3 Keys to Optimize Your Sales Pipeline for Better Leads and More Sales

3 Keys to Optimize Your Sales Pipeline for Better Leads and More Sales

Lagging sales performance is a perennial problem for most businesses and sales leaders. Only 54.6 percent of sales representatives meet or exceed quota. When asked to identify factors contributing to this under-performance, sales leaders cited lack of qualified leads as the top culprit, ahead of other factors such as lack of sales training and absence of formal sales processes.

The dearth of qualified leads points towards an underlying deficiency in organizations’ sales pipelines. Marketing influences three-quarters of all leads, making the relationship between your marketing and sales processes a critical determinant of your sales performance. Here are three ways that improving your marketing and sales alignment can improve your return on investment by generating more lead conversions and greater revenue growth.

Create a Lead Scoring System

In order to improve the quality of the leads coming into your sales pipeline from your marketing efforts, a key is to create a lead scoring system. A lead scoring system quantifies the quality of your leads so that you can measure them and evaluate both individual leads and the effectiveness of your lead generation process.

A lead scoring system evaluates your leads by setting up categories that define what constitutes a marketing qualified lead (MQL) for your business. An MQL is a lead who is more likely than other leads to become a buyer based on their demographic background, actions they take when visiting your website, history of interacting with your business, and other variables. By defining your MQL in terms of these types of variables, you can create a scoring system that measures how well actual leads match up to a profile of your ideal buyer. For instance, you can assign a weight of 1 to each category in your scoring system, with a higher score indicating a closer match to your MQL profile.

You can design this type of lead scoring system by setting up two groups of categories to measure lead quality. First, how well does your lead fit your ideal buyer profile? For B2C leads, categories that can be used to measure this include age, gender, geographic location, income level, and other demographic variables. For B2B leads, relevant categories include company type, number of employees, revenue level, and whether the individual contact is the decision-maker at the company involved. A good way to begin creating a realistic ideal buyer profile is to use social analytics tools such as Facebook Insights to study the demographic characteristics of your actual buyers and develop buyer personas that match their qualities.

Additionally, it’s important to measure how engaged incoming leads are with the purchasing process, so that you can distinguish window shoppers from hungry buyers. To do this, you can create categories based on actions that define customer engagement, such as opening a lead generation email, clicking on a link to a landing page, downloading a white paper, or requesting a quote. For best results, analyze purchasing patterns among your buyers to determine which actions are most indicative of a tendency to buy. For example, you may find a correlation between the number of web pages visitors to your site view and their likelihood to buy.

The most efficient way to implement a lead scoring system is to automate the process by building score tracking into your customer relationship management database. An experienced CRM consultant can help you optimize the use of sales platforms such as Infor CRM in order to effectively build an automated lead scoring system into your sales pipeline.

Optimize Your Incoming Leads

Once you have a lead scoring system in place, your marketing team can use it to start optimizing your incoming leads. One way your marketing team can improve your incoming lead quality is by focusing promotional campaigns on target groups that match your ideal buyer profile as defined by your lead scoring system. This allows you to refine your marketing so that it brings in prospects who are predisposed to be more likely to buy, thereby increasing your sales conversion rate.

As leads come in, your marketing team can use their lead score to determine how to best direct them, suggests Silicon Valley Startup Marketing founder Sweta Patel. For instance, your marketing team can use the Google Campaign URL Builder tool to score the quality of incoming leads and isolate leads that meet the scoring criteria for a qualified lead. Leads that meet these criteria can then be passed on to the sales team for follow-up.

Another way your marketing team can leverage your lead scoring system is by identifying which marketing campaigns are bringing in the most qualified leads. You can then shift your resources towards emphasizing these campaigns, avoiding wasted effort and spending on under-performing campaigns.

Prioritize Highly Qualified Lead Follow-up

Once your marketing team hands off a lead to your sales team, your sales representatives can apply your scoring data to improve your conversion rates. By flagging your most qualified leads, your representatives can focus their efforts on prospects who are most likely to make a purchase. To achieve this, your sales management leaders can use your CRM tool to automatically identify qualified leads and match them to your best-performing available sales representatives.

Lead scores can also be used to help your sales team customize their sales presentations. By analyzing the specific scoring of a particular lead, your CRM tool can help your sales reps identify which products, services, and benefits are most likely to appeal to a given lead. This will help your representatives optimize their presentations and improve their conversion rates.

Properly deployed, lead scoring can optimize your sales team’s efforts and increase your sales conversion rate. In one case study by Bersin & Associates, lead scoring increased sales conversion rates by 79 percent.

Implementing a lead scoring system can help you optimize your sales pipeline by attracting more qualified leads into your marketing funnel and allowing your sales team to focus on highly qualified prospects. By building lead scoring into your marketing and sales processes, you can attract more qualified leads, increase your sales conversion rates, and boost your sales revenue.



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