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Unlock success by crafting a robust sales pipeline. Dive into solutions for the common problem of a leaky pipeline, boosting your conversion rate effectively.
As any sales leader can tell you, the secret to success is building a high-performance sales pipeline and constantly keeping fresh prospects moving through it. Given this, it's easy to find countless articles, guides, and presentations detailing the best ways to build a sales pipeline.
However, not nearly as many tell you what to do if your sales pipeline isn't working as well as it should. One major sales pipeline issue that businesses often develop is a tendency for prospects to drop out of the sales process before conversion.
This is a situation called a leaky sales pipeline. As the name suggests, the way to address the problem is to identify the parts of the pipeline where prospects fall through the cracks and plug the holes that allow them to escape.
To help with that, here are six ways to fix a leaky sales pipeline to improve your conversion rate.
1. Create a sales cycle map
In almost all cases, a leaky sales pipeline begins with visibility problems at various sales cycle stages. In other words, a sales pipeline can develop blind spots that prevent sales staff from seeing process weaknesses in time to correct them.
To avoid that, it's crucial to create a sales cycle map that contains as much specificity as possible and make it available to everyone in your sales department. In general, a sales cycle map must include four specific pieces of information.
The first are clearly delineated parts of the sales cycle, each with its own descriptive name. Identifying issues makes localizing them easy. Then, the map must list the precise definitions of how, when, and why a customer or pending deal ends up in each stage.
Next, the map must spell out—in voluminous detail—every step that should occur in each sales cycle stage. You can and should derive a checklist that salespeople can use to shepherd a client or deal to each successive stage.
To help with the mapping process, here's a step-by-step procedure you can follow.
2. Collect the right data to identify leaks
While a sales cycle map can help you isolate where leaks occur in your sales pipeline, it cannot do so alone. To do that, you need data and lots of it. It's essential to set up processes to collect and analyze data at every point in your sales pipeline.
If yours is a digital-heavy sales pipeline, doing this is relatively easy. Tools like Google Analytics can help you pinpoint sales pipeline leaks by spotlighting underperforming conversion pages and the like.
All you need to do is look at relevant statistics like page exits, bounce rates, and pages that attract large volumes of traffic that don't end up converting. Then, you can run A/B tests and multivariate tests to isolate the problems and correct them, stopping your leaks.
You can collect data from call transcriptions and other correspondence with prospects if your pipeline is predominantly offline. Using that data, it's typically possible to correlate certain parts of a sales pitch or interactions with prospects that lead to a leaky sales pipeline.
Then, you can alter your approach and collect more data to figure out the best approach to plug the leak.
3. Give sales reps leak-busting insights
In reality, it's not always possible to automate away every leak in your sales pipeline. In other words, some leaks can stem from innumerable tiny roadblocks that may or may not crop up in every sales interaction.
This requires all sales staff to thoroughly know every conceivable situation that could lead a prospect to exit the pipeline. The trouble is that it's not feasible to expect every sales rep to be adept at spotting the signs of a pipeline exit fast enough to prevent it.
To solve that problem, it's important to place as much insightful data at the disposal of sales reps as possible. Platforms like Demoleap do an excellent job at this. It has a built-in AI utility that monitors sales calls in real time and gives sales reps instant answers to customer questions, as well as insights and guidance derived from aggregated successful sales call data.
This not only gives sales reps the information they lack in real time but also provides sales leaders with much-needed clarity in order to keep prospects moving smoothly through the sales pipeline.
4. Use lead scoring to improve prospect quality
Sometimes, a leaky sales pipeline doesn't result from process faults in the sales journey. Instead, it may simply reflect the fact that the prospects entering the pipeline aren't the ones your business needs to focus on.
There will always be some prospects who will never convert—no matter how much time and money you spend trying to get them to. So, it's a good idea to do everything possible to ensure that only high-quality prospects enter your sales pipeline in the first place.
The key to doing that is to use lead scoring. Lead scoring involves assigning numerical points to your leads based on specific characteristics that make them suitable as a target for your sales pipeline. When you're dealing with a leaky pipeline, you can analyze the specific traits of your conversions to develop a scoring system that can identify top-tier prospects.
You can also use the same information to come up with a score cutoff, beneath which you won't consider a prospect exit to represent leakage. Fine-tuning the quality of prospects entering your sales pipeline can ensure that you're not wasting resources on unconvertible subjects.
It can also help you differentiate between a leaky sales pipeline and one simply losing unqualified prospects. Once you make sure that high-scoring prospects aren't leaking, you can always go back to look for ways to lower your score threshold and include more risky prospects.
5. Boost your lead nurturing efforts
A failure in a business's lead nurturing strategies is one of the most common reasons for a sales pipeline to begin leaking. To keep prospects moving through the pipeline, there's quite a bit of hand-holding—virtual and otherwise—that's necessary to keep prospects from wandering off.
Lead nurturing means building relationships with your prospects so they'll remain willing to keep moving through your pipeline. There are multiple ways to bolster your lead nurturing efforts. However, the ones you choose should complement your existing sales workflows for the best results.
For example, if most of your sales-related interactions already occur via email, you don't want to focus all your efforts on sending more emails. This can be counterproductive and end up driving your prospects away.
Instead, it's important to try and get your prospects to divulge their communication preferences right at the beginning of their journey through your pipeline. Then, you want to base your nurturing strategy for each prospect based on that.
Communicating to a prospect what they want will keep your business top-of-mind without becoming a nuisance. That alone can help stop leaks at various points in your sales pipeline.
6. Go all-in on retention
Last but not least, one of the best ways to address a leaky sales pipeline is to go all-in on customer retention efforts. Since repeat customers have the highest lifetime sales value, and are the people most likely to successfully get through your pipeline since they've already done so, you should spare no effort at keeping existing customers happy.
Such efforts must start with a calculation of your existing customer retention rate. To do it, you must first select a statistically significant time period of at least one month. Then, calculate your total number of existing customers at the beginning and end of the period.
Next, figure out how many new customers you added during the period. Subtracting your new customers from your end total will tell you how many existing customers you ended the period with. If you divide that by your starting figure and divide the result by 100, you will end up with your customer retention percentage.
You can then take your results and compare them to the retention averages for the industry you're operating in. If your business has a below-average rate, you can tailor your near-term efforts to increase your retention rate to your industry average.
After that, try enacting retention rate-boosting strategies one by one to squeeze out every bit of customer retention improvements you can.
By using the tactics above, it should be possible to find and fix most types of sales pipeline leaks that most companies end up dealing with. However, you should always remember that no two companies are alike, and neither are any two sales pipelines.
So, you should always keep an open mind and let the data you collect guide your efforts. Then, you'll be able to claim the title of master sales pipeline plumber and earn a reputation as the ultimate leak buster for your company.
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