Marketing automation and sales intelligence tools can help accelerate the flow of qualified leads into the pipeline, but the fundamental shift for many companies is improving the long-term visibility of pending deals.
“It’s imperative that sales and marketing teams take a longer term view in conjunction with a ‘what can we close today?’ view,” says Louis Foong of The Alea Group. “Most companies realize that it is taking longer to close deals, yet they haven’t implemented programs that start early to assure a stable flow of mature leads.”
One of the first steps to achieving longer-term visibility is measuring the average conversion rates for prospects through different stages of the sales funnel. That means measuring from initial inquiries to qualified leads and then from opportunities to closed deals.
However, only 64% of companies have defined those pipeline stages to ensure marketing and sales agree on common definitions, according to the Executive Benchmark Assessment (EBA) from Frost & Sullivan and Bulldog Solutions.
While measuring the flow from inquiry to close is an important step, the hard work of improving the conversion rates at each stage is heavily dependent on a company’s lead nurturing programs.
According to the CSO Insights’ report, only 26% of firms had a formal lead nurturing program in place. Lead nurturing programs allow the sales team to close out the quarter by focusing on the truly hot leads that are likely to buy, while marketing continues to warm up those longer-term opportunities that need education.
“In today’s busy world, a prospect may be a perfect fit for your solution,” notes CSO Insights’ report, “but they may not have the time available to take a look at your offerings right now.”
Ultimately, lead nurturing programs help increase the volume of sales-ready leads in the pipeline, but this process requires patience, persistence and precision. The development of a prospect from initial engagement to a closed deal can vary widely depending on price point and the complexity of the solution.
Once a lead nurturing history is established, companies can build metrics for the average lifecycle of leads from initial inquiry to close. This intelligence will provide insights to support the longer-term visibility companies need into their pipeline.Google+