Personal libraries are a dream for many people. In fact, I'm included in this "many people". You know those huge libraries that (usually rich) people have on their mansions in old movies? Or kids movies, for that matter - Beauty and the Beast, ring a bell? Well, the thing is that if you have that many books on shelves, you've got to read them. I mean, what's the point of having so many books and just stare at them?
With leads, it's pretty much the same thing. If you have a lot of leads coming to your website but are not converting them into customers, at the end of the day it's like you just own a leads collection. Leads must be converted just like books must be read. But in order to find time to read all your books and convert all your leads (or as many as possible) you need a plan.
For a sales manager, this plan is called optimizing your sales funnel. But what is a sales funnel? Well, to sum up, it consists of a series of steps that the customer takes to go from visitor to actual user.
From the first time your prospects hear about you (or find you online), until the moment they buy from you, they go through different stages of the sales funnel. Of course, this journey might be slightly different from one customer to another. It all depends on buying personas, niche and the types of products and services you sell. But remember that the primary objective of your sales funnel is to move people from one stage to another until they are ready to purchase.
The same goes for choosing a book in your library. The reason why you choose a romance or a drama may vary but the main goal is to pick up a book and read it till the end.
Going through the sales funnel
Usually, the funnel has six stages: visitor or prospect; lead; marketing qualified leads (MQL); sales qualified leads (SQL); opportunity and customer. But in order to understand this concept you also need to know what MQL and SQL means.
Don't be mistaken, just because the initials say marketing qualified leads it doesn't mean that the marketing teams own the definition. In fact, to be able to define what is a hot lead for marketing, the sales need to be involved. Both teams have to agree on the terminology. A MQL needs to fit the marketing persona and also be sales-ready. To reach that stage, he/she will have to hit some milestones to be considered qualified.
Lead scoring can be of great help at that stage. With it you can set scores for this or that action and your leads are automatically qualified. Much like a "book scoring system" where they would be categorized according to theme, amount of pages, critics reviews and other attributes, helping you choose which one to read first. Wouldn't it be nice?
But, since this is not a reality yet, let's go back to leads. The SQL leads are the ones that your sales team have accepted as worthy of a direct sales follow up. It's not an easy task to define what is a SQL. In fact, that may be one of the causes of your sales funnel inefficiency. Some companies believe that if a lead converted in their website (downloaded a content, or asked for a sign up) this means the lead is ready to purchase. As it turns out it's not that simple.
A qualified sales lead should indicate that he/she wants to be contacted, let's say by clicking on a CTA that says that. It's also important to be sure that the lead is the decision maker; that he/she indeed has some pain that can be solved by your product.
Once you know exactly what is an MQL, a SQL and an opportunity for your company it's time to start optimizing the stages. First of all, you need to measure all your conversion metrics (visitor-to-Lead; lead-to-MQL, MQL-to-SQL; SQL-to-Opportunity; Opportunity-to-Customer; Lead-to-Customer; Sales Cycle Length and customer acquisition cost. With this data, it will become easier to find out what is out of the track.
If your sales funnel is working as it should, your sales cycle is much shorter, meaning you are closing deals faster. You're also probably selling more since you are focusing on better opportunities, not to mention that you’re saving time, money and effort on customer acquisition.
In order to help you recognize the efficiency status of your sales funnel, we have listed the most common mistakes made by companies when it comes to lead-to-customer conversion.
The main sales funnel mistakes that your business is probably making
If you are not seeing as many results as you wish with your sales strategy, obviously something is not right. It’s the same if you a collection of books and are not reading them at all: you need to start reading them. And don't even start to list your excuses. You have to make time to start right now.
Just like I told you about the benefits of a perfectly synchronized funnel that run smoothly, I am going to cite a few benefits of reading. It improves your ability to focus, enhances your vocabulary, strengthens your empathy, and provides new experiences through a variety of characters.
So let's see what might be slowing you down.
1 - You are attracting the wrong type of leads
In the rush to increase traffic and keep the leads coming, many businesses get lost in the acquisition process. First of all, it's imperative to know who are your personas. What are their pains and what are they looking for? Narrowing your focus and restricting your buyer profile will do wonders.
2 - You are not focusing on hot leads
As we mentioned before, to actually acquire high qualified leads you need to establish what this means to your company. Usually, a hot lead knows that he/she has a problem and is looking for a solution; he/she sees values in your offer, feels a sense of urgency, which means that he/she needs to solve the problem as soon as possible and usually knows that your company exists.
So stop wasting time in leads that will not bring you money at the end of the road and focus on the ones that will. Remember that every minute you spend talking to someone who will never say "yes" is a minute you aren't talking to someone who will.
When it comes to your reading habits it may be the case you're buying more books than you can read. So number one rule is to stop buying it. If you already have an extensive collection a good idea would be to separate what you are actually interested in reading and donate the others that you don't even know how ended up on your shelves. Can you apply the same logic to your leads?
3 - Your marketing and sales department are not well aligned
If your teams don't share the same ideas and points of view it's pretty difficult to set a healthy working flow. The more your sales and marketing teams are on the same page, the easier it will be to close your sales cycles.
The first step to do that is agreeing on outcomes and responsibilities of both teams. This is part of the process for your service-level agreement. The SLA establishes the key metrics that should be analyzed by the teams. To write the agreement, map out the sales and marketing goals. This makes the hole processes easier and prevents problems in the communication and disputes.
In the reading universe, this would be the same situation as two people interested in reading the same book. How can you solve that? A solution could be to stipulate an amount of time so that the first person can read it before giving it to the second person, or sharing it every two days or so, but never steal the book from the other person. Right?
4 - Lack of segmentation
Segmenting leads it's important to personalize content and better reach them. Create a group of leads according to the criteria that is more interesting for your company. This could be the job title, size of the company and so on. Segmentation allows you to focus your efforts only on the leads that are more valuable for your business at the moment. You decide who gets what and when.
The main point here is that when you segment leads it's easier to organize your tasks, plan strategies and analyze results.
5 - Lack of A/B test
The concept is pretty simple: two versions of the same web page, cta, landing page, etc. The goal is to measure which ones performs better. You can change anything you want, color, text, the position of a button, you name it. Why is so important for your sales funnel? Because it gives you the chance to tweak and improve strategies. When you know what works and what doesn't and you have evidence to prove it, it's easier to make decisions and plan strategies according to that.
6 - Poor lead nurturing
If you don't create the habit of reading you will never enjoy it. In fact, a lot of specialists suggests that this habit should be taught to kids from their early ages. It's the same with lead nurturing. You feed the leads with relevant content and information on a regular basis and you slowly prove to them that your product or service is the answer to their problems.
7 - Lack of monitoring or poor reports
Monitoring your results is just as important as any other tactic used to optimize the sales funnel. In fact, I would say it's even more important. With complete reports, that have all the data that is relevant for your company and your strategies, you find out what needs to be adjusted, what is bringing results, what needs to be changed, etc.
Bear in the mind that to have a complete overview of your company and strategies, your reports have to be robust and meaningful. At this stage business intelligence is a must. Look for a marketing tool that offers this feature so you can take full advantage of it.
Remember that if you have only one of these problems it might be enough to jeopardize all your sales funnel efficiency.
Take some time to analyze your strategies and discover what might be the cause of your low conversion rate.
Just like your lack of reading habits it might be the case that you are finding excuses for your shortage of customers.
It's time to get down to business.