Whether you're just getting started in business or have a successful business up and running, sales are your company's lifeblood.
In today's digital world, creating a website that converts visitors into leads is only the first step. The inbound marketing/sales process is exactly that... a process, one which involves moving a lead from first contact, to close in a series of steps.
Lead nurturing requires management. Using various methods to continue to build trust, keep your business top of mind, provide prospects with specific valuable information, and finally offering solutions, takes time, tools, and proper management for success.
Here are some tips and tools for properly managing your sales/lead funnel in order to maximize conversions and gently guide your best prospects from first contact to the close!
What Is a Sales Funnel?
Your sales funnel is a “visual” representation of how you generate leads and nurture prospects through the sales process.
If you imagine the nurturing process as a funnel, the widest part is at the top. This is basically the earliest and broadest approach you take for generating leads.
As you move through the funnel and the opening gets narrower, you are taking those original broad-based leads and further defining them. By refining your approach as you learn more about your prospects, the information you provide becomes more directed and personalized.
This builds trust and guides your prospects through their buying process as they gather information and seek solutions.
Managing your sales funnel is about providing exactly the right information at exactly the right time in the process to move prospects forward, toward the final sale.
4 Ways to Improve and Manage Your Sales Funnel Today
There's often more than one right answer and different solutions to common problems, and some may work better for different organizations depending on their structure. Here are some tips for managing your sales funnel more effectively.
1. Minimize Friction in Your Sales Process
One of the toughest parts of sales is losing a good-fit prospect. It keeps you wondering, "What did I do wrong?"
Learn to assess where drop offs in your sales process occur and where your leads go dark. Knowing this can minimize friction in your sales process and help you determine strategies to refine and better transition leads through the funnel without losing them.
For example, when someone comes to your website and fills out a contact form, what does that process look? Someone needs to review the form submission, then route the lead to the next available rep, then that rep reaches out and tries to reengage the contact to book a meeting.
Everything that happens in that process takes time, which adds friction and potential for the prospect to drop off the radar.
A creative solution to reduce this friction is to add a redirect on the contact form to a joint sales calendar, which allows prospects to book a time with your sales team. That way, they can book a time to talk when they are ready to speak when they first reach out.
2. Stay on Top of Key Tasks
If your company brings in hundreds of leads a day, your sales team could be drowning in emails and daily tasks. In turn, it slows down your sales process.
To keep sales focused on top priorities and incoming leads, setting up task automation and reminders can be a life saver. Task automation helps make the entire sales team efficient in connecting and following up with qualified prospects.
When set up correctly, it helps your sales team complete their tasks quicker so they can continue working diligently to find valuable opportunities for your business.
3. Don't Send In Your Sales Team Too Early
One of the biggest mistakes companies make is “releasing the hounds” too early!
The first two-thirds of the nurturing process belongs to marketing. At this point, your funnel should be called a marketing AND sales funnel.
Your two teams should work together during the nurturing process to ensure the right prospects are cycling through. Aligning the tasks and goals of marketing and sales can increase your close rate significantly.
Have a logical transition point. Your marketing team’s job is to provide useful information and guide a prospect through your funnel until they give some sort of indication that they're ready and willing to buy. At this point, the qualified lead should be turned over to sales for the close.
4. Don't Lose Focus
Many organizations center their sales funnel management on their need (sales) rather than on their customers’ wants and needs (solutions and results). But the inbound methodology revolves around the customer – what they want is what you should focus your efforts on achieving.
Effective nurturing centers around asking the right questions at the right time to the right people. Sales managers need to ask their team the right questions, and salepeople need to be comfortable asking tough questions to their prospects.
Once a lead has reached a “qualified” status in the marketing process and is passed to sales, nurturing needs to continue. The right questions can lead to the right solution, but the focus needs to remain on the customer, not the sale!
5. Address a Prospect’s Pain Points First
Your job in the initial stages of contact is to understand your prospect's challenges, concerns, needs, and pain points and then work to address them. Their fear is what stalls them from pulling the trigger. Each step of the process needs to be well thought out. Here are ways you can improve this:
- Address your customer’s pain points and goals before talking features and benefits of your product or services.
- Actively listen to a prospect's concerns.
- Mirror the customer’s words instead of using long sentences and jargon.
- View objections as opportunities to offer solutions.
Tools To Help Manage Your Sales Funnel
We've all heard the phrase “the right tool for the job!” Well, this common phrase applies when managing your sales funnel, too. Providing your sales and marketing team with the proper tools is a key element for aligning your team’s efforts. Here are a few great tools to help manage your sales funnel.
Customer Relationship Management System
A good CRM is the most important tool to manage every stage of your sales funnel. Using it can help you to track leads, open deals, and view your current customers.
By cross-sharing CRM data between marketing and sales, you can effectively track customers from the marketing stages of your funnel and turn them over to sales when they meet certain pre-determined thresholds.
Also, referring back to improving your sales funnel through task automation, you can utilize your CRM to effectively “bucket” your contacts into various tasks and reminders for your sales team (if your CRM allows it.)
Email Tracking Software
Today, it's getting harder to reach the decision makers of a prospect. They're probably receiving hundreds of emails every day, and you need to make yours stand out!
You need a strategic approach with your content and to provide maximum value in every email, but you also have to be creative enough in your approach to get your emails opened.
The best way to accomplish this is by tracking your email's open and click rates. This is pretty standard from a marketing standpoint, but these numbers were often segregated from the sales team. Part of aligning your sales and marketing teams is information sharing.
By notifying sales each time a piece is opened, you give them the ability to structure their approach by understanding customer triggers.
For example, offer A is generating 50 percent more opens than offer B. Your sales team can then focus the proper offer to the proper prospect, showing how your product can meet their needs and provide viable solutions.
Meeting Scheduling Software
It used to take multiple emails to get a meeting booked. You sent your availability, they sent theirs, and it went on and on, back and forth until there seemed to be no end.
A scheduling tool can help you sync directly with your clients calendars to make scheduling a meeting as easy as clicking a button.
With the proper focus, alignment between marketing and sales, and the right tools, you can effectively manage your sales funnel to create more leads, find better right-fit prospects, and close more deals.
Aligning your marketing and sales efforts is an important step. Share data, goals, and processes and watch your conversions turn into happy customers!