May 26, 2022

Mastering your Sales Funnel

Mastering your Sales Funnel

In today’s episode of the ‘Sales Samurai’ podcast, host Sam Capra, who helps marketing leaders in the retail space go beyond the sale/transaction, talks with guest, Liz Heiman, the CEO and Chief Sales Strategist for ‘Regarding Sales’. Liz primarily helps B2B companies that are trying to grow the sales infrastructure and drive revenue. In today’s episode they discuss tips and best practices to master your sales funnel.

Episode Highlights

  • 02:00 – Liz says her dad wrote a book called ‘Strategic Selling’ hence she grew up in the sales business environment, so it’s a natural thing for her.
  • 08:08 – Liz’s first job as the Head of Department was to go to Australia, meet two Australian men, and convince them that they should be selling conceptual selling, not just strategic selling.
  • 10:30 – Liz talks about how she got her next big deal while meeting with the VP of Coca-Cola, Japan. How her 15-minute conversation turned into a 45-minute conversation.
  • 15:05 – Liz states that typically if you ask people, what's their priority, almost everybody says that it is closing business. 
  • 17:10 – If you look at your funnel, and you know what your ratios are, how much you qualify out, etc. then you can prioritize.
  • 19:20 – Liz tells her clients to put their prospecting time as an appointment that's busy in their calendar because everybody will schedule over it.
  • 21:15 - It's as important to qualify out as it is to qualify in, mentions Liz.
  • 23:25 - If it's not an ideal customer, there's got to be a good reason for it to stay in Liz’s file/list.
  • 27:30 - No one person decides on a multimillion-dollar deal just doesn't happen, it impacts too many parts of the organization.
  • 29:35 – There's a difference between asking tough questions and beating people up, we're asking tough questions because we're looking for solutions, says Liz.
  • 32:56 - The reason the deals are falling out, or pushing back is that nobody did the work up in qualifying and cultivated when they were supposed to be doing.
  • 35:30 - When you are looking at the funnel, you need to be able to make those decisions with leadership or by yourself about what makes sense and what doesn't, says Liz.
  • 41:40 - If we want to have the freedom to be creative, we need to put the pieces in place that help us make sure that critical work gets done.
  • 43:20 - So I hit my numbers consistently and have the life I want because I've got the revenue coming in to support it right?
  • 46:20 – Liz thinks process supports the creativity, takes the stress away, and it makes selling a lot nicer.

Three Key Points

  1. When we create a funnel, or a sales process, which is the step of the funnel, the very thing is to think about what is a qualified lead versus a non-qualified lead. The first thing is to look at the process of qualifying not just in that stage of qualifying but throughout the entire funnel so that you can prioritize in and prioritize out those leads that are not helpful. So by understanding our funnel, we can prioritize our work, make sure that we get the stuff at the top of the funnel that we do the work to qualify.
  2. We want to make sure that the customers share the values that we have as a company. If they're not talking the same language, if the product isn't a good fit, if it's going to require a tremendous amount of change in their organization that they're not going to be able to do then maybe they're not your ideal customer. Hence, you should qualify them out and move on. If they're interested then tell them what the qualifications are for them to be able to work with you successfully.
  3. There are two kinds of funnel reviews, one is when we do it ourselves of our work, and the other is the final review that a manager does with a sales rep. Whether you’re doing it with yourself or somebody is doing it with you, it is not a beat-up session. If you're using this as an opportunity to beat up your salespeople, it is a failure right from the start, they don't learn anything. You are asking tough questions because you're looking for solutions.

Tweetable Quotes

  • “My background gave me what a lot of sales consultants don't have is a real focus on process.” – Liz Heiman
  • “I learned what people needed, what they complained about and what they wanted to fix.” - Liz Heiman
  • “I can look at my funnel at any time and have it tell me what my priorities are based on, stuffs not moving?” - Liz Heiman
  • “As long as you have all those distractions, you're not focused on what matters.” - Liz Heiman
  • “The first thing I want to do is figure out, do they need what I'm selling?” - Liz Heiman
  • “So, the first thing is to look at my funnel, look at the shape or ratios.” - Liz Heiman
  • “Even if I'm about to walk into a funnel review with my senior person, I better do my tunnel review first.” - Liz Heiman

