6 Ways to Accelerate Sales Pipeline Results at Every Stage of the Demand Gen Funnel
There’s no shortage of interpretations of the demand gen funnel — the general drift or occasional sprint of a customer along a theoretical path to purchase. There’s no shortage of good articles about funnel theory either. It all boils down to the fact that the funnel isn’t set in stone, but whatever form your pipeline takes, these six best practices can keep your prospects on the fast track.
Best Practice #1 – Use customer intent to navigate a nonlinear demand generation funnel.
“No two journeys are exactly alike, and in fact, most journeys don’t resemble a funnel at all,” said Google’s Allan Thygesen in a recent article. That makes it difficult to keep up with the mixed, uncoordinated array of signals coming off a buyer. How can you accelerate a journey when the road constantly swerves and changes course? Intent monitoring can predict customer intent at each stage of the journey, no matter what direction it takes. However, if you’re only using intent data to generate new leads, you’re skipping chances to grab deep, strategic intelligence about your current targets, your customers, and even your competitors. No matter how nonlinear, complex, or unique, today’s customer journeys are defined by customer signals and activity, and are rich with intent. To modern marketers, these signals represent opportunities to deliver relevant, useful, and real-time experiences that help customers take their next step, according to Brian Solis. To accelerate a sales pipeline along a curvy journey, follow the signals. Start using intent data to up-level every stage of your demand generation funnel.
Best Practice #2 – Concentrate efforts on high-performing channels.
Optimize your campaigns by choosing the media that does the most to bring customers through the sales pipeline. If you’re tracking results, you should have an idea of which channels deliver the best results for you. Don’t stretch time and resources too thinly by including too many channels that don’t really deliver. Adding more channels won’t solve the problem of a slow sales pipeline. Since performance can change over time, keep monitoring your channels to make sure you still have the right mix. Go with what works, but don’t rule out experimenting with others.
Best Practice #3 – Always be closing.
Moving a customer through a demand generation funnel (whatever it looks like) is really a series of small conversions. You want to keep giving the prospect a reason to say “yes” and always move to the next step, whether it’s viewing a video or downloading a case study. This series of small commitments gradually invests the buyer in your solution and coaxes them into a buying relationship. Plot out a strategy for these ongoing “closes” and make the conversion steps easy so that you accelerate your sales pipeline. The moment they stop saying yes, your pipeline stops, too. As prospects get closer to the desired outcome, make the commitments more significant and meaningful. Your goal is also to pre-qualify prospects by helping them decide if your product is a good fit for them, while you decide if it’s worthwhile for Sales to engage.
Best Practice #4 – Send leads to landing pages with clear CTAs.
Landing page visits can accelerate your sales pipeline if you build them to drive conversions. A relevant landing page with a clear call to action is more engaging to a visitor than being dumped on your homepage with nowhere to go. For every web page, make it a practice to answer the question “What do I want this person to do?” then give them that chance with multiple calls to action on the page. Faster conversion leads to a faster pipeline.
Best Practice #5 – Use lead scoring and automation to increase sales pipeline velocity.
Lead scoring can improve pipeline velocity by ensuring prospects get handled correctly and promptly. When sales teams don’t have enough information or urgency to follow up, the result is often non-responsive leads and a slow pipeline. Automate lead handoffs with alerts from your CRM or marketing system to sales teams for every new MQL. Make sure the alerts contain enough specific information to accelerate followup, like potential product interest and lead source. This will help Sales prioritize efforts and move qualified leads along faster.
Best Practice #6 – Don’t neglect lead nurture, so that things keep moving.
Don’t just allow prospects to meander unguided along your sales funnel, hoping they’ll eventually attain closure. Help them reach the final destination through lead nurturing. Some companies are erratic about maintaining lead nurturing programs, but a consistent nurturing effort can accelerate a sales pipeline by keeping prospects engaged.
The average customer needs to be offered the sale SEVEN times before they’re ready to purchase. Lead nurturing pushes you to stay engaged with prospects — and that’s important, since it takes around 84 days to convert a lead into an opportunity, and another 18 days to turn it into a deal. Your sales team also benefits, because MQLs come to them well-informed and ready to take a bigger step. With tools like lead nurturing, scoring, and sales funnel reporting, marketing automation helps maintain a consistent, measurable cadence of contact. With intent data, you can create a more customized approach to nurturing based on what data tells you about the target. For example, you can segment targets who have demonstrated an interest in your company from those just researching a product.
With these best practices, you can take steps to optimize different aspects of your buyers’ journeys and accelerate them through your pipeline faster. Learn more about using intent to help turn your sales pipeline into a lead machine with this “Quick Start Guide to Intent-based Marketing.”