OUR BLOG

SALES

Five Strategies For Midsize Service Firms To Break Through Revenue Plateaus
How Pro Service Firms Can Fix The ‘Drop Everything — Chase Money’ Problem
Prospect, Originate, Navigate: How To Fill Your Professional Service Pipeline
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Think Carefully About Your Promise
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 7
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 6
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 5
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 4
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 3
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 2
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 1
How Mid-Size Service Firms Can Acquire Great New Clients On LinkedIn
Five Ways The Consultative Sale Improves Profits
How To Win The Complex Service Sale Consistently
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
How To Break The Grip Of Rainmaker Culture
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
How To Know When Prospects Are Ready
How To Pull Prospects Into Conversations
Nurture Organic Relationships Online
How To Build Relationships With Jaded Prospects
Do Prospects Want To Buy Or Be Sold?
Close Deals Faster Using Proof Statements
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
Quick Or Deep Content: Which Is Better For Professional Service Firms?
Most Leads Are Not Ready To Engage – But They Will Be

MARKETING

How To Market Managed Services - Part 3
How To Market Managed Services - Part 2
How To Market Managed Services Today – Part 1
Why Service Firms Need A Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy
Does Your Website Attract Ideal Clients?
Why Service Firms Need The Ultimate Digital Marketing Stack
The Myth Of The Time-Starved Service Buyer
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
Why You Need A Generous Brand
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
Are You Measuring Your Time Funnel?
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Five Digital Marketing KPIs
Can Service Pros Over 40 Succeed In Digital?
Do Your Users Experience Content Regret?
Content Registrations Are Not Enough
Is Your Website Open For Business
How To Build A Great Digital Marketing Plan
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
The Value Of An Idea Driven Website
A New Website Won’t Bring You New Clients
Do You “Get” Digital Marketing? – Part 2
Do You Get Digital Marketing?
Who Benefits From Your Content?
Lead Nurturing Versus Content Marketing
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Make Your Website A New Client Driver
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
How To Get The Greatest Value From Content Marketing
Why You Should Absolutely Give Away Your Best Ideas
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
How To Nurture Ideal Prospects
Quick Or Deep Content: Which Is Better For Professional Service Firms?

REGISTER FOR BLOG

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

PROSPECT, ORIGINATE, NAVIGATE: HOW TO FILL YOUR PROFESSIONAL SERVICE PIPELINE

WHY YOU MUST MASTER THESE THREE PHASES OF THE SALES FUNNEL

Originally published on Forbes.com

For 25 years now, I’ve been privileged to work with dozens of mid-size professional service firms. In nearly every instance, the leadership teams guiding these companies have one overarching goal: to break through plateaus that hold them back so they can accelerate toward their next level.

As I began consulting with these organizations, I’d hear a phrase over and over again: “We need to improve sales and marketing.” On one hand, this makes sense. If you want to achieve outstanding results, you need high-performing sales and marketing teams. But on the other hand, it hides a blindspot that is so significant, it decreases the likelihood of achieving next-level results.

How so? When sales and marketing role off the tongue, almost like the term “apples and oranges,” it indicates two problems to me. First, there is an inherent recognition, like apples and oranges, that sales and marketing are different. But most of the people I consult with have very little understanding of just how different they really are.

Second, if you recognize that sales and marketing are different, but you don’t understand those differences, how are you supposed to make them work together? Next-level growth requires highly collaborative sales and marketing teams that understand each other and work together seamlessly. Herein lies the biggest challenge I see mid-size service firms struggling with: They can’t get sales and marketing to align because they don’t know what to expect from — or how to manage — each team. Let’s review what many leaders actually do with these teams.

For sales, most service firms take one of two approaches. Either they look to their top people to sell or they have dedicated sales teams. About half the time, the dedicated sales teams are underperforming. The mission for both of these teams is pretty clear: generate revenue by closing business.

For marketing, most firms take one of two approaches: do it all in-house or hire an agency. This is where the misalignment issue often leads to abysmal failures. Neither in-house marketing nor the agency really understands the sales funnel. They know the services the company offers, more or less, but they don’t know how buyers of those services think and make decisions. This means they were never really the partner of the sales team, which needs them to perform so they can achieve their mission.

How to Fix This Problem

If you really want to break through to your next level, you absolutely must get your sales and marketing teams to align around your sales funnel. The most important part of the sales funnel is the pipeline. This has to do with the activity that leads up to the initial conversation. The vast majority of firms I’ve worked with have a high close-rate once they get prospects into dialogue. But getting prospects into good-faith dialogue is a huge mountain to climb.

