When you look up B2B lead generation online, there’s a lot of other jargon intertwined under this broad business growth term—leads, inbound and outbound marketing, sales development representatives, building a sales pipeline, etc. What does any of this corporate lingo mean, anyway?
While there is a lot of lead generation terminology to learn, the phrase “building a sales pipeline” may be one of the most important for you to understand. But fear not! We’re here to cover all the sales pipeline basics for you. In this blog, we’ll go over the following:
What Is a Sales Pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a collection of prospects that your company would like to close business with. It’s important to remember that prospects in the sales pipeline aren’t a list of businesses that are ready to buy—they’re opportunities for your sales development representatives (SDRs) to introduce to your company, qualify the lead, nurture the relationship, and set sales appointments.
In the grand scheme of things, the end goal of sales pipeline management is to convert prospects into leads and leads into customers. However, there are a lot of sales and marketing actions that have to happen before a lead is ready to become a customer, including outbound sales and inbound marketing efforts. Building and consistently improving your sales pipeline gives you the opportunity to grow your business internally and externally.
Why Are Sales Pipelines Important?
We’ll be real with you. Any company can build a B2B sales pipeline. But why would they want to in the first place? Developing a sales pipeline is important for business growth because it allows you to:
- Find qualified leads: Lead qualification ensures that sales reps follow up with the right business opportunities. Without a lead qualification process in place, you risk following up with leads that have little to no impact on your business growth.
- Generate predictable growth: With a sales pipeline, your sales and development teams can generate predictable growth. This allows your company to grow at a rate that’s sustainable for your operations.
- Expand your infrastructure: A sales pipeline gives you the opportunity to not only grow your business externally, but internally as well, allowing you to take on more significant sales opportunities.
Where To Start With Your Sales Pipeline Development Strategy
A sales pipeline doesn’t just appear out of thin air, so how do you kick off your lead generation efforts? Here are some steps to help you start creating your sales pipeline:
Step 1: Create a List of Prospects
Like any lead generation program, a sales pipeline starts with developing a list of potential customers. Strategic prospecting is essential for finding leads that meet your ideal customer criteria. This ensures your sales reps only follow leads that could result in a business opportunity that meets your qualifications.
As you create a list of prospects, it’s essential that you design an ideal customer profile for the business opportunities you want. This can include:
- Job title
- Industry served
- Number of full-time employees
- Square footage of commercial space
- Product or service interests
Grouping prospects gives the opportunity to follow up with the right leads and customize your pitch based on their buyer persona. It’s important to remember that prospecting can take a considerable amount of time and effort from your sales reps, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get an immediate ROI.
Over time, your sales reps can spend time building relationships with the prospects and discovering pain points with their current product or service solutions. Even if the prospect isn’t ready to make a change to their current solution yet, at least your sales reps can nurture the relationship over time and continue to build trust.
Step 2: Understand Your Sales Process
To have a sustainable appointment setting process, you and your sales team should have a full understanding of how you want your sales process to work. A sales process should be easy to understand for everyone involved—streamlined and simple to communicate between sales team members.
For example, here at Abstrakt, our internal SDR team follows a sales process that’s been proven-effective time and time again. Before we send interested prospects and inbound leads to our sales team, our SDRs qualify them to ensure they meet our client criteria. This reduces the risk of our sales executives spending time crafting a sales pitch that has little to no opportunity to close business.
With a sales process in place, it’s much easier to pitch the right leads at the right time, reducing the amount of time they spend in the sales cycle. Additionally, it gives your sales reps the opportunity to pitch the products and services they’re most interested in learning more about.
Step 3: Set Attainable Goals
To build a sustainable sales pipeline, you must set attainable goals for you and your sales team. These goals should be for the short term and the long term. By setting long-term goals, you have something for your sales team to work towards. Your short-term goals should align with the long term so they’re easier to reach.
Here are some examples of goals you can set for your SDR team:
- Number of pitches made
- Number of sales appointments set
- Number of appointments held
- Number of deals closed
How To Build a Strong Sales Pipeline for Predictable Growth
After you’ve laid the foundation of your sales development program, it’s time to put it into action. If you want to maintain a sales pipeline for long-term growth, it’s vital that you:
Connect With Prospects
Now that your sales and marketing team has all the implementation procedures in place, it’s time to start connecting with prospects in the sales pipeline. Remember when we mentioned prospect list building earlier? Well, this is where it starts coming to use.
When beginning an outbound sales strategy, sales reps initially start the process by making phone calls or sending emails to prospective businesses. From these initial points of contact, the goal is to introduce your company to a decision-maker and create top-of-mind awareness, effectively guiding them to the next stage of the pipeline.
