The Alphabet Article Series – The ABCs of Solving Sales Problems – The 3 “F’s”

As I thought about this week’s article it dawned on me that we serve our clients where their needs are, and sometimes that means at the most fundamental levels. So, I’ve decided to focus in on 3 critical components that I think often get overlooked or mishandled in organizations large and small, because they are often viewed as elementary.

The 3 F’s are: Funnels, Frequency, Follow-Up

Before I begin dissecting each one, let me point out that considering these components elementary is a misnomer. They are complex and multi-faceted and it’s important to pay attention to the details inherent in each one.

Great, Mike, not even the simple stuff is simple?!

Not if your serious about solving problems.

Funnels. Ok, so just about anyone who has any interest in reading this has used the term “funnel” in their career. And for most people it means a pipeline of opportunities. That may be true, but I’d like to suggest you think about it like a living, breathing, fluid part of your organization. It’s not just a pipeline, it’s a LIFELINE.  And here’s a news flash, it has 2 open ends, a top-end and a bottom-end and it is critical to have a PROCESS for both.

My suggestion – you treat them equally importantly, but with the same kind of unique care and attention you give your children. The are similar, and inter-connected, but they are not the same.

With the top end of the funnel you should be focused on strategy and repeatable processes. There is a real need for a multi-touch, strategic approach here, one that consistently prospects, touches, invites, influences, and INTERESTS your prospect population. It includes your messaging, your timing, your patterns and volumes of touches, and needs to be 100% focused on what is best for your prospect population.

With the bottom end, it’s all about YOU. Your team, your culture, your discipline, data and directives (remember the 3 D’s?). it’s about making sure that once the activity levels are where you want them at the top-end, the talent and technology you have handling that activity is buttoned up on the bottom-end. You can make it rain with the right system, but if your team is not properly equipped and trained to handle the waterflow, you won’t have irrigated crops, you’ll have a wet rug.

Frequency. This component is part art, part science. And, it applies internally and externally to your sales and marketing efforts. As for the external end, the art comes in when we think about your prospect population. Who are they? How do they want to be courted? What in your message is making their job easier or more profitable? Do they need to feel like you’ve earned time with them over time, or do they prefer a more direct, no-nonsense approach? If you don’t know this inside and out, you should.

As for the science, well, enter a “D” word again. What is the data telling you? Is it the 3rd touch that usually gets a nibble, or does it take 7 touches to even get them to pay attention to you? Is it touches on multiple platforms (usually the case these days), or is it just knocking n the same proverbial door enough times to get them to talk with you about your product or service?

By the way, you must know the art part first – it will help some of your decisions with the science aspect.

Now for internal frequency. Like it’s counterpart, there is both art and science applied here. Let’s start with art. What kind of culture have you built? Is it collaborative by nature or is it siloed? Are the folks in your organization used to working across disciplines in the interest of a common cause? Are they inclined to change in the interest of growth? And ultimately, how do the FEEL when you are checking in with them? Are you seen as “big brother” or more like a compassionate parent? You need to be honest with yourself here and about the culture you have.

The science – well again, some of your decision here are going to be based on your art and the environment you’ve created. Regardless of the portrait you’ve painted, you need to be consistent and transparent. Your team should know that you are coming to check in on things and that you are looking for the good and the bad. It should also be consistent across disciplines in your organization, because the last thing you want is to pit one department against another unwittingly – I’ve seen it happen and once it does it’s very difficult to unravel.

Follow-Up. This is a close cousin to frequency, as one is inherent in another. But it is critical that it occurs regularly. Let’s break it apart into two pieces – internal and external.

External follow-up with your prospect population is one of the most under-valued, under-performed aspect of the sales process that I have ever seen in my years of feeding sales teams. I know salespeople are full of personality, and I know I am an odd duck in that I am a very OCD salesperson – most I have met are not. But how many times have you evaluated a program you’ve tried and truly analyzed the follow-up as critically as you have the lead generation? My guess is not often, and it’s a gaping hole in many sales team’s sales processes.

Internal follow-up tends to get neglected too. Often it starts off with zest and zeal, especially at the turn of the calendar year. But then it fades, slowly, like a cowboy riding off into the sunset. Until, that is, there is a screeching halt somewhere in the organization that has everyone questioning why last quarter’s numbers weren’t as anticipated.

Follow-up should be viewed as a cornerstone of your sales process, not as some executive function that can be shifted down the priority list or, worse yet, delegated to some middle-level personnel who don’t have the authority to hold people accountable. In my book, it’s a C-suite job, important as any others.

Put people first, use the 3 “F’s” as they can benefit you best, and know that I am here to help or just chat, should you ever want to discuss what’s best for your team.

To raising all ships!

P.S. Be sure to join us next week when we talk about the 3 G’s – Gender, Grace, Gratitude