Building a Sales Pipeline: Strategies for Success Part 2: Optimizing Your Pipeline to Increase Sales
Last month, we went over the first part of building your sales pipeline. We covered how to define your customer profile, the stages of the sales pipeline, and how to establish metrics for judging how successful each stage is. Now, it’s time to look at how you can optimize your pipeline to increase sales. These strategies can be implemented when your metrics show that a stage of your pipeline isn’t performing as well as you want it to. Scaling Sales is here for you if you need help identifying problem areas or implementing these methods. Now, let’s take a look at the first thing you need to do to boost your sales.
Qualify The Leads In Your Sales Pipeline
We briefly touched on qualifying leads before. This part of the pipeline looks at potential customers and matches them to your solutions. If your solutions closely match a person’s needs, they’re likely to convert into a paying customer. If they don’t, there’s a good chance that they will fall out of your pipeline. Even if they don’t abandon your sales funnel right away, there’s a good chance that they will only make it through a couple more stages of the pipeline before dropping out. That means you’re devoting time and resources to someone who isn’t going to become a customer.
What can you do to make certain the leads you’re courting are strong candidates for conversion? One of the most popular methods is called BANT, or Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline.
Discuss the importance of qualifying leads before moving them through your sales pipeline.
Provide tips for qualifying leads effectively, such as using BANT (budget, authority, need, timeline) criteria. If a potential customer meets all four BANT criteria, they’re a strong candidate for conversion. If they meet one or two, they’re likely not going to convert, at least not right now.
What are the four criteria of the BANT process of qualifying leads?
Budget – Do your solutions fit with the customer’s budget? If your products or services are highly specialized or aimed at a specific level of customer, small businesses or new companies may not have the budget to bring you on at this time.
Authority – Is the contact you’re nurturing in a position of authority in their business? They likely do if you’re communicating with a C-suite executive or director. If the person you’re talking to is lower on the org chart, they may not be able to actually finalize a contract.
Need – Does the potential customer need what you offer? They're unlikely to convert if they don’t have a strong need for your products or services. That doesn’t mean you’ve wasted time—it’s possible the need for this particular lead simply hasn’t become strong enough for them to be looking for solutions.
Timing – When will the potential customer make their purchase? Leads who will purchase or subscribe within a month or two will need more attention than those who may not convert for six months or longer.
By qualifying leads using BANT or a similar process, you can more easily determine where to focus your energy and resources. Again, that’s not to say that you should ignore some leads because they don’t meet all of the BANT criteria. It can still be worth cultivating them, but you will want to prioritize those who may covert quickly over those who may need some long-term work.
Nurture Your Leads
New leads or leads that are not going to convert soon typically need to be nurtured. This process usually involves regular communication, making certain that the lead continues to know about your brand and what you offer. Sometimes, your nurturing efforts will focus on showing the lead how your solutions meet their needs. In other cases, you may simply want to periodically check in to see if they’re ready to move to the next stage of the sales pipeline. Either way, you’re still cultivating a relationship with them.
Finding leads is often done with targeted mailers or emails. These messages are typically customized to a point but are usually not lead-specific. During the nurturing phase, however, you may want to start personalizing messages and providing potential leads with content that they will find value in. For example, instead of giving a potential lead a list of the services you offer, you provide them with a curated list of services you know will meet their needs based on the information they have provided you.
This is also where you start personally reaching out to people. Leads who are being nurtured should have one point of contact with your company, and they should feel like they’re working with a person, not a faceless email address. This helps to build that relationship. It also gives you an idea of how each lead wants to interact with you. Some may prefer phone calls, while others may want to communicate via email or even text.
Prioritize Your Opportunities
As mentioned earlier, you will want to prioritize your leads as you qualify them. Those who are likely to convert right away by matching all four BANT criteria should be the highest priority. Following that, you will want to determine how many resources you devote to each lead. Those that are not likely to convert may simply be put on an email list for now.
Leads that meet three of your criteria might need to be highly nurtured, depending on where they are. For example, if budget is the issue, it may be clear a lead won’t convert for a year or more. You’ll still want to cultivate that relationship, but you won’t need or want to be too aggressive. If a lead tells you they won’t be able to budget for your services for a year, don’t check in every few weeks. That’s only going to annoy them.
Many businesses use lead scoring to prioritize their leads. There are a few different models for this, some of which are more useful for certain industries or types of businesses. You may even find it helpful to create your own lead scoring system. Some popular lead scoring models include the Merodio matrix, Cyberclick’s scoring system, and the tools created by Lead Pilot.
Optimizing Your Sales Process Isn’t a One-Time Task
Finally, it’s important to remember that optimizing your sales process is something of a never-ending job. That’s because the market changes. Today’s ideal customer may not necessarily be the same as tomorrow’s, or your company may go in a different direction that changes what you offer. Even changes in the economy and how people live and work can affect your sales process.
That means you’ll want to continually gather data about your leads and conversions so you can understand when and where things change. You’ll want to be able to perform analytics at any given moment to determine if something has affected your sales pipeline and give you an idea of how to fix it. Even if it’s nothing that drastic, you’ll still want to periodically examine and tweak your processes to improve your conversion rates.
This is where Scaling Sales can help. We can put our years of expertise to work for you, providing an outside evaluation of your sales pipeline and processes as well as a plan for addressing any issues we find. To learn more, reach out today to schedule a meeting.