Sales is the lifeblood of any company. No matter how good your service or product is, it’s impossible for your business to survive without a consistent sales pipeline.
Most sales directors realize the importance of having a sales pipeline and brainstorm a variety of tactics to keep the leads flowing. However, to get outstanding, repeatable results, you need to have an effective strategy in place.
In this article, we’ll go over a few critical aspects to your sales strategy and discuss how to build a sales pipeline that works reliably, quarter after quarter.
1. Define Your Audience
If your product is currently actively selling, or even just in beta, you’ve probably already gone through the exercise of thinking about your TAM (total addressable market). You generally know what industries your product is valuable for and which problems it promises to solve.
The difference is that when you’re building a sales pipeline, it’s time to be much more specific and really identify your ICP (ideal customer profile) in as much detail as you can.
Create a brand persona: a composite of qualities, attitudes, dreams, aspirations, and problems that are relevant for your target audience. Give your brand persona a name. List as many demographic and psychographic qualities as possible. Return to this exercise once a year to see if anything has changed and whether you need to update your brand persona accordingly.
2. Identify Customer Acquisition Channels
Once you know who your ideal customers are, you need to find an effective way of reaching them. Broadly, you have proactive and reactive options of doing so, and which one you are going to use more depends on whether your target audience is already looking for your offering (reactive) or doesn’t know you exist (proactive).
Over the years, the most common proactive type of lead generation, especially in B2B sales, has been cold calling. But as the world is moving to more and more text-based communication, direct advertising (on Google, Facebook, etc.) has become more powerful. After all, it’s configurable, scalable, measurable, and relatively inexpensive.
Acquiring customers reactively can be done through event marketing, sponsorships, webinars, content marketing, SEO, email marketing, and other activities that are targeted at raising your brand awareness and explaining your offering to people who already realize they have the need for a similar solution.
Most sales pipeline strategies will involve a mix of both reactive and proactive tactics in order to maximize the top-of-funnel volume. However, that can come at a cost (monetary and otherwise) so it’s important to carefully consider your resources and ensure they are not spread too thin.
3. Consolidate Your Tools
Not only is it important to know how to build a sales pipeline, you also need to be able maintain it over time. If your sales pipeline is too complex, then inevitably information will get lost, not recorded, or not updated.
The key here is to create the most simple system that solves your most pressing problems. Having a single source of truth, such as a CRM that all departments and BDRs use to update customer information and record the state of your pipeline, is invaluable.
Too often, companies will purchase and implement tools that promise added performance, but are not utilized effectively and end up being redundant or worse - a hindrance.
4. Focus on Your Website
The centerpiece for many successful businesses today is its website, which serves two critical functions: it gives all the necessary information for every visitor to make a purchasing decision, and it provides an easy way for visitors to move along the sales pipeline.
Website visitors can contact sales through email, read through white papers or blog articles, watch promotional videos, scan through features and benefits, and more.
What would make your sales pipeline much more effective, however, is having an opportunity to engage your visitors right when they are on your website. The problem is that up to 98% of them are completely anonymous. So how can you identify anonymous website visitors and reach out to them when their interest is at its peak?
5. Augment with Chat and AI
The increasingly popular and convenient way to communicate with your website visitors today is through chat. It’s the best opportunity for your sales team to provide timely information about your product or service and collect valuable feedback.
That said, your sales resources are finite, and your team can’t simply use chat to engage every visitor in conversation. You also need to take into account the visitor’s purchase intent — so you need a way to identify anonymous website visitors who are most likely to buy or become a lead.
Scoring anonymous visitors without talking to them is not a trivial task. It involves having to capture and process hundreds, if not thousands of data points both historically and in real-time to calculate a visitor’s likelihood to buy. This is something that simply isn’t possible to do with accuracy or scale by humans. That means that the only way you can score the purchase intent of anonymous visitors is by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence.
Thankfully, there is one solution on the market that can do this. Lift AI is a buyer intent solution that uses its proprietary machine-learning model to measure the likelihood to buy of every single visitor as soon as they land on your website - this includes the 98% of your visitors who are anonymous. Lift AI has found that typically 9% of your traffic has a strong likelihood to purchase your solution, so it can connect those visitors directly to your sales team for conversion in real-time. Lower-scoring visitors could then either be greeted by a nurturing bot or offered a self-help guide (for example).