26 April 2017 Category: Blog
A pipeline full of opportunities certainly feels healthier, than a sparse or empty funnel that will clearly not generate revenue. However, as is the case in many scenarios, less is often more. The ultimate goal is a lean, healthy pipeline with a high % of opportunities matching your target profile, moving swiftly from stage to stage, through the funnel to close.
There is a world of difference between a healthy feed of the right opportunities and a full, but poor quality pipeline, sapping large amounts of time and resource, not to mention wasted sales management time grappling with inaccurate forecasts and misleading performance indicators.
Sales people each have their own style and approach and use different skills to achieve results. Depending on your product and proposition, opportunities in the B2B space may be complex, involve a protracted path to purchase, with multiple decision makers across many job functions. All these varying factors can make it challenging to analyse and understand your pipeline performance, the key to hitting critical growth targets for your business.
So, how do you build a strong predictable sales pipeline?
To manage a pipeline effectively, you need a level of control. This requires a process and definitions that make sense to all involved, including a clearly defined target audience, and set criteria for what constitutes a ‘good prospect’. If your team is working to a shared set of criteria, you can measure the process and identify areas in need of improvement - parts of the funnel that are leaking, conversion rates above or below average – and then coach individuals around the right behaviours, establishing best practice across the team. There are tools that can help - making your team more productive, minimising administration tasks and helping enforce a more disciplined approach.
Having established clear qualification criteria, you can then move prospects in and out appropriately, and ensure time and effort is targeted to the right opportunities. This assumes a feed of good quality data and robust qualification within your pipeline process. This is where a live conversation at an early stage can pay dividends. It ensures leads from digital sources are thoroughly evaluated, nurtured with relevant content and then delivered to your sales team only when they are truly sales ready, with additional insight that increases their propensity to convert. This, of course, avoids inefficiencies and pointless costs further down the funnel, as sales chase enquiries that don’t match the ideal prospect, or are not ready to buy.
Incorporating human interaction within your qualification process is a key stage in establishing a healthy pipeline. If you have limited resource, it is worth considering outsourcing this part of the process, as the potential increase in quality of output and improved ROI can make it a very cost-effective option.