Has your marketing and sales pipeline process been struggling?
Your marketing and sales pipeline process should be mapped out with a key sales conversation ratio at each stage. You have to measure this if you want to improve.
The good news is that most of it can be designed as a workflow to help guide sales reps and marketers.
It works in an innovative supply chain and Six-sigma; now, we can do the same for the revenue process. This is music to the board and CEO running organizations.
Generating leads from your marketing channels will require you to research each buyer’s journey, create content for each stage, set metrics, analyze, and adjust your internal sales process.
You can automate this, which saves loads of time.
There are marketing leads, and there are sales leads. Two distinct parameters for each. Let’s explore the differences.
What is a sales pipeline?
What is a Sales Pipeline? A sales pipeline is an organized, visual way of tracking multiple potential buyers as they progress through different stages in the purchasing process.
“The sales pipeline is for sales managers and executives to know what each of their salespeople is working on, to ensure that the right resources are being devoted to the most important opportunities.”
This information can help you identify which leads to focus on the first, second, or third. The data can also illustrate which prospects are interested in your company’s products or services and how likely they will buy.
The sales pipeline can be visualized as a funnel with specific stages that move from top to bottom. This is helpful for sales teams since it quantifies and tracks progress toward reaching your revenue goals.
As an alternative to the sales pipeline, some organizations use a waterfall approach in which sales leads are assigned to different salespeople and departments.
The sales process is often long and complicated.
This complexity makes it so important for sales managers to use a sales pipeline.
A sales pipeline will help keep track of the entire process from start to finish, including which prospects are in what stage and how likely they will move forward. It’s also helpful for ensuring that your company spends its time and resources on the right prospects.
Here is a sales pipeline example.
A sales pipeline can have many stages, but the most common include: – Lead -> Qualified lead -> Active Sales Opportunity = Proposal (or Agreement) -> Closed Sale or Lost Sale
Sales pipeline examples help sales managers and salespeople track their sales team’s performance.
The Stages in Sales Pipeline
The stages of your sales pipeline depend on how your buyers buy from you. Skip a step, and you may lose sales.
Some businesses have several sales pipeline depending on products and other factors. What are yours?
The process begins with generating leads, which may be transformed into prospects depending on how you set your standards for qualification (i.e., whether a lead has already been qualified).
Leads are generated through various marketing activities and sales pipeline examples. Your sales team can follow up on the leads and convert them into prospects.
An effective sales pipeline example will state how much time should be spent on each stage of this process, from when a lead is generated until it becomes a prospect. You need to clearly define a qualified opportunity for your business as part of creating a sales pipeline example.
The sales pipeline example should include the following information:
- Relevant definitions and standards for each stage of the sales process;
- Metrics to be used in assessing potential sales opportunities. The metrics can be a combination of financial and non-financial indicators, depending on your business’s most important metrics.
Sales Pipeline Example Template
A good template for the sales pipeline example can be as simple as a table with four columns. This kind of sales pipeline example will include information on:
- source of leads and its qualification process;
- number and qualification time for each stage (i.e., how many days from the moment a lead is generated until it becomes qualified or in the prospect stage);
- The number of sales opportunities plotted on the graph, including how each stage can be further broken down (e.g., by month).
Our sales pipeline example assumes that you have a corporate website and need to track leads generated from it.
The breakdown for sales opportunity generation will include such data as industry of prospect, type of business (i.e., B2B or B2C), whether the prospect is a new or returning visitor to your website, etc.
The sales pipeline example template might will look like this.
Sales Pipeline Example in Action
You may have heard about the story of one of our clients, an e-learning corporation producing specialized courses for the construction industry.
They had a sales pipeline example of a simple spreadsheet that gave them insight into the effectiveness of their marketing efforts for lead generation.
However, after we created a custom-made template for them, they could get a much more detailed analysis and make informed decisions about improving their overall lead generation process.
A Sales-Ready Leads Defined: The Marketing to Sales Hand-off
A Sales-Ready Leads Defined: Sales and Marketing Alignment
The sales funnel below shows you 85 sales opportunities, with an average price of $750,000. The left shows the loss analysis, the middle stage, and the amount, and the right shows you the conversion rate. The sales funnel is all automated.
