For sales managers across the world, improving the efficiency of their sales team remains a top priority and key to achieving that goal is successfully building a strong B2B sales pipeline.
What is a sales pipeline?
The term ‘sales pipeline’ is one that has been widely used within sales departments for many years. In simple terms, it refers to the number of potential deals that are waiting to be closed.
For B2Bs, sales cycles tend to be a lot longer and more complex. Any decision to purchase won’t be made quickly. It takes a lot of preparation, meetings and presentations, before a sale is finally made. That means sales teams will have a lot of contacts sitting at many different stages of the sales journey (i.e. their sales pipeline), at any one time.
When it comes to sales KPIs, there are certain key metrics that can be useful to measure. These will mostly be about quantity, such as how many potential deals there are, what sales value is attached to them, how soon this value be realized and what the probability is of them being closed.
The sales cycle itself can be broken down in a number of ways. Some of the most common labels for the different stages, include:
- decision maker involved
- presentation scheduled
- accepted won
- not accepted lost
Each of these stages will have a certain percentage attached to it. For example, for all those contacts in the ‘opportunity’ stage, (where initial contact has been made and some qualification has been done), 10% may go on to become a paying customer.
If you have 100 companies active in that stage with a total potential sales value of $1.000.000, it will be worth around $100,000 in sales.
Coupled with the time it takes to eventually close these sales, you can make a forecast and estimate how much turnover you should generate.
How can you strengthen your B2B sales pipeline?
So, how can you strengthen a B2B sales pipeline? You may think there is an easy answer here – simply throw more contacts into it. After all, it’s just a numbers game, right?
Well, that used to be the case. Especially when it came to cold calling. The focus would be on getting through as many calls as possible. But working in this way won’t necessarily lead to more sales and the results you are after.
Thankfully, modern day marketing tactics and tools such as Lead Forensics, which can track every business that visits your website, mean that such approaches can now be a thing of the past.
It is far more effective to focus on improving the quality of the leads in your pipeline, rather than purely pouring more in. Doing things this way will lead to better results coming through that have been achieved far more efficiently, as your sales people will only be working on the hottest, qualified leads.
The most productive sales people are those who don’t have to waste time wading through tons of low level leads, who are never going to become a customer.
Size isn’t everything
Apart from the quality of the leads you put into your pipeline, another consideration is what you’re going to offer them – in short, what “content” you need to produce.
Great care needs to be taken to get this right, as sales funnel management is changing. Your content will play a vital role. It needs to be the perfect fit for your target audience, offering them the answers they need, at just the right moment and delivered in the right way.
Leading your prospects along a sales path, taking them from a low level commitment to a high level commitment, is the real art of sales funnel management.
For example, for a consulting company the ‘high end’ service they would most like to sell, may be a 24-month retainer contract. But they may need to consult with their clients, on an ongoing basis, for quite some time before that proposition becomes appealing. It is a high price item and equally a high trust item, so it will never work to try and sell it straight off a website.
When you put effort into creating a strong online sales funnel, you will be enhancing the productivity of your sales team. As your pipeline gets stronger, the overall efficiency of your sales team will go up.
More ideas for making your sales pipeline even stronger
Apart from having a solid content marketing strategy in place, qualifying leads effectively and taking a consultative selling approach, what else could you be doing to fatten up your pipeline?
Are you an expert in your field? Do you employ experts in their fields? Then thought leadership could be a good route for you to take. Just be aware that there is a fine line between excelling at thought leadership and giving away too much.
In today’s world, expertise is often the thing we are actually trying to sell. Lots of information is freely available on the internet but knowing how to apply it to generate a desired result is what companies need to understand to be successful.
By giving away information you are not losing anything. On the contrary, you’re showing that you know your stuff and how to solve problems.
And there is a way to do it which will show off your expertise without giving it all away – a so-called ‘meta discussion’ on the topic at hand.
For example, when you put together a comprehensive case study, focus on describing the problem at the beginning of the process. Spend more time elaborating on this, then describing in detail how exactly you solved it. That way, potential customers will be able to identify with the problem without you having revealed all your secrets.
Address how you solved it by giving a short overview, such as: ‘In the two years we worked together we not only achieved the desired output increase of 20% but improved on it, driving it up to 30% by implementing new processes, systems and through a comprehensive training schedule’.
This way, you are showing why it pays to implementing new processes and what could be achieved.
Another strategy is to actually give it all away! Say you are a company that produces videos for corporate clients. One of the main obstacles you face is having a fairly hefty price tag, despite smart phones meaning anyone can now carry a high end camera in their pocket.
To justify charging so much, you may need to give it away to prove your worth.
Write an e-book on what makes a successful corporate video. From using the right lighting, to which microphones to use, the type of camera, make up, locations, props, people, storyboarding, etc.
Most of your audience are likely to fall into one of the following categories:
- 1. Read it and never do anything
- 2. Read it and do it themselves, thanking you for your tips
- 3. Read it, think about doing it themselves, quickly realize it’s a hard and complicated thing to get right and that it makes more sense to hire in a professional who knows their stuff (you!)
While there will certainly be plenty of people who fall into the first and second bucket, you will also attract those in the third group. If you reach them in high enough numbers, then who cares about the other two groups!
In fact, if you wanted to you could introduce an additional add-on service to make the most of those other two audiences. Perhaps host a workshop and/or webinar. These could carry a low price tag but will still be a good way to get yourself out there and will mean you have another revenue stream.
Social media engagement
A social media strategy should form part of any comprehensive content marketing plan and since it can be so effective at helping your pipeline get stronger, it deserves a special mention here. B2B organizations sometimes struggle with how to make the most of social media for lead generation. Finding the right mix of activities can be difficult, but get it right and you’ll reach your goals quicker.
Show off your knowledge and increase your visibility by speaking at an event. Apart from organizing your own events you can also attend other people’s events, either as a delegate to mix with others and network, or to give a talk yourself.
How to use Lead Forensics to build a stronger B2B pipeline
And don’t forget the power of having the right tools in place.
Lead Forensics software was built for no other purpose than to help make sales teams more efficient and sales pipelines stronger.
Content marketing works extremely well, so make sure you’re making the most of all the traffic that is being generated. Only around 2% of all website visitors will actually convert on an offer and hand over their contact details. A majority of those that do are likely to be good leads who are high quality, targeted and perfect for your funnel.
But what about the other 98%? Who are they and how can you turn more of them into leads you can work with?
Thanks to Lead Forensics IP tracking software and our comprehensive database, we can tell you who has visited your website and offer you tools to work with this information. Check out the infographic below to find out how Lead Forensics can help you turn anonymous website visitors into customers.
For example, you can set up an alert to go out to you when specific people visit (such as your top target list), you can get hold of contact information for key decision makers and manage all your leads inside the tool. All of this will give you an edge over the competition and everyone knows, timing is everything in sales.
When a buyer is researching the answer to a problem they have and stumble upon your website, the chances are they will visit a competitor’s site as well. With the software, you will have the advantage of being able to pick up the phone at the exact moment they have shown an interest. And that has been key to the success of many of our customers: Clients reveal all about working with Lead Forensics and the impact it has had for their business.
Arrange your free trial today.