So, I’d like to put forward a framework that will help your sales and marketing functions align around the pipeline:

  • Prospect: This is about making a favorable impression on lists of people who fit your ideal client profile.
  • Originate: This is about finding the leverage points that allow you to enter good-faith dialogue with prospects.
  • Navigate: This is about making “go” or “no-go” decisions at every stage in the funnel.

Prospect

I believe all sales and marketing activity, at some point, boils down to lists. Usually these lists include prospective buyers who might need your services. There are two important levers for prospecting: list size and fit. If you don’t have enough prospects to make a favorable impression upon, your pipeline will be very dry.

But it’s the fit that usually highlights the biggest disconnect between sales and marketing. The fit is about the ideal client profile. Most organizations will say: “We know who we serve.” But when I ask them to identify the top five goals of the prospects they want to engage with, the room suddenly goes quiet. An ideal client profile describes demographics and psychographics — what’s top of mind with your prospective buyers? If you don’t have a robust ideal client profile, this is the place to start.

Originate

Originate has to do with the reasons prospects want to talk to you. It also has to do with the channels by which they reach out to you: email, phone, web forms, etc. If you can track these reasons and make a list of them, you can anticipate where a conversation is likely going.

Navigate

Navigate is about deciding whether or not the prospect, their needs, their budget and their culture are a fit to who you want to do business with. In my experience, most professional service engagements pass through these stages:

  • First conversation — to uncover presenting needs, budget, time lines.
  • Discovery — to define the full range of needs you will address and the priorities of decision makers.
  • Scope — to determine which services you’ll offer and how you’ll deliver them.
  • Proposal — to show the prospect what you’re thinking.
  • Refinement — to include the prospect’s feedback.
  • Close — to kick-off the engagement.

Smart sales professionals are making decisions at each stage about whether or not it makes sense to keep going.

How This Framework Applies to Your Company

If you really want to accelerate toward your next level, I recommend that you ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is on our prospect list and how do we know they are a fit to our ideal client profile?
  • How are we making favorable impressions on these people?
  • What leverage points consistently indicate that we are engaging with prospects who are acting in good faith and not wasting our time?
  • What are our “go” or “no-go” criteria for each stage of our sales funnel?
  • How can we get our sales and marketing teams to align around this framework so they consistently pull ideal prospects all the way through the funnel?

Give these questions a whirl and they just might unlock the future of your dreams.

About The Author

Randy Shattuck is a seasoned entrepreneur who works hand-in-hand with senior leaders of mid-size professional service firms to grow revenues, acquire clients, open new markets, increase profits and effectively position their brands.

OUR BLOG

SALES

Five Strategies For Midsize Service Firms To Break Through Revenue Plateaus
How Pro Service Firms Can Fix The ‘Drop Everything — Chase Money’ Problem
Prospect, Originate, Navigate: How To Fill Your Professional Service Pipeline
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Think Carefully About Your Promise
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 7
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 6
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 5
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 4
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 3
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 2
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 1
How Mid-Size Service Firms Can Acquire Great New Clients On LinkedIn
Five Ways The Consultative Sale Improves Profits
How To Win The Complex Service Sale Consistently
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
How To Break The Grip Of Rainmaker Culture
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
How To Know When Prospects Are Ready
How To Pull Prospects Into Conversations
Nurture Organic Relationships Online
How To Build Relationships With Jaded Prospects
Do Prospects Want To Buy Or Be Sold?
Close Deals Faster Using Proof Statements
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
Quick Or Deep Content: Which Is Better For Professional Service Firms?
Most Leads Are Not Ready To Engage – But They Will Be

MARKETING

How To Market Managed Services - Part 3
How To Market Managed Services - Part 2
How To Market Managed Services Today – Part 1
Why Service Firms Need A Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy
Does Your Website Attract Ideal Clients?
Why Service Firms Need The Ultimate Digital Marketing Stack
The Myth Of The Time-Starved Service Buyer
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
Why You Need A Generous Brand
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
Are You Measuring Your Time Funnel?
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Five Digital Marketing KPIs
Can Service Pros Over 40 Succeed In Digital?
Do Your Users Experience Content Regret?
Content Registrations Are Not Enough
Is Your Website Open For Business
How To Build A Great Digital Marketing Plan
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
The Value Of An Idea Driven Website
A New Website Won’t Bring You New Clients
Do You “Get” Digital Marketing? – Part 2
Do You Get Digital Marketing?
Who Benefits From Your Content?
Lead Nurturing Versus Content Marketing
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Make Your Website A New Client Driver
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
How To Get The Greatest Value From Content Marketing
Why You Should Absolutely Give Away Your Best Ideas
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
How To Nurture Ideal Prospects
Quick Or Deep Content: Which Is Better For Professional Service Firms?