What's Happening at the Top of your Sales Funnel?

May 12, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Chances are you’ve got a good handle on the bottom of your funnel.  For opportunities more than 60% probable, you can accurately forecast revenue.  These are the opportunities you can taste.  Your managers and reps focus on them and you track progress weekly.  Time starved managers give crucial hours to these opportunities. 

But would you say the same about the top of the funnel?  Are your SMs tracking progress from the time the lead converts into an opportunity?  Are AEs reporting accurately or entering opportunities when they know they’ll close?  As Sales Ops leaders, you need to trust your data in order to make crucial decisions.  So is your funnel accurate?

Poor visibility to the top of the funnel takes many forms:

Case 1

At a sales meeting, Manny the Manager posed this question to his team:  “How is our average Opportunity Close Ratio 80%?  We are good, just not that good.”  This happens a lot.  Why would I record an opportunity that only has a 10% chance of closing?  Why not wait until they show real interest in my solution?  Instead of closing an opportunity as ‘lost,’ I’ll punt it down the road.  I’ll change the expected close date because the decision maker needs two more weeks.  This opportunity can live forever and I will never lose.

This SM needs to know how many opportunities are actually closing.  Does the team need help qualifying opportunities?  Or does he need to work on probing questions that uncover buyer needs?  Is the decision maker waffling because he is not ready to buy?  How well have the reps done in aiding the buyer on their journey?

Case 2

Sitting with Anne the AE, it’s easy to see what she is evaluated upon.  She shows me her opportunities and each has a probability of at least 50%.  That’s confidence.  Or her manager simply prefers to focus on these opportunities. Therefore, she spends her time keeping them updated and accurate.  With 15 direct reports, the manger prefers to spend time on late stage deals.

Anne will not improve her capabilities that drive results at the top of the funnel.  She will get good at closing, but will have few opportunities to win.  Sales executives need new logos now.  This requires a more social rep with wider networks.  Reps won’t get that training if the focus is only on the bottom of the funnel.

Case 3

Otto Ops Director recently opined about his wasted investment in Sales Force Automation.  I asked him to quantify that waste of budget.  He winced.  “Well, we have over 300 licenses.  None are being optimized…”

Managing opportunities at the top of the funnel requires a new set of activities.  They require a new set of metrics.  Download the Top of Funnel Metrics for 2013.

 

All forms of visibility issues produce the same outcomes:

  • Inaccurate reporting and forecasting – Your SMs are using the data to evaluate and coach their teams.  Inaccurate data can cause false assumptions.  AEs may not get the training they require.
  • Headaches and sleepless nights – Sales Ops expects SMs to give reasonable expectations of their future performance.  SMs obviously want the same.  Nothing is worse than missing a number due to faulty forecasting.
  • Wasted investment in SFA resource – These platforms can cost an organization a lot of money.  A large portion of that investment is wasted if the inputs can’t be trusted.

So what should you track in the early stages of the buying process?  A friendly Sales Ops leader and I recently brainstormed an extensive list.  The "Top of Funnel Metrics for 2013" is intended for sales leaders. It's meant for sales leaders with packed schedules.  It includes recent trends in buyer behavior.  Some are familiar and some were created for the 2013 buyer.  We made it easy.  Tracking these activities will accelerate the buying process.  It will make your reps and managers better at their jobs.  None of them require a heavy lift.

Download the Top of Funnel Metrics for 2013.

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Topics: sales strategy, Sales Operations Strategy, sales operations

Posted by John Kearney

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