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Increasing your sales pipeline is a continuous activity that needs year-round attention and control, not something your sales staff can merely finish off the list at the beginning of the year. Businesses that actively manage and expand their pipeline produce more leads, convert at a faster pace, and bring in more money than those who don’t.

However, sales managers and teams who have an abundance of active selling to manage on a daily basis may find that efficient, continuous pipeline management seems like an overwhelming undertaking.

The good news is that pipeline management can be easily integrated into your internal processes and plans with the correct tools, techniques, and approaches. This will allow it to function as a natural part of your whole sales cycle, generating results without requiring constant attention.

This post will discuss the importance of pipeline management for your sales performance as well as particular methods and techniques for expanding your sales pipeline.

Your sales pipeline is your company’s system for moving prospects through the sales process, from lead generation to qualification and nurturing to negotiation to closing the deal. It should be tailored specifically to your organization — your target audience, internal processes, and overall business model — while following standard best practices for B2B pipeline building and management.

It’s important to note that your sales pipeline is different from your sales funnel. In short, your sales funnel is focused on your customer’s journey through the purchase decision-making process. Your sales pipeline is your organized strategy for moving prospects through this process to ultimately make a sale.

Below is a good visual example of how the two concepts are related but different:

visual comparison of sales pipeline vs. sales funnel

Companies should always be practicing active sales pipeline management. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies that effectively manage their pipelines experience 15% higher overall growth rates and see 28% higher revenue growth on average.

Strong pipeline management also creates higher levels of internal performance visibility and enables better forecasting, resource allocation, and sales team management. In short, it allows for smarter, more informed decision-making that increases your sales ROI.

Let’s go over some specific, actionable ways you can make sales pipeline growth a constant for your organization.

Start by optimizing lead generation

Lead generation efforts deliver your buyers’ first impression of your brand, and they can be a make-or-break contributor to the health of your pipeline. If you’re looking to grow your pipeline year-round, start by examining and optimizing every part of your lead generation strategy.

Ask questions like:

  • Have we defined our target customers? Are we effectively reaching them?
  • Are we using the right marketing channels and messaging?
  • What is the quality of the leads we’re generating? Do they convert at a high rate?
  • How effective is our initial lead follow-up strategy?
  • Are we using lead qualification and scoring to prioritize high-potential leads?
  • Are we collecting the right lead data?
  • Where do gaps and opportunities for improvement exist?

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it demonstrates the point — that your lead-gen strategy needs to be optimized as a starting point for improving overall pipeline health. Sloppy lead gen sets your marketing and sales team on an uphill battle to move prospects through the pipeline that may not actually be good for your solutions.

Don’t slow down when things are going well

A common mistake sales teams make is to embrace the all-too-welcome slowdown that comes after a month-end push or when sales numbers are looking ahead of forecasts. While it’s understandable for some downtime to exist, these slower periods are also an opportunity to double down and create a cushion in your sales pipeline.

Read Also: How Long Does it Take to Build a Sales Pipeline?

Experienced sales reps and managers know that even the most carefully-developed forecasts won’t always be accurate. When you encounter unexpected challenges or sales take a hit at another time in the year, you’ll be glad your cushion exists. Even better — doubling down during these times is much more low-pressure than working to hit numbers at month-end.

Here are some low-pressure but effective ways to grow your pipeline even when it’s healthy:

  • Review your prospect portfolio and touch base with dormant but high-potential leads
  • Spend time on LinkedIn and other networking groups to look for opportunities
  • Review performance metrics to look for ways to improve your sales process
  • Reading about industry news and trends to pinpoint potential buying triggers

Collaborate with your marketing team

Alignment between marketing and sales enables better targeting and more accurate messaging at the beginning of the pipeline, leading to better-quality leads that convert to sales at a higher rate. Companies with strong alignment between marketing and sales experience 38% higher sales win rates and are 67% better at closing deals.

Here are some key ways you can align your teams:

  • Collaborate on the development of ideal customer profiles and buyer personas
  • Share goals and KPIs regularly (they will likely differ a bit between the two teams)
  • Hold periodic meetings to review results and make adjustments as needed
  • Establish clear processes for qualifying and passing off leads from marketing to sales

Pursue referrals from current and past clients

Referrals are by and large one of the most effective ways to earn high-potential leads for B2B companies across industries. Research shows that 78% of B2B referrals create a viable lead for that business, and 84% of all B2B buying decisions start with a referral. To boot, referrals and word-of-mouth marketing are two of the most impactful factors in B2B buyer decisions.

A good referral program can be a massive — and mostly passive — source of pipeline growth for companies who set it upright. Online referral forms (on both your website and in email) and offering incentives to current clients in exchange for referrals are two of the best ways to begin a referral program that generates leads without requiring a heavy lift.

Leverage partnerships

Every company works with vendors and partners to keep their business running. Just like we do with customers, we put our best foot forward to partners in order to maintain strong working relationships that help our companies succeed. Partners can be just as important a source for referrals and leads as current customers.

