Every business has a sales pipeline, outlining the journey your B2B sales team carefully guide new business opportunities through, hoping they come out the other side as your clients. Not every lead will make it successfully through your pipeline, but that doesn’t mean your business can’t achieve an outstanding conversion from lead to client. A healthy sales pipeline will produce more clients, helping your team properly nurture their leads and increase their sales closed. Let’s delve into the stages of your B2B sales pipeline, and how you can ensure the highest chance of continual conversion.
Stages of your B2B sales pipeline
No two sales processes are identical; some businesses offer demonstrations or trial periods as part of their nurture within a sales process, others run straight into negotiation. Though all different, here are the basic stages many sales pipelines will cover.
- Lead generation– Your sales pipeline starts when a new business opportunity is offered to your sales team. Whether this is through marketing efforts or a sales lead generation tool like Lead Forensics, your sales pipeline always begins with lead generation. Not only is this the moment your sales team come into contact with a lead, this is the moment they start to guide them through the pipeline journey.
- Lead qualification– From here, your sales team will qualify their new lead, usually by asking questions that provide more information about their business and how well suited they are to your product. If you sell equipment suited to a specific industry (or set of industries), you’ll soon know whether new business leads have a genuine chance of becoming clients based on their sector. Other businesses use a demonstration to qualify their leads, literally showing businesses what they can gain and gauging their level of interest and need. After this qualification process, most sales process rename the lead, calling it a “sales lead”.
- Sales lead nurture– Now your sales team need to build up your product value, proving to the sales lead why they should invest and what they have to gain. There are many different ways to do this, through free trial periods, with relevant content and customer testimonials– whatever way you choose, this is a vital part of the sales pipeline, and a stage at which many leads can stagnate when not properly looked after.
- Negotiation– Pretty self-explanatory, the negotiation process is where your team nail down the details in a business proposal and decisions surrounding price and contract/services are agreed. This can be an incredibly quick transaction or can take some time. With an average of seven decision makers to convince before a sale is achieved, the negotiation process is often unpredictable.
- Sales closed– This is where your pipeline concludes; with a closed sale, the lead has completed their journey and become a client. Though your sales pipeline has done its work, the journey of customer lifetime value has begun, and another team will now work hard to continually to engage this client.All sales pipelines, no matter how intricate, will contain a journey akin to these five steps. So how can this pipeline process be improved to ensure an increased number of opportunities complete their pipeline voyage?
Keeping a healthy sales pipeline
Understanding the stages of your pipeline is important but understanding how to ensure they’re running efficiently and providing your team with the best chance of success is paramount. Here’s five ways to keep your B2B sales pipeline streamlined and effective, performing to the best of its abilities.
1) Understand your buyer journey
Take time to put yourself properly into the shoes of your target audience and ask how they reach a purchasing decision and why they reach it. Gaining a deep insight into your buyer’s mind and the journey they take to move through your pipeline helps your team discover what each pipeline stage means for the buyer, and what modifications could help your pipeline better suit buyer needs.
If your buyers don’t feel your team have provided enough value in the nurture stage, or further down the pipeline, your process doesn’t match their industry requirements, you may need a new nurture strategy or qualifiers, to better your pipeline process and match it perfectly to your buyer expectations.
Why not start by approaching your loyal client base and asking about how they came to a decision on your product, and why they chose your solution? This offers an exciting window into the mind of your current prospects, and what they might be thinking whilst moving through their buyer journey.
2) Create sales collateral
Creating a library of assets your sales team can use at every stage of the pipeline to better their proposition and propel their lead movement is a hugely beneficial strategy. A strong sales pipeline will offer potential clients a business proposal, and sometimes additional assets surrounding your product and current clients; they don’t just help improve product value, they also show leads how much thought and care has gone into offering them a high-end buyer journey. A properly branded, personalized business proposal meeting the lead’s business pain points is far more effective and impressive than a blanket business proposal that could have been written by any of your competitors.
Look again to your pipeline, as ask what collateral would assist your team in putting across your solution’s value, and what assets your buyers would find beneficial when making an important decision and discussing options with colleagues. Create a collateral pipeline that runs in tandem with that of sales, allowing your team to access high-quality and appropriately branded material they can use to improve lead quality for bigger sales wins and increase pipeline conversion for improved sales success.
3) Time each stage of the funnel
A defining feature of B2B sales that sets them apart from consumer sales is their time-frame. B2B sales take much longer, and many wish they could be sped up. Once you’ve outlined the specific stages within your sales pipeline, record the time each lead takes to move onto the next stage of the pipeline and discover at which stages leads stagnate or withdraw from your pipeline.
This is invaluable insight; understanding what sections of your pipeline can slow the process down provides a solution to a sped-up sales process. The knowledge of when leads stagnate prove when your team struggle and helps you discover pipeline weaknesses and identifying the most prominent stages for lead withdrawal helps you re-evaluate pipeline flow to ensure minimal leakage.
One of the best ways to improve your pipeline and increase its health is to properly measure your current situation, making changes that reflect your discoveries. If you see that leads often stagnate at your negotiation stage, you know to adjust your business proposal or pricing discussions; if leads are lost from the qualifying stage of your pipeline, question your current qualifiers and ask why they drive leads away.
4) Qualify with clever questions
The process your sales team use to qualify leads may already be effective and not show any specific weaknesses, but a few tweaks to this early pipeline process can have a huge effect on your later success. The questions used to qualify your leads and evolve them into sales leads can serve multiple purposes; they not only help you assess the lead’s appropriateness for your product whilst gaining valuable data surrounding their needs, they give you the chance to plant seeds in the mind of your lead that later grow into curiosity, helping them further down the pipeline.
Asking questions surrounding the lead’s current business problems, and how, if unsolved, they could escalate provides your team with information surrounding the lead’s motives whilst encouraging the lead to face their business problems and become concerned about them. This sparks their curiosity, which is met with a solution proposed by your sales team, creating a sense of need and urgency, meaning sales leads are likely to continue through your pipeline with purpose.
Look to your qualifying questions and ask how they influence the mind of your buyer; ask what opportunities they offer to sway the lead’s thought process, and how they can later paint your solution in a positive, exciting light.
5) Assign a yield probability
For those committed to creating the ultimate, streamlined B2B sales pipeline, assigning a yield probability offers the perfect targets for your team to aim for. This process involves assigning a percentage value between each stage of your pipeline, of how many leads will go onto the next stage. For example, of leads generated, you might want 50% of them to qualify. From there, you may want 65% of qualified leads to be properly nurtured. You’ll want the percentage to increase the further down the pipeline leads travel; for example, many would expect their conversion between negation and sale to be near 100%!
Look to your current pipeline and understand the percentage of leads that convert through each stage, then attribute yield probability based on your ideal targets, giving your team a palpable number to work towards. You can always improve these later, but helping your team understand what effect each stage of the pipeline should have on their audience allows them insight into how best to continually approach and engage leads.
If you’re keen to master your sales conversion and manage the ultimate pipeline for success, you need Lead Forensics. The ground-breaking sales tool identifies the businesses visiting your website, providing contact details for key decision makers. Your team can conduct impactful follow-up communications whilst managing their entire pipeline, gaining notifications of website engagement from any leads identified by the tool.
Take control of your pipeline conversion today- book your Lead Forensics trial.
Free guide –It’s time to revolutionize your B2B sales with the best tools and tactics for success. Download “Ultimate sales tools and tactics specific to B2B sales“ for free now!