3 tips for streamlining your sales pipeline
It’s already April, which means your sales team should be well on its way to meeting its annual quota. With the lengthy sales cycle most B2B organizations have to deal with, you need to have a significant number of leads in the revenue funnel already to meet goals by the end of the year. If your Internet lead generation efforts have been somewhat lackluster during the first part of 2014, spring is a great time to kick these initiatives into high gear.
A number of people in the revenue funnel may be previous clients, and this could be a good time to get in touch with them, according to a blog post for Salesforce. This can provide insight on potential opportunities in the future and how you can improve your offerings. Your customer relationship management platform can also provide clues during this time. You may discover a number of contacts whom you haven’t spoken to in more than three months. These potential customers may be at risk of dropping out of the revenue funnel and choosing another vendor. It could be a good time to reach out to these prospects or follow up on materials that were sent to them in the past.
The stakes for B2B sales have gotten higher in the past few years because the funnel is more complex than ever before. Buyers have greater access to resources, which means they are more skeptical and take longer to arrive at a decision. This trend has extended the sales cycle for many companies, which can be problematic when you need to reach revenue goals by the end of the year. B2B sales teams need tools and new technology to overcome this challenge and run an efficient organization. An online marketing system can prevent leads from dropping out mid-funnel.
How to avoid leaks in the revenue funnel
Many B2B firms juggle with the “quality vs. quantity” debate when it comes to their lead generation efforts. It may seem to some sales managers that the representatives who generate the highest number of leads and make the most calls will ultimately have the best results, but this isn’t always the case, Jeff Kalter wrote for 3D2B. However, if leads aren’t qualified, there’s little chance they will ever convert, which means salespeople could be wasting their time pursuing these deals when they could devote efforts to sales-ready prospects.
These issues can cause problems in the sales pipeline that must be remedied so you can meet your revenue goals. Here are some tips B2B firms can use to streamline their sales funnel and see better results:
1. Maintain agreement on the definition of a qualified lead
First things first: Lead generation efforts aren’t likely to be successful if sales and marketing can’t agree on the top characteristics of an ideal customer, according to a separate article for 3D2B written by Francesco Adamo. If your organization maintains separate sales and marketing employees, both teams need to understand that there are two different definitions of a qualified lead based on their individual job responsibilities. Marketers sometimes come up short in lead generation because they think their role is done after the contacts are in the CRM, but sales reps want leads who will eventually convert to customers.
2. Focus on quality
Although it makes sense to want a combination of quantity and quality when it comes to leads, qualified prospects are more likely to result in closed business – meaning this pursuit is more profitable. If your team members only follow up with hot leads, they have a better chance of winning more contracts, Kalter wrote.
3. Employ lead scoring and nurturing
Following off this last point, lead scoring and nurturing through a marketing automation platform can significantly improve your employees’ understanding of qualification without adding more work. Lead scoring determines the measure of how eager a prospect is to buy compared to his or her fit for your company. This improves the qualification process and prevents sales employees from following up with cold leads, according to Adamo. In addition, lead nurturing helps B2B firms make the most out of the longer sales cycle. You can’t just generate leads and never interact with them again until they’re ready to buy. This isn’t an effective sales strategy, and your pipeline is likely to spring many leaks. In addition, lead nurturing efforts need to be personal. An untargeted email message won’t move potential customers through the sales cycle. However, individual lead nurturing can create customers who will stay with your organization longer, buy more frequently and spend more when they do. Even though marketing automation can significantly help with these activities, sales reps need to reach out to prospects over the phone every once in a while to add the human element to the interaction.