Ninja Sales Tactics: Showing the Sales Funnel Who's Boss / Sales / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

The second installment in the stronger sales funnel series will cover: training, improving contact rates and the lead handoff.

In my last article, Fill It to the Top: Tips to Ensure a Strong Sales Funnel, I set out to provide the steps towards building an ironclad sales funnel. We covered targeting, capitalizing on market triggers, developing a lead definition, service level agreements, and developing the call guide—all vital to building a sales funnel that works.

Now, it’s time to add another brick in the wall towards your sales pipeline development health. The second installment in the stronger sales funnel series will cover everything else you need: training, improving contact rates and the lead handoff. 


Making sure that your reps are set up for success requires onboarding as well as ongoing skills enhancement, training and education. For training, we use the call guide (See Part I) as the reference point for all key topics.

When developing training, consider the following:

Identify the levers that influence your teams’ ability to absorb information and put it into action, resulting in desired program outcomes. 

For example:

  • Role playing in person vs. over the phone
  • Listening to calls made by seasoned members of the team
  • Introducing information iteratively and logically
  • Frequency of competency demonstrations
    • (Confidence is more likely to build quickly when reps are able to demonstrate their ability frequently, even in small tasks)
    • Testing on key concepts, product benefits, barriers to success, and overcoming objections
  • Practice situations of when to pivot to a solution vs. probing deeper to better diagnose your prospects’ business issue
  • Remember to reinforce the belief that small improvements lead to big results!

Training should include clearly defined ways to help your reps develop and maintain focus and discipline. 

For example, establishing clear daily activity goals, and helping your team understand what is needed from a time and resource perspective to achieve said goals.

These can include:

  • Number of social media, email, and phone touch points needed per day
  • Number of conversations with decision makers per day
  • Number of qualified leads per day
  • Percent of time researching market dynamics and targeted industries, as well as strengthening product knowledge

Ongoing Coaching

  • Take the time to analyze each rep via live monitoring and call recording analysis Identify what they’re doing well, not so well, and their biggest challenge areas. Also, get to know them outside of the program to get a better understanding of what makes them tic. This can help you motivate them by pulling examples of how they’ve overcome challenges in other aspects of life, and by applying a similar mindset; they can overcome their performance challenges.
  • Capture their perception on where they’re strong, and where they need help. Align that to your analysis and then share your analysis and recommended plan to help them improve, based on real examples.
  • Create an environment where they’re comfortable with sharing their feedback. Give examples on how an open, and candid feedback loop has benefited both individuals and the team as a whole. 
  • Develop improvement action plans complete with clearly defined milestones and scoring criteria.  Project the outcome of their efforts should they successfully complete the action plan.

Related Article: Persuasion Techniques: How to Get People to Say Yes to You More

Increasing your Contact Rate

There are a number of ways to improve your teams’ chances on making contact with your ideal prospects. For this installment, we’ll focus on improving contact with your outbound prospecting efforts.

  • Local area code: How often do you pick up your phone when it’s a local area code vs. 800#? Chances are, your answer aligns with our data. When diving into data that we’ve managed over the past 24 months, we have seen a significant increase in contact rate when testing a local # vs. 800. 
    • Contact/reach rate with 800#:  15%
    • Contact/reach rate with a local#:  27%
  • Time of day: Depending on the study, you will see different recommendations here so it’s absolutely imperative that you analyze your success and adjust accordingly. For example, in general the best time of the day to make contact are between 8 am - 10am and 3- 5:00 pm, local time. You’ll see your lowest rates during the lunch hour, local time.
  • Day of week: When determining the optimal days to prioritize outbound calling, it’s important to factor in holidays as well as major events that tend to take executives out of the office. 
  • # of attempts:  In most cases, at least 6 dial attempts over a 3 week time period per business should be conducted. Identify both the optimal # of dials and sequence between attempts, along with the point of diminishing returns. 
  • Impactful voicemails: Clear, concise voicemails that state the purpose of your call, and the value to the customer for returning your call can make a big difference in receiving a response. Also, when possible reference customers, especially ones that carry strong brand recognition, but most importantly have similar business challenges that you have helped solve.

As noted above, business and industry type along with seasonality, local and market events can influence these results, so it’s important that you take the time to dive into your call data to truly determine the optimal times to make contact based on your target markets. 

Related Article: You've Got Leads, But Why Aren't They Buying?

Effective Sales Lead Management - The Hand-Off

In a relay race, no matter how far ahead of your competition, your chances of winning without successfully handing off the baton to your teammate is slim to none. The same is true with lead generation. When marketing develops a qualified lead for sales, it’s imperative that the handoff is executed to the right teammate, at the right time; otherwise the ability to win is significantly reduced.

In addition to incorporating the service level agreement (see Part I), it’s also important to identify the appropriate routing rules. These should be driven by a number of factors, such as:

  • Territory
  • Bandwidth
  • Skill set around the potential solution(s) that solve the buyers need
  • Industry knowledge
  • Market knowledge

Once routed to the most appropriate sales rep, consider a lead recycle process for any leads that fail to convert to opportunity, and for opportunities that fail to convert into wins. Factors to consider when setting up a recycle process:

  • Opportunity and closed/loss reasons. Was the solution simply not the right fit for that business? Or, was it the right business, wrong time? Not priced competitively? Wrong sales approach?
  • Was a relationship between the rep and prospect developed? If so, does the rep have the bandwidth and expertise to continue to cultivate the relationship to the point of an eventual win?

Ultimately it’s important to determine if the reps’ reasoning to want to keep the lead is emotionally based, or based on a solid business case?  99% of reps, once handed a lead regardless of how often or effectively they’re managing that lead will inherently want to own it. Don’t let your reps become lead hoarders. A wasted lead is an expense and a lost opportunity to your business.

Speaking of the finish line, we’re almost there. Next installment we’ll cover integrating inbound and outbound channels, ensuring a strong appointment show rate, and optimizing your sales funnel development via measurement and refinement.

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