A sales funnel jammed with useless contacts is hard to analyze.  Reports need too much cleaning up.  Putting staff time and support resources into contacts that are poor prospects can choke the cash flow of a small business.  What to do:  put a good screening tool at the front of your sales funnel.  Make qualifying new contacts a required step that starts immediately after engaging.

The best screening mechanism is a set of questions that focus on the demographics of your ideal client.  There may be one or two demographics that you as the business owner know are most important.  Questions about those should come earliest in any encounter.

A caution here:  if your sales staff do not ask good screening questions it may be because they do not understand the demographics of your ideal client.  I can hear you saying, “How could that possibly be?  They’ve worked here for months/years.  How could they possibly not know that?”  If you yourself do not talk to staff constantly about the characteristics of the ideal client they will be left to figure it out for themselves.  Maybe the best ones will figure out some of it but the average performers will not.

The solution is a written set of screening questions.  At minimum this ends up as a paper form that must be completed with acceptable answers before any further time is spent with a new contact.  It can be a good idea to keep screening information for contacts that are not ideal too, so no other staffer wastes time pursuing them.

A small business gets the maximum value from a digital screening form that can be attached to the contact’s digital record in your system.  Eliminating the need to key in a paper form reduces recording errors.  Everyone, including the business owner/sales manager, can see why a sales person is spending time pursuing a given contact.  When screening is required, even average sales staffer will learn to focus on the best prospects and so increase their commission.  Everybody is happy.

When the first two steps of your sales funnel are “First Contact” and “Qualifying” the rest of the funnel will be much less cluttered.  Reports will be much more accurate.  Best of all, cash flow will improve because the sales funnel is de-cluttered.

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