Maintaining a Healthy Sales Funnel

In this 2,000 word White Paper; Paul examines some of the latest thinking about lead generation and qualifying. He uses an analogy of his septic tank back at home in rural Gloucestershire and shows you how you can keep the flow of new prospects moving smoothly and how to make contact with new leads in a 21st century manner.

Paul also investigates some really cool ways of researching your customer using some innovative Google search techniques and websites.

Is Your Sales Funnel Blocked?

Well, something was blocked in our house. You could tell by the smell, especially if you were downwind of it.  It wasn’t my sales funnel that was blocked but something even worse, my drainage field.

Now for those city dwellers reading, you probably don’t understand the complexities of a septic tank and its drainage system. When you don’t have the pleasure of the municipal drainage service attached to your home, you have to create your own and its called a septic tank.

Every piece of excess water and sewage flows down the pipes to begin a long, odious journey until the liquid becomes clear again to enter the earth.  Now I won’t bore you the details of how it gets there, but it’s a long series of events, a bit like a giant funnel, facilitated by gravity. But as soon as it gets blocked, it fails, with catastrophic conclusions.

My drainage field was blocked and had to be fixed. There was plenty of water and sewage flowing in the top, that’s actually difficult to stop, but it wasn’t flowing out the end.

In a similar manner this can happen to salespeople.  Not my septic tank but with their own sales funnel. A major hurdle of anyone in sales is to have a constant supply of healthy business but when you’re dealing with a long B2B sales cycle, you need a long drainage to pipe work.

I call it a healthy sales funnel

What Enters Your Sales Funnel?

Let’s take a look at the sales funnel.

How do leads pile into your funnel?  I know how my septic tank gets filled – it’s a very busy family of 5, dog, cat and chickens.

Many call it client acquisition, some call it prospecting but more than 80% of marketing spend is on lead generation. And they expect the sales team to funnel these leads through their system and out the other end in the form of sales.

Offline Media

  • Direct marketing
  • Telemarketing
  • Cold calling
  • Showcase Speaking Events
  • Speaking engagements
  • Print media – article contributions
  • Press releases
  • Referral systems
  • Tradeshows/Conference Stands
  • Print newsletters

Online Media

  • Online advertising
  • PPC (Pay Per Click advertising)
  • SEO (Search Engine Opt)
  • Downloads – White Papers
  • LinkedIn
  • EZine Sign Ups
  • Website enquiries
  • Blog Comments

 A Blockage is Caused

We get a rush of leads at the top of the funnel which can cause a blockage as few of these leads flow down the funnel towards business

The challenge that many B2B sales teams have, is moving these leads down the funnel after you’ve qualified them properly. In fact, to simply qualify them has become a major problem these days, because many of these leads are just too tricky to contact in the traditional manner. They’re not into answering phones, meetings or face to face interventions, it just doesn’t happen these days.

The answer is to keep hold of the lead, warm it, stroke it, caress it and carefully move it down the funnel along your sales process.

Various research pieces show on average, that it takes 14 touches, before the lead responds.  That’s 14 different contacts with the lead before they progress along your sales process.

Sales 2.0 Strategies

So let’s take a look at how we can find 14 ways of making contact with the lead that matches the Sales 2.0 methods and strategies.

First get your CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) system warmed up and working. You don’t have one? Shame.  You do have one but you don’t use it? Shame again but you’re not the only one.

Many CRM systems fail because the sales teams haven’t bought in to the system, they don’t “own” it.  It’s owned by IT department and is viewed as an initiative to keep tabs on the sales team, to produce metrics and sales forecasts without having to speak with the sales team.

A little rash but you get my point.

A good CRM system needs to be easy to use. I’ve seen them as a mass of paper stashed in the back of an A4 diary – that’s a CRM system, pretty basic though. I’ve seen multi thousands of pounds worth of bespoke software that’s totally integrated with the company’s computer systems and I’ve noticed them working too. I’ve also observed some not working at all, having been designed by IT people not the sales teams.

In the “cloud” systems are very vogue at the moment as these need no integration with your main computer systems and can be easily set to synchronise with Outlook or other systems you have.

At the very basic, you need something that tracks the journey a customer makes along your sales process.  A typical B2B client flows along a very long funnel, much like my septic tank drainage field and there are many reasons they get blocked. And much of this is because we lose track of all the people flowing along the tunnel. A CRM system will stop this from happening, or at least give you the heads up that action needs to be taken.

So what action can you take?

How to “do” Touch Points

So what action can you take?

A phone call usually starts things off with a new lead, sometimes you get through and move them along the sales process and all is well. But mostly we don’t get through since busy business people screen every call, so we leave a voicemail, with a call to action.

Following the voicemail, ping them an email with exactly the same message you left them on voicemail. Try and do this immediately. Email addresses are easy to come by nowadays.  If you have the prospect’s full name, then look up the company’s website, check the email address protocol on the contact page and put together the email address. Remember to put this all through your CRM.

Try phoning first thing in the morning, after 7.30am is quite acceptable and you’ll probably get through.

If you can’t get through to them, then you need to start along the funnel and relate to the 14 touch points concept.


