You can’t make your numbers without lots of opportunities so the more the better, right? Wrong. We see lots of sales organisations that aren’t filling the funnel effectively and are failing to close promising deals because they are wasting too much time and effort on opportunities they will never win.
It takes just as much effort to produce a losing pitch as a winning one.
We were recently invited to pitch for a project that, at first sight, seemed ideal for us. The company is a multi €billion facilities management company and we received an RFP for a manager coaching programme. It was supposed to build on the first phase of their sales excellence programme.
But rather than just jump in and start working on the RFP we reviewed the opportunity thoroughly and came up with several concerns. Firstly, it seemed likely that the supplier who carried out the first phase would be the preferred supplier for this next phase. Secondly, we were concerned that the first phase had not been effective. In our view the manager coaching programme should have been done before and not a long time after the sales trainings.
We submitted SOME questions and received clarification but we still had doubts, so we sent them the results of our internal Qualification Analysis and asked for a 45-minute call, which they agreed to.
The result? We concluded that the incumbent was the preferred supplier and withdrew from the RFP process. We left the door open for further discussions if the RFP does not deliver the result they want and they have expressed an interest in meeting with us about potential future projects. That means we didn’t waste time flogging a dead horse and we did make a good impression on a potential future customer. See their response below.
Thanks for your time yesterday and for your considered response.
As we said yesterday we would be interested to meet with you for a broader exchange and discussion but understand that it won't be in the context of the RFP.
More T less Y
If qualifying out is so important, what should your funnel look like?
Sales processes are becoming more and more complex and, as a result, they take more time and resources to complete. Most customers need to have several alternative proposals to fulfil their own procurement requirements. This means they want suppliers to stay in the process, even though they have a preferred supplier.
Many sales leaders expect their team’s funnel to be full in all stages and don’t have a consistent process for making Go/No Go decisions. Sales people typically don’t like to quit so they will keep working on an opportunity even if the chances of winning are slim. Few sales people know how to say no, especially in a way that keeps the door open for future bids.
The result is a Y shaped funnel – only a few are turned into wins. You should be aiming for a T shaped funnel. Most opportunities should be reviewed at the first stage of the process and only those with a significant chance of success should stay in the funnel. If you factor in account development it should look a bit more like an H on its side.
Say no thanks in the best possible way
When you decide to pull out of a pitch, try to do it in a way that leaves the door open for future business. If you have asked a series of intelligent questions you will have made a good impression on the prospect. If you are pulling out because you don’t think your solution is right for the prospect most people will respect you for saying so.
Below is the letter we wrote when we pulled out of the pitch I referred to earlier.
We would like to thank you and Stephen for clarifying our questions yesterday. Your time was much appreciated.
After having consulted internally, we came to the conclusion that we would like to withdraw from the request for proposal. The main reason is that we don't believe that the RFP will lead to the solution that you require in order to turn your sales transformation project into a success. Moreover, it will not give us the opportunity to get to know (the company), which is one of your key criteria for selecting a partner.
If, at the end of the RFP process, you feel that none of the invited suppliers meets your requirements, we would be very pleased to engage in a collaborative workshop and leverage our sales transformation expertise to jointly develop a sustainable sales and coaching practice, that will deliver results.
We wish you a successful project.
Phil Kreindler and Peter Trix
I hope this will help you get your funnel fat free and in great shape.