It is marketing’s role to create awareness and marketing qualified leads before they are turned over as sales-ready leads to the sales organization.
How many lists do you need to weed out to get a qualified lead? How many people must you connect with to qualify for a need? How many qualified opportunities must you develop to write a proposal? How many proposals must you write to close a sale?
This is the science of sales! And along with its integration with the marketing process, it’s important to understand the health of your pipeline.
Many things contribute to the success of sales and marketing. Still, sales pipeline management is arguably one of the most important principles, especially in a tight, competitive market environment.
I will explore the marketing and sales process and explain how important a sales-qualified lead (SQL) is to the sales team.
- Do sales follow up on marketing leads? According to a study for Harvard Business Review, 71% of qualified leads are never followed up.
- And leads that are followed up are only touched an average of 1.3 times. This represents a huge opportunity cost not only in revenue but also in the customer/prospect experience.
It’s the sales manager’s job to ensure that each step of your sales process unfolds in a timely manner. You must know which step of the process you are in with any prospect.
The core of any process is that it is predictable and yields a certain result when followed. The result changes when any step of your sales process is skipped or not completed on time. To establish the right plan and then follow it. By doing so, you’ll maintain control.
It’s important to remember that sales is a matchmaking process, and your marketing team’s role is to nurture prospects before handing them over to sales as a sales-qualified lead.
You only want your sales reps selling to sales-qualified leads. That’s why it’s important to define what a sales-qualified lead (SQL) is for your company.
Sales and marketing success only comes when each side works toward shared goals. And the first step is to determine what the rules are.
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What are the 5 Lead Stages of the Sales Cycle?
The stages of the sales cycle are segmented into five parts.
First, you should know each sales cycle stage and how they relate to your leads.
The sales cycle follows your leads through the buying decision process.
The diagram below shows a typical sales cycle for a business, which is for a high-tech consulting startup.
The lead stages typically follow this flow in the sales funnel:
- Prospecting [Attract] – Your lead has a problem; they search for a solution on the web but aren’t sure what they’re looking for yet. Your business comes up in the prospects search and has shown some interest.
- Top of the Funnel (TOFU) – Leads who visit your website and through TOFU content marketing (like white papers or industry reports) have found a potential solution to their problem. These leads are called marketing captured leads (MCL) and need to be qualified by the marketing to become qualified leads (MQL) before they are turned over to sales.
- Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) – Now that your lead knows what they need, they begin to struggle with which company best fits their needs. You can encourage your lead to pick you through MOFU offers. At this stage, some of the MQL’s move to the next sales funnel stage, called sales qualified leads (SQL), and the sales rep starts working on these.
- Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) – Your lead has decided you’re the best fit but needs to know why they should buy from you today. You can answer this question with BOFU marketing offers.
Delight – Your lead converted into a paying customer! Now you have to keep them engaged with special offers, social media shares, and great customer service, so when it’s time to renew, it’s obvious they should.
What is the sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a visual representation of sales prospects and where they are in the purchasing process. A sales pipeline represents sales prospects and where they are in the pipeline stages.
The sales pipeline also provides an overview of a sales rep’s account forecast and how close he/she is to making quota and meeting the sales forecast.
If your sales pipeline process has struggled to fulfill quotas, you might be utilizing outdated tactics. Your sales pipeline process should be audited to find performance gaps.
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What is a Sales Lead?
Wikipedia defines a lead or sales-ready lead as ‘the identification of a person or entity with the interest and authority to buy a product or service.’
Nowadays, leads referred to are mainly online leads generated by filling in a form on the internet. However, they could equally result from a phone call or a business card from an interesting person at a networking event.
A lead typically constitutes the contact details of a person – either a consumer or representing a company – interested in learning more about a product or service to purchase it.
What is a sales qualified lead in sales? [SQL]
A sales-ready lead move to sales qualified lead and is more than just a contact on a list you may have just purchased or someone that recently filled out a form from a landing page on your website.
It includes further information on the person or the company they represent, which qualifies them for a certain product.
At Matrix Marketing Group, we’ve adopted the BANT approach. It’s because I’m familiar with it from my IBM days, and it works.
Typical qualifying questions relate to the BANT approach:
- Budget: do they have enough money to buy the product/service?
