The term “sales funnel” has been popularized by online sellers, and we are led to believe that it is designed to convert web traffic into online sales. However, direct selling has used a “funnel” for selling since the dawn of man. Until the term became popular we called a sales funnel a selling system. In fact, I still prefer the term selling system because it allows for the understanding of the pieces that create the whole. When it is referred to as a funnel, it is easy to assume that the progression through the funnel is automatic. And as we know, there is nothing automatic about it.
This article specifically deals with direct selling and direct selling systems (direct selling sales funnels). If you found your way here while looking for web-based sales funnels please click here for the hands-down, definitive web-based sales funnel solution.
A great selling system will deliver the closest thing to automatic results that you can achieve. The “system” includes all the pieces of the selling plan, all the people involved, from salespeople through management, and their beliefs and attitudes about the system. While many aspects of selling systems are beyond the scope of this article I want to discuss a few nuances between funnels and systems that will help provide a better understanding of both.
I am writing this article in September of 2020 as the Covid 19 pandemic wears on. Many types of home improvements have boomed this year as people found themselves housebound and their normal daily routines disrupted. First, don’t be fooled by the trend and start thinking that this trend is the new norm. It isn’t. It’s a bubble that was created by the disruption of routine. Second, don’t think for a second that the ease of closing with virtual aspects, used over the past few months, will be of any use to you in the future. They won’t. I can’t predict how long the trend will last, but I am sure that sooner rather than later you will find that direct selling will still require direct selling.
When you think of a sales funnel you think of the top being wide and the bottom being narrow, which only allows the buyers through. As if it has a faucet that can be turned on and off.
Reality is often more arduous than the image of dumping a bunch of leads in the top and getting a steady stream of sales out the bottom. Unfortunately, there is not a single definitive definition of what each layer of a sales funnel actually is. There are as many different “theories” about the levels as there are writers of sales funnel articles. Many have promise, but very few deliver sufficient how to for most of us to grasp how the pieces fit together or understand why they are in the order that is being described. In most cases, the direct sales funnel concept is less detailed than the concept of a direct sales selling system.
For example, a direct sales selling system sales plan could start with something called entry. A step named entry would detail a salesperson’s arrival and entry into a prospects area or space. Stated in this way, it is easy to see that something like entering a prospect’s area or space could fill a chapter with information. This small piece, this step, is as important to closing the sale as asking for the order and is a skill that can be taught. It would be very rare to see a detail this small discussed in a direct sales funnel description, but it is present whether it is discussed or not.
In fact, most sales funnel descriptions include aspects of marketing that rightfully belong in separate marketing funnel descriptions. I can only guess that the authors of those funnels hoped to simplify the process by showing larger bands of activity. I think the opposite is true. As my above example indicates:
The smaller the piece of activity that can be described in detail will lead to the greatest understanding of the sales process when all of the small pieces are combined to form the whole.Brad Barton
As a general rule, sales funnels define the sales process in large chunks.
So, to answer the question that I posed in the title of this article, a sales funnel is a representation of the sales process in general terms. Seldom will you find it basic enough to be broadly taught and understood well enough to be acted upon. It looks like a great idea, the general concepts make sense and the end result is desirable. Then why is it so difficult to create and implement into your direct selling plan?
The solution to this dilemma is actually very simple. When you represent it as an image of a funnel the pieces are never small enough at act on. When you call it a direct selling system you know that it has more than five or six pieces without even looking at it. The funnel gives you a pretty idea, the selling system produces the results.
The direct selling system must be trainable, understandable, and has the consent of everyone involved. Consent doesn’t mean permission here, it means ownership. Everyone “owns” their piece of the system. It is represented in the culture of the company, the division, or the department. Everyone involved believes that their piece of the system is critical to the whole – and it is. Those that don’t believe stand out like a sore thumb.
That is the type of integrated direct selling system that is marked by excellence. A sales funnel is a nice looking representation, but you’ll need the whole selling system to achieve your goals.
Belief is your best friend… or your number one enemy. A selling system marked by excellence is not words on pieces of paper, training manuals, cool-looking samples, or the right kind of leads. It is a powerful, workable system combined with the beliefs and attitudes of everyone involved.