Using a Sales Pipeline in Lead Generation
If you are not using a sales pipeline in your lead generation strategy, now is the time to consider one to help you streamline your efforts. Essentially a system that helps you get a visual idea of how to sell your product or service, sales pipelines provide a clear plan of sales effort at any given time. This system also shows clear steps throughout the lead generation process, from deals to meetings and sales. Although this term is thrown around a great deal, making it seem like yet another random catchphrase in marketing, it plays an important role within your strategies, improving your sales considerably and boosting your bottom line in the process.
At the top of your pipeline, your leads and prospects are placed. As they come closer to closing the deal, the leads move down the pipeline. As it tracks progress as well as steps throughout the process, it is possible to add many steps, from negotiations to discovery. Deals are added to the left of the pipeline, moving through as interaction continues, until the deal is closed. The greater the visibility in your pipeline, the more effective it will be for sales. Likewise, the more opportunities in your pipeline, the more chance of reaching your sales targets.
It is essential to have a clear, organised pipeline in place to reap the benefits offered by this tool. It can take a fair amount of planning and management to grow your pipeline – the rewards are certainly worth the effort, however. To get started, it helps to understand the sales pipeline and the role it plays in lead generation.
The Importance of Building a Lead Generation Sales Pipeline
First, what is the difference between a sales pipeline and a sales funnel? While a sales or lead funnel focuses on the customer journey, from brand new leads that arrive on your site or first interact with your business, to the point they become customers, the sales pipeline is a little different. The pipeline focuses on the steps that your sales team will take to qualify leads and close the deal. Sales funnels show leads as they move through the process of converting into customers. Sales pipelines show the steps that need to happen to convert leads into customers.
Now that you understand the difference between the two, let’s take a look at the stages of the sales pipeline in a typical lead generation strategy. You could look at using a template. It can often be more valuable to develop a customised pipeline, however. The stages of a pipeline should always be aligned to your lead’s buying journey for it to be truly effective, so a tailored pipeline would work better than a template.
The first step to creating your sales pipeline is to consider the steps that buyers typically go through during the lead generation process. These would include the following steps:
- Awareness as buyers recognise their opportunity or pain point.
- Consideration as buyers begin to evaluate their needs and look at potential ways to meet this need.
- Decision as buyers finalise their decision and compare options from various companies.
Your sales pipeline would, therefore, contain stages such as:
To make the sale, you first need the customer to connect. The sales pipeline starts when customers approach your company. You can encourage this stage through lead nurturing strategies that help to drive awareness and interest and sales outreach to find customers who are a good fit for your service or product. While lead nurturing has a broader audience focus, sales outreach focuses on individuals. Both can be effective in making initial contact.
The next stage in the pipeline is lead qualification. This is an important stage as it determines whether the lead is going to turn into a sale or pan out without converting. Tactics such as lead scoring are effective here as they allow you to rate leads according to their potential to convert. Lead qualification is important to save time and effort, allowing you to focus only on the leads that have a good chance of conversion. Other than lead scoring, you could also look at a strategy such as BANT to qualify leads. BANT stands for budget (leads should have the budget to make a purchase), authority (leads should have the ability to make purchasing decisions), needs (your product or service should solve the lead’s need), and timeline (when leads will close the deal).
Next, you will move to the meet, where you will be able to know the lead better, find out what they are hoping to achieve, find out what their key pain points are, and what their needs are on a deeper level. Leads also have the chance to get to know you and your business better. At this stage, you will need to pitch your offering in a way that entices and educates prospective customers. You will also need to consider the fact that there may be objections or obstacles in the way of purchase. It is always a good idea to research your potential customer to know who you will meet, along with anything else that helps you understand the business and market. You should also carefully review your pitch and prepare with a list of questions to ask the lead well in advance. Product demonstrations and other details should also be planned carefully.
After the meeting, the next stage in the pipeline is your proposal. This is the point where you are hoping that leads have gained all the information they need to decide on whether to convert. Proposals should be presented when leads indicate that they are ready to make a decision. Your proposal will be unique to your offering and product or service. For best results, keep the language simple, keep the proposal short, focus on problems rather than products, create a personalised proposal for each lead rather than a generic proposal, provide a few pricing plans, and add visuals to illustrate your key points.
The final stage in the sales pipeline is closing the deal. At this point, there is not much more to do aside from signing contracts and enjoying the lead’s transition from a potential customer to a paying customer. You can, however, focus on post-sale lead generation to ensure that your customer stays a customer. Customer retention is just as important as acquisition, even if it does not typically feature in a pipeline.
Using a marketing automation platform can greatly help your overall lead generation efforts. Along with your sales pipeline, this tool will help you target potential leads, allowing you to grow your business from strength to strength. Contact Grapevine Interactive to learn more about how automation tools can assist your lead generation campaigns.