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creating a successful sales pipeline strategy

Creating a successful sales pipeline strategy

by Steve Brown on March 25, 2019

Creating and implementing a successful sales pipeline strategy is obviously a desirable goal for any company, regardless of its size. Of course, the larger the organisation, the more sophisticated the sales pipeline will need to be, but the same basic rules apply, from SMEs through to global blue chip corporates, when it comes to setting things up. The purpose of this article is to outline the main factors to consider when doing so.

Choosing the right software for your pipeline strategy

A sales pipeline normally consists of three core elements – a CRM system that allows you to store data, marketing automation software that triggers actions and events, and an email marketing solution that allows you to make contact with prospects on an ongoing basis. These days, more and more suppliers provide software that delivers all three of these elements. There are many companies to choose from – such as MailChimp, HubSpot, Salesforce, Agile, Infusionsoft and Zoho, to name but a few. This link provides useful information to help you to make an informed decision about which solution is best for your business – https://www.capterra.com/customer-relationship-management-software/

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Create a plan of attack

The first thing on the menu is a plan. You need to take a close look at your business and think about what you currently do to generate sales from all your different types of customers. This might be a fairly quick and simple process, as it is for most small-value items, or it can be a long-winded, complicated process for a larger value purchase, especially when multiple stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process. If you work in the public sector, then a sale can take even longer, especially if it is for an ongoing service.

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Frequency of contact

The next step is to think about how often you should make contact with your prospects, and what you wish to say to them. It might be that you wish to offer them a special deal, such as a free trial or a discounted price, or ask for a meeting or a telephone call to discuss their needs in more detail. We believe it is always better to send out emails less frequently than to do so too often. Why? Nobody ever got annoyed by being emailed too infrequently, but the reverse seldom applies. Use common sense to guide your decision in this respect.

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Content strategy

You may want to encourage prospects to visit a campaign microsite rather than your main website, which provides them with the opportunity to download added value information, such as market research reports or helpful educational videos. When creating content assets, you will need to think about copywriting, graphic design and web development – maybe even videos or webinars too. Don’t cut corners. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so make sure it’s a good one.

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Internal support

The next thing is to make sure that everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet when a prospect contacts your organisation. For instance, they might call up and speak to your receptionist, so that person will need to know how to treat enquiries so that each and every call is dealt with as professionally as possible. It might be a good idea to have a meeting at which everyone in the company is present to remind them all of the importance of delivering excellent customer service to prospective customers.

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Marketing-led lead generation

The next item on the agenda is the marketing-led lead generation to fill up the funnel of your sales pipeline. These activities can take any form but are likely to include advertising, direct marketing, digital advertising, social media promotion, email marketing, SEO and exhibitions. The objective of these activities is to generate traffic to your website or calls to your company, to capture data and to convert sales. Of course, the vast majority of people who visit your website won’t take any action at that time, so it is really useful to do everything possible to capture their personal information. The best option is if they are willing to provide personal details, ideally an email address, to access added value content on your website or to sign up for a special deal or promotion. This means that you can then add them to your CRM system and send out content thereafter via your sales pipeline. An alternative is to capture their IP address, and this will allow you to serve up banner ads when they surf on third party websites, which encourage them to revisit your website. You can do this by adding code to the backend of your website, but do make sure your privacy policy states this so that you are GDPR compliant. You can also add lead forensics software that enables you to cross-reference IP addresses against third-party data to identify who has visited your website – this only works for B2B channels.

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Sales-led lead generation

Leads aren’t just generated from marketing-led activities. They can come from sales-led activities too. Maybe your type of business is one where you have a very defined marketplace, or where you can identify suspects from their social media accounts or can manually research company websites to find the details of key people. It might be all about networking to develop leads and relationships. All of these details should be plugged into the CRM system too. A sales pipeline process may be automated, but that does not mean that personal touch from a sales representative cannot be hugely influential in converting a prospect into a sale. It’s a great skill to work out the right way to say the right thing at the right time to optimise the likelihood of a sale. Get it wrong, and you can postpone or lose a sale. Get it really wrong and you can upset someone for life or get a negative comment on your social media channels. It is important therefore to be agile in your approach and to modify your mindset to suit the type of response you receive. It is good advice to listen to what you hear, even if all you hear is nothing. Sales training can help in this regard.

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Sales support materials

The first meeting is the perfect time to tell prospects about everything you do so that you don’t get pigeon-holed as being a one trick pony from the word go. Make sure that you have sales support materials in place – such as a presentation, brochure and video – that clearly inform a prospect of the full range of your products or services. And make sure you implicitly convey your brand proposition – both strategically and creatively – so that they understand fully the character and personality of your business.

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Improve performance

If you have a good sales pipeline strategy in place, you will see lots of prospects becoming customers. There will always be churn; that’s why a sales pipeline is often thought of a sales funnel. The level of churn is not set for any one business. It depends on many factors, but you will be able to measure and assess your performance on an ongoing basis, and the overall aim is to always look for ways to improve conversion levels. Prospects can be identified according to where they are in the process. They might be cold, warm or hot leads. You can add in more details such as whether a meeting has taken place, whether a proposal has been submitted, and the feedback that you have received during the negotiation.

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Customer lifetime value

That’s not the end of the story, of course. It costs much more to win a new customer than to maintain an existing one, so make sure you treat new customers well. Customer lifetime value (CLV) means that it’s not just the initial purchase that matters. It’s the duration of that relationship which counts, and that’s down to the value of repeat purchases. Very often, the first purchase can be a small one, a test to see how things work out. For some businesses, a relationship can last for years and the value of that customer will be a large multiple of the initial sale. You might wish to create a loyalty programme that provides additional benefits to reward your best customers or ask them to refer your organisation to third parties, or provide a testimonial and agree to a case study. This is what we refer to as our bowtie marketing principle.

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Get in touch

It can sometimes help to engage a marketing consultant to set up a successful sales pipeline strategy. Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about who we are and how we can help. We offer a free no-obligation two-hour marketing consultation at a venue of your choice to discuss any marketing challenges you are facing. You can find out more about what we do at https://www.abacusmarketing.co.uk/ and we are always happy to discuss your needs on the phone or email. Alternatively, please fill in our contact form and we will get back to you within one working day.

Steve BrownCreating a successful sales pipeline strategy

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