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How To Un-Stick Your Sales Efforts And Get Back To Sales Success!

Feb 27, 2008
Have you noticed lately that your sales have hit a plateau? Or worse, have your sales started to slide a little - even though you seem to have a full sales funnel or pipeline of prospects and potential customers?

This is something I see quite frequently. I often get my customers asking me, "how can I move customers more effectively through my sales funnel or pipeline?"

They generally find my answer to be quite shocking: I recommend that they get rid of their prospects.

Well... let me explain what I mean by that.

When we look at the concept of what a pipeline, or sales funnel is, we notice that the main idea of the funnel is to turn suspects and prospects into customers. The general notion is that we put a large number of suspects and prospects into the top of the funnel, and by having them participate in our sales process, we turn them into a steady stream of customers out the bottom.

However, from time to time, the stream of customers coming out the bottom of the funnel seems to dry up - even when we have what appears to be a good portion of prospects and suspects swimming around in the top.

From a conceptual point of view, the funnel is clogged!

And just like a real funnel that we would use in our kitchen, if it gets clogged, then nothing flows out of the spout at the bottom. And when that happens, the top of the funnel tends to overflow and become unmanageable.

When this happens to us in business, we need to address the problem in a similar way as we would in the kitchen: clear the clog. And I'd say that 90% of the times I see this happen with my clients, the clog is caused by old, stale leads that will never convert to sales.

So if the simple solution is to remove these leads from your funnel, why doesn't everybody just do it? Because this is easier said than done.

Generally the leads and prospects that are clogging up the funnel are the sorts of prospects who really make you think they might purchase something from you. They tend to say all the right things, they often give off all the 'right' buying signals, and they generally make you think they are right on the cusp of making that purchase - and more importantly, making that purchase from you!

And as a business person who's trying to make that sale, it's altogether too easy to think to yourself: "Well this is a 'sure thing', I can't just ignore them, after all, this person is essentially my newest customer!"

But they're not.

They're what I call: the "infinite maybe". They never commit to a sale, but they never tell you "no" either. They want to keep you on the hook, just in case they finally make that decision to buy. Generally there are one of two reasons people do this. First off, they are unable - or just don't like - to say, "no". Or secondly, they want to have constant, quick and free access to your expertise and advice. So while you're probably thinking they're your next customer, they're actually one of your business's worst enemies.

Why? Because they tie up and waste your time, energy and resources. Valuable time, energy and resources that you could otherwise be using on prospects who actually DO want to buy your products and services. But because you're spending your efforts on these "infinite maybe's", you don't have the time and resources to talk to these new prospects, because you're too busy spending it all on the "sure things" in your funnel.

They key here is to recognize when you're spinning your wheels with an "infinite maybe" and get them out of your active sales cycle as soon as possible. The best solution for these prospects is to place them in an automatic follow-up marketing campaign. That way you can keep in touch with them, feed them information, and provide them with an opportunity to contact you if-and-when they are ever ready to buy.

The benefits of taking them out of your active sales cycle are two-fold.

First off, you're no longer wasting your time and energy on a person who is not going to (immediately) become your customer. Second, you free up your time and energy to talk to people who ARE ready to become your customer in the short term.

It's what Catherine Ponder referred to as "The Vacuum Law of Prosperity", in her book 'The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity'. Essentially she states that, in order to grow, "there must be constant elimination of the old to keep pace with this growth. When you cling to the old, you hinder your advance or stop it altogether." In other words, if you don't make space for them, you won't have any way to help new prospects move through your sales process and become customers.

So even though it may initially seem like a contrary solution, removing these stale leads from your active sales cycle is often the solution to "unclogging" your sales funnel. Thus allowing your sales strategies and tactics to work properly to bring fresh prospects into your business - and ultimately, fresh customers and sales.
About the Author
Mark Winder, the Sales Made Simple Coach, helps entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals aim higher and achieve more. Winder is the author of "Mark Winder's Sales & Marketing Bootcamp", and the free audio seminar, " The 20 Sales Secrets of Top Entrepreneurs ".
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