Salesforce – It’s arguably the case that the “go-to” tool for managing people who are stuck somewhere in the middle of the sales funnel is Salesforce. Of course, once you’ve said “Salesforce,” you haven’t said everything because the company offers a suite of marketing tools. At this stage, though, you’re mainly interested in the Salesforce CRM tool so that you can keep track of your prospects and gently push them forward into the final funnel stage.

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For some businesses, sales come naturally. Leads can arrive from various marketing campaigns or existing client referrals. Through a number of conversations, those prospects may later convert into paying customers. Among many small and midsize organizations, though, the sales process can be haphazard and unstructured. As a result, sales can be unpredictable.

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LeadCrunch – “Imagine if you could reach the right person at the right company with the right message at the right time to find a new customer?” That’s the opening question in the marketing video on the LeadCrunch website. The company uses a sophisticated algorithm to help you find people in your target market. As of this writing, though, it’s meant for companies in the B2B space.

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If a sales opportunity does not move down the funnel, the sale will not happen and the opportunity should be removed, hence the “leaky” funnel. A leaky funnel is not necessarily bad; as a salesperson, you want to focus on opportunities that are likely to yield results. It is the nature of sales to have to remove an opportunity from your funnel. It does not mean that you will not sell to that account (a positive action by the customer can put them back into the funnel), but for the time being, you should centre your attention on opportunities that remain in the funnel.

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Visual Website Optimizer – As a smart marketer, you already know that it’s important to test different versions of your website design to see which one works best. That’s why Visual Website Optimizer is so valuable. It uses heatmaps to show you which design elements on your site are getting the most attention. VWO also enables you to receive feedback from visitors so that you can see exactly which parts of your site need improvement and which parts are working well. This is a critical sales funnel step that can help you pinpoint any problem areas on your site and even expedite your company’s growth.

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Your company might target financial services companies with 5,000 or more employees, or small service businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Or, you may be only interested in manufacturing companies of a certain size. Within those categories, you also might identify individual lead profiles, such as title or job description and role in the decision-making process -- e.g., economic buyer, end user, influencer. How closely a lead aligns with your ideal customer profile will determine whether and when you hand it over to the sales team.

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The execution of sales funnel stages depend on your efforts and resources. By improving brand visibility and making information related to your product/service readily available, you can build a strong database of customers and prospects. This can help you set and achieve future goals. More importantly, it is also essential to focus beyond the purchase stage, as it is relatively cheaper to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one.

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The execution of sales funnel stages depend on your efforts and resources. By improving brand visibility and making information related to your product/service readily available, you can build a strong database of customers and prospects. This can help you set and achieve future goals. More importantly, it is also essential to focus beyond the purchase stage, as it is relatively cheaper to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one. 

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LinkedIn Sales Navigator – If you’re in the B2B space, then hopefully you’re actively marketing your brand on LinkedIn. With the LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can take marketing on that social media site to the next level by finding lead recommendations that are tailor-fit to your business. It makes navigating through your sales funnel much easier.
Probability to close. Even if your sales team has hundreds of high-value leads in the pipeline, salespeople may not be successful in winning a majority of those opportunities. Estimate how likely each lead is to convert into a customer based on your team’s conversations with them, their current stage in the sales pipeline, and other criteria that signal their eagerness to strike a deal. 

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If a sales opportunity does not move down the funnel, the sale will not happen and the opportunity should be removed, hence the “leaky” funnel. A leaky funnel is not necessarily bad; as a salesperson, you want to focus on opportunities that are likely to yield results. It is the nature of sales to have to remove an opportunity from your funnel. It does not mean that you will not sell to that account (a positive action by the customer can put them back into the funnel), but for the time being, you should centre your attention on opportunities that remain in the funnel.

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The definitions of MQL and SQL (SAL) should be spelled out, and agreed upon, in a service level agreement (SLA). The SLA outlines the terms of how sales and marketing will work together. The SLA should define what MQL and SQL look like, as well as state the time frame and process each team must follow. For example, an MQL has reached a score of 75 through a combination of content engagement and web engagement and fits the ideal customer profile. It must be accepted by sales or sent back to marketing within 24 hours of being assigned. The SLA should be drafted together by both marketing and sales leadership and signed off on by both parties.

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To automate reporting and connect even more of the dots between each salesperson’s activity and overall performance, use sales management software such as a CRM platform. Teams armed with the right sales pipeline and dashboard generally are able to use the information and insights gleaned to improve their sales, cut costs, and outperform their goals. 

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You should be looking at these metrics all the time so you can assess whether you're slipping in any one area ... because you don't want to suffer a blip in your funnel. If your funnel develops a clog or hole somewhere along the way -- and it will, it's only natural -- you need to be able to identify it and fix it to keep your sales and marketing machine efficient. And if you are working with multiple different types of leads, these metrics should be considered for each segment of lead, too, so you know if some segments are more valuable to your business than others (or, even better, if some segments have more potential than you once realized)!

Lots of Interest, But Not a Good Fit: Leads in the lower right don’t necessarily fit your ideal customer profile, but are highly engaged with your brand. They might have subscribed to your blog and email newsletter, downloaded your ebooks, and attended your webinars. It’s worth having a sales rep do a low-cost follow-up with these fans to see if there’s an easy sale to make from a non-traditional customer. Sometimes leads that don’t seem like a fit have a good reason to buy your product. They can also turn into great evangelists for your products or services, thus providing you with indirect support as non-customers. That’s why you can’t automate the entire sales and marketing process. At some point, a good marketer or sales rep can spot an opportunity that your systems might overlook.

Beyond terms and process, one of the best ways brands can align both sales and marketing is through shared programs such as account-based marketing (ABM) and lead nurturing. In 2018, Salesforce Research found high-performing marketing organizations to be 1.5x more likely to use ABM methods, and 1.9x more likely to use lead nurturing than underperforming marketing organizations. They are “shared programs” since both marketing and sales should work together to create them. Marketing handles the technology and setup while sales pick the targets and help create the content. Sharing in the creation of the programs allows sales to feel ownership of the programs, increasing their use and overall effectiveness. 

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Post-purchase. In business, the sale should be considered closed at the first contract signing. Instead, your reps should invest in providing exceptional service during onboarding and regularly monitoring the account’s progress. At opportune times, you can cross-sell existing customers on new services and upsell them on premium solutions. When the contract is about to expire, you can explore renewal options with them. Among your happiest clients, ask for referrals to other potential customers.
John Lincoln (MBA) is CEO of Ignite Visibility (a 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Inc. 5000 company) a highly sought-after digital marketing strategist, industry speaker and author of two books, "The Forecaster Method" and "Digital Influencer." Over the course of his career, Lincoln has worked with over 1,000 online businesses ranging from small startups to amazing clients such as Office Depot, Tony Robbins, Morgan Stanley, Fox, USA Today, COX and The Knot World Wide. John Lincoln is the editor of the Ignite Visibility blog. While he is a contributor, he does not write all of the articles and in many cases he is supported to ensure timely content.

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