5 Stages of a Sales Funnel: Are You Adjusting Your Approach

StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales Article |Sales Funnel|5 Stages of a Sales Funnel_ Are You Adjusting Your ApproachGetting your sales “up there” is always going to be an uphill climb. It’s even more disconcerting when you see everyone else around you succeeding.

So how do you make the best of it? By taking a look at the sales funnel, you can see what the different stages are and adjust your approach so that your profits can start to soar.

First Stage: Lead/Suspect

This first stage can be boiled down to a person you haven’t spoken to yet who matches the profile of your target customer. At this stage, you might want to pursue as many leads as you can in order to promote your growth and target the right demographic.

This means you’re going to have to put in the work to find as many reliable leads as possible so that you can have a reliable pool to pull from. The job couldn’t be easier with an award-winning B2B lead generation service provider on your side.

Second Stage: Prospect

A prospect is when an individual has showed some interest in what you’re offering, whether it’s a service or a product. You’ve already had a conversation and heard their concerns, which should have provided you with the information you need to improve/change what you’re offering. This kind of interaction will likely lead you toward the next step of your sales process.

Third Stage: Qualified Prospect

Getting as many opinions as you can is a good way to provide a well-rounded service/product, but a qualified prospect is much more valuable and more attention should be provided to such. It is also the most demanding stage of the sales funnel. A qualified prospect has the expertise and know-how to tell you what does and doesn’t work, because they have a need for what you are offering.

This is probably the lengthiest stage of the entire process, but exercising patience will help you get through to the other side.

Fourth Stage: Committed

This is when you’re committed to what you’ve re-edited again and again, getting rid of any red flags that may still give you cause for concern. At this stage, you should have provided the customer with a proposal that lays out all of the terms of the contract so that you can both move forward with the deal.

The only thing left for you to do is to has out the last few remaining details, as well as how delivery and payment are going to take place. Either party may want to offer contingencies on certain terms being met.

Fifth Stage: Transacted

This is the stage where the transaction has actually transpired and the contract has been signed by both parties. Fulfilling the contract requires steps to be taken by both parties in order to meet out all the terms laid out in it.

With this said, the salesperson can focus on the next opportunity and start working through the stages of the funnel from the beginning.

You should exercise caution in order to prevent a leaky funnel: where a sales opportunity isn’t progressing forward as it should. These opportunities should be removed in order to make way for new ones so that you’re not wasting your energies on unfruitful opportunities.

Why your sales process or sales system doesn’t work.

Are you being forced to sell someone else’s way?
Are you uncomfortable using a ‘system’ of selling?

I read a report yesterday stating that 70% of all sales systems and sales initiatives fail. I have no idea who created that number (personally, I use 74% for all my statistical reports), but the point is clear. A system of selling and its accompanying sales process are pretty much doomed to failure before they begin.

NOTE: Please do not email me, telling me your system is the greatest and it works. Somebody is staking their claim that 70% or more do not work, and if yours is among the few that do, congratulations. If your system works it means you have a very small sales force, or that your system has been in place for so long that it’s refined to favor the customer, not the company.

For years I’ve written about why systems of selling fail, but please be clear about my beliefs: Almost all systems of selling do not work, and along with them are the failures of the manipulative sales processes that are attached to them. I’m about to tell you WHY the system doesn’t work, and then offer strategies that do work. Maybe it will help you in your awareness and decision-making process as you try to elevate your sales skills – or your sales results, or even your sales team – to a level of superior.

FIRST FAILURE: The sales system is all about the company that prepared it. It’s not relevant to the salesperson or not engaging enough to the customer. It’s too much perceived work on the part of the salesperson for not enough results. It’s too much of a hassle. The person that trained it sucked.

SECOND FAILURE: The sales process is at odds with you AND the market. The process doesn’t include mobile application. The process is old. The process deals with manipulation. (“Find the pain,” “what keeps you up at night,” and “qualify the buyer.”) The process deals with things uncomfortable for the salesperson. The process is not compatible with the way the company does business.

THIRD FAILURE: The sales leader who bought it isn’t convinced it’s going to work, he’s just using it as a CYA tactic. There is forced participation rather than joint buy-in. The sales leader is more interested in his or her salespeople being accountable to him or her for their activity, NOT being responsible for themselves and their outcomes.

FORTH FAILURE: Senior management has not endorsed or used the process. Senior management won’t use the process themselves.

FEAR of FAILURE: The salesperson thinks it will cost them sales. Period.