Once you have their email address, invite them to a webinar or web meeting that your company is running which talks about the issues they are facing. If you don’t have any webinars running, use a third party that’s independent and running webinars connected to the subject.

Or just start running webinars now.  Set up a corporate account with Gotomeeting, Dimdim or one of the other services and start talking about your expertise online.

If you don’t have the technology, run a Teleseminar and invite them to this.


Run an event to showcase your expertise, the solutions your company provides, case studies of previous clients that you helped and lots of useful information.  Bring in some guest speakers and invite your prospect along.  If they can’t attend in person, record it as a video or podcast and send them a link to this or webcam the whole event and screen it live on the internet.

It seriously isn’t difficult to do this these days.

Online Video

Send them a link to a YouTube video.  A short clip with information that might help them with their issue. Maybe from your own company or another video you think might help them.

Create a personalised video, upload it and send them a link to the video to watch. The video you create can be a brief introduction to you, how you work and the problems you solve for clients. Plus an invitation to get in touch.

White Paper/Articles

Send them a White Paper or article download link, which covers issues that they are facing.

Client Case Study

Send them a link to a case study that you’ve created which outlines how you’ve helped another client solve their issues and problems.  Make this a simple fact sheet, not a glossy brochure.


Look them up on LinkedIn and send them an invitation to connect. Encourage them to hook up with your company tweets on Twitter. This needs to be a corporate Twitter account.


If you publish a blog, and you should within your corporate structure, link them to this and encourage them to RSS it.  Same with any podcasts that you have available that might contain information that’ll help them with their challenges and issues.

Email eZine

Put them on your email subscriber database to receive the newsletter or some other “helpful” item. This “helpful” is important, these things shouldn’t be glorious advertisements of how good your company is, the wonderful people that work there, how big you are and how successful you are.  That’s codswallop, as we say here in Gloucestershire, UK.

No, any newsletter or client eZine must contain information that helps prospects solve their problems, not a product list or special offers.  Instead think of information that’ll help them

As you’re making your touches with the prospects, you need to find out about them, their issues and problems, their company’s aims and goals, their industry challenges etc.

Gone are the days when you can ask them these questions over the phone or face to face. In B2B sales, clients are just too busy to answer basic factual questions, like “how many people do you employ” or “what are your main product areas”.

Just don’t do it – it’ll block your sales funnel.  Do it before you even meet them. Let me show you how.

How to Research Prospects?

You’re expected to research this information as it’s readily available on the web. So how can you do this?  Here’s some top drawer ideas for you, starting with your prospect’s own website.

Company Website

Your first port of call is the company website naturally, but don’t restrict yourself here. Many sites are glorious brochures and shop fronts. Some are more informational. Few will tell you what challenges and problems they are facing. Search into the site as many companies store information, PowerPoint files, documents, PDFs within the same domain.

Use google to search within the site

Type (search query) site:(domain) for example say I want to find out what particular challenges BP are facing post their oil crisis I would type in…


…and this would bring up lots of information about their struggles and challenges, straight from their site.

Search for file types

Maybe you want to track down a certain document that’s a PowerPoint File, a PPT.

Enter your usual search string plus filetype:ppt to find only those decks. For example if I want to track a PowerPoint File on the BP struggles I would type in…

challenges filetype:ppt

…and this will give me 6 information packed full blown PowerPoint files.  Cool eh?

This method also works with PDFs, Office docs (doc, ppt, xls), Rich Text (rtf), Plain Text (txt), and more.

Google Alerts

This is a banker and must be done for all your key accounts. Simply head over to Google Alerts and ask it to email you whenever an entry on the web comes up for your client or company they work for. You can follow as many as you want and you simply have to do this because it’s free and covers the entire internet.

You can specify daily alerts, weekly digests and you can be precise with the outputs i.e. blog posts, news sites etc.

Specialist Search Sites

Increase the Gravity

My septic tank and drainage field works with gravity, your sales process needs some of its own gravity and the best way of making this happen is to collate your Decision Making Unit (DMU).

Within the unit you’ll find various people in the organisation who you need to strike up a relationship with.  Rarely will you find just one or two people, but sometimes this happens. The bigger the company, the bigger the DMU.

Typically you need:

Receptive Rhona

The Receptive Person.  The person who brings you in, is receptive to you and can sponsor you within the organisation. However, they don’t have the problem or the power to buy.

Problem Percy

The Problem Person.  This is the person with the business problem or challenge or issues that needs solving, they are immersed in the business and their world would be a better place if this problem were solved.

Power Peter

The Power Person. This is the person who has the power to buy, the budget, the influence to move things towards a contract and a close.

Don’t proceed along your sales funnel until you have all three people covered.  You might find one person covers all three bases, but normally unlikely.


Sales Funnels are metaphors a little like my septic tank and drainage field. In my case, spoiled sewage enters and eventually trickles out as clean’ish water ready to go into the water course.

Likewise leads and prospects enter your funnel and slowly trickle their way along the sales process until they reach a conclusion.  It’s a long process, a lot of prospects fall out along the way, get blocked or stuck but some come out the other end, beautifully clean and profitable clients, just like my drainage field excess water.