Improve the Efficiency of Your Sales Team

Improve the Efficiency of your Sales TeamIf the primary function of your business is to provide a product or service to customers, you must ensure that you improve the efficiency of your sales team.  No matter how top notch your products or services may be, if your sales process is incompetent, eventually your business will suffer or fail.  We’ve collected and compiled some top ways to improve your sales processes.

Sales Pipeline Management: A Key to Success

Measuring your sales pipeline and its ROI are a challenging for any business.  But it’s the first step in the process of making sure your sales team is working smarter and not harder.  First, make sure you’re delivering attractive content to generate online traffic.  Keep track of metrics and data to track any stagnation and to calculate how long you expect each of your prospects to spend in your sales pipeline.  Identify each type of customer in your sales pipeline – this way you can tailor up-sell offers based on a prospect’s individual behavior.

Lead Sourcing

Make sure you’re spending time tracking which leads are likely to close.  Training your sales team on the three primary ways of calculating lead sourcing can lead to a more successful sales process:

  • A conversion rate will tell your team which sales sources are converting leads to opportunities.  Using a simple formula will assist you in comparing current sources with ones you hope to use in the future.  If you find that sources aren’t working for your leads – strategize with your marketing and sales team as to why this is the case.  Are you approaching the leads from this source in the wrong way or is this simply a case of the source being unattractive to the right customer?
  • Figuring out your lead to close length will give you information on how long a lead source takes to close.  Each source that you’re using will bring your company leads at different steps in the purchasing process.
  • Average value per lead calculations will tell you which sources provide you with the best customer fit, for the best value.  Do you want several smaller sales per month or one or two big sales?  Average value per lead will help you start devoting your time and effort into sources where the best leads are active, providing you with the type and frequency of sale that you want.

Sales and Marketing:  Working Together for the Best Leads

Collaboration between sales and marketing teams takes more than just a few monthly meetings.  Encourage your sales team to give marketing feedback on the leads received on a regular basis.  This will give your marketing team the chance to make adjustments to their marketing automation program.  Products marketers should share new product features with the sales team – this will make your sales team more knowledgeable on the products.

Pinpointing deficits in your leads funnels, using metrics to measure your lead sourcing, and ensuring that your sales and marketing team are working well together are all vital ways to ensure your success.

Marketing Automation Improves Sales Pipeline Management

Sales Pipeline ManagementFor most small to mid-size B2B companies staying competitive with the “big boys” is a day-to-day challenge. Solution pricing, available resources,  and operational costs must be constantly managed to remain viable. The most important business practice, sales, is often managed poorly so perfectly good sales leads slip through the cracks as a bare-bones staff tries to hit as many leads as possible to generate revenue and earn commissions. In fact, managing your sales pipeline efficiently may mean the difference between staying afloat and closing your doors.

The good news is: there is a sales pipeline management solution available which often makes financial sense to employ yet is overlooked as a cost-effective answer to lost leads. A marketing automation platform, such as our Lead Management Automation™ solution, can focus your sales agents and boost your close rate. However, putting a marketing automation system in place will only be effective if used properly. Here are five steps to improve your sales pipeline management practices by using an automated marketing program to boost sales effectiveness and enhance your lead management practices.

  1. Develop a lead profile based upon your existing customer base. Most salespeople are particular about the leads they will pursue. They want hot leads. The trouble is that most small to mid-size B2B enterprises are not set up to efficiently provide the most sales-ready leads to their sales agents. The first step is to define an optimal lead profile based on attributes and behaviors evident in your typical customer. This profile will represent the “low hanging fruit”. A marketing automation platform allows users to define the optimal sales prospect through lead scoring criteria; once a prospect (lead) achieves a specific score, any associated information can be easily shifted to a customer relationship management (CRM) program to be used when the sales department makes contact.
  2. Track the lead source once a prospect has entered the sales pipeline. Knowing how leads have come to your company is important in addressing their needs. Most B2B buyers spend time researching solutions prior to purchase. A lead management system that includes a marketing automation platform allows a sales agent to better connect with prospects by understanding what they are seeking and what marketing messages they have responded to.
  3. Distribute leads effectively (based upon lead scoring criteria) and quickly (based upon achieving a lead scoring threshold). Many times prospects are not ready to buy when B2B salespeople contact them. A marketing automation system provides a timing mechanism that, when used properly, will deliver the best leads at the appropriate time to the sales department.
  4. Nurture prospects when they are not ready to buy. As mentioned in #3, most leads aren’t ready to buy on first contact with your company. A marketing automation program will routinely deliver marketing messages and encourage prospect engagement to move leads through the sales pipeline until they are ready for a sales call. In this way, your sales agents are speaking with leads that have been introduced to your solutions, have been exposed to support materials (such as a white paper or webinar), and have been educated to the point where sales staff can now work on buying objections.
  5. Measure your company’s marketing effectiveness. A marketing automation program will provide analytics that reveal how effective your marketing messages have been in not only attracting leads but nurturing them (moving them through the sales pipeline) to the point of a sales contact. Although small to mid-size companies can develop their own systems for measuring sales effectiveness, the time and expense involved with such efforts can be wasted if an unproven and/or ineffective system is implemented.