Want more reasons systems fails? Here’s a bunch – in no particular order. Pick the ones that best apply to you:

  • No buy-in from salespeople BEFORE purchase
  • No collaboration with the people who will actually USE the system
  • The system and/or the process is too manipulative
  • Lack of proof that the system actually works in your environment
  • No proof that the system or process actually works in your market
  • The system does not match the salesperson’s style or personality
  • The system is not in any way customized for your salespeople or your customers
  • The system is not flexible
  • Natural resistance to change
  • Fear of lost sales
  • Resentment for being forced
  • Poor training by the launch person
  • Too much work perceived for not enough sales
  • Sales are low right now, and this is a stab at resurgence
  • Trying to fit a round sales peg in a square sales hole

RESULT: You lose sales, lose salespeople, and there is lower morale. YIKES!

NOTE WELL: It’s most likely that many of these reasons apply to you or your system. Damn.

ALSO NOTE WELL: Sales is NOT a system, nor is it a manipulative process. It’s a series of STRATEGIES that are in harmony with salespeople AND their customers.

Here are some sales STRATEGIES that do work:

  • Create a ‘go to sale’ strategy that everyone is comfortable with: friendly, engaging, value-driven, conversational, and backed with proof from video testimonials.
  • Everyone should participate in creating the sales strategies from the CEO down.
  • Collaborate with the sales team – they’re the ones that will USE the strategies.
  • Create strategies that are flexible and comfortable. Have several different opening questions to choose from. Offer alternative ways to engage or close the sale.
  • Have a ‘Value Proposition’ in favor of the customer.
  • Whatever the strategies are, they MUST start with social attraction.
  • Whatever the strategies are, they MUST work in your environment.
  • Whatever the strategies are, they MUST be easy to use and time efficient.
  • Whatever the strategies are, they MUST be state-of-the art and state-of-the-market.

MAJOR CLUE: Collaborate with existing customers. Get them involved with and in agreement to (accept) the strategies you use.

AND NOTE REAL WELL: Sales are all your revenue and all your profit. Salespeople are the conduit for all that revenue. Why would you jeopardize your money and your profit with a system that everyone will fight?

Reprinted with permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer.

About the Author

Jeffrey GitomerJeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless Customer Loyalty is Priceless, The Little Red Book of Selling, The Little Red Book of Sales Answers, The Little Black Book of Connections, The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude, The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way, The Little Platinum Book of Cha-Ching, The Little Teal Book of Trust, The Little Book of Leadership, and Social BOOM! His website,, will lead you to more information about training and seminars, or email him personally at [email protected].

StrategyDriven Podcast Episode 45 – Marketing & Sales: Closing the Value Gap

StrategyDriven Podcast - Marketing and SalesStrategyDriven Podcasts focus on the tools and techniques executives and managers can use to improve their organization’s alignment and accountability to ultimately achieve superior results. These podcasts elaborate on the best practice and warning flag articles on the StrategyDriven website.

Episode 45 – Marketing & Sales: Closing the Value Gap examines the evolution of the business-to-business selling process and the gap between what customers want and what their service providers and vendors provide. We explore the value of focusing on customers’ business results and how to implement such an approach so to earn greatly increased customer loyalty and higher profits. During our discussion, Lou Schachter, Managing Director, Global Sales Practice and Rick Cheatham, North American Sales Practice Leader at BTS USA, shares with us their insights and illustrative examples regarding:

  • the evolution of the sales process and what customers are looking for today
  • how Accelerator Selling addresses the customer’s desired focus on business results
  • the difference in sales behaviors between Accelerator Selling and Product and Solution Selling
  • actions necessary to implement a selling process focused on achieving business results

Additional Information

In addition to the outstanding insights Lou and Rick share in this edition of the StrategyDriven Podcast are the resources accessible from the BTS website,

Final Request…

StrategyDriven Podcast iTunes RatingThe strength of our community grows with the additional insights brought by our expanding member base. Please consider rating us on iTunes by clicking here. Rating the StrategyDriven Podcast and providing your comments online improves our ranking and helps us attract new listeners which, in turn, helps us grow our community.

Thank you again for listening to the StrategyDriven Podcast!

About the Author

Lou SchachterLou Schachter is the global leader of the BTS Sales Practice. He is the co-author of the book, The Mind of the Customer: How the World’s Leading Sales Forces Accelerate their Customer’s Success, which was published by McGraw-Hill in 2006. Before joining the BTS team, Lou had a long career in sales for professional services firms.
Rick CheathamRick Cheatham leads the BTS Sales Practice in North America. Previously, Rick was a sales leader at Avery Dennison, a leading producer of consumer products and pressure-sensitive adhesives materials. During his tenure, he transformed his organization into one that changed its focus from selling products to accelerating its customers’ business results.
Nathan Ives, StrategyDriven Principal is a StrategyDriven Principal, and Host of the StrategyDriven Podcast. For over twenty years, he has served as trusted advisor to executives and managers at dozens of Fortune 500 and smaller companies in the areas of management effectiveness, organizational development, and process improvement. To read Nathan’s complete biography, click here.