*A sales pipeline is to a business, what blood is to the body. Without a healthy sales pipeline, the business is effectively dead. Optimizing your sales pipeline ensures you don't have any bearish months. Consistency is the key to efficient and sustainable growth.
In a world where online marketing and social media are becoming more important every day, it is vital for business managers and sales people to have a good grasp of how to increase their sales pipelines using the various channels and technology available, while still maintaining lead generation best practices.
The following are five contemporary ways to increase your sales pipeline and improve the quality of leads.
1 - Take control of your sales pipeline with data/metrics
Many sales and marketing people spend a lot of time pouring water into leaking buckets, metaphorically speaking. It was once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Sales data helps you to not only keep track of your sales objectives but to identify the leaks in your marketing funnel and plug them. Unfortunately, when most salespeople hear the word "data driven" they immediately cringe. The process of entering data into a CRM software quickly comes to mind. Reviewing pipelines, attending sales forecast meetings and business reviews all seems like a waste of precious time that could be spent on more mission-critical stuff, like making an actual sale.
Keeping track of such sales data helps you know whether your sales pipeline is healthy and what kind of impact it is having on your business. For example, you find that you have a low percentage of customers vs. leads in comparison to the industry benchmark, that's a clear indicator that the leads in your sales pipeline are not properly qualified. It could also indicate closing skills are poor and retraining is needed.
There are many sales performance management solutions on the market that provide you with quick sales metrics and which integrate well with accounting solutions.
2 - Evaluate lead quality with predictive analytics
Predictive analytics is the practice of extracting information from existing data sets so as to identify patterns and predict future outcomes and trends. In marketing, predictive analytics helps marketers predict how easy a lead will be to convert based on historical data. It is a relatively new scientific process of scoring leads based on known variables, thus, allowing the sales team focus on the leads with the highest possibility converting. Generally, predictive analytics software comes up with a score based on five data points, namely;
- Firmographic data, that is, accurate information about the organization your lead works for. For example, market size, industry, profit margins and so on.
- Demographic data, for example, the income, age, and gender of your lead.
- Geographic data, that is, the geographic location of the prospect. Even weather information plays a role, for example, the lead may not be contactable during certain hours of the day.
- Psychographic data, that is, the lifestyle and personal traits of the lead.
- Sistographic data, that is, macroeconomic factors such as the overall health of the economy and industry-specific issues.
The only caveat on predictive analytics is that you must have a steady stream of leads coming in and sales people actively working on these leads. If you have a huge bunch of leads coming in, scientific lead scoring is definitely something you can benefit from and you should consider an investment in predictive analytics software.
3 - Put in place an incentive compensation plan
Having an incentive compensation plan for lead generation in conjunction with a sales performance management solution has been shown to speed up the sales cycle and consequently, keep the sales pipeline healthy. Unfortunately, many companies have incentive plans that only reward a closed deal. But, this is a narrow incentive concept that can easily lead to missed opportunities. Good sales habits lead to healthy sales pipelines which ultimately results in closed deals. So, it is a good idea to incentivize good sales habits. Activity-based rewards are, in fact, a powerful tool for attaining broader business objectives.
4 - Improve your sales activity with gamification
Closely related to incentive compensations plans is gamification. Imagine a typical Monday morning, your sales people, suffering from weekend blues, start trooping back into the office to a backlog of emails, calls, and meetings. The same thing they do every Monday morning, not exactly exciting stuff. They go through the motions mechanically just to get it over with. Without a doubt, the quality of their leads will be wanting, to put it mildly.
Now, juxtapose that against a Monday morning that begins with an announcement of a competition that will be tracked via an interactive mobile application. Participants use avatars in the game environment and progress is tracked on a virtual running track. The first to “cross the line” at the end of each week receives a trophy and dinner in a classy hotel. The weekly winner ranks at the top of a leaderboard that also keeps track of annual progress.
This is a simple example of how game mechanics can be used as a motivational tool in a non-game context. The effect of this is to increase sales activity and consequently, improve and increase the sales pipeline.
5 - Engage in social selling
Finally, one of the best ways to increase your pipeline and improve the quality of leads is to engage in social selling. Social media networks are a treasure trove of prospects. Reach out to networks such as LinkedIn and build new relationships with people interested in your industry. Join online discussions and establish yourself as an expert in your industry.
With the proper tools, you can mine social networks for new qualified prospects and put your lead generation into overdrive. One such tool is GetProfiles, a prospecting tool for sales and marketing people to instantly build targeted prospects from professional social networks with full company details, contact with business email and information about the technology stack used in a company.
According to conventional sales wisdom, you need three times as many qualified leads than is needed to meet your sales targets. This can seem daunting if you don't know all the different ways you can increase your sales pipeline. But, you now know at least five new ways to keep your pipeline healthy and sales flowing.
Did I miss anything? If I did, please feel free to share your insights in the comments section below.