How to Actually Build Your Lead Conversion Funnel

Robert McLaws
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“You gave us junk leads!”

“Who ARE these people? Do you really expect me to e-mail and call all of them?”

“The marketing campaign sucks!”

Sound familiar?

The reason why funnels often fall flat is complex.

It often relates to capacity planning.

Great marketers are adept at building great funnels. They craft targeted lead lists and ruminate and sweat over creating compelling emails and gated content and clever copy. They invest in great marketing operations systems that sequence messaging.

And, of course, they expect Sales to do the heavy lifting and actually carry every prospect across the finish line -- quickly and efficiently -- and generate revenue.

So, what’s the problem?

Training, training, training and

Timing, timing, timing!

These two things (or, if you’re being literal, six things) are very closely related.

When Marketing and Sales teams forecast results they often use Excel, which is a very static tool.

Excel-based forecasts assume that if an organization markets to 100 prospects, it will produce some number of MQLs and another number of SQLs. And, during the nurture process, some number of BDRs, SDRs, or Sales Execs will be reaching out to those people, virtually immediately.

If the organization doesn’t have enough Sales pros to follow-up, they simply hire or assign more.

But that logic doesn’t take into account that every salesperson needs to be trained, that sometimes people take breaks and vacations, and that no one works 24 hours a day.

Timing also plays a key role in follow-up. After all, what prospect wants to get an e-mail every two days from the same person?

In other words, selling is a very human activity and even if a sales pro is amazing, they may take a while to get into the flow of selling, especially if marketing messages are highly targeted and specific.

In our article about Setting Quotas, we delve into the whole issue of human capacity. It’s a complex issue. You not only need to have the right people, but you need to be honest about what an individual can actually deliver and make sure you’re giving them the tools they need to build a relationship and ultimately close a deal.

To get a salesperson totally up-to-speed, you need to think about your funnel follow-up at least 90 days before the actual selling occurs. That’s where TIMING comes into play.

Back Up From Your Funnel

The first step is to make sure that you have a full-year (or at least a half-year) plan for Marketing and that Marketing and Sales are actually talking to each other about what’s in that plan.

Some businesses are more predictable than others and have a specific selling season. Others have a year-round flow. Although it sounds obvious, reaching decision-makers during certain times of year or days of the week may be tougher than others. Seasonality is often underrated when sales and revenue planning is being done.

Then, you need to seriously consider how long your company takes to hire, onboard, train, and rev-up a new rep. That timeframe can vary widely depending on the complexity of your sale and your hiring budget. Inexperienced reps or people new to the industry will take longer to get up to speed -- duh!

Again, this is where Excel falls short. It doesn’t consider human capacity. It just adds, multiplies, and divides. And, often subtracts when you miss your goals.

How to Build to Build a Flawless Funnel in 10 Easy Steps

  1. Create a Culture of Planning. At every stage of your company’s revenue goal-setting, you must embrace a process that ties your company’s lofty revenue goals to specific actions that tie your income goals to the activities that deliver against them. Have those tough conversations that manage expectations. Be sure to factor in churn.
  2. Be Aggressive and Ambitious But Not Delusional. Your Board and investors may want to see your business scale rapidly, but create plans and budgets that match with buying patterns and invest in those activities that have the best chance of success. To deliver $1M in revenue, work backwards and understand at a very deep level what resources, marketing programs, and sales talent you’ll need to turn those leads into committed business.
  3. Understand the Ultimate Objective and Set Realistic Goals. Start-up businesses may have a tougher tie with this because they don’t yet have a history. More established businesses should have a track record and know how many touches it will take to convert a lead into a sale and how long that process might take. If you’re selling a high-ticket product/service that requires the involvement of senior decision-makers, your conversion process will take much longer.
  4. Develop the Marketing Programs that Will Produce the Optimal Number of Leads. The top of your funnel may generate awareness, but you must always ensure that you’re generating enough leads to convert to prospects. Make sure your messages are high-impact, highly-targeted, and seasonally-appropriate. We’re not going to delve into all the steps of marketing funnel-building here, but make sure your marketing team is really on-point with what they’re building and that they have the right mix of unique and relevant content to keep your target market engaged.
  5. Hire the Right Sales Leaders, With the Right Skills, at the Right Time. Take a hard look at the combination of skills you need to close deals. Invest in onboarding and training and factor those costs into your planning. See #1.
  6. Assign Leads Properly. You need to keep the channels of communication open to understand log-jams in your follow-ups. Be willing to re-assign sales follow-ups to those people who are seeing the highest close rates. Look for flaws in your process that may be getting in the way of success.
  7. Don’t Be Afraid to “Slow the Roll” of Your Marketing Team. Marketers can be very optimistic about how many connections can be generated from their fantastic campaigns, but if you don’t have the people in place to deliver results, you may need to pace your e-mails or blogs (or other media) differently. Make sure your Marketing leaders thoroughly understand your sales staffing and capacity.
  8. Invest in a System That Enables Realistic Forecasting and Planning. Excel simply doesn’t cut it. That’s why we created BurnRate in the first place. It factors in realistic timing and enables sales leaders to easily plan and re-forecast without slaving over spreadsheets.
  9. Analyze, Rinse, Repeat. As you start to see sales, get a better handle on the length of time it really takes to follow-through on leads, which sales team members are really delivering, make better hiring decisions, and use your data to fine-tune your plan. Understand what the obstacles are to moving prospects through the funnel to fruition, refine your pitches, re-assign leads, let Marketing know what’s working (and what’s not), and be totally honest and self-critical about your process, your messages, your timing, and your sales team members. Make tough choices.
  10. Remember the 90-Day Rule. We can’t repeat this enough times. The average time needed to get a salesperson up to speed and able to convert a lead is typically 90 days. Obviously, you don’t have wayback machines, and if you didn’t hire the right team members three months ago, you can’t do a lot about it now. But what you CAN do is invest in BurnRate and throw away those spreadsheets.

So, when your marketing team presents you with their plan, you will have a cool, useful, and time-saving tool that you can all use to create a better funnel-building forecast and create shared and realistic goals, factoring in the human aspects of selling.

And then, you will be able to feed leads through that funnel with precision, speed, and accuracy!

Get started NOW (so you don’t look back with regret in 90 days). Schedule a demo today.

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