Resources Mentioned

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Speaker 0    00:00:01    Coming to you from Orlando, Florida, Orlando, Florida, and streaming around the world around the world. You're not tuned in to the sales samurai podcast. The only B2B sales podcast, providing unfiltered unapologetic views and tactics directly from the sales trenches. Here's your host, Sam Capra.  
Speaker 1    00:00:29    Well, welcome to another episode of the sale samurai. Thanks for listening. Before we begin, do us a favor, take a moment to subscribe and download on today's show. We're going to be discussing mastering your sales funnel, which I know for the audience is going to be their ears are going to be perked up. And I have an amazing guest for you guys today. Miss Liz Heiman, the CEO and chief sales strategist for regarding sales Liz, how are you?  
Speaker 2    00:00:54    Um, great. Really, really happy today to spend beautiful air. It's a good day.  
Speaker 1    00:01:02    We're recording this on a Friday late Friday. I mean, you can't be asking for much more. It's a front. You can't have too many complaints. That's  
Speaker 2    00:01:08    Right.  
Speaker 1    00:01:10    Let's tell the audience a little bit. I mean, I know you very well just from your LinkedIn and just our network are pretty closely related, but share a little bit about yourself with the audience.  
Speaker 2    00:01:19    Happy to do that. So, uh, Liz Heiman and I am a sales consultant, and what I primarily do is help companies that are trying to grow or scale build the sales infrastructure. They need to do that. So whether it's a company that is just a squirrel that's funded, that has tremendous pressure to grow or companies that have been around. Some of my clients have been around 30 years and the world has changed and they're ready to change and do the things they need to do to really start growing again. So that's what I do. I've been in the world of sales for a very long time. I literally, as you know, Sam, I grew up in it. So my dad wrote a book called strategic selling. And so I literally grew up in the business. And so it just kind of as a natural thing, I didn't think this is what I was going to do. I went to school, studied international political economy. And while I'm a sales consultant,  
Speaker 1    00:02:13    That's a very easy segue. Those things are really closely related,  
Speaker 2    00:02:17    Perfectly natural, actually. It's really cool because what my background gave me that a lot of sales consultants don't have is a real focus on process. And so, and research and understanding the numbers and those kinds of things that give me a kind of a different approach to helping people with their sales. So in some ways it is natural, but one would never have expected.  
Speaker 1    00:02:38    You know, it's funny. I always love those origin stories for the simple fact that not a lot of people ever grew up thinking to themselves, Hey, I'm going to be a salesperson when I grow up, but it does tend to be, Hey, it's something in the family. A lot of people, I heard my dad, my mom, like you said, my dad wrote a book and I know your mother was highly influential in your career path and obviously your sister and things of that nature. So it's a unique situation. Tell me a little bit about kind of, what was your first sales gig? How did you kind of dip your toe into the sales space?  
Speaker 2    00:03:08    Uh, you will not believe this. My very first sales gig was selling bras.  
Speaker 1    00:03:13    That's a first,  
Speaker 2    00:03:14    I was about 13 years old. I weighed less than a hundred pounds and I can assure you, I had absolutely no figure at the time. And the women would come in and go, why don't you go about bras? I'm like, no, really watch try this one. And they'd be like, that's amazing. But I learned by product. I learned what people needed and what they complained about and what they wanted to fix. And I knew what did what? And so even though I never wore anything like the people that came in, I was able to help. So that was my very first sales gig. And my very first job was convincing people that I actually knew what I was talking about.  
Speaker 1    00:03:53    That is amazing. Hey, so you have been doing this awhile, but let me ask you a first question. So obviously I love that piece of it because for me it was selling a camera. It was Cutco or some knife system, or, and then it was a rainbow vacuum cleaner, a lot of, to all due respect to them. It was a tough role to kind of grind your teeth on. But what was the first kind of business to be a lot of people call your professional, your first professional sales job. What would that look like for you, Liz?  
Speaker 2    00:04:22    You know, I started, I was not going to do sales, right? I wasn't going to do anything to do with sales. When I graduated from college, I was asked to come back to the business. I had been working for a company that did marketing and I was asked to come to Miller Heiman as the marketing directors. So that was my very first position and learning what sales leaders care about and how to get them to respond to messages. Right? So my first part of the job was lead jet. And actually I had a whole team of people, cold calling VPs of sales for major corporations. You know, we were sending letters, not email because we just didn't do that yet. That's how old I am. And then I went to graduate school to study international political economy and went to Japan and researched and met all these amazing senior politicians and bureaucrats in Japan. And then my dad called me and said, okay, are you done fooling around? That's my dad. And will you come back to the company? We need someone to run Asia Pacific. So I have never had a professional sales job when I had to learn how to run a division, how to sell, how to sell. And I was selling to companies like Coca-Cola Japan and Hewlett Packard, Japan, and I had to manage a Salesforce of independent contractors who had been selling longer than I had been alive.  
Speaker 1    00:05:55    That is amazing. I mean that you talking about deep into the ocean or the deep side of the pool, like you jumped in, not only did you have to learn sales, but she had to scale out an organization, lead a sales team all at the same time, that's an amazing story list.  
Speaker 2    00:06:11    And I've had to train the programs and convince people that I knew what I was talking about.  
Speaker 1    00:06:17    That's very close to the bras situation that you were just explaining.  
Speaker 2    00:06:22    And third, I think I was 30 and I looked like I was 15 and I walk into this room full of men at the time. There were very few women and most of them were older than me. And I literally had to figure out how to convince them that I had something to say that they cared about. And then I had to learn how to train these programs when I had never been until then in a world where I was selling enterprise sales. So yeah, I had to learn it all at the same time. So  
Speaker 1    00:06:55    I love that for the simple fact, a that's a unique scenario, and I know we're going to talk about mastering the sales funnel, which obviously that's something that's very near and dear to your heart. But I think for the audience, there's a lot of people, maybe not to that degree, leading an organization and all at the same time, but kind of how did you kind of sink your teeth into that just from a hitting the ground, running, conveying training people that, that may have more experience, a lot more experience than like for those that are kind of stepping into a new role. Like how did you kind of find your footing if you will live?  
