How healthy is your pipeline? While you may be quick to defend it, there’s a chance that it’s as not efficient as it could be. If you find that many leads aren’t closing, your pipeline could be part of the issue. “Your pipeline’s health closely reflects your sales team’s success,” writes Myra Sugg for Sales Hacker.
If you suspect a leaky pipeline or some other issues, don’t panic; they can be fixed. Sugg shares seven common causes of a “stagnant” pipeline. She outlines what is causing these issues and how reps can respond to remedy the problem. A few of these causes will be discussed here:
1.) Poor Quality Leads
2.) Mid-Funnel Assets are Unengaging
3.) Lack of Funnel Exit Points
Common threats to your pipeline
Let's take a look at these three common threats to the health of your pipeline.
Poor quality leads.
Sometimes, threats to your pipeline start right at the very beginning. Lackluster leads that enter the pipeline can cause major disruptions down the road. Reps need to ensure that they are filling their pipeline with quality leads rather than any potential prospect that crosses their paths. “Often, companies choose to stuff their funnel with as many leads as possible to satisfy vanity metrics,” Sugg writes. “More likely than not, a cultural shift is needed to first recognize the problem and then apply solutions.”
To tackle this problem, reps need to conduct a deep review of their current metrics to ensure each lead that enters your pipeline is relevant. Consider buyer personas, goals, common pain points that your product/service addresses, etc. Get with marketing to confirm that their messaging is consistently aligning with sales data. Yes, all of this may whittle down the number of leads in your pipeline, but remember: It’s about quality over quantity. “It’s better to fill your pipeline with deals that are stacked in your favor than to target everyone and hope your best prospects identify themselves,” Sugg adds. Doing so saves both time and money in the long run. Director of AdMall Sales Denise Gibson agrees, adding, "You don’t want to waste precious sales time on leads that aren’t viable."
The following are three metrics to keep an eye on that can help determine if poor quality leads are an issue:
- Conversion rate
- The length of your sales cycle
- Average deal size
Mid-funnel assets are unengaging
Another common pipeline conflict is a mid-funnel that is lackluster and doesn’t keep leads engaged. This, Sugg points out, is a fumbling point for many, and it could harm your funnel. “Often, lead nurturing is thought of as a top of the funnel task, but the reality is that until a prospect signs the dotted line, they need nurturing,” she explains.
Instead of doing this, leads are often left unattended in the middle of the funnel where they risk going stagnate or falling out completely. Reps need to continue engaging with these prospects at this point, as some may need more education about your offering while others want to hyperfocus on details. Regardless of the prospect’s focus mid-funnel, you should always personalize every outreach and piece of content. Find ways to keep showing value at this point, which will boost interest and engagement. "Mid-funnel is when you get to educate a potential customer," explains Gibson. "You can send them information on potential solutions for problems that exist in their company. This shows value and that you've done your homework."
Sugg cautions against the common practice of hurrying as many leads as possible through the mid-funnel stage. Prospects can feel rushed or harried, which makes leaving your pipeline easy. Instead, “Exercise patience and focus on attracting them through your funnel instead of pushing them,” she suggests.
Lack of funnel exit points
Having funnel exit points may seem counterproductive at first. Why would you want to make it easy for leads to exit your pipeline? But making it easy for poor-quality leads to exit helps in the long run. “Without providing your less than desirable prospects to show themselves out, you’re forcing irrelevant content on them, and your metrics will naturally skew towards a lack of engagement,” Sugg explains. So what should reps do to create these exit points?
She suggests allowing for ample opportunity for prospects to tell reps what they want. Offer periodic reviews for prospects. This allows you to filter out prospects who become disinterested or realize they aren’t a good fit. Rather than pushing them through your pipeline, you are giving them a chance to decide if your product or service could really be for them.
Ways to do this include:
- Sending out surveys and questionnaires. These can give you direct insight from the prospect about how they are feeling about you and your product/service. This can also educate you more on what is (and isn’t) engaging for prospects and you can adjust accordingly.
- Keeping an eye on click rates. This will let you know just how engaged prospects are within your pipeline. Again, it also presents an opportunity to adjust your strategy or give the prospect a clear exit point.
- Putting periodic quality reviews in place. This will also help filter out prospects who have lost interest or won’t be a good fit.
While companies typically shy away from losing prospects, it’s a necessity. “If you’re afraid of too many prospects exiting, the problem lies at the top of your funnel,” Sugg explains. “Trying to ‘stop them from exiting’ is sugarcoating the problem. Tailor content to relevant personas as much as possible and allow prospects to show themselves out.”
More ways to monitor your pipeline
These are just three of the common causes of ineffective pipelines. All of Sugg’s suggestions can help you cast a critical eye on your pipeline, identify issues and take action to keep the sales flowing.