In my line of work I have the privilege of speaking with sales enablement thought leaders and practitioners on a daily basis. Throughout those conversations I hear the statements, "qualify early, qualify often" and more recently, "the sales funnel is dead".
Let's start with "the sales funnel is dead". I think the sales funnel should be dead. By its very nature, a funnel depicts a "narrowing effect" which in sales indicates starting with many prospects and eliminates them until you have a few opportunities that close. Why trudge along for weeks or even months with prospects that have no intention of buying your services or solutions.
Now let's assume you agree with the above paragraph and began to live by the mantra, "qualify early, qualify often" thus giving you the opportunity walk away from potential prospects before they even hit your funnel.What are left are very legitimate prospects with a much likelier possibility of closing. Thus, you start with many opportunities and close just about as many.
From a visual perspective you're looking at a "tunnel" rather than a "funnel".
Don't get me wrong. I still firmly believe that following a process or methodology is still critical. I also feel that aligning your selling cycle to the customer's buying cycle is critical as is becoming a trusted advisor. All of these are great topics for discussion but I'll leave those for another day.