You'd question their wisdom if a friend poured a gallon of water into a leaky cup. However, sales teams do the same thing every day by pouring leads into a leaky sales pipeline that causes them to lose those valuable leads before the sales team ever sees one. Other sales teams don't even have a chance to fill the pipeline because the team doesn't know where to find the right leads.
Learn how to increase sales pipeline leads and avoid leaks through proper sales pipeline management to ensure your sales pipeline stays brimming with quality clients.
- A sales pipeline includes all the stages of qualifying and converting a lead
- Focus on all stages of the sales pipeline at the same time to ensure a steady stream of new opportunities
- Regularly auditing the sales pipeline helps marketers to identify new opportunities and potential weaknesses in the pipeline
What Does a Sales Pipeline Look Like?
Marketers often represent the B2B sales pipeline in six stages:
- Lead Generation: Identifying and attracting potential clients
- Lead Qualification: Qualifying leads by identifying the ones aligned with the ideal customer
- Lead nurturing: Building trust and explaining to the lead how your products will benefit them
- Negotiation: Finding a mutually beneficial deal
- Closing: Completing the sale
- Retention: Encouraging customer loyalty
However, not all businesses use the same pipeline. For example, some Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) businesses have a demo or trial stage in the pipeline. Meanwhile, B2C companies might have more steps at the start for attracting leads and generating demand.
Before a marketer can fill the pipeline for sales, the marketer must first outline the business's pipeline, along with clear definitions of each stage.
Sales Funnel vs. Sales Pipeline
The sales pipeline is often confused with the sales funnel because both images follow similar stages of progression. However, the sales funnel is the stages a lead goes through in the customer's journey from the first touchpoint until close. Meanwhile, the sales pipeline is a business's steps to move a lead through the buyer's journey.
5 Sales Pipeline Management Tips To Keep the Pipeline Full
Use these five tips to keep your sales pipeline full of quality leads to boost your chances of conversion.
1. Align Sales and Marketing
The sales pipeline isn't just the sales team's responsibility. The pipeline runs from the marketing department to sales and often requires overlapping tasks.
Aligning both teams keeps the pipeline moving seamlessly. For example, sales can share customer data to help marketers target higher-quality leads so more leads reach sales. An alignment also allows data to move along with the leads. That way, when the sales team takes over in the pipeline, the team members have access to crucial details from the buyer's journey that might help the team member close that lead.
2. Audit the Current Pipeline
If the sales team isn't seeing many leads, there are three possible reasons:
- Leads are coming in, but "leaks" along the way are causing those leads to fall out of the pipeline (like poor follow-up or qualification strategies)
- The marketing team is bringing in too many poor-quality leads that the sales team can't convert
- Not many leads are coming in because there aren't enough quality lead generation campaigns
A sales pipeline analysis will tell sales and marketing what prevents the pipeline from filling up with quality leads. In addition, mapping the customer's journey using behavior and firmographic information will give insights into the sales process and where weaknesses might lie.
For instance, if a business realizes most of the leads coming in aren't quality, the marketing team might start using more targeted strategies like content syndication to reach the business's ideal audience and solve that issue.
The most challenging stages of the pipeline are prospecting, qualification, and lead nurturing. So, those stages are where issues often arise.
The customer journey map will also help marketers identify common qualities, opportunities, or behaviors from leads that move through the pipeline. For example, if a lead responds favorably every time a marketer sends a follow-up email, the marketing team knows that strategy should be part of the sales process.
3. Track Conversion Rates from Each Stage
As leads move through the pipeline, marketers should track the conversion rates. A conversion rate would be leads that graduate from one stage to the next. Keeping an eye on how many leads move forward compared to how many leads there were in total tells marketers whether there are issues.
As a guideline, the average conversion rate of marketing-qualified leads to sales-qualified leads is 1.7% in the B2B tech industry.
To optimize the sales process, establish benchmarks and goals, like a lead generation quota or a healthy conversion rate for the business, that marketers should try to attain. Once the marketing team establishes benchmarks, they can calculate how many leads the team needs to have in each stage to achieve those quotas and keep a consistently healthy sales pipeline.
4. Focus on All Stages of the Pipeline at Once
The sales pipeline isn't a marathon where all leads start simultaneously and trickle into the sales finish line one at a time. If the pipeline operated this way, the pipeline would end up empty before the next group of leads began. That's not a financially stable way to convert leads because there wouldn't be a consistent stream of revenue from conversions.
Instead, a sales pipeline is a steady drip. Marketers should constantly have strategies running for every stage of the pipeline. While the marketing team is nurturing a group of leads, marketers are already looking at the next sales-generation campaign, so there's always a steady stream of leads coming through the pipeline.
For example, a tech business might regularly engage in webinar lead generation to generate a consistent stream of interested buyers for the sales pipeline.
Having all the stages operating simultaneously also means having the next stage ready for incoming leads. For instance, as new leads come in, the marketing team might already have an email campaign ready and can add the list of leads to that email campaign for nurturing.
5. Establish Consistent Processes
Standardizing the sales pipeline and processes will make filling the pipeline much easier. Standardization also creates consistent outcomes. Some areas to standardize include:
- What criteria qualifies leads to move to the next stage?
- What are the follow-up steps for each lead?
- How soon should marketing contact a new lead?
- How long can a lead remain inactive before marketing reengages the lead?
- When does marketing remove a lead for inactivity or disinterest?
Fill Your Pipeline with Quality Leads
ActualTech Media helps tech businesses fill sales pipelines with quality leads in the tech niche. Our services include content syndication and webinar lead gen events so marketers can target a specific audience and see a steady stream of new leads in their pipeline.
Contact us for the best lead generation solution to reach your pipeline goals.