Speaker 2    00:07:27    The first thing was to walk the talk. So there was no pretending I had to actually do what I was telling everyone else to do. And there was no other way around it. I had to go out and do it and learn it and help people with it at the same time. So there were no shortcuts. These were the rules. This is the way we did things. This is the processes we used and I was going to use them. And I was going to use the language and in my own division use the funnel. And I will tell you again, so these guys that I was managing had been selling longer than I had been alive. And my first job as the head of the department was to go to Australia and meet these two Australian men who were in their late fifties, early sixties, and convince them that they should be selling conceptual selling, not just strategic selling.  
Speaker 2    00:08:17    So I already knew the programs had been through them. I was later trained, certified so I could train them. And I had to convince them this was a good program. And they were like, Liz, we don't like this program. We liked strategic selling. And I'm like, you know, here's the thing, you guys, I love this program. And I sincerely did. I think it is so cool. And so I had to convince them to run through it with me, teaching it, working with them, showing them how it worked. And by the time we were done, they, they were like, you know what, Liz, we love this. And so then my next thing that I had to do with them is convinced them that they want to do a funnel review with me every month, which again, I was a kid, what were they going to listen to me?  
Speaker 2    00:09:01    And they did because I followed the process. I supported them. I asked them questions about what they needed to be successful. I asked them questions that mattered to them and I helped them. I made those sessions positive for them. So that was my first sale that my next really big sale, right after that was to fly over to Japan and meet with the VP of Coca-Cola Japan who had, after I flew to Japan to meet him, his secretary informed me his O L office lady informed me that I had 15 minutes and I had my blue sheet done. I had my green sheet done. I had my call plan, my green sheet. I was already. And I thought, okay, I get one question, essentially, a 15 minutes. I get one question. So I walked in, I bow, he didn't know, I spoke Japanese. How'd you meet mush day, the whole thing, it's nice to meet you.  
Speaker 2    00:09:55    And then he finally finally asked me to sit down. I was probably standing there for two minutes before he asked me two minutes of our 15 minutes before he asked me to sit down. He did not give me his business card. He did not take my business card, which is really in Japan. That's the first thing you do. He did not get up from his desk. He did not bow to me. He did not greet me. And I thought this is okay. And so I sat down and I said, look, Coca Cola, worldwide uses Miller Heiman. I know you guys have used it some. And I also know you're not using it a lot. So my job is to figure out how to make you your sales team successful using the Miller Heiman programs. So if you just tell me what's not working and how can I get it working for you?  
Speaker 2    00:10:41    Right. And he looked at me like I had just like appeared out of nowhere. He was shocked. He's like, you're here to ask me how you're going to help me, what help I need. I'm like, that's why I'm here. And so our 15 minute conversation turned into a 45 minute conversation. And the next day he pulled his top two teams to seven 11 team and one other team. Gosh, I can't remember who together for me to do blue sheet reviews with them. He pulled them out of the field. Like you're going to come work with Liz tomorrow. And so that was really my first like, oh my God, how do you sell? And like, just jumping in to the  
Speaker 1    00:11:25    That's amazing. I tell you why it's amazing to me because I think you have to go through that, right? Like that in sales that's people will fall a Rite of passage, but that is really when they say grinding your teeth or finding your footing, that is the only way you learn right. Wrong, a different how to kind of grow into yourself and figure out, Hey, how do I avoid that from happening again? Or how do I recreate that to happen multiple times? Right. Liz, that's kind of the thought process always took from it. Oh  
Speaker 2    00:11:54    Yeah. But again, I had really great training. In fact, we have this joke when I was working there is I created these beautiful brochures when I was part of the marketing team. And then I would go to Japan. They give me a handful of brochures to hand out and I come back with all of that and they'd be like, why aren't we using these? And I finally said, I don't know how, I don't know how to do that. I know how to go have a conversation with someone. That's what I was trained to do. I do not know what to do with this then everybody else wanted. Right. So  
Speaker 1    00:12:31    That's great. That's cool. So let's jump in. Cause this is something I feel like every one of the audience has always kind of say, listen, deal management. People say a multitude of different ways. How do I manage a deal? Pipeline, reviews, deal, acceleration, the whole deal, pipeline things, sales funnel, if you will. So this is really top of mind for me as well. Obviously I lead our sales team and this is always things I think you should find the best ways of driving efficiencies. That way you can replicate and try to identify risk and potential opportunities as well within new deals. So I want to jump in this a little bit with you and kind of get your thoughts on this. But we were talking offline and we were saying, Hey, listen, one of the biggest areas or biggest challenge around sales funnel and mastering your sales funnel, is this the overwhelmingness of it? So talk to me a little bit about that. Give a little context if you don't mind Liz.  
Speaker 2    00:13:24    So I'm just like every other salesperson in the world. I pull up my CRM and go, right? It's just this overwhelming amount of information. And somehow I have to figure out what I'm doing next. So there's a couple of ways that I can decide that. And the way most of us decide that as by whoever calls first, whoever sent me an email, whoever called right, because I don't really have a good way of prioritizing all of the stuff that's in my funnel. So when we create a funnel, when we create a sales process, which is the steps of the funnel. So when I use the word funnel instead of pipeline, let me just do that really quickly. The reason I use the word funnel instead of pipeline is because of the shape pipeline implies. I turn it on and turn it off. When I turn it on, water comes out.  
Speaker 2    00:14:10    When it's come out, when I turn it off, they stop. Well, that's kind of true, but it's not really true because what happens is a whole bunch comes into the top. And over time they fall away time. When we used to talk about it as a sieve, as well as a funnel, right? So stuff falls out, right? And we want it to fall out because what we want to do is prioritize that stuff that is going to close and eliminate that stuff that's wasting our time. So that's the very first thing is to really think about what is a qualified lead versus an unqualified lead. And as it's moving through the funnel, does it become unqualified and clearly not moving forward? So the first thing I do is look at the process of qualifying, not just in that stage of qualifying, but throughout the entire funnel so that I can prioritize in and prioritize out those leads that are not helpful.  