- Authority: can they make a purchase decision?
- Need: do they need that the product or service in question can meet?
- Timescale: do they have a specific time when they wish to make their purchase?
By gathering answers to the above questions at the lead stage. These are then considered ‘sales qualified leads.’
Let’s dive into the BANT system more.
The BANT System
The definition of an SQL may vary based on what you’re selling and whom you’re selling to, but many companies use the BANT system (designed by IBM) when qualifying leads.
Here’s a breakdown of how to qualify leads using the BANT system:
Budget: Does a Prospect Have the Budget to Buy?
Effective selling requires that the sales reps (or SDR) determine whether a prospect can afford your solution. It doesn’t matter how much a prospect likes your solution. They aren’t a viable customer if they can’t afford it.
Authority: Does a Prospect Have the Authority to Buy?
Good sales rep knows to call high, but key executives have elaborate defense mechanisms to keep salespeople out. A personal introduction is the only reliable way to get past these defenses.
Delegate this problem into the organization until someone knows someone who can pave the way. Before getting the introduction, meeting with lower-ranking people to gather intelligence is fine, but the sales cycle does not formally begin until this meeting.
Typically, B2B sales take an average of 5.4 people to make a buying decision, so it’s important to recognize a committee-based buying authority situation.
Need: Does a Prospect Require Your Solution?
Identify what you expect will be a major concern of the executive and present a thought-provoking point of view. Your goal is to engage an executive who does not know you in a serious dialog and evoke some anxiety in them to solve the specific problem you are there to discuss.
You cannot afford to play safe as this will look like you are wasting their time; after all, when the executive agreed to the meeting, they did so in the hope of getting some special insight into how to address their problem.
At Matrix Marketing Group, if an organization is hitting all its sales targets, it might not require our services. On the other hand, they may be looking to reduce costs and overhead. This is where our services help a potential client as well.
The sales reps want sales-ready leads, often called sales accepted leads (SAL).
Timeline: When is a Prospect Looking to Make a Decision?
Timing is everything, but sometimes, it’s not the right time for the deal to close. And there are countless reasons. A potential lead was maybe waiting for funding. Sales reps must discover a prospect’s timeline before handing that prospect over to the sales rep.
Let’s look at a real-world example from one of Matrix Marketing Group’s clients. They needed help fixing their sales-to-funnel leaks and improving their sales and marketing alignment.
One specific area of focus was the marketing to sales lead hand-off. Before we started, there was no specific marketing qualified lead to sales qualified lead hand-off. If you are in sales, you know what I mean.
An inexperienced marketing team may hand over anyone and all leads from a trade show, complete a form, or call in for more information. These are not leads and should be qualified before spending sales resources on them.
Their MQL to SQL ratio included the following:
- B: Software budget is > $50,000
- A: Meeting with CIO, CEO, or CFO
- N: Need is identified in the manufacturing space and problem with supply chain
- T: Timing is < 180 days
Marketing now has a clear definition and specific parameters before handing the lead over to the sales team.
Let’s discuss sales-ready leads and who should qualify them.
Who Should Qualify Leads?
When your sales reps have to qualify leads, it diminishes their closing power. Instead, leave lead qualification to a Sales Development Reps or Marketing Development Reps.
Successful companies have experienced better results by separating their sales teams into clearly defined roles.
These roles include:
- Sales Development reps (SDRs) – reps that prospect for new leads
- Marketing development reps (MDRs) – reps that qualify leads from marketing campaigns
- Sales Reps – who close deals with sales-qualified opportunities.
- Your SDRs and MDRs should focus on creating a steady stream of opportunities for your sales reps to close.
Synchronize Your Sales and Marketing Teams for Better Sales Pipeline Process
Define your common goals and devise a plan to achieve them. Please ensure they’re specific and all point to generating revenue. When your goals are aligned, then it’s a lot easier to work toward that common goals.
According to a 2011 Aberdeen Group study, highly aligned organizations achieved an average of 32% year-over-year revenue growth – while their less aligned competitors saw a 7% decrease in revenue.
Yet, according to another study from Forrester, just 8% of companies say they have tight alignment between sales and marketing. So the benefits of aligning the two groups are clear.
