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Entrepreneurs Can't Afford to Have Funnel Vision While the old way may have been 'buy or goodbye,' things have changed in that all customers, old and new, deserve your full attention.

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Many of us entrepreneurs came up learning to focus our time on the traditional sales funnel. It was "buy or goodbye" as we converted hot leads and prospects into customers.

We ignored past customers and took current customers for granted -- like partners we'd been married to for 30 years and the last 29 hadn't been too great -- offering bright and shiny promotions to new buyers only.

Related: Sales Prospecting Isn't an Event. It's a Campaign.

If we only focus on those prospects ready to buy, we miss out on most of the opportunities to affect purchase decisions. We have so much information at our fingertips -- our path to purchase can be long and winding. Today we are ready to buy when, and only when, we hear about and find the right product.

When endless information is at our fingertips, there is no standard time frame for purchase. Building relationships takes time and the kind of loyal customers that share brand stories cannot always be built overnight. We do business with people we know, like and trust. The best way to earn that position is by getting to know other people.

Today, 60 percent of all purchase decisions are made before customers enter your funnel. Consumers come to you prepared and educated, with trusted referrals in hand before they ever hear your pitch. We can't have funnel vision. Instead, we need to focus on the sales cloud.

The sales cloud is made up of all the ways customers hear about your brand: blogs, reviews, trusted referrals, social media, your website. Your competitors are here too, with all of you vying for the attention of your market, trying to survive the sales cloud sieve. Here your market may or may not be hearing about you -- for better or for worse.

Related: Turn Prospects Into Customers With These 8 Tips

Those sharing your brand story are past customers and anyone on whom your business has made an impression. As entrepreneurs we can't afford to miss out on sales-cloud impressions and we certainly can't go the way of treating this space as a waste of time.

Trusted referrals are the best marketing. When customers pass through your company funnel, they don't go live on some deserted island somewhere (unless you sell deserted islands, of course) -- they go back into the mix. They share their experiences, good and bad.

Once we're ready to focus outside the funnel, we're ready for a whole new way of look at sales we call UnSelling. This is what happens when you understand the humanity of your market, produce a quality product, and create experiences that lead to trusted referrals in the sales cloud.

In the old funnel, prospects moved to customers, but now in the sales cloud prospects can be current customers, past customers and people having conversations that wouldn't be ready to buy in the next six weeks. Where do you have funnel vision?

Related: The Key to Converting Online Sales Leads: Speed

Scott Stratten and Alison Kramer are the authors of UnSelling, which represents their thoughts on the changing world of business through their experiences of entrepreneurship, two degrees (Kramer), not lasting long as an employee (both) and screaming at audiences around the world (Stratten, Kramer is more polite). They have advised businesses such as PepsiCo, Saks Fifth Avenue and Cirque du Soleil.

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