There are few things that terrify sales managers like a leak that goes unnoticed in their funnel. Regardless of where a leak occurs, the longer it takes to find, the greater the impact will be to your forecast and the top line of the company.
Helping your team to identify funnel leakage and uncovering the root cause is key for achieving predictability on your deals. If they’re not making or beating quota, having the data to understand where deals are faltering at an individual salesperson level can help you turbo-charge your team into a closing machine.
According to SalesHacker, there are five areas to monitor for potential red flags
- Pipeline coverage is too low for your sales team to meet quota
- The rate of leads to closed deals is low
- There is a high amount of leads that haven’t been followed up on
- There is a high amount of stalled opportunities
- The rate of opportunities to closed deals is low
1. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
The first two issues require working closely with marketing and your lead gen teams to ensure that they are generating the right kind of leads and enough leads to power your inside sales engine.
Most sales teams will be quick to say they “don’t get enough leads”. And marketers will often agree, with 80% of marketers reporting that their lead generation efforts are only slightly or somewhat effective. Lack of resources, such as staff, funding, and time, remain the biggest obstacle to successful lead generation for 61% of B2B marketers.
So if you really have a lead generation problem, and not a conversion problem farther down the funnel (ie, if you’re getting great leads, just not enough of them), then help marketing out. Offer to help them with the statistics they need to increase their budget, based on your success with the leads they are handing you.
2. Let Experience Be Your Guide
On the other hand, if the rate of leads to closed deals is low, you should first check to make sure that you’re getting the best leads that generate results for your team. Analyze last year’s results to figure out the lead-to-close ratio, how many calls or appointments it took to win the deal, and what industries, revenue levels, and company sizes converted best and worst.
You may find out that your marketing department is generating leads almost entirely based on misguided volume targets or based on what your website says is your target market, as opposed to what you’re actually experiencing out in the field.
The most successful sales organizations work with the marketing team to decide on the best buyer profiles and verticals to target.
3. Keep The Lines of Communication Open
One of the most prevalent issues in an organization is “lead rot” — a high amount of leads that haven’t been followed up on. This often happens in organizations where the raw lead to MQL (marketing qualified lead) to SQL (sales qualified lead) process is not sufficiently “owned” by managers. Turnover is often high in inside sales/sales development (SDRs) , and dropped balls frequently happen when someone leaves and their leads are not transitioned quickly to someone else.
Too often marketers feel like they are throwing leads “over the wall”, with little understanding of conversion success.
Marketers are usually very enthusiastic about the opportunity to see where leads go, and to work with you to ensure that they are spending their money on acquiring the leads that will have the greatest impact on your company’s top line.
According to Hubspot, a two-way reporting system is crucial for creating accountability on both sides of the fence. With modern sales and marketing systems, both teams can track metrics such as:
- Number of leads passed from Marketing to Sales
- SQL to close ratio
- Follow-up attempts by phone and email
By agreeing upon and tracking KPIs with qualitative and quantitative feedback, the sales team can assure Marketing that the leads they are generating aren’t wasted.
In short, make sure marketing, the senior executive team, and sales are all aligned on a common understanding of the full end-to-end pipeline.
4. Challenge What You Know
If there is a high amount of stalled opportunities, or the rate of opportunities to closed deals is low; the challenge may lay in marketing, sales, or both.
Surprised to hear marketing mentioned at this stage in the funnel? Well, according to John Hall of Influence & Co., 75 percent of marketers wrongly believe that content is just about drawing people through the sales funnel. Many marketers are adept at coming up with cool gimmicks or eye-catching headlines to generate clicks and conversions. Marketing should find out what kinds of content would help your sales representatives close their deals, and collaborate with them to include relevant articles in their sales proposals.
But, if you feel relatively confident in your marketing support, yet you’ve got a high amount of stalled opportunities, or the rate of opportunities to closed leads is low, you should analyze both team and individual conversion rates across the funnel to uncover hidden trends that can help improve everyone’s performance.
For example, some salespeople might be really good at closing the deal with hot prospects that are clearly leaning toward signing, but are not as good at turning cold leads into opportunities. Others might do a great job of moving prospects from stage one to stage four, but lack the skills to move those deals quickly from “close likely” to “deal signed”.
5. Partner To Build Success
Finally, having your salespeople give each other tips and techniques based on their skillset — or even to partner up like cops on the beat — will make your salespeople feel like they are growing on the job and making important contributions to team results.
The sales pipeline can be a long and grueling process, but these well-tested approaches can help any organization get a well deserved tune-up. After all, who doesn’t want more sales?