How long does it take for your company to recognize an individual or an organization that could be interested in your products? How long does it take for your company to engage with that lead and understand their requirements, and identify if they are likely to purchase the product? Finally, how long does it take for your company to sit down with a prospect and end up with a new customer?
The answers to all these questions have tremendous value for a company to determine the average length of their sales process, right from lead identification to sales conversion. An effective way of visualizing that data for a clearer sales perspective is by representing it in the form of a sales funnel using a sales software.
A sales funnel is a graphical, tiered figure that denotes the stages that a lead goes through before being converted into a purchasing customer. The initial stages of the sales funnel – lead generation and qualification – are handled by the marketing team, wherein the qualified leads are identified and forwarded to the sales team, who then work on the marketing data to analyze the customer’s needs and close the deal by offering a relevant product.
The main objective of constructing a sales funnel is to recognize bottlenecks in the sales process that are affecting the overall productivity of the company and increasing the time it takes to land a deal. Using that information, the sales and marketing teams work in synergy and realize where they should focus their efforts to eliminate the bottlenecks and reduce the length of the sales cycle.
What the sales funnel is to analysis, marketing automation is to implementation. Marketing automation is a tool that enables a marketing team to improve the efficiency of their lead management operations. The various ways in which a team can incorporate marketing automation into their fold, are lead scoring, lead grading and lead nurturing. A major characteristic of these market automation techniques is that they are done before making contact with a lead, and allow the company to know which leads will require the least efforts to produce the maximum results.
Every company has an extensive database that stores all kinds of information about their leads, including how they chose to interact with the company. A marketing team qualifies a lead based on the level of interest that the lead displays in the company’s products by studying that database for patterns – this is a bottleneck in the sales funnel.
Marketing automation takes the qualification task off the team’s hands by using lead scoring – automatically recognizing actions that imply interest in the company, such as contacting the company or requesting a trial, and assigning a scale-based score that shows the sales team how likely the lead can be converted to a customer.
Another qualifier that a company uses for its leads are based on elements like their purchasing power, demographics, firm size, etc. These are easier to recognize than interest levels, however, they too can utilize a lot of unnecessary time from the marketing team’s schedule.
Lead grading is another marketing automation technique that auto-qualifies leads based on how well they fit with the company’s products and services, and how likely they are to do business with the company.
Lead scoring and grading are used to rank leads and filter out the bad or lost ones. However, there are still some leads out there that require a small amount of convincing to become converted into a long-term customer.
The marketing team can recognize these specific leads and automatically schedule e-mails that provide relevant content to the prospect, without pushing for a sale. This builds trust in them and facilitates a relationship between the two. The lead is therefore nurtured to a qualified state, after which the sales team can take over, help the prospect understand their value propositions and finally close the deal.