Effective lead nurturing to maximize your sales pipeline stages

A sales pipeline is an easy way to look at the process behind a sale. The pipeline theory helps break sales into manageable stages. Not only does this make it easier to establish steps and protocols, but it makes your process trackable so you can measure what’s working. Looking at your sales process in stages is also useful for identifying what isn’t working and where you can improve. These “leaks” in your pipeline are where your leads fall away.

Effective lead nurturing, or guiding prospects through your sales pipeline stages, is something that top producers are consistently measuring and working on! According to a Gleanster research report, “lead nurturing delivers four times higher engagement with prospects who are not ready to buy in the short term but still represent viable prospects.”

By better understanding the sales pipeline stages, you can evaluate the steps you’re taking to nurture leads, improve your process and correct mistakes before leaks happen. Here is a closer look at each of the sales pipeline stages and what you can do to improve your lead nurturing at every step!

Prospecting

Prospecting is how you reach new leads and make connections. When you engage with leads at trade shows or conferences, connect with people through inbound or content marketing, or re-engage with lost leads, you’re prospecting. The best way to prevent leaks at this stage is by collecting as much information about those leads as you can. Know some basics about their business, how they prefer to be contacted, and what problems they are looking to solve. This is all useful information to help you build a follow-up strategy.

Contact

The contact stage is exactly what it sounds like, taking the information you have gathered and incorporating it into a strategy for effective communications. This is one of the stages where leaks frequently occur. For instance, a “hot” lead may go with a more responsive vendor if you don’t respond promptly.

Another common mistake is giving up too soon when a lead is “warm.” They might be interested in your product but for whatever reason aren’t ready to buy. Those people need more time and extra nurturing efforts. In this case, plug the leak with automated follow-up.

Research by SilverPop found that automated emails can outperform manual emails both in open and click-through rates. However, a key part of this is to strike a balance between effective, personalized follow-up and spamming a new prospect with impersonal form emails! This is an area where it’s incredibly helpful to have a well-designed email drip campaign! A great campaign works from the first contact to managing your follow-up throughout all of the sales pipeline stages.


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Qualifying

In the qualifying stage, you determine whether a lead is ready and willing to move toward a sales opportunity. Address any concerns and examine any potential blocks to pitching a sale. Leaks are prevalent here due to mismanagement or skipping this step entirely. Don’t be tempted to skip nurturing a lead in this step and go directly to pitching. Without taking the time to ask questions, listen to your potential customer’s needs and requirements, a sales pitch comes off as pushy, and it’s often ineffective.

On the other end of the spectrum, don’t put too many steps in between the lead and discussing a proposal! Don’t drag it out, and never make the lead wait for you to catch up! That’s almost a guaranteed way to lose out on business!

Meeting and Pitching

These can be two distinct stages, if you prefer to meet and have a conversation as part of the qualifying stage and then prepare the sales proposal after. However, if the lead is “hot” or sometimes even “warm,” come to the meeting prepared with your best pitches and options to discuss! It also helps to “take the temperature” of where the lead is in the process and what they need from you to close the deal. Use it wisely!

Close the sale

If you think that lead nurturing ends once you close the initial deal, you are sorely mistaken. Follow-up is hugely important after making a sale, especially if your product is subscription-based or could include any upgrades or add-ons. In any business where retaining a customer is a top priority, your email drip campaign becomes a vehicle for a customer retention strategy.

Keep your aim on following up, watching checkpoints for customer satisfaction, demonstrating value and then decide if and when upselling is appropriate. Sometimes it’s even helpful to consider current customers similar to new leads for upselling opportunities and repeat the cycle of sales pipeline stages.


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What are your best practices for plugging or preventing leaks in your sales pipeline stages? Leave any tips in the comments!