Here’s 4 suggested steps to help you clear the blockage in your pipeline.
Seriously, you won’t really know if you have a challenge with this unless you evaluate your entire pipeline, top to bottom. A complete and thorough pipeline analysis will help identify your conversion rate from their entry point whether that be website visitors, or offline sources all the way to closed new customers and all the stages in between.
What you’re looking for are major drop-offs in conversion rates. For example, you have an issue if 2% of all your website visitors plus offline leads turn into marketing-qualified leads, 10% of those turn into sales-qualified leads and 50% of those turn into sales opportunities, but only 5% of those go to proposals. If your pipe is flowing, between 50% and 80% of sales opportunities should be moving forward and requesting a proposal.
This is purely an example, the reality is a drop-off in conversion rates like the one above might be found at any stage of your pipeline. If you spend the time to look you will almost always find something in your pipeline worth fixing. Keep in mind that even the smallest improvements to each of the conversion points will contribute significantly to your revenue growth goals. After you identify and determine the blockage in your pipeline, it’s time to get ready for action.
After the deep dive, the first move is to clear the blockage. The best way to do this is to assess all the leads stuck in this stage of your pipeline. For example, if you have a lot of potential sales opportunities who have not asked for your agreements or proposals, you need to decide how many of these are actually qualified. They might not be as qualified as you thought.
Consider breaking the group into two groups: qualified and not qualified. Next, you can plan a personalised email communication to all the qualified leads in an attempt to re-engage with them and identify where you went off the rails in your sales process. The unqualified leads need an email communication, too. However, the goal there is to qualify them OUT of the sales pipeline.
I’d suggest you try to keep this simple. Your goal should be to get them back in an active sales process engaging with your sales team. Try a series of three automated emails for the leads who you’ve identified as qualified. Start with a reminder email, including a link that allows the person to contact you directly AND a link that gives them access to new content you haven’t published previously that matches who they are, and where they are in the buyer’s journey. This is going to make them feel special and start rebuilding the relationship.
Follow up with an email five days later that offers this group of people a compelling bottom-of-the-pipeline offer, such as a personal assessment, a review of their current state or some ideas on how to improve in the areas your company specialises in. Be sure to offer them something of value. Finally, send another email seven days later, and let them know this will be your last email. Ask for feedback on the process, give them your personal email address and remind them of the special offers included in the previous emails. Remember, not everyone reads everything you send. After this email, anyone who has not reconnected or has requested to be moved out of the sales process should be moved to an archived list and removed from your current marketing efforts.
There’s a consistent condition across companies that end up with blocked sales pipelines. We refer to it as the “Decision Stage Inertia”, typically this occurs when a lead requests a sales demo or consultation. Most marketers hand the lead off directly to sales, and pat themselves on the back – another qualified lead to add to my list of achievements! Ask a salesperson – would they say that lead is actually qualified!?
While the above approach works when you have a minimal amount of leads, it isn’t sustainable. Sales will get hammered with poor leads. A poor lead could mean anything from an existing customer reaching out for support to a competitor fishing for info. How a salesperson spends their time on the phone or in meetings is extremely important. If all of their time is spent chasing unqualified “demo or consultation requests,” what good has marketing really done for them?
While content requests and form submissions are a good starting point, you must think beyond the “decision” stage of the journey and train yourself to segment leads based on the needs of the sales team rather than the type of content downloaded alone. For small ‘rats and mice’ opportunities, a “demo” form submission may provide great results, when it is big deals you are after however that is unlikely. In this opportunity category, less empthasis on short-term calls-to-action, such as demos and more on high-value engagements such as meetings to share insights or trends are required.
An easy way to track your performance is to establish a KPI to measure “lead to customer” rate. The measure will over time show you how well you’re generating sales-ready leads, as well as improvements. You can do that, by taking your total number of customers for the month and divide by the total number of leads, then multiply that number by 100 to get the percentage. Benchmark your current “lead to customer” rate and use it to track the success of your pipeline unblocking actions, before you know it your sales pipeline will be free flowing again and your sales team will love it!