Re-thinking and Re-Focusing the Sales Funnel

It’s a numbers game! Just keep at it! Make at least 50 calls a day and schedule 10 appointments a week! Keep filling that funnel! The problem with this type of sales strategy is that it assumes if you make enough calls, talk to enough people and go to enough networking events that everything will magically fall into place, and your numbers will go through the roof.

The sales funnel supports a mindset that is already becoming obsolete with the best sales professionals.

If only it were as easy as “filling a funnel” and having sales fall through the other end. Any salesperson, no matter how complicated the sale, can make 200 calls and hit their quota. But here’s a better question. If salespeople are going to make 200 calls a day, to whom are those calls? And what are salespeople saying? Just pounding phone lines and telling the company story isn’t selling. Or better yet, when salespeople get the check (the bottom of the funnel?), what about implementation or customer service? Are customers buying that as well?

Which leads to an interesting thought: why do most sales processes end at “close” or “implement” — especially when that’s where the buyer’s work gets started?

While it's true that having a good prospecting plan is likely a key ingredient to a successful sales career — but so are a LOT of other things.

In a slow sales climate, with shrinking budgets and more scrutiny over purchases, what salespeople need is a personal selling approach that relies less on the law of averages and more on helping the customer be successful. 

The key is to have a complete understanding of the entire customer experience and “synchronize” to that buyer throughout—they’re the boss when it comes to the “sales funnel” not salespeople -- how's that for a scary thought?

When that happens, the salesperson's success isn’t so much tied to the company's sales process as it is to the buyer’s buying process. It goes beyond how buyers buy. Most salespeople are moving past the buyer's buying process to the customer's problem-solving process. How's the "sales process" working for them?

The key to helping customers solve problems is to equip sellers to understand the customer’s decision-making criteria. Also, to help them get what they need along their problem-solving cycle that will result in a sales process that builds trust and respect, and allows you to become a trusted advisor. That’s the magic recipe for success.

Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes. Or better yet, think about the last time YOU bought something. Remember the earliest stages of need definition? Remember how you progressed throughout the search and selection process? Did that experience end after you wrote the check? It likely continued into full integration of the product or service into your daily life -- into an end-to-end view of your customer experience.

So, here’s a quick break down of buying behavior. It’s a “simple” view that falls into nine distinct phases.

Starting from the beginning of the customer's problem, until that problem is solved. Here are the top 10 questions that buyers have during their buying process.

  1. What’s my charter and my role? All buyers have some jobs to do. Unfortunately for salespeople, their job titles don’t often match what their real job is.

  2. What’s my plan? The buyer outlines a plan for their business or department, such as its strategic plan, realignment of the organization, the acquisition of new capabilities, or defines a new vision for success.

  3. What problem am I trying to solve? The buyer’s within the customer organization realize they have a problem and seek to satisfy that need. They begin to take action towards buying (as opposed to making their solution or product). They act accordingly by setting forth goals, objectives, targets, and budgets. They may appoint a team of people to evaluate potential vendors.

  4. How are we going to start tackling this problem? The buying organization engages in activities to find a vendor, partner, or supplier. They begin reviewing the capabilities of selling organization(s) to see which competitor can meet their needs and with whom they would like to have a relationship.

  5. Where will I find more information? The buying organization requests vendor proposals, conduct more in-depth meetings, requests more detailed information, has more “serious” dialogue, performs an analysis of risk.

  6. How are we going to make a decision? Buyers in the customer organization have narrowed the choices down to one organization, begins “testing the water” to gauge the organization’s ability to fulfill. Has decided that benefits outweigh risks, start talking about implementation?

  7. Where will we find the money we need? The buyers work together to justify their investment and begin to move money around internally. They write the check or sign the proposal. Key decision-makers have their reputation on the line, the budget is set aside, and the entire affected organization has begun moving in a new direction.

  8. How will we get started? Buyers and their teams become a “customer or client” and begin implementing the solution. They re-align organizational resources as necessary. They put long-term plans together. They start communicating progress.

  9. How will we know we’re successful? The buyer formally or informally begins documenting the organization’s ability to fulfill the solution. And they start looking to the selling organization to deliver on what was promised.

  10. How do we fully integrate the solution? Once the purchase is complete, and the product/service is implemented, the final step of the buying organization’s buying cycle is obtaining maximum use of the product/service in the buying organization. This is sometimes referred to as return-on-investment (ROI) in pre- and post-sales processes and return-on-assets (ROA) once the purchase is capitalized. The product or service must be fully integrated, leveraged, and justified.

From a relationship perspective, the buying and selling organization begins to work with a more trust-based bond when these questions by the buyer are answered and understood by the sales team.

The buyer begins to include the seller on appropriate strategic discussions. When salespeople start to realize their job is not to push an arbitrary sales process onto prospects and hope they magically buy. They can close more sales by staying in tune with the buyer side of the transaction.

Aside from a better understanding of customers buying methods, the most significant advantage salespeople gain is a change in buyer mindset. As soon as buyers recognize that our process is designed to assist them in making the best decision for their business, even if that means helping them decide on a competitor’s product, salespeople have then created a new relationship that will eventually lead to more business.

About Growth Matters Growth Matters is an international business founded in 2011. This consulting and services organization focusses on the development and practice of sales management and sales enablement. Our team of world-renowned experts spans the globe enabling businesses to improve sales conversations through services and solutions aligned to sales strategy. Charlotte, NC (USA) is the headquarter of our Americas operation. With dedicated offices in South Africa (EMEA), and Sydney (APAC), we regularly facilitate senior-level workshops in 17+ cities and countries. For more information on equipping sales managers, and aligning to sales leadership, contact the Growth Matters team at

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