The concept of a sales ‘pipeline’ has been around for years and it’s basically about getting leads in at one end, before moving them along to eventually come out the other end as a paying customer. So, anything you can do to speed up and streamline this process, while maximizing all opportunities presented, will ultimately result in more sales.
Whether you’re new to the job, or have been working away at it for years, the key thing to remember is that nothing stands still in sales. If you take your foot off the gas, then you risk quickly falling behind the competition.
Tactics that may have worked in the past, may not work today and advances in technology have added yet another element into the mix. Digital tools have created even more opportunities for teams to get ahead; opening new channels of communication; providing new routes for lead generation and aiding more accurate monitoring and analysis.
If your sales pipeline has stalled, or you’re simply hungry for more, then it’s time to get proactive. Take a step back and see if our ten top tips can help you:
1. Map out the whole process
To be able to make improvements you firstly need to know what’s happening, when and why. Go back to basics and map out the entire sales process. Setting out a clear framework, complete with goals and timings, will help you see where there are areas ripe for improvement. You’re aiming here to get the framework clear in your mind, so you can then look for ways to make the whole process more efficient.
For example, what materials do you need at each stage? Do you have what you need? What else would help you? Do you have a set of templates ready to go and is all other marketing collateral up-to-date and easily accessible by everyone?
2. Think about your data
The higher the quality of the data that you gather and the better it is stored, the more helpful it will be to you in moving your sales pipeline along. It’s no good having team members using millions of different systems, or having data hidden away.
You need to think about:
- What data are you collecting and when?
- Where is the data coming from?
- How is it being recorded (and importantly, is everyone using the same system)?
- Who has access to the data?
- Who can add to it?
- Are there any problems that need flagging up or working on, such as through extra training or system upgrades?
3. Know what’s going on
There are huge benefits that can come from having teams working together, instead of operating in their own little worlds. Get everyone on the same page and you’ll boost your results.
To fully understand who your target customer is, how to reach them, what messaging they’re likely to respond to and how to best move them through each stage of the buyer journey (and beyond), you need to be sharing your insights.
It’s about coming together to agree on the major issues - to outline what the ideal customer looks like, to put marketing plans and content calendars in place, to agree on qualification criteria and decide when a lead should be passed from marketing to sales.
Use what you hear to improve the process:
- What questions are sales and customer service reps being asked?
- What objections do they hear and have to overcome?
- What other feedback or problems do customers have?
For more pointers see: An unstoppable force: Getting sales and marketing teams working as one
4. Get your buyer personas right
Buyer personas sit at the center of everything when it comes to sales and marketing. They are essentially a detailed representation of each customer type you need to target. So, it stands to reason that the better and more thorough your personas are, the more positive your impact is going to be.
If you can nail your target customer, what they may respond best to and what will influence their purchasing decisions, then you’ll be in a great position to design sales and marketing campaigns around that.
Check out these blogs for more inspiration:
- Why you need buyer personas for your B2B sales and marketing activities
- 7 key issues to avoid when creating your buyer personas
5. Generate better traffic to start with
Cold calling is about hitting the many to find the few. It’s about putting the hours in and hoping that you’ll get lucky and hit the jackpot with the next call. Usually, it comes down to buying in a list of contacts and just hitting the phones.
However, if you can generate higher quality leads to start with then your time will be far better spent. To do this you need to get your buyer personas spot on, then to design marketing campaigns for each persona that will help you start to generate the right type of traffic.
Also, think about other tools that can help you with your lead generation efforts, such as Lead Forensics. Our software can show you who is visiting your website even if they never make contact with you. So, you’ll have a far warmer list of contacts to start working on, which will be a far better use of your time.
6. Become a pro at segmenting leads
The more targeted you can be with your marketing, the better chance you will have of capturing leads, nurturing them along and eventually closing the deal.
Modern day buyers expect tailored communications. Sending them something that’s totally irrelevant is a risky business. You may get away with it once, but you could quickly find yourself in the category of spam.
The problem is, sending something inappropriate shows you haven’t listened to or understood a prospect and their problems. And that’s exactly the opposite of where you want to be. It may be quicker and easier to just send something out to everyone on your database, or large segments of it, but it will be far more effective to put the time in and get the content spot on.
7. Have a CRM (and make sure everyone uses it)
There will always be movement within any company, no matter how great or focused on staff retention it may be. People leave, move around, change jobs and can get signed off for any number of reasons. That goes for accounts you’re working on but also your own company.
Don’t let leads go cold - or worse still be lost forever - when there are team changes. The secret here is having a CRM that’s fit for purpose, making sure everyone is fully trained and comfortable in using it, and that it is being used comprehensively.
The data your CRM holds will be the most valuable asset your company has, so treat it as such.
8. Use lead scoring
Qualifying leads is a key part of the sales process and an area where major efficiencies can be made. What you want is for every team to be spending their time where it will be most effective - marketing generating leads and nurturing them along, and sales concentrating on only the hottest leads and closing the deal.
BANT (which stands for Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline) is one strategy you can apply here. Progressive profiling is another and can be a good way to go. It’s about gathering in a little more information each time you communicate with a lead and building up a picture of them.
Marketing automation can also help with lead scoring, as it can help you track leads and their behavior.
If you have the sales process fully mapped out and you know exactly what routes a lead may go down, then use marketing automation to help make the whole thing run seamlessly. By automating everything you can, it means nothing should ever be missed. The system can be working away on leads for you, while you keep the overall marketing and content machine running.
10. Test everything
If you’re not monitoring and assessing all parts of the process regularly, then how will you know when something’s not working properly, or when it’s working great and you should be doing more of it?
A basic step that’s often overlooked by teams is to try walking in the shoes of a lead, to test the entire process. How does it all flow? Are the timings right? Does it naturally guide you along the pipeline in the way you were planning? Don’t forget to check the technical side of things too, is everything presented well? Is it all readable and does it work on different devices? Do the links all work? If you’re scratching your head trying to work out why things aren’t doing as well as you expected, the problem could easily lie here.
Also, consider ways to compare your process to that of other companies. Get into their sales cycle and see what’s better or worse than your own.
Hungry for more?
Improving sales cycles and enhancing lead generation is something we’re very passionate about. For more ideas, take a look at:
- How proactive pipeline management can help you close more sales (and faster)
- Building a Stronger B2B Sales Pipeline
- Building a successful B2B sales pipeline for short and long sales cycles
- Top tips for maintaining a healthy sales pipeline when you’re a small team