There are more reasons to implement a marketing automation platform as a way to improve sales pipeline management. If you’d like to find out how our marketing automation solutions can boost your sales department’s effectiveness, contact a Lead Liaison representative for a free consultation.

Why Your Sales Pipeline Needs Marketing Automation

Why Your Sales Pipeline Needs Marketing AutomationHave you thought about why your sales pipeline needs marketing automation? We came across an old post the other day that got us talking about marketing automation and the sales lead pipeline. One of Lead Liaison Revenue Performance Specialists commented that B2B lead management has been completely changed because of marketing automation. How, you ask?

1. Redefines Early Pipeline Stages

In the past, a B2B sales pipeline has typically included four primary stages: Inquiry, Lead, Opportunity, and Customer. Thanks to marketing automation sales managers can have a more well-defined view of activity leading up to a sales close. There are four newly recognized phases in today’s sales lead pipeline:  Prospecting, Awareness, Qualification, and Nurturing. These new stages have become recognized as important contributors to the sales cycle.

2. Provides Lead Scoring

B2B marketing automation provides measurements that score leads as they become more familiar with your solutions and company. The commonly quoted industry standard of 80% of first contact B2B leads are not ready to buy means that leads require deeper connections through consistent, progressively-staged messaging. During the lead nurturing process leads can be digitally scored  for sales-readiness within an MA system, which allows salespeople to focus on the hottest leads.

3. Gives Sales Agents Better Information

Sales agents have a greater understanding of sales prospects before they make contact because of the data collected through marketing automation. For example, activities such as webinar attendance and infographic views can be captured in a MA system and reveal how informed a lead is about your products. A savvy sales agent can incorporate that information into her sales approach with that lead. Often B2B prospects must be educated about business solutions. Moving leads through a sales pipeline using a marketing automation system also provides a focused product education process. Automated messaging helps lessen the educational responsibility for your salespeople.

4. Gets Marketers More Involved in the Game

In the past, marketers have had little accountability when it came to moving a prospect to a customer. With marketing automation, marketers now have more “skin in the game” when it comes to moving leads through the sales pipeline. The newly-added sales pipeline stages we mentioned earlier are, for the most part, marketing-related. Prospecting, creating awareness, and lead nurturing rely on digital messaging, social media and search engine strategies, and other marketing-related activities. And now management can see how effective digital marketing campaigns are at bringing in qualified leads through the use of an automated marketing system.

5. Provides Consistent Message Scheduling

Marketing automation uses staged release mechanisms to contact leads on a regular basis. Marketing campaigns used to rely on a lot of leg work to distribute messages; with MA that is no longer the case. From emails to blog posts to articles to press releases, digital marketing assets can be deployed at scheduled intervals using a streamlined process provided by a marketing automation system.

6. Allows Managers to Manage Better

With the incredible level of analytics an automated marketing system provides, marketing and sales directors can now analyze critical details about marketing activities. From page views to click-throughs, MA systems provide data and information that can be used to either improve good marketing campaigns or scrap ineffective ones. Some marketing automation systems require a sizeable investment and may not be appropriate for every company, but those that invest in a marketing automation system to manage their sales lead pipeline find their marketing and sales effectiveness improves. To learn more about how marketing automation can help your company contact a Lead Liaison representative.

Sales Pipeline Stages

Sales Pipeline StagesMarketers spend a lot of time on inbound marketing activities to drive traffic to their site; investing in SEO, thought leadership, trade shows, blogs, social media, and advertising are a few examples of inbound marketing. As awareness builds and new contacts enter the sales funnel it is important businesses define the right sales pipeline stages to manage, nurture, and distribute leads. Sales pipeline stages tend to vary across companies; however, we’ve established 6 sales pipeline stages appropriate for most businesses. Here at Lead Liaison, we use these exact stages to manage our business. Let’s explore how we’ve defined the 6 stages in the sales pipeline.

The 6 sales pipeline stages are

1. Just a Name

2. Engaged

3. Prospect

4. Marketing Qualified Lead

5. Sales Qualified Lead

6. Opportunity

Diagram of Sales Pipeline StagesPrior to adding a lead to your sales pipeline we suggest tracking the lead source. Marketing automation technology can help you identify whether the lead source is from a paid search, SEO, trade show, facebook, general website visit or other source. Lead tracking will help you report on marketing ROI down the road. Let’s briefly explain each of the sales pipeline stages.

