales approaches in July 2014 and included this great graphic, which I've posted before, but really deserves to be on everybody's wall, possibly tattooed somewhere visible and obvious in the mirror as well...

This post from Mark's blog (August 2014) draws funny pictures of sales funnels.

I think we can all relate to one or both of the first two diagrams:

#1: the 'Invisible Approach', that Mark likens to a narrow tube 'like a hole in the ground made by a small animal'. This one is hard for others to see (or fall into!) even if it is impressively deep and you really know your stuff. Mark sees this in companies selling into new markets or aiming at the wrong targets (i.e., not the decision maker)

#2: The Used Car Approach, Mark describes this one as a gaping hole in the ground, but shows just a little drainage (closed sales) hole at the bottom. I immediately saw a Heffalump Trap. And any reader of A.A. Milne will remember how that turned out...This one is the offensive press at the trade show -- we have all been there! No matter what, the person in the booth/on the phone Is. Your. Customer. Uh, no.

#3: The Stepped Funnel, the sweet spot where you know your product and your customer, and the steps that lead you from suspect to prospect to client. Set this one on repeat.

What I get out of both of these articles is a sense of the most common mistakes that we make as small business people in construction and renovation. We don't hone up on sales and marketing.

We have mad skillz in specific areas -- the services that we need to sell -- and a non-existent to slightly more than zero sales ability. Why would we? We're good at diagnostics, renovating, designing, installing. That's what people want right? Good contractors and consultants? We're great but nobody knows it.

When we're here, we're at Mike's Talk About The Widget place, and Mark's Invisible Approach.

Then sales don't come in, or they don't ramp up as we expect and we freak out and run amok at trade shows trying to sell to anyone that passes by, on the phone with anyone who owns a house, anyone who looks at us for more than the allowable glance-in-passing on the street. Our social life stutters to a halt because our friends Just Don't Want To Hear It Anymore (I have a couple of acquaintances -- one's a realtor and the other is an insurance gal -- who I'd like to gag with duct tape when they step foot in the room -- any room).

Now we're at Mike's Hardball Tactics and Mark's HeffalumpTrap model.

The Heffalump Trap stays empty, nobody can find our little hole in the ground and I don't know about anyone else, but this is the point at which I get cranky and a pouty lip, and start to feel sorry for myself. Well, staying there just gets more and more uncomfortable, so it's time to Try Something Different.

My epiphany about sales and what I was doing wrong, terribly wrong, came when I was reading that book on lean startups, and while there's a whole scientific approach to it -- when you're a single operator, you just don't have the bandwidth to go into every friggin detail. I didn't even finish the book, but I got what I needed, at least for this phase of my business. I started mapping out who I was selling to, and who was likely to make the decision one way or the other, and how I could reach those folks with a message that started out by showing that I understand their need, not mine.

You gotta put the time in. You have no choice. Work it through. Because, when you get there, all of a sudden, you understand what you sell (aside from the product or service itself) and who you sell it to. Ask questions, figure out what the benefits are that your decision-makers are looking for. People don't make rational or logical decisions based on the bottom line when it comes to their houses. Decisions are emotional, visceral and often driven by fears, hopes and completely whacked out plans. Just like yours. So be human and embrace the process.

When we get to this stage, we're working our sales funnel carefully and consistently. We're in Mike's Consultative Sales zone and Mark's Stepped Funnel.

And it's way more fun to play in this shape than the other two.

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