Sales and marketing alignment is not a “touchy-feely” relationship problem, nor is it something that should be viewed as an expected result of different personality types. It starts with sales-ready leads and at the lead hand-off.
Ensure your sales and marketing teams are on the same page regarding the lead hand-off. Sales want qualified leads and active buyers.
I’d love to hear your comments about sales-ready leads.
HOW MANY LEADS DO YOU NEED TO REACH YOUR SALES GOALS?
We all know that sales and marketing have changed, and I’ve been arguing about it for the last two decades. Now it’s time to ensure that our sales teams understand the new process.
First, a little bit about me. I was a former college professor in Colorado and New York. I’ve worked for corporations like IBM, Baan, and Sun Microsystems. In the winter, I love to ski with wearable technology like CARV, and I’m a professional ski instructor, and in the summers, I’m an avid mountain biker.
Today you’ll learn how to build a sales and marketing powerhouse. This article has been developed for entrepreneurs, CMOs, marketing directors, VP of Sales, and CEOs.
You should take some notes. Everyone reading will take away at least two to three ideas you can use immediately.
What’s wrong with traditional marketing and sales process pipelines?
Your sales pipeline process is critical for sales success.
66% of all marketers state companies won’t succeed unless they have a digital marketing approach and most marketers agree that marketing has a tangible value that can be measured (ADOBE).
Marketing has changed more in the last two years than in the past 50. Digital marketing approaches are typically in a constant cycle of trial and error.
So, what are the top goals for marketing and sales teams? What does your sales team want? They want higher quality leads at the end of the story.
Sales lead that has been nurtured before they’re handed off to the sales rep. You need a marketing attribution model to help tune marketing campaigns and show the ROI to achieve those results.
Let’s look at where the gaps occur; there are three primary gaps. There’s a talent gap, a technology gap, and a strategy gap. All of which leads to the typical performance gap. Capgemini states that 90% of people lack the digital skills to implement an effective digital strategy.
A simple example is to take a look at the technology gap in the marketing automation adoption rates.
Right now, it’s a sixty percent adoption rate in companies with revenues over $500 million. It drops to ten percent with revenues between $25 million and $500 million and almost entirely tails off at five percent between $5 million and $20 million.
What does this mean? There’s a high output for these companies, between $20 million and $500 million, to leverage technology.
Finally, the strategy gap; it’s easy to get caught up in the next big thing like Snapchat, artificial intelligence, account-based marketing (ABM), and inbound marketing, but these are all buzzwords and meaningless without a well-planned digital strategy that’ll help drive qualified leads.
The modern buying process
So, let’s review how the modern buyer has shifted the sales process. The modern buyer has changed the way the sales process is curved forever. Have you ever purchased something online?
Your sales pipeline process is critical for success and must map how people buy.
Have you ever used social media to ask a question? Maybe on Facebook to a friend or on LinkedIn? Well, I sure have. I do it all the time.
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Before internet buyers were relatively uninformed, the buyer’s journey was pretty much a straight shot triggered when a customer recognized their need.
The trigger can be random, and the buyer can conduct his or her research. The standard wisdom is that sales are an art rather than a science which might be why so many great ideas have gone from the startup phase straight to the graveyard.
Building the next 100 million dollar business requires a sales team to get the job done reliably. Looking at the customer journey, 59% of B2B buy your site.
They don’t even want to interact with a sales representative as a primary source of research, and that’s according to Forrester. Here we see that 57% of the traditional sales cycle is completed without interaction with your company.
What do you do? You’ve got to get in front of this 57% number while the customers are doing their due diligence, and you can do that with content. The current industry trends and the analysis tell us that change is necessary.
Does your sales team know about this, and does management understand these changes?
I speak to C-level executives who know that sales productivity is paramount to enabling a company to grow. However, they are still using the same outdated sales tactics to survive. 71% ranked it as the most critical importance.
It all starts with understanding who you’re trying to reach. We can see the whole picture as it relates to customers’ buying and internal sales cycles (sales pipeline).
See how they’re correlated once I understand the customers buying cycle. Only then can I begin to align our sales process cycle. For example, if I’m going to target a buyer exploring, we want to give them something that will help them make an informed decision with content and context.
