Improve sales management with your revenue funnel

The revenue funnel is a common construct in many sales management organizations, but are you seeing the best results from your pipeline? There could be bottlenecks in critical locations or leaks. Gaining better visibility into the funnel allows you to streamline and improve the entire sales process. This can help you refine your Internet lead generation strategies, potentially opening the door for your sales reps to close a higher percentage of their deals.

Is your funnel effective? Without the right amount of visibility and insight, your sales managers have no way of knowing where there are snags in the sales process, according to an article written by Kevin Davis for Top line Leadership Blog. There are two distinct approaches a B2B firm can take to the sales funnel:

  • An outline based on the internal steps of qualifying leads, helping prospects select a solution and doing a product demonstration
  • A funnel designed around the steps customers take to arrive at a decision, from research to evaluation and the final decision

Which of these approaches is more successful? B2B buying cycles are increasingly becoming more complex, and decision-makers are more empowered than ever before. The Internet has provided a wealth of information on product offerings. Even if your company isn’t taking an active role in managing its online presence, buyers are searching for this information. Companies that employ the second strategy in funnel management often are more in tune with what prospects want. Davis points out that sales reps in businesses utilizing the first strategy may be surprised when leads suddenly disappear. Using a customer-focused approach can help companies have better results and convert more prospects.

Work smarter, not harder

Most B2B firms want to streamline the sales process and reduce it to as few steps as possible. However, forcing leads to race through the funnel isn’t an effective tactic, Stuart Leung wrote for Salesforce. Organizations want to qualify and eventually convert a high number of leads to avoid wasting their marketing budgets. In fact, converting qualified leads is considered a top priority for many B2B sales professionals, but companies still struggle to accomplish this. According to Salesforce data, 61 percent of B2B marketers send all of their leads directly to the sales team. But only 27 percent of those leads are qualified at that time. Marketers sometimes view their primary responsibility as attracting a high quantity of leads, regardless of quality. Sales employees may be frustrating when they don’t have the right kinds of prospects to worth with.

A too-quick lead hand-off can contribute to a few significant problems for sales teams. Representatives may end up wasting their time cold calling prospects only to determine they aren’t a good fit for the organization immediately. Alternatively, sales employees may follow up with leads who need more nurturing and potentially alienate them. These issues can cause tension between the sales and marketing teams, and these inefficient processes aren’t an effective use of resources.

Are your lead generation techniques resulting in the wrong kinds of prospects? This can seriously impede sales effectiveness. Reps may spend too much time trying to convert prospects who simply do not have the budget for your solution while missing qualified sales-ready leads. What can you do to alleviate these challenges and streamline the funnel?

Using marketing automation to improve the funnel

An online marketing system can help B2B firms create a better outline of the different steps customers take when deciding on a business solution. These platforms can provide insight into client behaviors, enabling sales reps to refine their approaches to meetings and pitches. Presentations can be more tailored to what customers are specifically interested in. Marketing automation makes it easier for companies to score leads as they enter the funnel. A number of the issues with the sales pipeline arise from the fact that sales reps don’t know which leads are most qualified and warrant the most attention, Leung indicated.

Lead scoring provides an initial picture of qualification. For example, if a lead meets the profile of your target customer and has expressed interest in buying right away, he or she deserves a rep’s immediate attention. If a prospect isn’t a good fit, sales employees don’t have dedicate their time. If a lead may be a good fit but isn’t ready to buy, marketing automation platforms make it easy to nurture this prospect without requiring too much of your sales team. This increased visibility and automation of repetitive nurturing processes such as emails enables your sales team to more effectively move leads through the revenue funnel. Additionally, marketing automation provides a benefit to marketers because they can get a better idea of the characteristics needed to qualify a lead.

If there are snags or leaks in your funnel, your company could be losing potential deals. Marketing automation allows you to create better steps based on the buyer’s journey.