How to Build Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline

Leo Manzione

Hi! I’m your ideal customer and I’d love to give you money in exchange for the awesome value you provide!

Wow, don’t those words sound magical?! I certainly think so.

Unfortunately, as magical and beautiful as those words are, that’s where the magic ends because they don’t just appear out of thin air.

So what’s the key? What’s the journey a potential client undergoes as they transition from someone who knows nothing about you or your offering(s), to that decisive moment when they click “purchase”…when you swipe their credit card…when the cash register dings…when they sign on the dotted line?

The key to understanding that journey is building your pipeline.

By knowing who’s in the different stages of your pipeline and how many people are in that stage, you’ll be able to start identifying any bottlenecks in your process that might be limiting you overall.


First thing’s first: What is a pipeline?

Instead of lumping the entire marketing and sales process together, a pipeline makes each stage explicit. This way the steps become sequential, consistent, more efficient, and more effective. You’ll know where your potential customers are in the process, what actions will help them become paying customers, and where the bottlenecks are. I’ve never seen someone go through this exercise of documenting each stage of their marketing and sales process without a big realization that netted more customers.

What are the pipelines you want to create?

To start, it’s important to recognize that not all pipelines are customer-centric. Yes, building a customer pipeline is important (and yes, I’ll be providing an example of the potential stages of a customer pipeline if you keep reading), but when you’re reflecting on the pipelines you want to create, it’s very important not to stop there. 

There may be other pipelines to consider that could result in more value for your business and, ultimately, more of those dream customers.

Other examples include a pipeline for referral partners, investors, advisory board members, stakeholders, etc. When building your business, it’s important to consider how these other partners could help you get to where you want to go.

Focusing on one pipeline at a time, you’ll want to ask yourself, “What are the stages someone goes through?

At this point, you want to keep the stages as simple and distinct as you possibly can. 

What are the explicit steps someone must go through to move from one stage to the next?

You’ll want to clearly be able to track what criteria is needed to move someone from one stage in their journey to the next. 

EXAMPLE: Customer Pipeline

Lead:
Someone you’re interested in or who is interested in you.

  • So what needs to happen to move a lead to the next stage?
      • You’ll need to define your answer to that question for your specific business. Maybe what it takes is…
          • …having a preliminary conversation that connects with them
          • …clicking a product link in one of your emails
          • …having a sales rep book a meeting
          • …providing them with some informational materials which results in them wanting to continue the conversation, etc. 
      • The key in this stage is to try to qualify this individual to see if they are a good fit for your business, if they have decision-making power, and if they meet any other criteria that is important for you. If so, they can advance to the next stage.


Prospect:
A potential buyer who has met your qualification criteria.

  • So what needs to happen to move a prospect to the next stage?
    • Again, you’ll need to define this for your particular business. But the most common one in this stage would be…exchanging your value for money. The big goal!


Customer:
So at this point, congratulations! You’ve found someone who’s opted into the value you’re providing.

You can decide at this point if there are additional stages you’d like to create in your pipeline. Maybe you have a premium offering that you try to move all customers towards, for example. If that’s the case, you can create another stage and define the necessary criteria for a transition to that stage. And so on and so on.

Hopefully you get the idea.

Once you have your stages and the qualifying criteria for each stage and transition defined, it’s time to flood your pipeline by asking yourself, “Who’s in these stages?

You’ll want to populate your pipeline framework with the people you’re already aware of.

By knowing who’s in the different stages of your pipeline and how many people are in that stage, you’ll be able to start identifying any bottlenecks in your process that might be limiting you overall. For example…

  • …if you have very few leads, you know you’ll want to start brainstorming how your marketing efforts could reach more of your ideal customers to draw them into the process.
  • …if you have a ton of leads and very few prospects, you know that the area to focus on is the sales qualification process where you transition someone out of the lead bucket and into the prospect stage.
  • …if you have a lot of prospects but very few are transitioning to customers, you know your sales process may need some work to increase your closing rate.


Building your pipelines and building them well are absolutely key if you’re looking to build an efficient business that lasts.

So now that you’ve been armed with the framework, it’s time to get to work! If you have questions or need any help, don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know.

You’ve got this!

Talk soon,

 

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