Today’s post is by Danny Wong, who is a marketing consultant, sales strategist, and writer. He leads marketing at Tenfold, a seamless click-to-dial solution for high-performance sales teams. Connect with him on Twitter @dannywong1190.
The vast majority of B2B leaders understand pipeline management is an important part of building a successful sales process, yet 44 percent of executives surveyed reported their organization did not engage in effective sales pipeline management. Filling your pipeline with the right buyers – and nurturing them through the sales cycle at an appropriate pace – will help ensure you are consistently engaging with enough leads to hit your quotas and optimize the flow of the sales process for the entire company.
1. Clearly define your cycle stages
Without clear pipeline stage definition, all the other important aspects of pipeline management become impossible, including strategy building, process measurement, and collaboration. The various processes of your pipeline management process must be standardized across the organization so everyone is on the same page regarding definitions, procedures, and expectations.
Once you know how to delineate between the different states of your sales pipeline, you can set guidelines for what actions constitute a transition from one segment to the next. You can also create protocols that detail which team members are required to take ownership of the client relationship during the various stages, so transitions are seamless.
2. Develop a comprehensive data management strategy
The quality of your data and your methods for collection and analysis are going to have a significant impact on the overall efficiency of your sales pipeline. Keeping your pipeline filled with prospects who are a good fit for your company requires knowing, in detail, what those types of customers look like, how they behave, and what they are specifically looking for in a relationship with your brand.
This means everyone from marketing and sales to logistics and customer service not only need to have a plan for maintaining data quality, but they also have to understand what data is important to the other units and why. One weak link will always be the downfall of the entire organization when it comes to data management.
3. Utilize integrated technological solutions
To keep precise track of how your customers are progressing through your pipeline, it’s crucial to utilize a combination of technological solutions that are compatible. Customer and resource data entered in one unit can have ramifications throughout the company, so it’s vital to ensure everyone has consistent access to the information they need, and that formats and storage procedures are standardized.
Information in the CRM system can be invaluable for marketing professionals who are trying to hone messaging aimed at specific buyers. Buyer personas can likewise be important for sales reps as they nurture leads and develop relationships, and even for customer support and onboarding teams in creating specialized training modules and solving issues.
4. Specialize your content for maximum impact
Content can be useful for encouraging customers to move through the pipeline when they are in any stage, not just as an initial marketing technique. The key lies in knowing what kinds of content your buyer values based on their specific needs of the moment – and crafting a library of content to satisfy those needs.
When creating your content, it helps to think about the customer’s journey holistically so you can continue to enhance their experience in layers. While relationships with your team members are the foundation of the partnership, great content is often a gateway into these relationships. Therefore, the more your content specifically speaks to your buyers’ needs, preferences, and behavior, the more likely it is you will have an opportunity to build a relationship.
5. Prioritize collaboration throughout
Here’s what often passed for pipeline management in the not-so-good old days:
- Marketing created messaging they believed would fill the pipeline with valid opportunities
- Leads deemed “qualified” were passed onto sales reps, who would contact accordingly
- Signed clients were pushed onto the onboarding team
Collaboration was minimal and each unit had its own set of prioritized metrics they could use to boast of their success. For instance, if marketing produced the right number of opportunities they were content they had done their job – regardless of whether those leads turned into revenue-producing customers, let alone highly-satisfied ones.
It should go without saying this kind of compartmentalized arrangement won’t fly in the contemporary landscape. Research from CSO Insights indicates effective collaboration can increase quota attainment by up to 21 percent. Collaboration across multiple units is the way to consistently fill your pipeline with high-quality prospects, give them the information they need to understand why a purchase would be valuable, and set them up for sustained success.
This means leaders must work together to develop an integrated suite of metrics that are influenced by – and reliant on – one another. Representatives from all sectors need to work together from the first moment of customer awareness until after onboarding is completed to develop shared, value-added content, and deliver unified messaging throughout the process.