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Sales Funnel - don't give me that cr*p

Over the years I have been guilty of imposing a straight jacket on my sales teams. I admit it, its time to confess. I have gone along with everyone else and believed in 'sales stages'. In my defence, it's not entirely my fault. I was trained that way - most sales people were, and still are today. Just look at this image. This is what you see if your search for 'Sales Stages' in Google. You don't even need to zoom in to see what each of these pages are saying. You know that they are talking about the sales process and the ubiquitous 'sales funnel' and its cr*p! 

Now I know that I might offend some people with such a strong assertion, but bear with me.

Consider the funnel (I have even heard it called a sausage machine). The general rule is that the more you throw in at the top, the more comes out the bottom. This is certainly true of a sausage machine;  put in piles of low quality material at the top and you end up with poor sausages. But its completely untrue of sales. If you throw in a load of dud leads at the top of sales funnel you won't get poor quality sales, you will just get fewer sales.

Of course the 'sales funnel' is just a model, and in that model its designed to be leaky, with rubbish being ejected as it is 'qualified out'. But if that were true then all great leads would stay in the funnel and turn from prospects to sales right? Wrong. You can place loads of great leads in at the top and not see extra sales. Yes its true. I've been there. I've seen lots of red hot leads fail to convert... it happens all the time. Why? Because sales teams have one finite resource; time. If their time is not focused precisely where its best used, if they are absorbed in chasing bad leads, chasing lost causes, chasing their tails and internal process your sales output goes down.

And if time is so precious how does the sales funnel help; or does slavish belief in the funnel make things worse? Clearly the funnel is large at the top, and small at the bottom. Is there a danger that some might think that's this is a good way to allocate resources and time? Believe me, I have been in companies who dictate that 'every morning is spent prospecting to keep the pipeline full' regardless of what uncovered and yet unclosed opportunities we already had, and what capacity we had to close them.

So the 'sales funnel' is a lie. No that's too strong, it's just a poor model, far too simplistic. I feel as if it's how someone, who was never in sales, imagines sales to be. And the sales funnel is a dangerous model in the wrong hands.

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