Why don’t all salespeople meet their goals if their company has a well-defined sales process? Discontinuous sales processes trigger a lack of exposure and make it difficult for salespeople to guide prospects through the entire purchasing journey.
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Building a strong B2B sales pipeline having compatibility with your defined sales funnel aids in the management of deals and also helps in the identification of dormant transactions.
But, What is a B2B sales pipeline and what are the challenges in B2B sales pipeline management? And, what is a sales funnel?
What is a Sales Funnel?
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“Your Sales Funnel is a visual representation of how you manage leads and nurture them through your sales process with as much less friction as possible.”
Sales funnel (aka revenue funnel) is the marketing term given to the buying process and directly represents the customer’s journey. Thus, the sales funnel illustrates the value-added steps that the businesses weave for their potential customers to entice them to perform target actions and effectively lead them to deeper phases in the sales cycle with the final goal of making a sale.
Alternatively, it also refers to the sales process through which a business finds, qualifies, and sells its products to buyers.
However, on the horizon, we also see challenge funnels. Challenge funnels are ways to find new customers or customers that are also interested in learning. A challenge funnel is only visible to visitors who are eligible to participate. It allows companies to spend their marketing budget more wisely.
What is a Sales Pipeline?
“Sales pipeline represents viable opportunities with qualified prospects you have and what set of steps your sales process constitutes for turning those eligible prospects into paying customers.”
And one of your responsibilities would be to educate your sellers on B2B sales pipeline building value.
B2B sales pipeline outlines a sequence of phases in the sales process, right from Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) to customer and the actions that sales reps must take at each step. Here’s a crucial point to remember: the sales pipeline begins with SQL, not before.
How did the lead end up as SQL? Perhaps the lead visited your website several times, downloaded a promotional guide, or requested a demo — whatever activities or triggers were required in your lead scoring system to gain enough points to be classified as a potential customer.
A lead is marked as SQL when the lead gets found actively involved in their buying journey. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of marketing leads make it this far.
B2B Sales Process: Why It’s Important
“A sales process is the standard sequence of predictable activities, or stages, necessary to market a product or service.”
Every business should have its own structured sales process. It enables them to determine how its sales procedures are handled and managed while keeping any clogging elements out of the B2B sales pipeline.
Therefore, the sales process of a company is typically a well-organized and applied mechanism for securing sales.
A standard sales process consists of some general steps: Prospecting, Demonstrating value, Using a clean database, Qualifying leads, Managing leads, Scoring leads, Initiating contact, Offer & negotiation, Closing deals, Follow up, and Automating administrative tasks. This process gets repeated in a cycle.
As a result, sales processes are not static and have a degree of transition that varies between organizations, products, and services.
Building sales process for your B2B business
Prospecting, also known as lead generation, entails finding prospective customers to add to the top of the sales funnel. These potential customers should be people who are interested in your product/services and have shown signs of buying your business’s offering.
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Prospecting depends upon streamlined inbound or outbound marketing methods. Combining your prospect targeting efforts with your ideal buyer personas raises the likelihood that the leads you receive will become your customers.
2. Use a Clean Database of Leads
An unclean lead database can jeopardize your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and prove to be paralyzing for marketing, sales, and services teams. If the data you need becomes unusable due to the aggregation of bugs, it slows down everyone’s tasks.
Keeping your lead database clean will benefit your business in a lot of areas. It helps you stay within the database cap and make sure you don’t have to buy more storage to accommodate bad leads.
You will improve email deliverability by keeping out outdated and dead leads and reduce the chances of hitting the wormhole of spam traps.
And, eventually, you can maximize the volume of previously available data for marketing and revenue for closing more leads for your business through the fusion of redundant leads in your database.
3. Demonstrate Value
It is now time to demonstrate the relevance of what you have to offer to your prospects. Prepare to address essential questions about the unique benefits and value, as well as what challenges you can fix for them.
If you have a product that your prospects will use, then the demo stage is where you can demonstrate value and prove to them how it is the right solution for your prospects.
Demonstrate how your product will work for your customers and capitalize on the opportunity to demonstrate that you truly understand their needs and provide a way to assist them.
Also, prepare yourself to answer key questions about your unique benefits and what needs you would cater to them.
4. Keep Hold of B2B Sales Pipeline: Qualifying, Managing, and Scoring Leads
A B2B sales pipeline starts the moment when a prospect learns about your services or products. You can manage and advance that discovery through three ways: Qualifying, Managing, and Scoring Leads.
a . Qualifying Leads
Approaching the right prospective buyers is critical to your sales process because it determines how you’d increase prospecting success and find the quickest way to boost sales.
Qualifying marks the first time your reps analyze prospects or early-stage leads to gather information on the leads. Sales reps will determine if they are good enough leads suitably fitting for your business and consequently figure out whether or not those leads are likely to move ahead in their buyer journeys.
As a thumb rule, prospects should be qualified based on qualifying traits or questions on budget, designation, demographics, special needs, and possibilities for growth. From a sales perspective, the best sources of leads are referrals such as current customers, vendors, dealers, and Web and social networks.
b . Managing Leads
Managing leads is about tracking leads across your B2B sales pipeline—tracking all touchpoints with your business like email, chat, website behaviour, and nurturing and engaging them until they are ready to convert.
