How much influence does marketing have over the sales funnel? In modern B2B organizations, it’s actually quite a lot! A common misconception is that sales is solely in charge (and therefore solely responsible) for the pace and health of their sales funnel. But now that marketers are becoming more enabled with tools like marketing automation, this isn’t exactly the case.
Today’s marketing tools have changed the way we look at the sales process. In fact, many speculate whether the traditional sales funnel even still exists, or whether it has been replaced by a more continuous cycle in which buyers are constantly evaluating and reevaluating solutions to the point of purchase. Whatever the case may be, and whatever form a buyer’s path might take, there is still a buyer journey taking place from conversion to purchase decision, and it is just as much the job of marketing to optimize that process as it is for sales.
Well, that’s easy enough to say, but how does marketing actually go about shortening the length of the sales funnel? Take a look at five ways marketers can make an impact below:
Qualify AND disqualify.
No surprise here — looking for a way to shorten your sales cycle? Focus on passing the right leads to sales, not just any leads. You can use marketing automation’s ability to score and grade leads to qualify leads based on parameters you set; conversely, you can use that same ability to disqualify the leads that will only waste your sales reps’ time (think job seekers and other vendors trying to solicit your business). When sales is only following up on hot leads, the speed at which they can move them to close increases.
Understand your buyer.
In which situation would a prospect be more likely to buy your product?
A) A prospect fills out a form on your website, downloads a piece of content on email marketing, clicks through a few pages on your site, and then receives generic marketing communications over the next few months.
B) A prospect fills out a form on your website, downloads a piece of content on email marketing, clicks through a few pages on your site, and then receives personalized communications based on their interest in email marketing and their stage in the buying cycle (top of funnel).
Buying experience B is more likely to win new business because it takes a customer-centric approach to marketing and selling. The companies with catch-all marketing strategies are the ones who are losing in today’s marketing landscape. The most successful businesses are the ones with marketing strategies that are honed to each of their target buyers. Use the data collected by a tool like marketing automation to really understand your buyer and create marketing that speaks to their motivations and pain points, and you’ll see prospects accelerate their speed through the pipeline of their own accord.
Build trust through lead nurturing.
Most buyers prefer to self-identify once they’re ready to speak to a sales rep, and it’s marketing’s job to facilitate that process through lead nurturing. Using data about prospect interests, activities, and pain points (collected through detailed prospect tracking), you can begin to build highly-targeted lead nurturing tracks. By placing prospects on these tracks, you can position your company as a helpful resource to buyers, helping to build trust throughout the course of the sales cycle. When prospects are ready to approach sales, they won’t just choose the company with the best product, they’ll choose the company they trust.
Enable faster follow-ups.
Prompt follow-ups are easy to overlook, but the consequences are dangerous. If your prospects are indicating that they’re interested and engaged during your sales process, they’re going to expect to hear from you sooner rather than later. The same rules that apply to dating apply here: if you don’t get in touch promptly, you’re going to have some damage control to do before your prospects let you back in the game. Instead of wasting time trying to repair relationships, use marketing automation to automate follow-ups so that they’re never forgotten. This frees reps up to build relationships without losing any momentum during the sales cycle.
Report on your sales funnel.
One of the best ways to shorten your sales cycle is to look at your sales funnel with a more critical eye. Are there areas where your prospects are getting stuck? Areas where they are zooming right along? What if they’re just dropping right out of the sales funnel entirely? Using a Prospect Lifecycle report, marketers can evaluate this data to see what parts of the sales cycle need optimizing. Detailed data like “average time spent in each stage” gives marketers the insight they need to ensure maximum speed through the pipeline.
Looking for more ways to shorten your sales cycle? Take a look at our “10 Tips for Accelerating Your Sales Pipeline” eBook by clicking on the banner below.