How Effective Is Your Sales Pipeline?


Many businesses still look to their sales team to find leads and to create a pipeline for sales. But in today’s marketplace, that’s not realistic. Why? Customers simply do not respond to traditional sales and marketing methods. Nowadays, salespeople are kept at arm’s length. People don’t want to deal with intrusive phone calls or office visits.

Marketing in today’s digital world needs to be taking the LEAD (pun intended) in developing a pipeline for sales. via Robert Wendt | Cultivate CommunicationsIf you’re one of those businesses still relying on your sales team to measure the effectiveness of your pipeline, they’re probably telling you something like this:

  • “It’s coming.”
  • “Just talked to them last week.”
  • “They said they need more time.”

Sound familiar? If this is how your sales pipeline works, it’s no wonder you don’t sleep at night.

So what can you do differently?

Marketing in today’s digital world needs to be taking the LEAD (pun intended) in developing a pipeline for sales. Marketing’s ability to CREATE AWARENESS for a product or service that matches a customer’s needs is a critical first step.

Customer awareness of your product or service can be achieved through a blend of traditional methods — like direct mail and trade shows — but it continues with digital marketing methods — like display advertising or pay-per-click programs, which strategically match your advertising efforts to buyers’ search behavior.

As buyers narrow their choices and begin to consider YOUR product or service, your marketing must reinforce the features and benefits that best match the buyer’s needs. Many times, this is done through webinars, demos, or case studies. You need to be online — with multiple customer touch points — because most buying decisions start on the web. In fact, 61% of global Internet users say they research a product online before they buy (Source: Interconnected World: Shopping and Personal Finance, 2012).

What is important with online marketing is the ability to measure your prospects’ engagement with your marketing efforts to determine what qualifies those leads to be moved into your sales pipeline. (Learn how to qualify your leads in “Lead-Scoring: The Path to Quicker Sales.”) It’s a smart use of your time, as companies with mature lead-generation and management practices have a 9.3% higher sales quota achievement rate (Source: CSO Insights).

If you aren’t using today’s marketing automation tools to MEASURE your prospective buyers' interactions with your marketing efforts, you’re leaving leads that are "ripe for the picking" to be snatched up by your competitors who are using today’s technologies to give themselves the upper hand. More and more companies are getting onboard: By 2015, the adoption of marketing automation technology is expected to increase by 50% (Source: Sirius Decisions, 2012).

Using automation to drive your marketing efforts provides you with two valuable pieces of information that can have a HUGE impact on the effectiveness of your sales pipeline:

1. You get a snapshot of the level of interest the buyer has in your product or service. This is accomplished by monitoring how the buyer is interacting with your marketing. Are they coming to your website? Reading your blogs? Attending your webinars? How and what they are doing gives you a better understanding of their level of interest.

As buyers get closer to making a decision, their activity will increase and they often spend time looking at more detailed material that defines the specifics of your product or service.

2. Marketing automation technology provides you with detailed data on what prospective buyers are viewing and immersing themselves in (i.e., a glimpse of what problem they are trying to solve). An owner might view a problem one way and be interested in higher-level, more conceptual information. A manager might be interested in the technical components of what your product or service offers to solve the same problem. Understanding the contextual aspects of a buyer makes a more effective sales pipeline because when that lead is provided to your sales team, you’ve already determined that the person is close to making a decision. This means they probably don’t need more time to research other options and that they are now more likely to be willing to talk to a salesperson to resolve any unanswered questions.

Yes, these two pieces of information are highly valuable to your sales team so they can quickly match a prospective buyer’s need to the right product or service — making the likelihood of completing the sale that much higher. And it’s marketing technology that empowers your sales and your marketing teams with the data and tools they need to convert leads to sales.

Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost. (Source: Forrester Research Report)

Not sure where to begin? Click here to get a list of common marketing channels, along with an overview of which elements of measurable marketing are KEY to each approach. Be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed to ensure you get my upcoming article on what good marketing metrics mean to a CEO. You can also find me on LinkedIn;  we can talk more about measurable marketing.

I don’t know about you, but that kind of sales pipeline would surely help me sleep better at night!

Bob Wendt Signature