A good lead management software is essential to ensure that any lead from online forms, emails and chat is immediately fed into the CRM system, gauging the prospects from falling apart.
Furthermore, a lead profile is automatically populated with all the available data points such as the designation, location, timezone, business name and social media accounts. It will help track a leads’ actions and patterns on your website—visited pages, links clicked, downloaded resources.
c. Scoring Leads
Lead scoring is a method by which a numerical or categorical score is set for leads demonstrating their possible worth and desire to buy. Depending on the qualification characteristics and behaviour, a lead gets assessed and given priority.
It is important to grade your leads at various sales funnel stages because it eases your marketing and sales teams to prioritize the most valuable prospects at each stage of the sales funnel.
Furthermore, it gives you a system that allows you to maximize conversions, efficiency, and customer retention.
5. Initial Contact
After prospecting, you should make initial contact with prospective customers. Let your prospects know you exist, and you have something to meet their needs and begin to develop relationships. Traditionally, after nurturing emails, it is okay to approach with a cold call to follow-up.
In addition, as you introduce yourself to prospects, utilize email and marketing tools to assess your scope, detect response levels and follow the best conversion practices.
In this stage of your B2B sales process, you should prepare and present your sales pitch as a standard practice.
If it is to be a separate phase in the B2B sales process, then before initial contact, it is best to prepare yourself to make a memorable impression.
6. Offer & Negotiation
In this step, you must build on the ability to manage objections and resolve them effectively. It is helpful if possible challenges are known in advance to have already available answers or options as the prospects put forward their challenges or pain points in front of you.
Owing to the B2B sales process dynamics, you must also be open to negotiating and being flexible in approach. Keep in mind a predetermined number and try to get better right in the centre.
Never start with the final sale offer because that would create barriers in negotiations. Give yourself space to satisfy your potential customers’ budgetary demands and deliver the best deal for them.
7. Close the Deal
Sometimes, buyer’s remorse can occur, resulting in new questions or concerns. When you reach this stage, the most important part is to address these concerns.
Thus, It would be best to analyze further any hesitancy or obstacle your prospects might still have because it will help you resolve these remaining problems and eventually solidify the likelihood of closing deals better.
At this stage, ensure maintaining confidence and building trust for establishing a long-term relationship based on shared loyalty and fulfilment in the B2B sales process.
8. Follow Up
The B2B sales process does not finish even after the first sale is made. Your paying customers are the perfect source to be your prospects for your other products or services. Customer loyalty plays a vital role here—maintaining solid customer relationships; you can up-sell and generate repeat sales by retaining these customers.
Feed consumers by updating them on new offerings and by asking them constantly for suggestions on how you can best support them.
9. Automate & Minimize Administrative Tasks
The spine of any B2B sales process is sales reporting. Spending a lot of time on routine, administrative tasks, on the other hand, reduces productivity and creates a lot of bottlenecks.
Many times, salespeople are often required to document lengthy records that are of no benefit to management. With the help of sales automation tools, you can eliminate bottlenecks and significantly improve productivity with most administrative activities.
You can conveniently write sales emails and build professional email templates that are instantly accessible. Moreover, sales automation systems enable you to work out business forecasts effectively; you can predict potential revenue and close rates based on sales pipeline operation.
Managing leads in the queue gets simpler if you have opened up the sales departments from administrative activities.
Challenges in Sales Pipeline Management
Sales challenges are usually B2B sales pipeline challenges that extend to prospecting problems. Leads come and go, but sales problems last forever. Maybe not. Not if you have the means to solve them.
Here are some common challenges that may be clogging your B2B sales pipeline management aspirations.
1 . Generating Quality Leads
While retaining existing customers has more chances of repeat sales, you need to acquire good quality leads to meet your targets, scale the business, stay ahead of the competition, and have a healthy B2B sales pipeline.
To understand your lead quality, you need to be efficient when it comes to lead tracking. Getting a real-time view of how your marketing channels drive new leads will help you send the right content to the right leads at the right time. Bring your in-house marketing team to figure out what content strategy would work for your business and create content that caters to your target audience.
2. Qualifying opportunities or prospects
When your sales team is chasing low-quality leads, it leads to a fat B2B sales pipeline with no conversions.
Develop a mechanism to identify leads that are not responsive, segment the leads based on various factors like responsiveness, industry, etc. and produce an effective lead scoring mechanism to distinguish between hot, warm and cold leads.
3. Using the right tools
Salespeople are often under-equipped in terms of the right tools. To keep track of potential opportunities, they switch between PowerPoint, Spreadsheets, Phone, and Email.
Thus, it is necessary to address sales problems and remove bottlenecks in the B2B sales pipeline; the ways utilized are technology-backed ways to tackle sales or pipeline challenges and build a motivated and result-driven team.
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Thanks to the B2B sales pipeline, it lets an entire organization align around revenue targets; therefore, every team succeeds.
With evolving buyer demands and increasing target stresses, sales teams need a robust B2B sales pipeline management system that allows them to concentrate on relationship building, automate administrative tasks, and lets them fast-track closing more deals.