What is the profession of business development if not to spot opportunities and convert them to happy, paying clients?
In the last month, we had several requests to “increase commercial awareness” in our clients / prospects. Where do we start? What does it actually mean to be commercially aware?
It could be argued that the core discipline of all sales and business development professionals is sales funnel management. If we get that right, then many other areas in sales are enablers, not drivers. So what is sales funnel management exactly?
Any farmer knows instinctively what sales funnel management is: Plant seeds, nurture them, protect from harm, and in a period of month, hey presto, a high quality crop that brings in the bucks.
If we are responsible for “making the numbers” then sales funnel management is critical. We cannot manage “sales”, but we can manage the activities that lead to a sale. Therefore, our core responsibility is to very regularly track what is in the incubator, and systematically carry out activities that bring opportunities to a close.
And it’s not just the volume of business, but the type of business. By proactively choosing what we put into our funnel, we can influence what comes out.
By building it from your sales process. Create headings for each phase (e.g. first contact, building relations, discovering needs, proposal stage, closed) and then classify each opportunity under a heading. As opportunities move through, the potential sales number becomes clearer as does the % chance of success. Totals can be created for each phase, to give a sense of how likely it is we will meet our target.
Many organisations will use CRM or spreadsheets to do this: The means it is less important than the discipline of doing it often (At least weekly).
Accurate categorisation of opportunities, with realistic numbers and probabilities of success next to them, leads to accurate forecasting. At a personal level, this enables us to take responsibility for our targets, and get early warnings of actions we need to take. At a business level, good forecasting enables budgets to be managed and a firm to evolve effectively over time.
At least one definition of “being commercially aware” is to have a keen sense of the business opportunities we have, and to take responsibility to deliver them. That is, good sales funnel management.
For help to implement good sales funnel management, these services can help: