Customer cycles or sales funnels?

"The top salesperson in the organization probably missed more sales than 90% of the sales people on the team, but they also made more calls than the others made."
                                                                                    ~Zig Ziglar

The difference between a customer journey and a sales funnel - is your perception of either.  Inexperienced sales rookies are coached to label what phase their customer is at in their buying cycle by their management and/or organization.  The most definitive one you tend to see is divided into thirds .... commonly referred to as "the sales funnel".

The top third and widest with the most numbers is "Suspects".   Otherwise referenced as leads.  You are at the beginning, likely haven't met with a decision maker, or even understand why or how they buy.  They  have been identified as a potential customer by:

  1. Cold calls
  2. Lead generation
  3. Referrals

The second tier is "Prospects" or called opportunities.   Are a mid-volume of numbers.  Prospects have moved from being a "Suspect" to a "Prospect" because they have been qualified.  The sales professional has identified them as a potential customer from a number of avenues: 

  1. Web contact inquiry contact 
  2. Inbound telephone call asking questions 
  3. Internal leads:  referrals, heads up or personal recommendations
  4. That first meeting, cold call
  5. They've been identified as having a need that your company can fill
  6. Follow up from cold call, or investigative meeting
  7. Someone has read or shared information that shows where growth may be
  8. Knowledge of key players are:  decision maker, influencer, user, authority, payment
  9. They have the ability to pay for your service or product
  10. Who you are speaking to has  the authority to make a decision to move forward or will simply be making a recommendation or gathering prices
  11. What internal endorsement is required to proceed with providing a solution, quote or proposal or be established as a vendor, provider or partner
  12. A decision will or can be made based on the need you can fill

The final third tier is "Customers".   These are the fewest numbers.  They have traveled through the funnel to arrive at a transaction, contract or agreement to buy.  They have satisfied your organizations criteria to do business or you have met their's:

  1. Set up an account: met credit requirements:  credit check, references
  2. Have the ability to pay:  financial resources, how or when and authorized by someone
  3. You have identified that your prospect wants or is willing to pay for your service or product
  4. You understand their buying frequency:  one time, annual, intermittent, monthly, daily, etc.
  5. You understand how they work and how to work them within your own system or processes ... sometimes customized
  6. You know their structure and where they may buy from:  global, national, or local 
  7. They have issued a purchase order (PO#), requisition or cheque to buy
  8. You have broken them down by value to your organization:  major account, corporate, enterprise, business, entrepreneur, consumer
  9. You have systems or structure to match their buying:  an account executive, major account representative, territory manager, sales representative, customer service
  10. You have adapted your structure to mirror your customer's behavior:  single point of contact on major accounts or enterprise sales, business to business local or global points of contact, order forms, web order systems, incoming telephone orders, fax'd orders (forms), catalogue, directories

The most successful sales professionals or sales oriented organizations match their behavior or identity system to that of the potential customer.  They understand where their customer is in the buying cycle:

  1. Research
  2. Information gathering
  3. Price shopping
  4. Vendor qualification
  5. Who can provide the desired product or service to match what they think they want
  6. Criteria outlined on how they will decide to act (make a purchase)
  7. Established approved list of vendors or providers authorized to be purchased from
  8. Budget accounted for
  9. Approval process (by transaction or by location or by authority)
  10. Payment structure
  11. Review structure 
  12. Service structure
  13. Support to maintain orders
  14. Ability to meet needs
  15. Reputation to meet requirements or identify unknown needs and proactively fix gaps
  16. Established trust

How you identify where you are at is important to create a language among your team as to where you are at in a sale:  are you on a fishing expedition or are you assembling your team of resources to put all heads together to put together a win-win proposal?

"If eighty percent of your sales come from twenty percent of all your items, just carry those twenty percent."
                                                         ~Henry A. Kissinger

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems have these areas identified and can populate into graphs or graphic funnels to help those:

  1. Forecasting potential revenue, profit margins, marketing efforts
  2. Budget resources:  people, equipment, processes, tools, systems, 
  3. Have all the systems and resources in place or easily activated responses
  4. Policies and procedures in place for escalations or when things go wrong or extra assistance required for customer are in place
  5. People resources match customer orders:  equated to response time, hours of operation, scheduling

It is the footprint of your sales efforts success:  as both an organization and the customer facing personnel status in the customer's buying cycle.  I recommend that you break it down into bite size chunks so that they can be addressed.  If you are writing a business plan, a key component is answering:  "where and how will you get or retain customers?".  This should be long before you are looking for investors or financing to launch or continue operations.  I liked this diagram via Google by Andrea Callahan:

Ironically, most start ups and entrepreneurs gear up on marketing, outbound campaigns, telemarketing, sales coverage long before they have answered any of the above.  It can easily foreshadow failure over success.  Yes, you need to walk before you run.  However, assembling and identifying who are suspects, prospects and customers and where they are in the funnel, and the numbers associated with those numbers, clearly outlines the road map to monitor and manage growth.

It takes patience, practice and precision to be able to do this automatically.  The more adaptive or fluid you are in meeting demands are going to allow you to pinpoint the when, who and how to focus on your grow and ability to flourish.  If you recognize how you will move and keep pace with your customers at their speed, not your own, will signal a mature organization with a clear understanding on who is their customer and how great the relationship can be.

"Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says: 'Make me feel important.' Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life."
~Mary Kay Ash

The tortoise vs the hare

Selling to big corporations compared to selling to small-to-medium businesses is like differentiating between a marathon runner and a jogger!  Then, to make matters more confusing in come the dreaded acronyms that we take liberty with:  B2B (business to business) B2C (business to corporations) or B2C (business to consumers).


Sales to business are more transactional:  quantity over quality - the more activity, prospects in your sales funnel, the more likely you will close some of them (secure a sale).  Rookies to sales will start out in B2B and as they improve, they may (not always) be promoted and evolve into B2C sales.  You should be comfortable cold calling, knocking on doors and rebounding after being declined.  You are a quick closer.


Selling to big corporations (sometimes referred to as enterprise sales) requires skill -- knowledge about the company, its people, culture, processes, needs, -- which requires a lot of research, endurance, and more training.   This is usually a step up from B2B sales and recognition for having put in the time to understand what your value proposition is (what sets you apart).  You create solutions, you identify needs before anyone else may.  The organization tasking you to sell B2C must equip you with all the necessary tools, resources, support but most of all TIME to be successful in this arena.  The bigger the fish, the longer it takes to reign it in.  You are a problem solver.

I took liberties with this blog by changing it up.  Essentially, B2B is selling to businesses which includes corporations.  B2C is often referred to as selling business to consumers.  I modified it simply because Business to Consumers rely less on sales professionals and more on advertising, marketing, direct mail, telemarketing, etc.  The skill and finesse required to sell to corpora-tions/enterprise is more complicated and should not be part of a start up strategy.  Chances are, as a start up, you won't have the compensation, resources, support or time to attract the skilled sales executive.  You can take just anybody and shove them out the door and tell them to knock on doors when you want simply a hunter for new business.

Take the time to evaluate what kind of sales professional you are or what kind of sales professional you want.  Turnover in sales will hurt you in the long run.  It sends a message to your potential customers that you value the sale over the value of those representing you. 

Read my biggest click blog:  Hunter, farmer .... Most companies will hire the hare instead of the tortoise.  The results are at the finish line.

One can't help but notice how often structure can defeat itself when most organizations decide they want the energy of the hare and don't have the patience for the tortoise.    We all know how that story ends.  Similarly, the results in sales at the end of the race can be the same.

I suggest that you need both.  I highly recommend you don't eliminate either. Understanding both styles and the benefits to your organization will allow everyone to flourish.  Primarily, expectations will be accurate, deployment of resources managed accordingly and timelines will be adjusted. 

Social media matters starting with Twitter

Every day there are powerful examples of how quickly news fans out on social media far surpassing our traditional media:  radio, television and especially print.

A very kind gentleman named Ajay reached out to me on Twitter to ask me:  "How would one draw tweets to escalate influence?"

Like most twitter nerds ... I happily tweeted back a number of spontaneous responses, with customary #hashtag accompaniments. These were my responses:

  1. Great question Ajay! Draw tweets by articles that resonate with U, quotes, beautiful images ... likeminded will be attracted

  2. Plus using on specific topics you like may inspire those who gravitate towards same interests

  3. Be courteous, consistent, respectful ~specifically thanking those who follow or is a powerful law of attraction

  4. share your ~Udon't know how important what U know is until you start to share with others=positive reaction

There was where I did discover my own faux pas that I should know better:  not checking his bio first! I clicked on his profile on Twitter.  For folly's sake, this gentleman has over 11,000 followers to my mere 8661 (as of  today, January 22, 2015)!  And I'm giving him advice? Jeepers ....  

