Question: How to create an effective Sales Funnel

Will appreciate some general sales insights and best practices for SMBs. All businesses have sales funnels in some shape or form, but what does a good sales funnel and review process look like?

- Into how many and which sections to divide a sales funnel?
- How to identify which leads belong to which section?
- Which behaviors should be noticed in order to transfer a lead from one section to the next one?
- Which actions are required in order to move a lead from one section to the next one?
- Which section is the most important and why (if there is any)?
- How to pursue different types of leads to pursue?

2 Expert answers

There are two steps to creating an effective sales funnel that I find useful:

1) Examine all your current customer's profitability, sorted from high to low, then determine what are the characteristics of the more profitable customers. These characteristics define your target market.

2) Conduct short interviews of all your customers, but particularly the most profitable ones, asking for their input as you seek to improve. This will generate two things:
a. great market intelligence on what your customers value. focus your operations on this
b. increased repeat and referral business

Conduct these steps at least annually. If it would be helpful, we can provide a copy of the three question script we use with our clients, which is a modified version of Fred Reichheld's "Ultimate question"- What is the likelihood that you would recommend Company X to a friend or colleague?

Since 2000 I have focused my efforts on helping sales organizations improve their revenue performance.  My expertise is built around what is called Operational Excellence which depends heavily on managing a sales opportunity through a defined set of sales stages and individual steps in each stage to a logical conclusion.  I have also been the architect of using a 'mapping' metaphor for managing the sales pipeline

1) financially,
2) by sales stage, and
3) by large account called Player Map.

To answer your first questions:

1) I recommend no more than 5 stages.  Above that number isn't effective to manage.

2) My philosophy is this.  One 'markets' to suspects to generate interest and sells to prospects who have been identified themselves as interested.

3-6) I love the remainder of your questions but in reading your query and meaning no disrespect, my answers would honestly depend on what size the sales force is, what a profile of their typical customer would be and who they are attempting to contact.  Said differently there is not a one-size-fits all answer.  

I would be glad to send you a financial pipeline document for tracking sales opportunities in defined stages.  The sales map is customized for each client.