I am not going to take the credit for coming up with the title of this blog. Bob Apollo , who I have great respect for, used this term in a really great piece of content about Proactive Pipeline Management. The points raised by Bob regarding the state of sales pipelines which I would like to expand upon I believe will resonate with Sales and Marketing leaders within technology companies.
It's an uncomfortable fact that sometimes when you take off the rose tinted glasses, you discover your pipeline may not look that great.
In this blog we look at what we mean by "flabby" and what can be done about it.So what do we mean by flabby or fit?
“The typically ﬂabby traditional sales pipeline appears to be larger but actually contains lots of waste material, whereas a fully fit sales pipeline – although it may appear smaller – is far more eﬀective at converting qualiﬁed opportunities into sales faster" - Bob Apollo @bobapollo
It's an unfortunate fact of life that unless you adopt a really disciplined approach to qualifying opportunities in your sales pipeline at each stage of the buyers’ journey that realistically cuts out the dross that you have no chance of winning, you are going to end up with a bloated pipeline that may feel good at the time but ultimately will produce sluggish results. It's a bit like having a pipeline with IBS!
So what can you do to elevate the pain and get the sales pipeline fit?
1. QUALITY NOT QUANTITY
Contrary to many Sales Managers beliefs bigger is not always better when it comes to pipelines. The success of your pipeline is determined by the quality -- not the quantity -- of the deals within. Smaller pipelines can be more productive as they have the bad deals weeded out.
It’s a fact of life that lots of leads just get stuck and never progress. Gleanster Research estimates that 50% of leads who are qualified to buy are not ready to purchase immediately. If your Sales team try calling these leads up to try and hurry them along the buying process they will most likely lose them altogether.
79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. (MarketingSherpa)
If a lead is not sales ready, it's Marketing’s job to build that relationship and move them along the sales funnel. If leads are left to just sit at the top of the funnel without nurturing, they will never become qualified and will be squandered and can anyone honestly say that they can afford to squander leads?
Lead nurturing is all about understanding the nuances of your leads’ needs and providing them with relevant content at the right time. Getting these details right and being more scientific with your lead nurturing will help you to align your Sales and Marketing teams.
If your Sales and Marketing teams are aligned, then quality of leads should be a key component of the service level agreement between Sales and Marketing. Progressive qualification is not the preserve of Sales, Marketing needs to use closed loop analytics and scoring effectively to measure the quality of leads at each stage of their lifecycle.
2. SALES AND MARKETING ALIGNMENT
To create a cohesive demand generation powerhouse team requires a clear understanding from all parties as to the overall objectives and the contribution each member makes to the achievement of results. To reduce bloat in the pipeline, there needs to absolute clarity and agreement not only on standard pipeline metrics - volume, value and conversion at each stage of the pipeline, but also the speed with which opportunities move from stage to stage in the pipeline.
3. REVIEW YOUR STRATEGY
It might seem strange to have this as a last point to consider, but the assumption is that within any business there are a clear set of goals and objectives that have been set and the strategy in place to achieve those goals. The review part comes from understanding the numbers, and then taking a long hard look at how you want to grow sales. Is it through more customers, a higher average order value, a different product set? Review and adjust the strategy with everyone, Sales and Marketing so it's all aligned.
The key to a fit sales pipeline is having a data driven set of tools to monitor progress. It's like working out on the running machine in the gym, there are key metrics you want to achieve during the fat burn programme, and you monitor those in the same way you monitor your heart rate. HubSpot’s integrated marketing automation and sales system delivers the systems you need to fight the pipeline flab, Intellegentia provides the Sales and Marketing expertise to coach you through it.
To find out more about how Inbound Marketing can enhance your pipeline and boost your sales conversion rates download our eBook: Inbound Marketing Techniques for Technology Companies.