Speaker 2    00:15:00    The other thing it does is another way of prioritizing. So typically if you ask people, what is the most important? What's my first priority, right? Almost everybody says, oh, well closing business. That's right. You put all that work to getting there. You got to close it. Let's not forget and do something else. This is my first point, right? It may not take the most time actually closing businesses usually relatively quick. Once you've gotten to that point and you just need a check in a signature, it's a relatively fast process. It doesn't take a tremendous amount of time if you've done the work leading up to it, right. But then what's your second priority. And the second priority is surprising. But if you go back up to prospecting, you go to the top of the funnel, because here's what I know for everything. I close out the bottom of the funnel.  
Speaker 2    00:15:49    I probably need 10 things in the top of the funnel, right? Or whatever your numbers are. It doesn't matter. But as long as you know that you can look at your funnel at any time and go, whoa, I don't have enough in the top of the funnel. If it's, I've got a six month sales cycle to close what I need six months from now. Right? So by understanding our funnel, we can prioritize our work, make sure that we get the stuff in the top of the funnel that we do the work to qualify. And then we do the work that takes the most time, which is covering the bases, nurturing the relationship, right? Moving that cell forward to the point where you have a proposal that is going to be signed and you're ready to get the signature in the chat. So we use the funnel to help us prioritize what work has to happen. If I do not put my prospecting work in my funnel in my day, if I don't schedule it in, guess how often it'll happen.  
Speaker 1    00:16:43    Very little if at all right?  
Speaker 2    00:16:45    So I have to prioritize it. I have to schedule it, make myself do it. And then the other thing is when I look at my phone and I look at the shape and I look at the numbers, if I know what my personal ratios are, how much I typically qualify out, how much goes from close to one, whatever. If I know those, then I can look at my funnel and prioritize and say, I've got nothing in qualify. So what's up here in prospecting that I need to get in touch with these people and pull it down so I can look at my funnel at any time and have it, tell me what my priorities are based on. Stuff's not moving okay. If stuff's not moving, then what? Right. It helps me to prioritize my activities instead of just taking action, which is what we often do as salespeople, we just stay busy. It helps us prioritize. So that busy is effective.  
Speaker 1    00:17:33    There's a few things I want to get your thoughts on this because you brought up a tremendous amount of information. I know we'll peel that back even further, but a couple of things that you brought up a is obviously the goal is closing business. That's why we're here is to get, but you're right. That's usually, I don't want to say eat, but when you get to the point where it's actually at that point, it's usually the easiest piece of it. But the prospecting is kind of the, where the rubber meets the road, because you're right. As you get more stuff, moving down, funnel, you lose focus of the top of the funnel and you have all these peaks and valleys in your pipeline, which eventually catch up with you, right? If you have a 3, 6, 9 month selling cycle, but you stop prospecting for two months trying to close business, you're dead in three or six months. So it's the law of diminishing return. So it is amazing that you go from the closing, right to the like, there's that Delta you're saying, Hey, I got to go back. And I got to focus on my prospecting and  
Speaker 2    00:18:24    Something's coming out the bottom. That's how my gut.  
Speaker 1    00:18:29    And I love the fact that you called out that, Hey, I've got actually planned for it. Look, you took it a step further and said, if I don't plan a block of time for prospecting, it'll never happen. And I think that's a good tactical lesson, right? Unless you actually take it a step further and actually map out on a calendar, Hey, this is dedicated for prospecting. Or am I overthinking that a little bit?  
Speaker 2    00:18:50    No, that's exactly what I mean. And I have friends that do it in lots of ways. My friend, Catherine Brown has something. She calls it prospecting Friday or something. Follow-up Friday. She calls a follow up Friday. She says, this is what we're going to do during this time. My calendar has my prospecting time on it. It has my followup time on it. So if you're not doing that and I actually tell my clients, put it in there as a, an appointment that's busy. No one's can schedule time because everybody will schedule over it. If you don't mark it as busy and it's as important as anything else you do any meeting, you have, you've got to make time for that.  
Speaker 1    00:19:27    The tides is a great call out. I follow them. An old colleague of mine gave me that wasn't something I had thought of and he it's busy. It's all my calendar. And I actually even put in a title, do not try to block, not trying to book prospecting time. I mean, just to take it a step further that, and sometimes write lists, you have to manage up, right? That's an expectation I have within the organization. Like, Hey, this is prime time. I'm not taking any other meetings outside of this.  
Speaker 2    00:19:53    And the other thing that I do is not only do I put that time in there, I look at my funnel and decide, what am I doing? Who am I calling? Who am I prospecting? What work am I doing during that time? So that I don't get to it and go, oh, let me flip up my funnel. My CRM, whoa, gosh, there's one of these overdue activity, you know? Right. It just becomes overwhelming. So I actually put it in that prospecting time. Who am I calling? What am I doing?  
Speaker 1    00:20:20    I like that. It's another layer to the granularity, like be very specific and very hyper-focused. Uh, what am I doing at this point? That's going to drive success at the top of the funnel and Albert that's awesome. So one of the things that I love and you've already kind of touched on it is being honest and knowing your numbers and reverse engineering yet. Cause you know, it takes 10 deals to get 10 leads, to get to one opportunity or one closed deal. But talk about that honest assessment. Like we, and I were talking about that, being really honest with yourself and an old colleague of mine or someone actually spoke to keep her up a good point. He says, you should actively be trying to kill deals. Like that's how you should almost approach it. Like not just trying to sell things, but kill out things that are just not viable. So talk to me about being honest. Yeah.  
Speaker 2    00:21:05    And I call it qualifying out and I always say it's as important to qualify out as it is to qualify in. And the reason is this open up your CRM, how many things are in there that really just distract you and never going to turn into anything. As long as you have all those distractions, you're not focused on what really matters. So there are the guys, the people, the buyers, whatever you want to call them that say, oh, well call me in six months. Oh, well maybe, yeah, maybe we'll get budget. You don't want it. Right. They're not qualified. You want to put them in your, in your prospecting list and do that fine, but they're not in your funnel. Get them out of your funnel, put it back up and prospecting and see, call him in six months and see if they're ready. And if after two years they're out, get rid of them.  