In other words, hit them with what matters to them at that specific time. It’s not until you understand this process that you can start building your digital marketing plan.
Start to think about the parameters that make up your ideal customer. Sure, you have to understand demographics and psychographics, it’s all part of the process, but it goes beyond the typical persona. Use criteria like:
- Employee size
- Department size
- Job titles
Next, you’ve got to understand the individual’s job. What tasks are they trying to complete, and what are their responsibilities? Let’s take manufacturing as an example. Are your inventory turns reducing WIP on the floor? You have to know their job and what they need to do.
After gaining an understanding, move on to the customer pain points. These are anything that annoys your customers before, during, and after trying to get a project done. You need to figure out these for your target markets.
Finally, customer gains are described as outcomes and benefits for your customers and what they want. These can include utility, social games, career growth, or cost savings.
This is where you begin to build out your product offerings. Now it’s a customer profile that describes a particular customer segment in your business model. In a more structured and detailed way, it breaks the customer down into the job pains and gains.
Sales and marketing alignment and the sales pipeline process
Face it. There’s friction between the sales and marketing teams. It’s human nature, but it must be addressed. Sales and marketing alignment typically impact enterprise organizations.
However, I’ve seen it in all sizes. Sometimes it’s like sales and marketing teams are from Venus and Mars and this friction is caused either by economics, culture, or both. Next, understand your target markets. Knowing their buying cycle that’s critical. Do your sales reps have a systematic approach to selling?
As a product manager, I learned that it would save time and money if I consulted my colleagues on the manufacturing shop floor rather than just throwing over new designs.
It wasn’t enough just to coexist, not when we could work together to create value for the company. More importantly for our customers, it provided increased value. You would think that the marketing and sales teams work so closely and interconnected that they would also discover this.
It’s important to build a feedback loop to see how you’re doing, and where the bottlenecks occur, and then correct them. It’ll reduce your sales cycle and get your teams on the same page. When the buying cycle aligns with your sales cycle, you’ll see reduced time to sale and higher closed ratios.
When we review the sales pipeline for these three different-sized companies, and they’re all selling in the same industry, we can see a simple sales cycle for the enterprise, midsize, and small businesses.
The mid-market group generated 8,000 leads that were passed over to sales in Q1, 6% of those leads had converted customers for 480 customers. The average annual deal size for each client was $175,000.
With this conversion data, we can start optimizing the stages, but let’s look at the small business leads and specifically pick the leads-to-customer ratio. Looks pretty good, right? Not so fast here. We might be waiting too long to contact these leads.
This theory can be tested. Get in front of the leads early and see what happens. Do your leads to close ratio increase? If I do that and see a 5% bump in leads to sales ratio, I’ve added 550 more customers. With $22 million of incremental revenue, it’s not bad for a simple change, right?
Make your website your best sales rep.
If we switch gears slightly, is your website tuned with a keyword strategy, and what’s the last time you completed a redesign? What is the goal of your site? Is it branding, e-commerce, educating customers, or lead generation? When was the last time you did a website audit?
Google is changing its search algorithm frequently, and you should know how it impacts your site. Most people don’t have any idea about how their website is performing.
A typical static website is built on platforms like Drupal and WordPress, but did you know that you can develop a website that changes depending on your user’s makeup?
These are called dynamic websites and present content based on each user group. It doesn’t have to be based on buyer persona either; you can use criteria like where they are in the buying cycle or location if you have multiple physical stores.
Even more important is utilizing a responsive website design platform that automatically optimizes for visitors from any device. Responsive design is automatically optimized for mobile and has SEO built-in.
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Is Your Website Driving Leads and Converting Them into Sales? When was your last site audit?
Tune your website with SEO, get your keywords in there put them in your header, title tag, meta description, and alt tags. Design your website to funnel people to your highest converting web pages. You
can find the top converting web pages by setting up goals in Google Analytics.
Content Marketing Works
I love Hotjar; it’s an excellent tool for evaluating user experience. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “inbound marketing” it’s a marketing tactic to help buyers find you digitally.
Would it be nice if people searching for help could find you with content that answers their questions? Without ever having to speak to them before they’re ready to buy? That’s the power of inbound marketing paid with a solid content marketing plan.
