Data insights are again the key to funnel optimization. Three other data-driven technologies follow analytics and sales reporting as the most popular sales tools: account and contact management (65%), sales forecasting tools (56%), and customer relationship management (CRM) systems (58%). The latter is a particularly crucial tool for optimization, enabling your business to organize all customer-related data in a central location.
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.

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You need to understand your audience like you do your very own yourself. You are aware of your dislikes and likes, you know what problems you face and you know the sort of people you will let help with those problems. If you learn to know your audience in the same manner, the chances of you establishing a genuine connection increase vastly. You will also be able to guide more people through your sales funnel and get those coveted ‘closed-wons’.

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The sales funnel metaphor is somewhat misleading; in real life, the process never goes as smoothly as liquid down a funnel. In the last decade, digital marketing, artificial intelligence (AI), and CRM have drastically changed the process of converting new leads into customers. Given this, it’s increasingly important that business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams are aligned in their views on a sales funnel strategy and lead generation as a whole.

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However, video conferencing and other apps offer an opportunity to engage prospects at a time and place that suits them. In fact, 60% of sales reps say they spend more time selling virtually than they did in 2015, according to the third edition of Salesforce’s global “State of Sales” study. Meanwhile, 52% of sales reps say they spend the same amount of time or less meeting with customers in person.

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When people buy a product they are showing their trust in it. In return, your product needs to be worthy of the money they spent. Consider how your brand can stand out among others and what you can offer to leverage against competitors. Once a buyer makes an emotional-connect with the brand, he is more inclined towards making a purchase with confidence.

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Qualified prospect: Qualification is the most critical and demanding stage of the sales funnel. In the qualification process, you verify that the prospect has a need for your product, that the prospect sees value in your offering, that there is sufficient budget for a deal, that you have access to the decision-maker, and that there is an agreed-upon timeline for the sales process. The qualification process can be complex and lengthy, and can be managed with a Sales Call Talk Track and stakeholder management chart.
However, video conferencing and other apps offer an opportunity to engage prospects at a time and place that suits them. In fact, 60% of sales reps say they spend more time selling virtually than they did in 2015, according to the third edition of Salesforce’s global “State of Sales” study. Meanwhile, 52% of sales reps say they spend the same amount of time or less meeting with customers in person.
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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Sales rep success and skills shortage. A good sales pipeline also provides insight into which of your salespeople closes the most sales, has the highest ticket values, and needs more help and training to hit their quota. With this information, you can provide them with the assistance they need to improve their performance and get their sales numbers on track. 

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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.
“Time is money for a rep,” said Tony Rodoni, Salesforce EVP, Commercial Sales, and Market Readiness. “You need to know the most important thing to do right now, and what to do next. If you’re not clear on which opportunities are accurate, you’re relying on your memory to know which ones need work. As you take on a bigger book of business, with more opportunities, quarter after quarter, relying on your own memory means mistakes and wasted time.”

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Process bottlenecks and hindrances. You might find, for example, that the proposal stage regularly delays the sales process by a week due to the need for custom quotes. Armed with that information, you can search for solutions that can automate how you produce project estimates. Alternatively, you may discover that some prospects are unengaged with the collateral you share at the lead generation stage. In this case, trial new marketing assets to see how well they respond and if they are more likely to convert into opportunities won later. 
Focus on the definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). This is the crucial handoff point between marketing and sales, so it’s essential that the teams agree on the terminology. Every company’s definition of an MQL will vary, but it should reflect a combination of traits and actions that indicate a lead is both a good fit for your company and ready to talk to a salesperson. Here’s one way to examine your funnel to assess lead quality and determine whether a lead is ready for sales follow-up:

John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, one of the top digital marketing agencies in the nation and a 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Inc. 5000 company. Lincoln is consistently named one of the top marketing experts in the industry. He has been recipient of the Search Engine Land "Search Marketer of the Year" award, named the #1 SEO consultant in the USA by Clutch.co, most admired CEO and 40 under 40. Lincoln has written two books (The Forecaster Method and Digital Influencer) and made two movies (SEO: The Movie and Social Media Marketing: The Movie) on digital marketing. He is a digital marketing strategy adviser to some of the biggest names in business. John Lincoln is the editor of the Ignite Visibility blog. While he is a major contributor, he does not write all of the articles.


Intercom Acquire – Ever visit a website and notice a happy face in the lower, right-hand corner next to a message like: “I’m Sadie! Can I help you with anything?” That’s a marketing chat system run by a company like Intercom. When people hit your landing page, you can use Intercom’s Acquire service to answer any questions that might not be answered on your web page.

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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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