Sunday, January 18, 2009

Managing Your Prospects Funnel Management As A Critical Component To Your Success

Writen by Marvin Himel

Bob Fitzpatrick was one of the most intense managers I have ever met. When he hired me at Lanier, he interviewed me from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. After the interview I went home and collapsed in the bed. Three months after Bob hired me I was the number one salesperson in his Southeast Region.

One day he flew into Panama City, Florida from Atlanta to ride in the field with me. His visit was unannounced so I just followed my regular schedule for that day. It was a Tuesday and our first stop was at one of my prospects that had a copier on trial. The prospect was the Pinnacle Port Condominiums twenty-six miles from our office. When we walked in the door I was greeted by the receptionist and told to go on back. I introduced Bob to the manager and the first words out of his mouth were, "I see more of Marvin than most of my employees." After we left Pinnacle Port we went to the Panama City Beach Police Station. As soon as we walked in, the officer on duty told us to go on back. I then introduced Bob to the Police Chief, Lee Sullivan. His first comment to Bob was, "I see more of Marvin than most of my officers."

On that one day in the field, we visited five companies and, completely unsolicited by me, they all said basically the same thing: I was there more than most of their employees. When I was driving Bob to the airport at the end of the day, he looked at me and jokingly said, "Marvin, people don't buy from you because they like you. They buy from you to get rid of you."

In every situation I had continued to add value by having a face-to-face meeting with every prospect at least once a week. At each meeting I made sure I had a legitimate reason to be there. I closed every one of the sales we visited that day.

Where prospecting ends, territory management begins. How you manage your territory, or your base of prospects, will determine how successful you are.

One of the greatest problems most salespeople have is losing track of prospects. This is especially true if the prospects are not going to buy in the near future. This is why salespeople have a tendency to experience peaks and valleys when it comes to sales performance. Salespeople work hard to close their hot prospects and then have to turn around and find more.


The only effective way to manage your relationships with your prospects is face to face. I understand this can be challenging for salespeople with large geographic territories. A great rule of thumb is that to maintain a greater than seventy-five percent closing ratio, you need to maintain face-to-face contact with your prospects. If you cannot maintain a face-to-face contact with your prospects, then your closing ratio will probably fall to less than thirty-five percent.


Every time you meet with a prospect you should add value. Make sure you never find yourself in a position of calling on a prospect just to see where they are in their decision making process. Some examples of adding value are:

Ø Bringing a solution to a problem they may be having.

Ø Providing the prospect with additional relevant information such as an article.

Ø Introducing an additional resource such as an engineer.

Ø Giving a prospect an appropriate gift.

Ø Involving an outside vendor or strategic partner.


A large number of face-to-face meetings with a prospect are the best way to differentiate yourself from your competition.

An interesting phenomenon occurs when you increase the number of face-to-face meetings that you have with qualified prospects. Our research has shown that the closing ratio increases an average of eight percent per additional face-to-face meeting. Below are the typical increases in closing ratio for each additional visit.

*Important note – The closing ratios listed below are for qualified prospects.

Number of face to face meetings Closing Ratio

Three to Four	                                25%  Five						33%  Six						40%  Seven						45%  Eight						50%  Nine						60%  Ten						65%  Eleven						70%

After eleven visits the closing ratio will typically remain at about seventy-five percent. WHO IS A QUALIFIED PROPECT?

When I first got into sales, I was introduced to an acronym that has always helped me to determine whether a prospect was qualified or not. You are dealing with a qualified prospect if you can answer positively to the three criteria listed below.

Money – does the prospect have a budget to buy your product and can the prospect afford the product?

Authority – Are you in contact with someone who will be making the decision to purchase?

Need – Does the prospect have a need for your product that will force the prospect to buy within a reasonable time frame?

If you can yes to these questions then you are dealing with The MAN and you are dealing with a qualified prospect.


To manage your prospects and your territory, you need a system. The system needs to be simple and effective. One of the best territory management systems is the funnel. A funnel allows a salesperson to track prospects and move them forward in the sales process.


The problem with most sales funnels is that they do not force the salesperson to take action. Prospects end up sitting in a salesperson's funnel until they close or the salesperson takes them out. A typical sales funnel is set up based on an individual prospect's status.


An effective funnel should force a salesperson to take action. The prospects should be added to the funnel, not based on what the salesperson has done, but where the prospect is in their buying process. If I meet with a prospect today and they tell me they are going to buy next week I need to treat them differently than a prospect who is going to buy twelve months from now. How often I see a prospect needs to be determined by when they are going to buy, not whether I have qualified or proposed them.


If a prospect is ready to buy right away then they need to be given more attention than a prospect that will not be buying for a long time. The problem is that most salespeople lose track of their prospects that are going to buy right away. The solution is to place your prospects in a funnel that assigns them priority based on when they are going to buy. Also included in the decision, is to place a priority level on a prospect by how qualified they are for your product. When you are managing your territory you should always strive to have a large number of prospects in your funnel that meet your minimum standards for investing a substantial amount of time. Listed below are some qualifiers for deciding on a prospect who meets your minimum standards:

Ø Revenue potential of the sale.

Ø Creditworthiness of the prospect.

Ø Where the buying decision will be made.

Listed below is a system for assigning value based on when a prospect, which meets your minimum standards, is going to buy.

Prospects Buying Time Frame Priority Assigned

Now to Three Months A

Three to Six Months B

Six Months to One Year C


The priority you assign a prospect determines the amount of time and attention you focus on that prospect. It can also help you determine the amount of internal resources you should allocate to the prospect. Eliminating prospects, which do not meet your minimum standards, from your funnel is critical.


Once you have assigned a priority to a prospect, it is easy to decide how often to see them. Let's go back to our closing ratio chart. If you see a qualified prospect a minimum of eleven times your closing ratio will be seventy five percent. Most major purchases in the United States have a minimum of a twelve-week selling cycle. The chart below outlines how often you should see a qualified prospect:

Priority of Prospect Frequency of face-to-face meetings

A Once per week

B Every other week

C Once per month

If you set these as your minimum standards then you are virtually guaranteed a seventy-five percent closing ratio.


I recently consulted with a company that sells telephone systems. In one of our first sales meetings we all agreed to the minimum standards for a qualified prospect, including potential revenue of $10,000. I then met with each salesperson to review their funnels. One of the first salespeople I met with was a young go-getter by the name of Marcus. Marcus came into our meeting extremely excited because he had worked hard to fill his funnel with accounts. He had fifty-three accounts in his funnel. The first thing I did was eliminate fifty-one of them. He only had two prospects in his funnel that had potential revenue of $10,000.

The good news for Marcus was that he now had time to concentrate on the two qualified prospects in his funnel. Two weeks later, he closed a large law firm for over two hundred thousand dollars in revenue.

As Marcus came to realize, if you focus on fewer, better-qualified accounts, your results will be much greater.

Marvin Himel has over 24 years of business and sales experience. Currently, Marvin is the president of Tiger Systems, a sales training company that specializes in the document imaging industry. To contact Marvin, call 904.242.9650, email

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