Years ago, a certain pizza chain made a promise that if your pizza wasn’t delivered in 30 minutes or less, it was free. You can bet that before the ad went out, this particular chain checked each step of their pizza-making process to ensure that it was optimized for speed and efficiency.
For example, it wouldn't make sense that if each time a pizza was ordered a giant block of cheese was brought out and then shredded. To expedite the process, pre-shredded cheese is necessary.
When it comes to speeding up the sales process, many businesses look for ways to improve on their own “giant block of cheese” blind spots. It’s called pipeline acceleration.
What is Pipeline Acceleration?
The world of sales and marketing would be pretty great if someone became aware of a product or service on Monday and then signed a long-term use, full bells and whistles contract for it on Tuesday. But that’s not the world we live in. Sales cycles can be long, arduous, and full of cracks that potential customers can slip through.
A sales pipeline, which is an organized, visual way of tracking multiple potential customers as they move through different stages in the sales process, is helpful in mitigating many of the problems that can arise. They are usually found in CRMs, but can be done with spreadsheets (please don’t) as well.
Because there is always a desire to generate revenue at a faster rate, moving potential customers through this pipeline quicker is often a top priority. The strategy, or set of strategies, used to decrease the time in which accounts progress from lead to closed-won is called pipeline acceleration.
Pipeline Acceleration Tactics
Enhancing Sales Enablement
Imagine telling a small child to make a birthday card for their grandmother, but only giving them a piece of paper and a pencil and then walking away. Spoiler alert: you will be greatly disappointed with the results. Now imagine a different scenario where you help the child fold the paper in half to mimic the shape of a card, provide them with crayons, and show them how to draw a nice picture.
The lesson? When you provide people, be they small children or fully grown adults, with the right tools and training, the quality of their work will be much better.
When a business provides sales reps with the necessary tools, resources, and training, they learn how to effectively engage with leads and close deals faster and more efficiently. Examples of things that can be helpful include product information, case studies, sales training, CRMs, sales intelligence software, and email automation. The addition of just one of these can noticeably accelerate a sales pipeline.
Optimizing Lead Generation
If a football team’s quarterback gets injured and they want to quickly find a way to contend for a championship, their best option would be to sign a veteran quarterback whose skill set is a great fit for the team. This would allow the team to swiftly execute their gameplan. On the other hand, if the same team instead chose to sign a rookie quarterback, who would probably need extensive nurturing, then things would move much more slowly for them with regards to achieving their objectives.
The lesson? The initial decision of who to target as your main focus can either pay dividends or cause roadblocks down the line. It’s a good message for sports teams to remember, but also a good reminder about lead generation optimization.
When a business’s sales and marketing teams (yes, marketing too! It’s not the 1980’s…) identify and target high-quality leads, using strategies such as lead scoring, the sales team can focus on closing deals with the highest potential for conversion. Not only does this result in more sales, but it helps to save time and resources that might have been used on less promising potential customers. The result? A faster and more efficient sales pipeline.
By using social media to research potential customers and tailor their sales approach, sales reps can target the most promising leads and increase their chances of closing deals. Social selling can help with pipeline acceleration by reaching a larger audience, engaging with potential customers in a more personal way, creating and sharing valuable and educational content and building trust and credibility more quickly than traditional sales methods.
Streamlining the Sales process
What if every time you wanted a bowl of cereal, you had to go to the garage to get a ladder because the cereal bowls were on your kitchen’s top shelf, carry the ladder back when done, go down to the basement to get the box of cereal, and then go back out to the garage refrigerator for the milk? Anyone would look at that process and tell you to move your bowels to a lower shelf, keep your cereal in the kitchen pantry, and move the milk to the kitchen refrigerator.
The lesson? When you make things easier to do, they get done a lot faster.
When a business optimizes their sales process by defining the steps of the sales process, automating repetitive tasks, removing bottlenecks, and analyzing data, conversion rates and overall pipeline efficiency increases.
“Our sales pipeline is too slow, we need to fix it” is the kind of sentence that, while well-intentioned, can actually set a company back because it can result in an untargeted and costly effort at fixing some vague problem.
Utilizing data and analytics can help identify specific areas where the sales pipeline can be improved. This can include tracking metrics such as lead response time, conversion rates, and pipeline velocity.
If there’s a way to get tasks done quicker and with less mistakes, a business would be foolish not to do it. Examples of tasks which can/should be automated are email follow-up, data entry, and scheduling appointments. Automating repetitive tasks can free up time for sales reps to focus on more high-value assignments.
Effective methods of leveraging technology include utilizing tools like CRM software, marketing automation software, and sales enablement software that can help you manage leads, track the progress and performance of sales teams, and streamline communication and collaboration.
Breaking Down Silos
It’s a reasonable plan to have one parent drop off a child at soccer practice, and then have the other parent come to get them when it’s over. But what if the second parent didn’t even know there was practice?
The lesson? Even very simple tasks can become impossible if individuals (or teams) do not properly communicate.
RevOps anyone? If a business’s marketing, sales, and customer success teams are walled off from one another and not communicating well, things can, and will, go south quickly. Regular and effective communication between sales and marketing teams can help ensure that leads are being effectively passed from one stage to the next. Collaboration tools like CRMs and team messaging apps can help facilitate this. This not only helps to increase revenue at a sustainable rate, but also accelerates pipeline activities.
Just Make it Easier
Pipeline acceleration really just comes down to implementing strategies and steps that target the right customers in the right way. Just as you can't make a pizza quickly if you’re bringing out a giant block of cheese to shred each time, you can’t efficiently move leads through your sales process if they haven’t been properly scored, if your sales team hasn’t been properly trained, if your sales process has too many roadblocks, and if your marketing and sales teams don't like talking to each other.