While setting a sales appointment after the first call or email may be the best case scenario, that’s rarely the outcome. It typically takes several warm calls and emails before a prospect agrees to meet with a business for a sales appointment. This is because a decision-maker needs to take the time to look over your marketing materials, share the information with other purchasing decision-makers, consider their options, and determine if it’s something they’re interested in.
During this first conversation with a prospect, your sales reps have the chance to learn about the prospective business, who the decision-maker is, what they currently have in place, and what they may be looking for in a B2B product or service provider. Ideally, this is the best time to qualify the prospect and convert them into a lead because it allows your sales reps to know if this is a lead worth chasing or if they’ll make it to the end of the sales funnel.
Many sales enablement teams often overlook this sales pipeline stage. However, many sales teams consider this stage to be one of the most important when it comes to building a sustainable sales pipeline.
Lead qualification is the process of determining if a prospect in the sales pipeline meets your company’s ideal customer criteria and is eligible to receive your company’s product or service offerings. Without lead qualification in place, you risk chasing leads in the sales pipeline that have little to no value to your company. This wastes a significant amount of time, money, and effort from your sales development reps.
This part of building a sales pipeline is also applicable to inbound lead generation. While a user may show interest in your company’s product or service, this doesn’t mean that they meet your customer criteria. Once a user converts themselves into a lead, it’s vital that sales reps follow up with them to ask about both their sales and marketing qualifiers to ensure they’re setting up the sales team with high-converting sales meetings.
As sales reps qualify leads in the sales pipeline, it’s vital that they gain the following information:
- Business name
- Decision-maker name
- Decision-maker job title
- Decision-maker email address
- Decision-maker direct line (if applicable)
- Lead qualifiers
By asking these questions, your sales reps know the best point of contact for your company’s product or service and if they meet your ideal customer criteria. Once you qualify the lead in the sales pipeline, it’s time to enter them into a lead nurturing campaign.
Nurture Relationships With Qualified Prospects
Lead nurturing is the process of building top-of-mind awareness and nurturing relationships with leads in the sales pipeline until they’re ready to buy. Without a lead nurturing process, you risk missing out on high-quality business opportunities.
One of the biggest problems many sales teams face with lead nurturing is that they don’t know how to do it to their advantage. When nurturing leads in the sales pipeline, it’s essential to use various communication channels to engage with key decision-makers, including making warm calls, sending them relevant email marketing collateral, and engaging with them on social media. If you emphasize one lead nurturing tactic over another, you could risk turning off the lead from ever doing business with your company.
Lead nurturing may be an essential component to building your sales pipeline, but it’s important to understand when your lead generation efforts may be too much for potential buyers. The goal with lead nurturing is to be professionally persistent without scaring them off. While you may want them to sign on with your business, it’s important to be considerate of their time and inbox because sending too much content too frequently can easily turn them off from your business.
While it may be beneficial to take advantage of all the different lead nurturing methods, your relationship-building efforts must align with the buyer persona of your target market. For instance, if you analyze your sales enablement program and see that most sales appointments come from email, then focus your nurturing efforts on sending high-quality email marketing materials rather than consistently making warm phone calls.
Additionally, just because email marketing lead nurturing campaigns work best for your target market now, this may not always be the case. When practicing lead nurturing, it’s essential to routinely analyze your sales enablement program and see what leads are more receptive to. Then you can adjust your sales enablement strategy as it seems fit.
Schedule Sales Appointments
Overall, the ultimate goal of a sustainable sales pipeline is to schedule sales appointments between a qualified lead and your business. As your sales reps schedule sales appointments, make sure they set a clear sales agenda that gives the lead a reason to attend the meeting and sign a contract with your company.
During these sales appointments, your account executives (AEs) have the opportunity to present a sales pitch and persuade a lead why your business would be a good fit for their company. At these sales presentations, you can discuss the mission and values of your company, the products and services you offer to businesses like theirs, the cost breakdown of your products and services, and the next steps in the buying process.
It can be easy to get lost in all the B2B lead generation jargon, like “building a sales pipeline.” However, the sales and marketing experts at Abstrakt Marketing Group are here to guide you through the weeds. While the phrase “building a sales pipeline” may get thrown around a lot, it’s an essential component for sustainable business growth—both internally and externally.
Our lead generation specialists help B2B companies build sales pipelines that yield predictable growth opportunities. When you’re ready to grow your company’s sales pipeline for long-term success, contact the experts Abstrakt Marketing Group!
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