B2Bs sales cycles tend to be long and complex. Purchase decisions don’t come quickly. Think of it as a B2B dating (selling) and mating (sold!) game. It takes a complex, perfectly timed mix of messages, calls, preparation, patience, meetings and presentations to take a pitch all the way past the sold finish line. That mix is called your pipeline. Your sales pipeline stages are generally broken down as:
- Decision maker involved
- Presentation scheduled
So how do all these dating phases shape up in your sales pipeline? Simply put— your sales team has many different types of contacts processing your wooing at different stages of your B2B sales game.
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 can be realized and the probability of actually closing them.
So how can you increase both the number and quality of leads in your pipeline? Let’s look at a few different approaches:
More Leads Doesn’t Equal Stronger Pipeline
A natural approach to the pipeline game is overstuffing it in the hopes that some sales will stick. Not so. It’s important to strengthen your pipeline, or you may see pipes burst! Cold calling may, by definition, be a numbers game but your SDR’s focus should NOT be getting through as many calls as possible.
Instead, the should use a clever mix of concise lead generation, content marketing and perfectly timed outreach that will kick them into productive conversations. Quality trumps quantity.
Be Clear: Define MQLs vs SQLs
The first step to filling your pipeline is figuring out who belongs there. Time wasted selling to the wrong accounts is time you’ll never get back.
There are several approaches to lead qualification, but it’s important that qualification criteria encompass both fit and interest.
Fitness determines how well the lead is aligned with the company’s target market. If your target market is too broadly defined you will generate a huge number of MQLs, but your overall conversion rate may suffer.
However, the degree to which a lead is aligned with your target market should not be the only criteria for passing it on to sales. Marketing must also determine the level of interest or how close the lead is to closing.
How should you determine which leads are accepted by sales? A discovery call by a sales rep is the standard approach. The discovery call confirms fit and interest, as well as obtaining additional information on the buyer, their needs and their buying process.
Be Emotional: Business to Business is Still Human to Human
It’s easy to forget that you’re selling to humans in the B2B world. We all make decisions first based on emotions and then justify them with facts. That’s a fact!
When trying to lure prospects down the pipeline, avoid talking about benefits. Instead, tell them a good story. Your emotionally appealing story can be told during different stages of the pipeline, in different ways, to suit different needs at different times.
If you can deliver messages that your prospect truly cares about, your brand will have a cutting edge over competitors. Moreover, if your story can be re-told beyond the won deal stage, it can help invigorate stalled deals, onboard newly won deals and reup customers post-sale.
Open Doors with Creative Communication
Now that you’ve zeroed in on the perfect lead, have a great product and a great story to tell about it, you have to really stand out and get noticed to get conversations started.
Try adding direct mail to your mix. Full disclosure: that’s what we’re all about, but we also take our own medicine.
Using direct mail as your first touch frames you up for an entirely different sales approach– one that’s exciting, emotionally appealing and ultimately more successful.
Top 10 Tips and Tricks
Communication is Key: Get sales & marketing on the same page to ensure that you’re efficient in your process, from generating the correct types of leads to crafting the right brand image, so you can seamlessly translate prospects into leads and move them smoothly down the funnel.
Don your analyst’s cap: Your gut actually knows less than your data-driven insights. Streamline your process by learning what problems your customers want solved, and what role your service needs to play for them.
Engage on all channels: Social media platforms, blogs, creative content and a functional website help leads to learn more about your brand. Also, listen to what they’re saying about you – it works for us.
Generate Interest: Demand gen is critical for generating pipeline. Create interesting, relevant content, position yourself as a thought leader in your field. Flaunt that your brand truly understands its customer.
Get Personal: The more targeted and personalized your outreach and communication is, the more you’ll really be able to touch your leads and prospects, prompting them to continue to pick you your calls.
Do your homework: Take the time to really understand why your leads progress through your pipeline and how they make it past the sales line. Truly understanding their choices will inform how you will go on to make more sales.
Want to know more about using direct mail to shovel more, better leads into your pipeline? Check out our cold calling guide.