In sales, maintaining a healthy and robust sales pipeline is important to generate revenue steadily. And for that to happen, you need to ensure your sales pipeline never goes stagnant.
This post talks about how Slintel’s sales team worked on building processes to avoid pipeline and growth stagnation.
Pipeline Problems and How We Fixed Them
It is only human to encounter problems at every step of the way in life. Similarly with your pipeline, it is inevitable that problems or issues will crop up. Let us look at various stages, our problems, and how we went about fixing them.
#1 Stage: From form fill-up to Discovery Call
We all know that patience is not a virtue for someone that fills up a demo form. They are in a hurry to find a real solution for their pain points.
The idiom “early bird gets the worm” is very apt in this situation. When a lead fills in the book a demo form, you need to have your inbound SDRs positioned to tackle the lead that comes in quickly.
Problem 1: Delayed time to attack
Solution: At Slintel, we realized early on that response time is inversely related to number of meetings scheduled
We analyzed our past data and realized that most meetings are booked when “time to attack” (response time) is less than 2 mins after the prospect fills the demo form. Spending more than 5 minutes to respond to the lead resulted in us losing the lead, more often than not.
To combat this problem, we implemented a simple rule. We put a cap on the time to respond (2 minutes) ensured that each lead that came in was given careful and personalized attention.
This automatically resulted in the expansion of our inbound SDR team.
Another important finding was enabling the use of different channels to chase the lead and follow-up with it.
Having said this, we realized that setting a target of not more than 100-150 form fill ups to each SDR made the most sense for us. This target allows each SDR to provide detailed attention to each of the leads coming in and can nurture them through the pipeline where they could potentially convert to a deal won.
Now, what happens when a lead comes in through your chat? Well, there is no need to panic. We have estimated that our SDRs only have less than a 3-7 second time frame to attack. If they fail to respond within this timeframe to the chat, automatically resulting in them closing the window and leaving.
So, with regards to tackling leads that come in through chat here are a few simple best practices you can implement:
- Answer immediately with a friendly hello.
- Make sure you respond to the point.
- Provide timely answers to their questions.
- Ensure you capture their details such as email address and phone number.
- Always acknowledge if you cannot answer immediately. Don’t leave them hanging.
- Have human to human conversation, and try to help them with their immediate needs.
- Don’t jump the gun to schedule a demo. Do this if you are sure that this is the next step they would like to take, or when prompted by the lead.
While it is hard to incorporate body language into conversations held via chat, we always tell our SDRs to sound open, inviting, and completely honest so that the prospect understands that we are here to help them and not overwhelm them.
Making certain tweaks in the language your SDRs use can do wonders for pushing the leads that come in through the chat down your pipeline.
A point to note, is when we scaled our operations, we made sure to continue to implement these fixes but with a slight twist. With an increase in the number of leads we were generating, we decided that having dedicated managers for our inbound and outbound SDRs was necessary to oversee their operations and efforts.
#2 Stage: Discovery Call Scheduled to Discovery Call Attended
Most leads, let’s say 75% of them complete this stage without any issues and trickle down further into your pipeline. However there are 25% of them that just don’t.
We decided to investigate and find out what the cause was. Upon stringent analysis of our past data we saw that these 25% of leads needed extra hand-holding to push them further down the pipeline.
Problem 2A: Adequate Hand-holding for Leads Was Missing
Solution: Ensure your SDRs provide adequate hand-holding to your leads. Most of the time the reason we lost a lead was, the time the meeting scheduled was not ideal for the prospects.
For example: After collecting all the required information your SDR schedules the discovery call for your lead at 10:50 am PST. The lead fails to turn up to the meeting since they are busy during that time. This resulted in no show and the lead turned cold.
1st simple fix – Always make it a point to ask the lead what time is most convenient for them.
With this simple fix, you are putting the onus of the meeting scheduled on your lead’s shoulders and making sure that they don’t ghost you. This simple step will act as a catalyst for your leads since it registers with them that they have chosen the time and there is a need to turn up for the meeting.
2nd simple fix – Always ensure they have accepted your meeting invite.
By ensuring they accept your meeting invitation, you can be sure that it gets added to their calendars and the in-built notifications will also act as a catalyst to remind them of their upcoming commitments.
3rd simple fix – Diligently remind them about the meeting.
Having said this, please refrain from spamming your lead’s inbox with reminder emails for the meeting. Spamming them will only result in turning your lead off and even though you implement the 1st fix, the lead will end up ghosting you.