Speaker 2    00:21:50    Right. But as we move into the funnel, I actually had a client and I'll share this with you because it may help you think of it differently. I had a client and he was not putting any money into marketing. And I said, look, you've got to put some money into marketing. They need good leads to follow up on. And he said, their funnels are full. And I said, their funnels are full of crap. There's nothing there except three or four things out of the hundred that are going to close. Right? No, they're just keeping them in there because they're afraid that their funnel will look empty. We'll get your funnel looking empty because it will get you prospecting. If your funnel looks full, you don't need to prospect. But if it's full of things that are not going to close, all you're doing is wasting time.  
Speaker 1    00:22:34    That's a good call-out. And so like, what are some of the key, like how do you try to kill things out? Like, what are some of that, like you said, budget, like you were talking about that are there like just little red flags that you're like, listen, nine times out of 10, this is a great red flag or risk versus reward that nine times out of 10, this is not going the right way. Are there certain little KPIs are certainly things that you look for lists?  
Speaker 2    00:22:56    Uh let's let me put it a different way. Okay. So the first thing is, do they really fit my ideal customer profile? Because my chances of closing those deals that are in my ideal customer profile range are like 90% more likely to close than those that are not right. And they will take less time. They will spend more money. They will buy more stuff from us later. Like this is all math that's been done over and over and over again. So if it's not my ideal customer, there's gotta be a really good reason for it to stay in my funnel. So the first thing I want to do is figure out, do they really need what I'm selling? Is it really the right fit for the problem that they have? Do they have the right philosophy about business? You know, if they there's this whole thing about psychographics that people don't really understand.  
Speaker 2    00:23:46    So when we are picking our ideal customer profile, we're talking about demographics, what technology do they use? How big are they? What state are they in? Whatever, all these measurable things, but there's this other things called psychographics, which have to do with how they buy, how they treat customers, what things they value. If I'm selling something, that's going to save them money. And they are focused on saving money. They're focused on creativity then going in and focusing on saving money or trying to sell something. That's saving money when that's not the focus of the customer, it's not going to really work. So we want to make sure that they share the values that we have as a company. And so the first thing is, if they're not talking the same language, if it product isn't really a good fit. If it's going to require a tremendous amount of change in their organization, that they're not going to be able to do, then maybe they're not your ideal customer.  
Speaker 2    00:24:36    And maybe you should just qualify them out and move on. And if they're really interested, tell them what the qualifications are in order for them to be able to work with you successfully. Wow, that's an idea, right? Actually tell your customer, look, this is not a good fit and you're not going to be happy. And if you want to use this product, here are the things that you're going to need to do in order for that to work and let them qualify themselves out. We never want to do that. We don't want to ask the questions that are going to indicate that it's not going to be a good fit. We don't want to look for people who might quash the deal. We don't want to look for technology issues. We just want to plow forward. We'll look for all those potential problems and then decide, can we fix this?  
Speaker 2    00:25:19    Or can't we fix it? So that made Siri think I needed to talk to her, him, her, whatever. So if we really understand what in our sale are, the things that are going to make it a failure, then it's really easy to look for those and ask for them a story that I often tell, forgive me if you've heard me tell this story. But when I was a kid, we used to have a little female German shepherd. We always had German shepherds, but we haven't had, they were always male. We happen to have this little female German shepherd. And if you turned your back on her, she bit you in the butt every  
Speaker 1    00:25:53    Time that's my kind of dog.  
Speaker 2    00:25:56    So that's how I think of the problems that we want to avoid. The objections that we don't want to talk about, dealing with them now early and figure out if you can address them, if you can't qualify it out, instead of going forward and hoping it won't come up and having it come up when you're ready to close, right?  
Speaker 1    00:26:15    I love that. It's good color. And you know, you hit the nail so hard on the head around. We are overly optimistic as salespeople because we don't. We put them, put the blinders on that. Especially if you have a very lean funnel, you'll hold onto something until, until something else comes along.  
Speaker 2    00:26:31    Right. And it's not going to come along if not working hard to coming along.  
Speaker 1    00:26:35    Exactly. But what I love about that is I try to go back through deals that I've sold and said, Hey, here's what the red flags that I missed. I can't let that happen again. And so I apply those to future deals like, Hey, when that happened with that, let me be on the look out for it. If I start to see that bubble up, maybe get ahead of it, let me address it. Let me go to my champion to resolve it, figure out what's going on from a political standpoint so we can work around it if we can work it out. And if we can't, that can be a com a knockout from that standpoint. But I love those components of things.  
Speaker 2    00:27:07    And a piece of that is what you're talking about is do I have a champion and will my champion and introduced me to the other people in the organization that I need to meet? If the person you're talking to says, oh no, I'm the only person that matters. You only talk to me. That's a pretty darn good red flag, right? Because no one person makes a decision on a multimillion dollar or multi hundred thousand dollar deal just doesn't happen. It impacts too many parts of the organization. There's too many people who, who want their say, it just isn't gonna happen. So that is a really good red flag.  
Speaker 1    00:27:40    Yeah. You know what? That's a good call up because you know, we've started to do that analysis internally. It's like how many deals that are single thread versus multithread are we winning, losing? And you see it's a pretty low, especially in today's environment with this consensus sell and those types of things. You're right. If you start to see your single threaded and your late stage, that is a huge red flag. If you're even truly late stage, that is a huge red flag that you need to be aware of.  
Speaker 2    00:28:05    It's one of the things that makes close dates slip, right? So as a manager, if I'm looking at it for manager's perspective and I keep going, why do these close dates keep slipping? Well, let's look back at that one factor and see how many of it closes because the person you were talking to didn't even know what was required to make the purchase. They didn't even know who all the people were and they certainly didn't connect you with them. So big problem.  
