How to Build a Scalable Sales and Marketing Pipeline

Eric Postma

T This past year agribusinesses were forced to embrace new sales and marketing practices in order to see growth. Concurrently, both sales and marketing teams lost their ability to rely on trade shows, crop tours, and on-farm visits, with an entire workforce adjusting to the new reality of remote working and an increased reliance on digital communications. 

This rapid transition highlighted the cracks within our traditional sales and marketing pipelines, making it clear that many agribusinesses required additional sales enablement processes to ensure survivability and scalability in a digital-first age.

What is sales enablement? Sales enablement is all about building a unified sales and marketing team and providing salespeople within your organization what they need to do their jobs more effectively. This includes quality leads, strong sales collateral, clearly defined and repeatable processes, and easy to use technologies.

If you're new to the world of sales enablement and if your sales team has historically focused on traditional methods, it might be hard to know where to start. We've outlined some of the first steps to take in embracing sales enablement so that you can build a scalable and reliable pipeline.

1. Know your audience

Understanding your target customer is critical to success. You need to know what they are looking for when they engage with you. What are their needs and pain points? How can you address these challenges?

One of the best ways to understand your audience to improve sales and marketing efforts is by building buyer personas. Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal clients based on actual research and information. Examples of these include demographic information like age, location, and income, but also psychographic information like, "What are their challenges? What keeps them up at night? What are they looking for?" 

With a clear understanding of who your ideal customers are, you can refine best-engagement practices with specific target audiences at every stage of their decision-making journey.

2. Understand your current ideal sales processes

You want to start by defining how leads come in and flow through your system. We do this by identifying exactly where leads are coming from and then following them through each touchpoint on their journey to becoming a purchasing customer.

A few key questions to ask are:

  • Where are new leads coming from?
  • What does our first engagement look like?
  • What do you need to know to determine if a lead is qualified?
  • What do you need to know if a lead is ready for a proposal?
  • Who is involved at each touchpoint?
  • What are the most common questions a lead has at each stage?

These questions aren't comprehensive, but they will put you on the right path for understanding how leads move through your pipeline. The outcome of these investigations will lead to the development of a process map that details this lead flow and a glossary of terms to ensure everyone is using the same language to discuss the pipeline.

21TSI666 process

3. Review historical funnel performance

Now that you have an idea of how your pipeline should operate, you'll want to place historical marketing and sales performance metrics against the pipeline. This practice enables you to understand key data points like; conversion rates and lead velocity that help inform sales and marketing planning.

In the first step, you identified lead sources, now map out how many leads came from each source last year. How many of those leads did you engage with marketing materials? How many of those leads did your sales team engage with? How many proposals did you deliver? How many sales did you close? What was the average deal size? Obviously, this reporting is made easier with a high-quality CRM system, but at this point, any data you can gather is helpful.

With a historical benchmark for marketing and sales performance, we can define goals for each lead stage. Furthermore, marketing now has a clear target for how many qualified leads they need to generate and from which sources. Similarly, sales have a clear idea about the number of leads they will need to engage and convert, with the added benefit of a defined target deal size. We like to call this process "reverse engineering the funnel" and the outcome is a Service Level Agreement (SLA).

The SLA is the contract between the marketing and sales team that identifies targets aligned to your core goal. This is very helpful in giving clear direction and accountability. With renewed clarity, we can understand where teams, individuals, or channels may be struggling, and we can work to improve and adjust.

21TSI666 sales funnel analysis

4. Build campaigns, collateral, systems and initiatives

We now have clear targets for specific teams that are all aligned to the core revenue goal. With this information, we can directly allocate our sales and marketing budgets appropriately to items defined in the SLA. If we know we need a certain number of sales per month from our renewals, we can build out cross-sell, up-sell, and other renewal campaigns. If we have a target for new leads from digital campaigns, we can define budgets or initiatives needed to reach that goal.

With clearly defined goals and processes, we can implement or optimize technology that supports our efforts. Marketing or sales technology can streamline the handoff between sales and marketing, providing the necessary data to help inform ongoing efforts.

This data-driven approach to planning and optimization can help eliminate some of the guesswork when it comes to planning and budgeting for marketing and sales initiatives. 

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