Just a Name

As the name implies, these records are just a name. If you have the person’s name or email and no other insight they are simply a record, or a person, in your database. Often times marketing and sales have conflicting definitions of a lead. Separating these people from your marketing defined leads and sales defined leads helps avoid confusion over what is a lead and what is not a lead.


When a person finally responds to an inbound marketing program they are moved to the sales pipeline stage, Engaged. For example, the person could click a link in an email campaign or fill out a web form to become engaged. Please note that just because someone is in the engaged status does not mean they are a lead as there’s a good chance they’re not yet ready to speak with sales. We suggest using marketing automation technology to automatically respond to the person with a personalized message a few hours after they respond.


If the person meets the ideal profile of a buyer they become a prospect. Ideal profiles could be determined by demographics (location, job title) or firmographics (industry, company size, revenue). Again, we suggest using a marketing automation system to help qualify if someone should become a prospect. Lead scoring, a feature of most marketing automation systems, provides a mechanism to automatically qualify leads using an incremental scoring system. For example, add 10 points if their companies revenue is more than $50M and/or add 20 points if they are a Vice President. Conversely, scores can be decremented. For example, subtract 50 points if the person is a student.

Once the person becomes a prospect start lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is the process of creating meaningful dialogue with the prospect at each stage of the buying process. See the post under lead nurturing programs for 5 examples of this dialogue. The beauty of lead nurturing is that different lead nurturing “tracks” can kick in according to the prospects online activity and/or interaction with other marketing assets.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

We suggest using the score generated from your lead scoring programs to determine if a prospect makes it to the sales pipeline stage as a marketing qualified lead. Sales pipeline stages leading up to this point do not require human interaction; interaction has been personalized using lead nurturing technology. In our lead management model, we use a scoring threshold of 65 or higher. When the prospects lead score crosses that threshold we change the lead status to a marketing qualified lead.

At this stage in the sales pipeline, marketing will pass the lead over to sales. In some businesses marketing may have a sales development team or inside sales team manually qualify the lead further via a phone call or some other type of screening. At Lead Liaison, we do not change the status of the lead until sales accepts the lead and determines it’s qualified. A lead may also be put into the “Disqualified” status if there’s no match whatsoever.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

Once sales accepts a lead and deems it qualified the lead becomes a sales qualified lead. Leads at this stage typically require high-touch, personalized interaction. Sales will call the lead to further qualify them. At this point, sales can move the lead to one of three statuses: Deferred, Recycled, or Opportunity. If the lead is not quite ready to buy sales should recycle the lead. Recycling puts the lead back into a lead nurturing program managed by marketing until the lead is sales-ready. Alternatively, sales can move the lead to a Deferred status if no additional lead nurturing is warranted and there doesn’t appear to be an opportunity. If marketing, and the marketing automation system, has done its job the lead should be moved to the Opportunity status. When the lead becomes an opportunity it will have its own opportunity sales cycle.

This is the most important stage of all sales pipeline stages since quick response to hot leads must occur. We strongly recommend using an alert system to make sure marketing and the rest of the organization holds sales accountable for follow up. A marketing automation system will help you setup a closed-loop accountability process similar to the one below:

1. Send an alert via email to the responsible sales person.

2. If within 24 hours the lead status has not been changed send an alert reminder to the sales person.

3. If another 24 hours pass, send another alert reminder to sales and copy the sales person’s manager.

4. If another 24 hours pass, send the same alert to sales and the sales persons manager but this time copy a C-level executive.

This closed-loop process ensures no lead falls through the cracks while holding sales accountable for follow up and providing marketing peace of mind as the person seamlessly transitions from marketing responsibility to sales responsibility.


The Opportunity status is important for marketing to measure cost per conversion, cost per lead, and effectiveness of various lead sources. Today’s marketer is being measured on results, not activity (email opens, web visits). ROI analysis on a person’s path through the sales pipeline stages from Just a Name through to Opportunity then Customer is vital to keep a pulse on revenue generation.

Graveyard and Contact

At any of the sales pipeline stages a person can be moved to the Graveyard or Contact status. Graveyard status is a person record with a bad email or incorrect contact information. Usually, this occurs if the person has changed jobs. Contact status is when a person is converted out of the sales pipeline stages into a contact management database and is not a lead. This typically occurs when the person is a partner, reseller, or just a contact in your system that you never plan to sell to.

Contact Lead Liaison to see how our revenue generation software can help you setup your lead management process to distribute, qualify, and nurture leads through your sales pipeline stages.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What sales pipeline stages to you employ? How do you manage your stages?

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