Common Sales Pipeline Mistakes to Avoid

Do you find that your company sales are stagnating or that revenues are falling? You may chalk it to the current economic reality of a post-Covid world. But if you are serious at improving sales performance, the answer could be in found in your sales pipeline.

A study conducted by Vantage Point shows that 72% of sales managers engages in sales pipeline review sessions with their sales teams each month. But 63% believe they do a bad job of managing their sales pipelines. We identify common mistakes that prevent you from maximizing the full potential of your sales pipeline.

Not Investing in a Content Marketing Strategy

Blogs are an effective channel to increase brand awareness. This typically means leads on top-of-the-sales funnel. Blogs help your company website appear higher on search engines such as Google and Bing through Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

But to get serious in collecting qualified leads that feed into your sales pipeline, you also need to develop gated content. Gated content entails requiring a lead to leave his/her contact details on a form such as email address or contact number that allows you to reach out to them and nurture the relationship. Content Marketing Institutes’ 2018 B2B study discovered that 58 percent of B2B brands utilize content to stay top of mind.

In order to convince your reader to give up their contact information, you must offer valuable content that provides in-depth research and a unique point of view. This can be in the form for guides, case studies or whitepapers.

You don’t need to be limited to written content. Explore other media such as video content or webinars. In fact, Insivia noted in a 2018 study that 51% of marketing experts around the globe chose video content as the platform with the highest ROI. An Aberdeen Group research also highlighted that marketers found that creating videos allowed them to gain an average of 66 percent more leads per year.

This is not surprising since watching video content and attending webinars often indicate a stronger interest as it requires more time and commitment.

Not Having a Reliable CRM System

A Customer Relationship Management CRM system is vital for any B2B organization to gain a deeper understanding of their prospects’ or customers’ needs and pain points. This is vital in gaining a competitive advantage in the market due to the often complex nature of B2B transactions and its long sales cycle.

The B2B environment is complicated and multifaceted involving multiple players that sometimes have competing needs or priorities. Expect multiple considerations and requirements at different touchpoints making offering solutions challenging. Having a CRM system in place comes in very handy.
By having a platform to record up-to-date information, a CRM system allows the marketing and sales team to track each prospect or customer and assess the best way to push them to the next stage of the sales funnel. If we are talking about a sizeable database, CRM can help automate some tasks to make the process more manageable and less overwhelming.

B2B dealings are often of higher-value and involve a number of decision-makers within the organization. This means several stages in the sales process. Identifying where they are in buyer journey sales will guide your sales team or account managers on how to best approach them and help you maintain high visibility so that they don’t just fall between the cracks. Here at VA Partners we rely on Hubspot as our CRM system.

B2B CRM systems allows your sales team to oversee large amounts of lead-specific data such as webpages previously visited, contact details, email correspondences, notes on phone conversations, or purchase history. Having these key data points helps your team monitor and predict the behaviour and sales readiness of these leads.

Not Identifying Key Decision Makers

One of the major challenges faced by sales professionals is determining who in the organization to connect with to offer your products and services. As mentioned earlier, B2B sales processes typically involves several key stakeholders and decisions makers. When determining your marketing process and sales pipeline, you first need to determine who you are going to pitch to. Who will be your champion within the organization in order to close the sale?

For example, if you’re selling low-cost office supplies, the key decision maker would most likely be the purchasing department manager or an officer manager. You don’t need to go higher than that to sell your product. But if we are talking about a high value machinery or software, that entails a significant investment, the whole buying process will look very different and will involve people higher up in the organization.

Linkedin can be a very helpful research tool identifying specific people within a company. To get started, first look at the data you have on-hand on your existing customers. What were the decision makers’ company roles? How big is their company? What is their industry vertical? You can use this information to find the right contact persons inside your target organizations. If you have a shared connection, it might be worth a shot to request for an introduction from your friend or at least mention him/her when you reach out to your prospect. This will help you establish rapport and gain more trust.

Not Developing a Follow-up Process

Sales pipeline success is all about the follow-up. According to Hubspot, it usually takes on average 8 touches to close a sale. A touchpoint could mean an email, a call, a voicemail or a chat on social media platforms.

It’s not enough to focus on the first contact and just wait around for them to respond. You must keep hustling and that entails several follow-ups. I understand that you want to avoid being a pain in the neck and no one want to feel rejected. But the key to closing sales is being strategic and persistent. It depends on the context, the stage in the sales journey they are in and the kind of relationship and interactions you have had with this lead or customer.

You also need to decide which follow-up tactic would work best. Should you send an Inmail on Linkedin? A follow-up email? Or perhaps pick up the phone? If the situation is time sensitive, then it is best to opt for a phone call. Yet calling to often can also turn-off your prospect and turn a possible maybe into a definite no for being to pushy and annoying. Nurturing through email on the other hand can take months or even years. This is why CRM automation tools are god sent.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to developing a follow-up workflow. It may take some trial and error and learn as you go along. Every interaction is different. But the important thing is to have one in place and keep tweaking it until you get the best results.

Not Defining and Tracking KPIs

High-performing B2B sales teams are diligent in measuring the status of their sales pipeline. By choosing the right metrics, you are able to asses the performance and productivity of your sales team and take corrective action when necessary. Here are a few metrics you can consider.

Assess where new leads are coming from. If you can identify where how many leads are coming from where in your sales pipeline, you will be in a position to focus on and amplify efforts on sources that provide you the most opportunities. This could either be from web traffic, cold calls, social selling, email marketing, events, etc. and it helps you better allocate time and resources to the right platforms and activities.

Do you know how long it takes for your sales team to close each sale? Sales pipeline velocity determines how long it takes for leads to complete the entire sales process. If you have a longer process, this runs the risk of losing the interest of your prospect along the way. If you keep track of this metric, you will notice if opportunities are taking longer to covert. This entails assessing your strategies and making improvements to optimize the sales process and convert more prospects faster. A good formula to use: Sales Velocity = (Number of Opportunities x Deal Value x Win Rate) / Length of Sales Cycle

Do you know how much it costs to acquire a new client? You want to ensure that the money you invest is reaping rewards. Customer acquisition cost (CAC) can be a good way to measure expenses involved in converting prospects into paying customers. Knowing your CAC is vital to assessing the return on investment for your sales efforts. To compute CAC use this formula: Customer Acquisition Cost = Dollars Spent Acquiring More Customers Over a Period of Time / Total Number of Customers Acquired During the Same Period of Time.

If see that you are investing more on certain activities that don’t bring a significant return, then it’s best to discontinue them. It also allows you to compare the cost of different tactics and focus on those that maximize your profits. If you notice that that CAC is getting higher, then its worth it to investigate further on factors that are affecting this development.

There are in fact a lot more sales pipeline KPIs that you can measure. It is up to you to decide which metrics are important to help you drill down on the most effective activities and make sure your sales team is not leaving money on the table.

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