Speaker 1    00:28:28    Doubt. So let's talk a little bit about, cause one of the things we were also talking about is funnel reviews. And I think of a funnel review. What immediately comes to mind is a one-on-one there's more strategic ways of bringing that up and not necessarily has to be a one-on-one, but when you're doing a funnel review, I'd love. One of these we were talking about was asking the tough question. So talk to us a little bit about asking the tough questions and how to manage the funnel from an expectation, not just the bottom. I know you and I were talking about that as well, many times we're so laser focused on what's going to close. What's going to happen, that we lose sight of that top of funnel, which is, as we've already discussed is so instrumental to help us understand a little bit better list.  
Speaker 2    00:29:07    So the first thing is that there's two kinds of funnel reviews. One is the funnel review. I do myself of my own work. And the other is the funnel review that a manager does with a sales rep. So the first thing is that it is not a beat up session, whether I'm doing it with myself or I'm, somebody is doing it with me. If we're using this as an opportunity to beat up our salespeople, it is a failure, right? From the start. They don't want to do it. They don't want anything. They don't, you know, it's, it's the conversation. It's just that. So there's a difference between asking tough questions and beating people up. We're asking tough questions because we're looking for solutions. We're looking for actions. We're looking for reasons to qualify something out or in we're looking for the stuff that's going to help the sound move forward or go away. So the sales rep can focus and sometimes we need another brain on it, right. To look at it and say, oh, well, you're only talking to one person and you're this far along. Let's do something about that. So the first thing is to look at my funnel. I want to look at the shape are my ratios. Right? Right. That's the first thing.  
Speaker 1    00:30:10    So Liz, so first you're doing, like you said, and I'm glad you called that out. There's your own assessment doing it yourself, a review of your own. And then there's the a manager or a colleague that you're bouncing ideas off of. So initially you're doing this first to evaluate the shape of the funnel. Just want to make sure I'm clarifying that.  
Speaker 2    00:30:26    So right. I'm even if I'm about to walk into a funnel review with my senior person, I better do my own funnel review first. So the first thing I want to do is look at the shape. Does the shape look balanced? Does it look like it's going to deliver the results that I need? The second thing I want to do is look at close dates and say, are these closed dates real? Have they changed? Are they accurate? Do I not even have a clue? So the second thing I want to do is look at close date. Third thing I want to do is look at the stages. Are these in the right stages? Or are they just stuck somewhere? Are they really still in qualify? And I have them, you know, further down, whatever. So are they in the right stage? And then, then the next thing that I look for is what's the next action.  
Speaker 2    00:31:08    So what's the next action. I need the customer to take, to move the cell forward because without commitment on my customer side, it's never going to move forward. I can commit all day long. I can do all kinds of things, but if they're making a commitment, it's not moving forward to those commitments. I'm going to ask if I have a sales rep, do you have a commitment to be introduced to the CEO? Do you have a commitment to review that proposal together? Do you have a commitment to have the it person walk you through the technology, whatever it is, what is the commitment that moves this to the next level? And if you don't have a commitment except follow up and that if you look at most people's sales, people's funnels, raise your hand because you know, you're out there. What does it say? Follow up all the way down, follow up.  
Speaker 2    00:31:51    The problem with this is twofold. One is it's just lazy, right? Follow up. Doesn't really mean anything. But what's really important about it is if all I have is the word follow up when it's time to do it, what am I supposed to do? And if my entire funnel says that, I'm sorry. I can't remember the last conversation I had with somebody, unless I look I've talked to how many people and I'm supposed to look at that name and company and remember where we were and who I talked to and what happened. You've got to write it down. You've got to put your notes in there. So you know what happened and you've got to have your next action. And I put my next action in, when I hang up the phone or walk out of that meeting, this is what I'm going to do.  
Speaker 2    00:32:30    Next. We're going to review this on this date and then I'm going to ask them for this, right? So if I'm doing the funnel review with somebody and all I is follow up that I'm going to have him go back and do the work to figure out what are, if you don't know what the next action is, that's a problem, right? Follow-up, isn't an action. It doesn't do anything. So those are the kinds of things I'm going to look for. And I'm going to whether it's my own funnel or I'm doing with somebody else. If we just focus on what's closing, we've talked about this before it's problematic and managers do it all the time. Company owners, leaders do it all the time. They pound their salespeople for what's happening this quarter. And then next quarter they pound them for what's happening next quarter. So what's the sales team focused on the bottom of the funnel.  
Speaker 2    00:33:15    What happens when all anybody's focused on is the bottom of the funnel. Nothing goes in the top, nothing moves. And so we have to teach our sales managers, our sales leaders, our founders, our salespeople, everyone about the importance of having a balanced funnel and reviewing the entire funnel, not just the bottom of the funnel, which nobody seems to have time for anything more than the bottom of the funnel. But if you haven't done all the work to get to the bottom of the funnel, when you think it's going to close it, doesn't close. And so the reason that the deals are falling out or pushing back is because nobody did the work up in qualify and cultivate when they were supposed to be doing.  
Speaker 1    00:33:55    Yeah, but you know, it's funny you bring that up because you're, you're so right. I mean, I've even found myself since our last conversation it and looking at it, I was like, you know, we are like, that's the only thing we really talk about is the bottom of the funnel. We, why are we doing that somewhere along the way, trying to scale and trying to drive revenue. So that's where it's at. Let's let's focus there, but it can't be there unless it started at the top. Right? So that, I've almost a believer of at the top is one drives revenue. I think they both do. But top of the funnel is just as important, if not more important, because if you don't get it started, you can never close it. Right. Liz, I mean, it's kind of a misnomer from that standpoint, right?  
Speaker 2    00:34:35    That's why everybody's always focused on the bottom of the funnel because there's not enough there and they're scared to death. And until they change their behavior, it will always be that way. And it's painful for everybody. It's just unfortunate.  
