In The Funnel Principle, Mark Sellers tells the story of an institutional research salesperson for a Wall Street Firm who repeatedly called on an analyst that always took the meeting but never paid for the research. The issue was that the seller used a traditional sales funnel methodology that did not align with the buying process.
The seller understood that the prospect needed her help because some of their funds were performing poorly. The buyer didn’t perceive it that way and did not acknowledge that there was a problem. Without problem recognition, there is no catalyst for action so the sales conversation never truly begins.
The role of a salesperson is to help prospects solve problems, recognize opportunities and appreciate the opportunity cost of inaction.
The sell-side research business is particularly difficult because prospects believe they have better information, their valuation models are better, and the prospects often view their investment performance as a proxy for their professional competence. A sales person must be extremely tactful in discussing investment performance with a fund manager. That’s generally not a good time to test your Challenger Sale theories.
The basis of any successful sales process beings when the prospect recognizes that there is a problem they can’t afford to live with, and you might be able to help. That’s merely the starting point for any sales conversation.