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The Key to Sales Pipeline Management: Seek First to Understand

sales pipeline management
In my experience as the resident sales guy for a major digital marketing agency, people rarely know what they need. They know what they want, but they don't know how to get there. They pick up the phone to call an agency and they speak to a person like me and say "I need help with content creation and maybe some website design." I say "Great, but why? What's your goal?" They say their goal is to increase social following and website traffic, so they can generate more leads. Once again, I ask why. What good are leads? Oh, they lead to new customers. Well alright, now we are getting somewhere. 

Focus on the metrics that really matter

You don't care about leads. You don't care about traffic, and you certainly don't care about social followers. It's all about new customers. So I suggest that we focus on the metrics that really matter, the bottom line, and we can work backwards from there to develop plan of attack. The first step is to establish a clear baseline. (For some great information about how best to establish that baseline, check out this article by our own Director of Sales Enablement, Amanda Daume.) If we want to plan on where we can take their business, we first need to understand where they currently are. Typically, I ask the following questions:

  • What is the average monthly traffic? 
  • What is their clip (or conversion) rate?
  • How many of their visitors are they converting into leads? Then how many of those leads are actually qualified to hand off the sales?
  • Finally, how many of those qualified leads turn into new customers? 

The point is to get a clear understand of their marketing funnel, so you can identify where the problem actually lies. If I found out a business's website is already getting thousands of visits a month but they are only producing about ten leads, I can tell that they are in greater need of adding conversion opportunities on the site. If they are already producing 50 or so leads a month from organic traffic but only a handful are qualified, we know that we have to address the sources of those leads by reevaluating the focus keyword strategy.

The goal shouldn't simply be more traffic and more leads. The goal should be about achieving total sales and marketing alignment in order to get the right traffic and the right leads. We don't want to flood your sales team with nonsense leads. We want to build a system where leads are attracted, and converted, and nurtured until they are ready for your sales team. If the goal truly is adding more customers and growing a business, let's forget for a moment about the fact that the new client came in asking for content creation. What they really need is a better SEO strategy, more conversion opportunities on the site, and a nurturing email touch campaign. 

Move past what the client says to figure out what they really mean

The moral of this story is that simply listening to the stated needs of the client might not be enough to truly serve their best interests. If you really want to maximize your effectiveness of your sales pipeline management, you have to begin each opportunity by seeking first to understand. You have to challenge people and dig deeper to understand what they really want. But to save you all some time, everyone wants the same thing, which is new business. They want to grow. So instead of just quoting that next opportunity a price for the services the mentioned, instead take the time to ask why, and in the process help them actually think through what it is they really need.

It's easy to get overly caught up with the individual elements of a marketing campaign when you are the person tasked with producing leads. As the trusted expert, it's important to remind the new client to take a step back and look at the big picture. New leads are great and all, but let's keep an eye on the prize. You’re really helping the client to produce new customers from digital sources, so their company can scale efficiently. That is going to require a modern sales system and some coherent sales and marketing strategy. If you want schedule a conversation to discuss these topics, sales pipeline management, or to learn about how you can grow your business, fill out a form requesting a call, and we can set up a time to chat.

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