Speaker 1    00:34:47    Yeah. You know, along the temp, tough questions, I agree with you and it can easily turn into a beat up session. If you let it either internally by doing it yourself, like, Hey, you did everything wrong. You messed up here, you messed up there. Or as a manager, obviously that's not productive, but you should be candid enough with yourself from a self critiquing standpoint. All right. Here's why I went off the track. Doesn't mean I can't recover. That should prompt what you do as a next step. Right. Let me go to my champion. I missed this. Let me bounce it off him. Let me fill in that gap. It's kind of like a gap analysis, right? When you kind of look at it, here's what I'm missing. Okay. Let me propose that as a next step to shore it up. And if I can't now it becomes a risk that I have to evaluate and really think long and hard up. Like that's kind of my philosophy. I don't know if that completely jives, but when to bounce it off of,  
Speaker 2    00:35:37    No, it positively does. And if I'm a sales manager and I'm having this conversation and I say, Hey, this has been in your funnel a really long time and it hasn't moved. Right. So what's up, what's going on with them. Okay. So what do you think, do you need somebody else in the organization to talk to them? Do you need marketing to do a campaign? Like what do you mean to move the cell forward? Or is it really data just hanging out in your funnel? Right. That's what I mean by tough questions. I don't mean I'm kind questions. I mean, tough question. Should this even be in your funnel or should it go away? Should we send it back to marketing to pursue, should we, you know, write that one off because you are 90% certain that competitor's going to get it. So how much more time are we going to spend writing proposals and putting our engineers to work for something that you're pretty certain the competitor's got?  
Speaker 1    00:36:24    Yeah, that's fantastic.  
Speaker 2    00:36:26    And maybe you still do, but the question is when I'm looking at the funnel, I need to be able to make those decisions with leadership or by myself about what makes sense and what doesn't. And if I'm not pursuing something, I need to be able to explain to whoever's doing the funnel route review with me. Why I don't think that's a good decision to pursue that. So that's what I mean by tough questions. I don't mean what are you stupid? I think is common phrasing in sales meetings. Actually,  
Speaker 1    00:36:57    I think it depends on when you came up and said 20 years ago when I came up, that was a very common, that was my tough question to my leaders question. I mean, what are you an idiot? Things have evolved since then? I think fortunately, fortunately, but one of the things I was going to mention to you, I want to get your thoughts on this is that as you're going through this kind of, this self-assessment, this self-critique, and as you're kind of working your way through that, like, you've really gotta be high. Like this is where the honesty check, the honest assessment needs to come in. I know I'm kind of beating a dead horse, but this does not mean you've screwed up and you cannot recover. Be honest, address it and try to rectify it and get it back on path. And if you can't then to your point, and I think this Liz is somewhere, we fail as a sales profession, we try to do so much on our own. Why not? Hey, let's strategize. How do I get my VP involved? How do we get my CEO involved? How do we get the marketing of ABA? Give me some air cover. Like we fail as a sales professional in really leveraging all the resources around  
Speaker 2    00:38:01    That is because a lot of organizations don't provide that support to sales. You think that sales is a separate entity out on an island all by itself. And we should just leave them alone and let them do what they're doing. And then ask them, what's going to close. Like, I think that's why it's in the situation we're in. And until companies recognize that their product may be the soul of the company, but their sales team is the heart of the company. And it pumps the lifeblood through the company. And without them, you don't have anything. And instead of treating the sales reps, like they should be out on an island by themselves. We need to incorporate them into the larger entity and help everybody understand how they support each other, but we separate them out. And part of it is because we hire really awful salespeople who are jerky and nobody likes them.  
Speaker 2    00:38:48    And we think that that's what sales is. So we think that's what we should hire. But you and I both know that if they're arrogant and obnoxious, that our clients think they're arrogant and obnoxious and that's not who we want. And if they can't get along with our own people in our company, why don't we send them out to our customers, right? That's part of the problem. But it all, again, that funnel is not just my lifeblood as a sales rep or how I, you know, I'm going to survive in this company as a sales manager or sales leader. It's how the company should be deciding how resources get spent. So if that funnel's nonsense, if it's just utter garbage and nobody can project from it, nobody really knows what's going on. How do you decide whether you need to put money, resources on the marketing side or on the delivery side? How do you decide when the salespeople need training? How do you figure any of this out? If you can't trust those numbers?  
Speaker 1    00:39:40    Yeah, that's a good call out. That's a good call, especially from a leadership that forecast enables you to make strategic decisions, either which way, conservatively or being a little bit more aggressive based on what you're seeing from a number standpoint, we were talking about this offline, and we're going to have this in the show notes that a tool you leverage, or you mentioned to me was a daily funnel worksheet. Walk us through that a bit Liz and what the framework might look like.  
Speaker 2    00:40:04    Here's what happens. But I think it happens to a lot of salespeople. They pull up their phone or they pull up the CRM is physically overwhelming and it's really hard to figure out what's next. And then you go, oh, well, what was my last email from him? And then you're in your email and you're out of your funnel and you're doing email and 30 minutes later, oh, I was working on my right. We bounce all over the place. There's so much input. We can't focus. So what I like to do is every day or the day before I sit down with my CRM and say, okay, I have four kinds of work that needs to be done. I've got prospecting that needs to be done. I've got qualifying that needs to be done. I've got cultivating relationships that needs to be done. And I've got closing that needs to be done.  
Speaker 2    00:40:46    So let me write down on my piece of paper that I have in front of me, which work I'm going to do either today, if I'm doing it in the morning or tomorrow. So when I sit down, I don't have that overwhelmed. Don't know what to do next. I'll just respond to email kind of reaction, but I prioritize my day. So I have a really pretty fun worksheet to do that in because it's can be not very fun. So I thought, well, let's make this fun and colorful and bright, so we actually want to use it. And so, yeah, they can definitely download, get that from you. I'll send you that, but it really helps again with this idea of prioritizing what needs to happen today. Before I get into my email, before I start bopping around about what my next to do's are, let's look at the funnel and figure out what's the most important stuff that has to happen.  
