6 Steps to Fix a Leaky Pipeline

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leaking sales funnelLead generation often focuses on one thing above all others – funneling as many leads as possible into the sales pipeline. That’s a good thing; it helps make sure your sales reps have plenty of qualified leads when it comes time to close those deals.

But what if your lead pipeline has sprung a leak? What if you’re spending your energy pouring leads into a defective lead system that’s gushing those high quality leads you labored to create?

Tightening up lead tracking and lead management is a critical step before you begin pouring leads into a system that might not work as well as you think it does.

Here are six steps to assure that your lead tracking and management is on-point, and that every high-quality lead is captured, managed, and nurtured effectively.

1. Learn the Language

Marketing can be a jargon-fest. If you’ve been in the industry for any period of time you probably recognize and even use terms like “omni-channel activation,” “KPIs” and “cross-platform consumer engagement.”

With all the insider lingo floating around (which, often, different people define in different ways), you need to make sure that your company’s sales and marketing departments agree on, and are actively using, the key terms they share, for more precise communications (and reduced miscommunications).

This is especially important in the critical discipline of lead tracking – which has a language all its own. Your teams need to understand your organization’s lead tracking terminology and use it effectively. Here’s a peek inside the lead-tracking dictionary:

  • Marketing-Qualified Lead: This lead has come into the marketing department (no matter from what channel) and has been categorized as worthy of passing off to the sales team.
  • Sales-Accepted Lead: This lead has been passed from marketing to sales, and the sales team has agreed that it is qualified. This lead may be sales-worthy, but they still require more nurturing to get to a point where they are ready to buy.
  • Sales-Qualified Lead: This lead has been accepted by sales and has shown a level of interest that makes the sales team think the lead will buy within a certain amount of time.
  • Opportunity: This is a sales-qualified lead that has taken some sort of action (taken a meeting, watched a demo; the qualifying action will vary by company) that signals that there is momentum toward a sale.

2. Conjoin Communication Between Sales and Marketing

Lead tracking is a dual-department affair. Leads funnel into the marketing department and then get passed to the sales department to be converted. This should be a very smooth, choreographed pass.

Communication between these departments is essential. If communication breaks down, leads absolutely will get lost in the communication gap. Set up regular meetings to make sure everyone is on board with the process, so all leads are carefully passed off from marketing to sales. And make sure that lead tracking is done in an organized and consistent manner across the two departments.

3. Create Content Continuously

Content is the carrot that draws leads into, and then through, the buy cycle. Make sure your content creation team is firing on all cylinders so that informative/educational content such as fact sheets, expert articles, blogs, and/or infographics are in plentiful supply for all potential customers.

When content informs and engages leads, they move further down the buy cycle, converting through the stages from a marketing-qualified lead to an “opportunity.”

continuous content creation

Keep in mind that leads look for different content during different stages of the buy cycle. They move from engagement (blog posts, expert articles) to education (eBooks and webinars) to decision points (product fact sheets and pricing guides).

A content calendar will assure that your content team is creating the right type of content on a continuous cycle. As you generate more eBooks, blog posts, and webinars, track the performance of each piece of content and continually tinker with headlines, tags and distribution methods to make sure you’re getting the most mileage out of each piece of content.

4. Score Leads Accurately

Pursuing the wrong lead while a truly sales-ready “client” passes you by is a missed opportunity that can be traced back to improper lead scoring. Lead scoring identifies your best leads, singling them out for more nurturing and individualized attention. If your lead scoring system is broken, your entire team can be off-kilter. Sales teams can be following up with the wrong people, for the wrong reasons. Highly targeted content can be dropping into the inboxes of people who can’t make the purchasing decision on your product.

To effectively score leads, make sure that your lead is interested (score them higher for filling out forms, clicking emails and downloading eBooks) but also make sure the lead is your target buyer (how many employees work at their business, what industry are they in, are they an executive or an intern?). When these lead scoring guidelines are finely tuned, make sure they are adopted and understood by all lead-generating and lead-nurturing team members.

5. Document Lead Flow Religiously

Lead flow should look like a map that shows each action by the lead and the corresponding action by the marketing and sales teams. Think of it like this:

  • Lead Action: Form filled.
  • Marketing Action: Lead scored. Lead transferred from marketing to sales.
  • Sales Action: Call made to lead. Follow up with content.

Tracking this lead flow is critical to identifying any gaps in the process, and making sure no leads are overlooked or dropped. Create this lead documentation and tracking program and then monitor it consistently.

6. Nurture, Nurture, Nurture

Most leads don’t move through the buy cycle on their own prerogative, or they move fitfully. Lead nurturing is where the sales and marketing team can speed the plow, increasing the lead’s velocity and the likelihood of conversion. Remember you are in a competitive environment. Your lead is most likely looking at multiple competing products or services. Other companies are most likely hitting that lead with emails, phone calls, and content.

Over 67% of marketers see an increase of at least 10% in sales opportunities from nurtured leads; 8% see greater than 30%. “The 2014 Lead Nurturing Benchmarking Study,” Demand Gen Reports

The Ultimate Lead Management PlaybookCollect all of your tools and target each lead with the appropriate content. If the lead is on the verge of buying, set up a full demo. If they are a further away from a purchase, educate them with an infographic, video or white paper.

Nurturing takes time and tact. Deliver value to the lead and help them with their decision without being pushy or annoying, and watch them mature in ready-to-buy customers.

Has your lead pipeline sprung a leak? Learn how to plug those holes and make sure every lead is being nurtured by downloading The Ultimate Lead Management Playbook to build or beef up your company’s lead management team.