Gentle reminders (max 2-3 emails)—one on the day the meeting was scheduled, another one closer to the meeting date, and one on the day of the meeting seems to be the golden recipe for hand-holding your leads.
By training our SDRs to incorporate these simple fixes we were able to see a raise from 75% of leads to 95% of leads filtered through to the next stages of our pipeline.
Problem 2B: Short Discovery Calls
Solution: Simple. Don’t cut them short.
Discovery calls can make or break your relationship with your prospect. Spend adequate time with your leads to understand their pain points.
Something I often tell my AEs is that a clean, crisp and detailed discovery leads to a successful sales demo. Without due diligence done during the discovery phase, often causes your lead to move on to a better solution.
So how did we go about addressing this?
We came up with a quick list of things our AEs could do before, during and after a discovery call.
- Before the call, AEs need to identify what their goals are for this call.
- Qualify the lead to see if there is even a need for them to see your product or solution or if your time is better spent chasing a more appropriate lead.
- Identify their pain-points: Ask targeted questions to identify this and come up with a game plan to address this during the demo.
- Develop a genuine rapport with your prospects by connecting with them on a similar hobby, or something interesting you have read recently etc.
- Sell the need for a demo after listening to their pain-points.
- Always make sure to schedule the demo while still on a discovery call with the prospect.
#3 Stage: Discovery Call Attended to Demo Scheduled
Now that you have gotten your lead to schedule a demo with you, now let us look at a few of the issues we faced and how we fixed them.
In this stage, the SDRs and AEs have to work hand in hand to nudge the prospect through the funnel. While digging through our data, we noticed a few issues.
A small percentage of leads were reluctant to schedule a demo while our AEs were on a discovery call with them.
We had to go back and get them to schedule the demo with us.
Problem 3: Improve your outreach
Solution: Work on developing engaging and curiosity stimulating outreach email for prospects that refuse to schedule a demo with you during your discovery session.
A well-drafted outreach that outlines their pain-points and how your product or solution will solve their problems always gets the job done (unless it’s a bad-fit prospect that doesn’t have a use for your solution).
With the right outreach, you will be able to get them to schedule a demo with you. Both SDRs and AEs should work on developing these outreach messages and should avoid making them generic at all costs.
#4 Stage: Discovery Call Attended to Demo Scheduled
This is the most important stage where you are so close to your next win! Your AEs typically focus on pushing your lead towards closure in this phase.
The most important tool available to your AEs at this stage is their demo agenda and presentation. Rewinding through our data, we identified a few key issues and developed solutions to rectify them.
Problem 4: Concise demo agenda was missing
Solution: Droning on and on about your product or solution without a proper agenda is one of the biggest reasons to lose your prospect’s interest at this level.
We developed an agenda that does the trick. Here’s how it looks:
- Introduction: Spend about 5 minutes in the beginning to re-establish a rapport with your prospect and convert this to trust and further into a relationship.
- Set the stage: The next 5 minutes should be spent on presenting a consolidated set of pain-points they mentioned during the discovery call. Make sure to give them a taste of how much easier their life would be using your product or solution.
- Solution Map: These 15 minutes will probably set the tone for whether this is a won game or not. Spend time here effectively while focusing on the leads and their biggest pain point (the one you spent most of your time on during discovery) that your product or solution can address.
- Final Steps: The last 5 minutes of your demo needs to be spent on understanding your prospect’s decision-making process and how you can help them move forward with the deal.
By tightening your demo agenda and presentation, you can be sure to hold your lead’s attention span and bring into focus how you and your product or solution are troubleshooting their pain-points.
#5 Stage: Demo Completed to Revenue Generated
This is the most rewarding stage where all your hard work and effort of pushing the lead through the pipeline is paid off.
However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any problems you can encounter here ? Let’s take a look at what they can be.
Problem 5: Proper prep and hand-holding to get the signatures was lacking
Solution: Until you get the signatures on the contract, you need to stay on high alert. Develop a simple checklist to make sure this step is completed flawlessly. Here’s our checklist:
- Create and send a personalized outreach acknowledging the successful demo.
- Reiterate the “promised land” your leads will encounter once the product or solution is implemented.
- Make sure the contract you sent across has the right details such as the lead’s information, pricing information etc.
- Ensure adequate hand-holding during this time and stay on top of it until the contract comes in with the required signatures.
So there you have it, this is how we addressed the issues with our pipeline stagnation. Let us know what are some of the issues you have faced and how you fixed them.