Speaker 1    00:41:34    I love that. Definitely. We're going to put it in the show notes and give that access to the audience. I appreciate you offering that list, but you're right. I mean so much, there's always this, this yin and yang of science and art, there's so much savvy. Like I don't like process. I don't like scripts. I'm a good Salesforce. I'm a born salesperson, but the ones I've always been I've seen and I've been around, have a very regimented it's fluid to some degree, but it's the process is the process. They know exactly where they're at, where they need to be, where they're missing and that way they can hone it moving forward. And I think we've lost that. I know I haven't through the past, lost that and to try and be more salesy, if you will, and not have a regimented process. So I love the fact that this worksheet that you made it fun. You made it colorful because these are the things that you have to do. It's a part of a process you need to follow to make the best use of your time. Right? Liz.  
Speaker 2    00:42:29    Absolutely. And I want to go back to something you said about process and we are so process hesitant as a culture, right? But, but imagine as an artist that you are going to paint a painting, you don't just start slapping paint on the page,  
Speaker 1    00:42:47    But I'm a horrible painter list. So that should tell you something.  
Speaker 2    00:42:50    But even people who are abstract artists who are throwing pain, they've thought about exactly what they want to have happen, right? They didn't just start throwing paint. They didn't just pick up a brush and mix some color and start pinning and see what came out. They had a process. They have a process for mixing the paint. They have a process for getting ready to start painting. They have a process for when they're done painting to make sure it's ready tomorrow. They have a process. They have an order that they do things in. I paint the background first, drive, paint the background last or whatever it is. We talk about sales as an art. And that's great, but even art has process behind it. If it's really good art. So if we want to have the freedom to be creative, we need to put the pieces in place that help us make sure the critical work gets done. So we can be creative about how we do it  
Speaker 1    00:43:39    Without a doubt. I think that's a great segue there from, Hey, you could be creative, but be creative along the process path, right? I mean, there's a lot of creative, great creativity that is given to you, but have the structure because I, what, how I've always equated it is I always find it a challenge I used to, especially younger in my early career, uh, figuring out why did I close that one? Like that was a big deal. Like where did that go? So right versus so wrong on this deal. And if I can't track it back to a space in a process, I can never fix it moving forward. Like you can't replicate it. I mean, it's just hard to replicate something that's not process oriented.  
Speaker 2    00:44:16    And if you go back to the days when my dad actually wrote strategic selling with Bob Miller, what's really interesting is they didn't start and say, let's create a process out of thin air. What they did is said, some salespeople are really consistent and, and they don't have big ups and downs in their funnel. And they tend to not lose deals at the last minute, no surprises so forth. So they went and looked at those salespeople and figured out what they were doing, what the process was and how, what things they were consistent about. And that's how they came up with the process. So it's not like they just, somebody just said, oh, we should put methodology around sales. Let's just create one out of thin air. That's not the point. The point is to say, what will make me successful? What do other people do that successful? And what will make me successful and how do I be consistent about making sure that gets done? So I hit my numbers consistently and have the life I want because I've got the revenue coming in to support it. Right. And I don't have the emotional ups and downs of, oh God, I've got no business this week. I've got nothing to close. And my boss is going to come ask me, what's going to close. And I got nothing, right? That's stress. We don't need,  
Speaker 1    00:45:23    Without a doubt. It's always funny to me because an old mentor of mine, you should say, Hey, you show me a great salesperson. I'll show you that they have a process. Even if they don't think they do, when you kind of get into the weeds with them, they can walk you through. They just have never really kind of thought of it that way. And when he brought that to me, I was like, you know what? That's I never thought of it. Like a lot of great people that, that square, oh, I don't really have a process. I don't follow a script when you kind of boil it down, you talk them through how'd you do that? How'd you do that? It's very replicated. Like they do. They just don't really acknowledge it that way.  
Speaker 2    00:45:54    Well, and I think a process and a script are two different things, right? So if you have a process, you may have a list of questions that you're going to pick from to have a conversation. But that doesn't mean that you have a script that says, I asked this question and then I asked this question and then regardless of their answer, and then I asked this, our scripts are there to give us a beginning place for a conversation. You can't force a conversation, go a direction. It doesn't shut up. So the process supports the creativity. It takes the stress away. It makes selling a lot nicer. That's  
Speaker 1    00:46:29    Let's just boil it down to that. It just makes it a lot nicer and a lot it does. Quelch the insanity that can come from just the chaos. Then if you don't follow a process of sorts. So how do people learn more about you Liz and in your consulting business, help our audience kind of find you. I know you're really active on LinkedIn. Yes.  
Speaker 2    00:46:47    So you can definitely find me on LinkedIn. I'm Liz Heiman, H E I M a N. And I'm the only one. Surprisingly, I'm the only one. So you should be able to find me. And then if you want to go to my website, it's simple. It's regarding and you can find some articles and podcasts and webinars and various things there that would be of interest. And if you want to talk to me, you can schedule a strategy session and I will meet you and we can talk for 30 minutes. So if you have questions after this, please feel free.  
Speaker 1    00:47:18    Awesome. We're going to put all that in the show notes for the audience, so they don't have to remember it and jot it down. Liz. I absolutely appreciate you coming on. I really enjoyed the conversation.  
Speaker 2    00:47:28    Me too. Thanks for having me, Sam,  
Speaker 0    00:47:31    Thank you for listening to the sales samurai podcast with your house, Sam Capra, be sure you subscribe to our podcast and visit sales and join the conversation, access shownotes and discover bonus content. 

Liz Heiman Profile Photo

Liz Heiman

CEO/Sales Strategist

Liz Heiman is the founder and structural thinker behind Regarding Sales LLC, a company focused on building B2B sales operating systems that drive extraordinary growth. Liz uses strategy and process to build a roadmap for success that focuses her clients on getting their desired results.

Early in her career, Liz trained some of the world’s powerhouse sales organizations. Using Strategic Selling™ and Conceptual Selling™ she helped them boost sales through enhancement of their sales processes and systems. Now her focus is start-ups and mid-sized companies selling into complex environments including medical, government, and enterprise.

While most of Liz’s customers build foundations that help them achieve sustainable year-over-year growth, others have realized exponential growth very quickly, one achieving $10 million in one year.

Liz is on a mission to challenge assumptions, build trust, and make founders’ dreams come true.