Ajay, has another rule I recommend:  an interesting bio that says who he is, succinctly while giving a glimpse of his interests:

Recently diagnosed with Parkinson's. Twitteraholic, I am on TWITTER to help, assist and educate the Tweeting population. Follows back all. Progressive Democrat

Once you start getting into the grove and accumulating followers, you may start to see notifications such as the following:
These are so nice to get.  The tweeter is recommending you among others.  Etiquette requires that you should retweet #RT thank the Tweeter (i.e. P.H.Solomon) and then you can decide if you want to follow the others (by reading their bios).  Some may have already followed you and beat you to the punch.  

P.H. had a #WW hashtag included, so I went and clicked on the #WW to see what it meant.  I was able to decipher from all the tweets assembled that it is all about writers.  By scrolling through the content in there, I was able to find some great nuggets on articles I found myself wanting to read.  A best way to acknowledge that you have read the tweet and compliment the person who curated that content - is by replying to the person - and most importantly retweeted (remember #RT) when you are suggesting others may want to read and #RT.

Another way this tweet became memorable, is the unique, cool image he included in his tweet.  Like all else, when you include an image, it will visually stimulate and draw viewers to click, #RT or click on the star.  The statistics show that the following was #RTd 20 times. 

 Retweeted 19 times

Another stat provided is who clicked on the STAR which means favorites with images of the people who did so.  What another fantastic way to find like minded who did like it.  Certainly, they may have done so because of the intriguing image, or because the content was valuable to them, or they may have wanted to keep as a reference later on.  I may favorite because I'm just buzzing through for a few minutes and I want to be able to go back and read more (i.e. bio, see other tweets, how many followers, or a multitude of other reasons).   Packing it under favorites can also be customized to where I want to keep tabs on certain topics, people, or whatever way I identify with.

There are a couple of rules of manners that need to be addressed.  If someone follows you, you don't have to automatically follow everyone that follows you, however, if you don't follow back, expect that you may be dropped down the road.  If you have been graced by the fact that they like what you share, they may follow you regardless.  Note, with bigger brands or personalities, the ratio of followers to who they follow may be tipped by a huge scale.  Some may get an ego boost by their numbers (anyone remember Piers Morgan @piersmorgan on CNN always referencing his followers on Twitter, or vocally comparing his following to his guests?)

By looking at someone like a Piers Morgan, who would be considered an influencer strictly based on his follower to follow ratio, you can learn from his bio (you already know who he is). Piers follows a principle of having his own witty quote:   

'One day you're the cock of the walk, the next a 
feather duster.'
~Piers Morgan

You can easily grasp that Piers is for anti-guns or more about gun regulations  based on his tweets.  You can also see his sources for tweets based on checking out who he retweets #RT 

Justice, gun-toting U.S. cop style > RT : Video shows Washington police fatally shooting man as he runs away

I went to check out Gawker ( +Andre Joseph on Google Plus) you can see that they are a media organization.  You can follow sources like them or traditional media outlets like the New York Times to source interesting articles that you can share to increase the likelihood that it will be retweeted #RT and/or attract followers that share similar interests.  

 You can also tell that Piers has a pretty large ego because he tweets about himself a fair bit:

Very proud just declared me one of London's finest exports to America - he forgets they don't get sarcasm out here....

If you are just hopping on for a few minutes to check if you have any new followers (remember to personally thank them for the follow), any #RT (retweets, that you should also thank personally) or simply to catch the news.  You've heard of news going viral.  How they go viral on Twitter is the key words are preceded with a hashtag #.  Well, one way to see what is catching everyone's attention, is by taking a look at the TRENDING box (this is today's February 12, 2015):



If you have a website, you should have Twitter -- it can drive traffic to your site and value proposition.  Likewise, if you have Twitter, you should have that identified on your website so that your customers, readers, following can follow you on Twitter:

Certainly, birds of a feather flock together, and you can #RT their articles or tweets as well ... reciprocating others loyalty is the rules of the social media jungle.  Unless, you're One Direction, with millions of adoring fans tweeting at them, that is impossible.  If you have someone handing your corporate Twitter account, ensure that your social media representative is  acknowledging, thanking and even #RTing those who #RT your content.  Don't fall short on engaging with your audience in a unique manner.  They could be customers giving you valuable feedback that should be acted upon.  A non response to a negative tweet could escalate very quickly if you are not paying attention.

 I've shared a few tips about Twitter today.  Hopefully, it will help you get into the groove and demystify some of the cool advantages social media brings, specifically Twitter.  At the very least, it can help you get started.

OPTIONEERjm NOTE:  All persons/parties referenced in this article were Tweeted at to let them know that I had included them in my Blog.  As a courtesy, I let them know and also that I would remove it if they ask me to.  No response will indicate it is ok, and permission granted.