Get your sales reps involved in the process and ask the typical questions they get from their prospects. Where is the bottleneck in the sales pipeline?
Look for common themes and topics to develop a keyword strategy that maps to those words. Your audience uses this, so you can write with those in mind. We’re all busy, but you’ve got to find the time to get at least two blogs out per week, and you need to create a content production process.
It’s crucial to develop content your audience is willing to pay for. To be good at this, you’ve got to think like a journalist. I use a content key that is an editorial framework split into three categories. I call it the head, the heart, and the hands.
The head is thought leadership content, the heart is innovation strides and customer stories, and the hands are functional pieces like how-to articles. It’s a simple way for me to remember the guiding principles behind our content creation.
A strong editorial mission explains who you’re trying to reach and how to serve them with content. These include who you are as a company, who you’re working to reach, how you will reach them, and what you want to accomplish when you do reach them.
Don’t let it get too complicated at the beginning use a simplistic buyer’s journey and write content that aligns perfectly.
Think of it this way: if you want to lose 10 pounds, work out hard, diet for a month, and then meet your goal. Boom, 10 pounds are gone. You stop doing that routine. The same reaction applies here, don’t expect it to happen overnight, and it’s a commitment that will pay off.
Companies that publish 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5 times more traffic than those that publish zero to four monthly. Here’s a representation of an uncomplicated buyer journey.
Once I understand my buyer’s journey, I can begin to develop marketing content to help generate new leads and nurture leads in my sales pipeline.
I use prescriptive content, thought leadership content, and brand or product content.
Building out this slide set, I wanted to make sure that what I was saying was true, so I went to Google and typed in “why hire marketing agency” to see what came up we’re number two on that page. Content works.
So, now that you’ve got your content and are starting to generate an editorial calendar, you need to amplify your message. You know where your customers are consuming information about your industry solutions to solve their issues and what publications – both in print and online – are they reading.
The sales pipeline process will require different content depending on where the buyer is in the cycle.
Which top influencers does the sales team know? Does an outbound strategy still work? Be very careful here personalized emails are best, and we see about a 20 percent increase in response rates with this method. What is your reach today, and how do you grow it for sales leads?
Develop content your audience wants and use landing pages to capture their information. If you’re just starting, try some PPC or pay-per-click campaigns and be sure to use negative keywords so you’re not getting people clicking on it that aren’t relevant.
There are over 7,000 plus technology platforms for sales and marketing this slide comes from marketing technology guru Scott Brinker.
I know this slide can be a little overwhelming, and not all technology applies to every specific business. However, you’ve got to prioritize a technology rollout if you’re going to employ a digital marketing strategy. Not only will you save time, but you’ll align your offerings with your buyers. Most importantly, you begin to boost sales, shorten your sales cycles, and build your sales pipeline.
It’s time to take a look at analytics and reporting. Set up smart marketing goals. Also, be sure to do that for your sales pipeline as well. You can visit our resource page and grab some free templates if you aren’t sure where to start.
After goals are in place, develop a marketing attribution model. Gather and analyze your sales pipeline and marketing attribution model data and review what marketing channels and programs are working.
The sales pipeline process is easily monitored and analyzed to find a bottleneck.
Even more importantly, attribution tells us which marketing efforts are not working. Test and tune your marketing programs to get the biggest bang for the buck.
Tired of being overwhelmed and worried you’ll never scale your business?
Cut the guesswork from marketing planning by setting an objective behind every dollar.
My day starts here in the marketing dashboard
Here I can look for gaps and see if the sales pipeline process could be improved.
These are some of the regular reports I use daily, and it’s right at my fingertips. At Matrix, we use HubSpot to help build our sales pipeline, and we have it set up to automatically send daily snapshots and detailed reports.
The magic begins when you combine and align sales, marketing, and technology. Strangers become leads, leads become customers, and your business grows.
I hope you’ve taken away two to three ideas from this webinar. You can begin by evaluating your client’s buying cycle and align it with your internal sales cycle.
Then develop your content marketing plan, and get an independent marketing assessment. Thank you for watching, and anybody interested, we’re offering a free website audit and a comprehensive free marketing assessment.
There’s nothing to lose; it’s all free.
We’re listening to what you have to say about the sales pipeline process