Think about it: if someone you know asks for a referral from you, one of the first places your mind goes is to the companies you work with.

You can grow your sales pipeline by maintaining strong connections with business partners and staying on the lookout for lead opportunities that may arise from the relationship. And when you put your focus here, you’ll be surprised how many leads start making their way to you on their own.

Publish great content

There’s no doubt about it: content marketing is absolutely essential for companies who want to grow their pipelines in today’s B2B environment. B2B buyers are doing anywhere from 57-70% of their research independently on search engines and company websites before they ever get in touch with a company directly.

So what are they using to get information and evaluate options? Online content.

Publishing consistent and high-quality content such as blog posts, downloadable assets like ebooks and whitepapers, and videos on YouTube or other social media platforms yields 3x higher lead generation and 6x higher conversion rates than all other marketing strategies.

Content marketing has additional benefits particularly relevant for B2B companies:

  • Establishes brand authority on topics and products, building the critical brand trust needed to close deals
  • Improves your search engine rankings for higher visibility
  • Builds a stronger network for your company within your niche or industry as peers see and share your content

Developing and launching a content marketing strategy is no easy feat. That’s why many companies outsource it to agencies that have the expertise and resources to execute it for them. But whether you’re handling it in-house or contracting out, content marketing is absolutely essential for pipeline growth.

Create valuable sales enablement materials

Sales enablement materials are important support resources for sales reps to use as they interact with potential customers. Enablement materials could be anything from a checklist to a sales script to product specs to thought leadership content and more.

Ultimately, it all shares the same goal — to allow your sales reps to interact with customers confidently, executing best-practice approaches and having the knowledge they need to answer every prospect question or inquiry.

While sales enablement is nothing new, it has grown in importance over the past decade as buyers now do most of their research (57-70%) independently before ever reaching out to sales.

In other words: buyers no longer need sales reps to provide introductory information — instead, they want reps to be experts who guide them through their purchase decision. Empowering your sales reps to meet this challenge contributes to better buyer experiences and keeps buyers moving more seamlessly to the final stages of the pipeline.

Segment your approaches

Are you customizing your marketing and sales strategies by customer segment? If not, it’s time to start. Every segment is unique — they have their own needs, behaviors, preferences, and pain points that should be addressed as specifically as possible. Further, they expect sellers to understand and meet those needs during the sales process.

According to Salesforce, 84% of business buyers are more likely to buy from sales reps who understand their goals — yet only 57% of buyers feel that sales reps they interact with have the right knowledge about their businesses. Companies that implement an effective personalization strategy have a clear opportunity to gain a competitive advantage.

To do it, refer first to your ideal customer profile and buyer personas. Use the information to define your customer segments and prioritize them by revenue potential. Then, customize various components of your marketing and sales communications to resonate with individual segments — channels, content, email, and CTAs are just a few ideas.

Fortunately, personalization efforts can be largely automated (more on that later) without sacrificing quality, so look for ways to utilize your tech stack for more efficient execution.

Maintain a data-driven strategy

Technology today makes it inexcusable to not leverage data for better business results. Tracking your sales strategy’s performance metrics and mining them for insights on a frequent basis makes your company more responsive, agile, and targeted. It also enables you to make smarter decisions. All of this will be reflected in your results.

An easy but impactful first step is to look at your CRM’s potential to inform with data. Train your sales team on how to see and use the data. Make it an active, required part of your sales process. As you begin to succeed, you can expand out to other analytics sources like your social media platforms, website CMS, and Google Analytics.

In almost all cases, these technology tools are doing the bulk of the work for you. You just need to leverage the data that already exists to grow your sales pipeline and improve sales results.

Automate, automate, automate

Automation — especially coupled with intelligent AI technology — transformed the marketing world as we knew it. Once a technology for speeding up manual tasks, automation can now mimic human interactions to provide high-quality customer service. The result is an ability to scale marketing and sales efforts to grow your pipeline continuously.

The key to success is to strike the right balance between automation and human interaction, automating wherever possible to scale and streamline, while maintaining the human element where it’s most meaningful.

In many cases, you can combine the two. Video prospecting, for example, can be automated with templates that include both pre-recorded content and customized messages for each prospect. Customer service bots offer a 24/7 support option while maintaining the ability to redirect to a sales rep when needed.

When leveraged effectively, automation allows you to provide meaningful experiences to bigger and broader audiences, growing your pipeline without ever sacrificing quality standards.

The key to a consistently full pipeline is flow. Minimize pain points and stagnation, with unqualified leads filtered out as quickly as possible. Before building a sales pipeline, business leaders need an intricate understanding of the following:

  • Organizational goals and revenue targets
  • Sales reps’ strengths and weaknesses
  • Ideal buyer personas
  • The sales process
  • The lead qualification process
  • The lead nurturing process
  • The lead conversion process
  • Software solutions that streamline sales operations and maximize revenue
About Author


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