3 Steps to Create a Pipeline Strategy
15 minutes to read
Pipeline is the lifeline of a sales team. Having enough (or a lack of) pipeline can make or break achieving your revenue target. In this guide you have 3 clear steps to help you understand the right coverage model, determine your approach to pipeline and create an effective and repeatable process for your team to execute.
Who owns what?
Define Responsibilities Around Pipeline Generation
Before we jump into the 3 core steps, you need to have an explicit conversation around who owns pipeline which will inform who’s involved and how you create your pipeline strategy. All organizations are different; who own’s what at your org? Marketing, Sales Development, Marketing Development, Account Executives, or a Hybrid?
Step 1 – Define Pipeline Coverage Needs
Does my team have enough pipeline to hit the number?
Figuring out your coverage model is key to creating a consistent strategy so at the end of the day you can hit your number. You often hear about a standard 3x coverage model but depending on your close rate, how much you want to grow your business and your sales cycle – your model could be wildly different. Use the equation below to uncover your pipeline target.
Step 2 – Determine Target Approach
To define a strategy that is going to deliver pipeline for your business, you need to decide on how to approach your target segment(s) based on the complexity of your sale’s cycle and the buying process of your customers. The key questions below will help you decide how to approach your target segment(s) of prospects.
A. Is the makeup of our pipeline primarily inbound, outbound or a hybrid?
If you are a hybrid you will want to ask the questions below for both inbound and outbound because the answers can yield a very different approach.
- If you are primarily outbound focused, a complex buying process with multiple stakeholders and a high ACV – You can spend the time to hyper-personalize your outreach.
- If you are primarily inbound focused, with a more transactional sale you have a larger volume leads at your door with a lower ASP to automate.
B. What is the complexity of our sales cycle?
The buying process, who you sell to, the number of stakeholders, ASP and your sales cycle are all inputs into developing your pipeline strategy.
C. What is our communication strategy to map to the buying process?
Think about communication strategy on a spectrum of completely automated to highly personalized. You’ll want to think beyond certainties with your approach. Some of the best strategies use an approach that spans across the completely automated to highly personalized spectrum. The thing to think about here is – where can I afford to use hyper personalization and where should I automate because the payoff is not there?
We’ve put together a downloadable grid to help you map out when to automate and when to personalize at varying levels.
Here’s an example for a heavily focused outbound account based model, where your entire sales team or a segment of your reps are focused on the Enterprise market, have a small target list of accounts, multiple stakeholders and a longer strategic sales cycle. Marketing generates a steady flow of inbound leads, typically from Lower Level Personas in target accounts.
- The strategy plotted on the grid automates communication for the outbound lower level personas, such as end users in order to focus strategic, personalized communication with key stakeholders and decision makers when targeting Tier A Enterprise accounts.
- If you have a daily flow of inbound leads for lower level personas, you know a lot more about these buyers such as they Downloaded an Analyst Report or are trialing your product, where automation will allow reps to consistently follow up with hand raisers, but won’t comprise their productivity.
- You may have a small target list of accounts and a number of those are Tier B accounts or even accounts that are not ready to buy now that you want to keep warm – use semi automation here.
Where do you start?
Now that you’ve thought about how to approach your target segment(s), where to you start? Do you create the messaging and campaigns for those inbound leads or focus on the outbound prospecting messaging for your Enterprise team?
Here’s our advice when it comes time to execute:
Focus on the target segment that will have the biggest impact on your business!
- Let’s say increasing ASP will have the biggest impact on your business, you may prioritize focusing on your outbound Enterprise segment.
- On the flip side, increasing your pipeline quantity is important and you already have a large number of inbound leads knocking on your door, you may prioritize focusing on your inbound lead segment.
What is most feasible? Already have an initiative in place, messaging, content or resources allocated to a segment? Start there.
- You already have inbound leads knocking at your door
- You have an ideal customer profile and target prospect list
- One of your objectives as a company is breaking into a new market
Step 3 – Design Messaging & Campaigns
Now that you’ve completed or thought through Step 1 and 2, now it’s time to think about how to design messaging and campaigns. There’s two components to this step – the Logistics and Content.
Remember, there’s no silver bullet to pipeline strategy because every business is different so your logistics and content will vary.
Here are two examples:
Situation: High Volume of Inbound Leads, Low ASP
Suggested Approach: Leverage an automated sales campaign with calls early on and consistent emails over the course of 3 weeks. If you get no response after that you can put them on an outbound sales campaign.
Situation: 70% of pipeline comes from outbound sales efforts, High ASP
Suggested Approach: Create a Strategic Outreach Campaign with a mix of Semi-Automated email touches and hyper-personalized email tasks. Leverage LinkedIN Sales Navigator to add 20% personalization to the email tasks.
The key to creating effective messaging and campaigns that deliver results is defining the bucket you are going to reach out to so the messaging is relevant and specific enough to their challenges, persona and industry.
Think outside the box – everyone talks about an ICP but that is not always enough to make a message relevant. What is happening in your prospects world that connects to the value you provide? Stay on top of industry specific news that makes noise within that category and Analysts reports such as the Gartner Magic Quadrant & Critical Capabilities reports as a launch pad for creating tailored prospecting messaging.
Here’s a checklist of the components you should think through when creating your messaging and campaigns.
- What’s the messaging by persona?
- How many touches?
- What kinds of content can we leverage?
- Which channels?
- Automated and Manual mix
- Sprinkle in “Custom Tasks”
Once you finish all 3 steps, you should be constantly evaluating whether your pipeline strategy is delivering on the results necessary to exceed your revenue target. Setting the strategy up in ToutApp will allow you to dig into the details so you can make an informed decision on how to improve. Set up a bi-weekly or monthly meeting with everyone or the leaders that contribute to review the metrics, assess the progress and discuss ideas for improvement. We’d love to hear your feedback as you implement your pipeline strategy!