In today’s B2B marketplace, revenue cycle management is all about the sales funnel. But if yours is less than streamlined, you may be leaking more leads than you convert. An effective funnel operating with sales and marketing alignment can create the magical mix of leads and effectively convert them to sales. However, one that misses that collaborative equation can cost dollars, time and effort with less than stellar ROI.
Understanding that the contemporary buyer drives today’s sales cycle is the beginning of the process of building the optimal revenue cycle. To be sure you have created the ideal model for your company, check out the three funnel levels and who should drive traffic in each, when optimizing the top and bottom of your sales funnel:
1. Marketing controls the top. To start the process, marketing needs to generate the best-qualified sales lead. You can load the top end with dozens of prospects, but if you haven’t defined your ideal lead, you’ll lose them faster than you gain them. Create your specific lead definition by:
- Consulting with sales to understand what they consider sales-worthy leads
- Creating a collaborative agreement with sales to determine who follows up on leads, how they are engaged and how fast the process needs to be
- Realizing better leads are worth more than many leads
- Using marketing automation to help measure the effectiveness of your lead qualification with constant and consistent analysis
2. Marketing and sales both cover the middle. Once you’ve gotten leads into the cycle, the act of lead nurturing must be a cooperative effort. The sales funnel would be a wonderful place to inhabit if all leads went from hot to closed. But it’s more realistic to remember that lukewarm describes the temperature of most leads in the middle of the cycle.
To optimize this part of the funnel, sales reps need to determine quickly when leads aren’t ready for conversion. From there, they need to send them back to marketing as fast as possible. This stage is crucial because it’s essential that the relationship which starts when leads enter the funnel continues to develop.
Marketing software is a valuable tool for this point in lead management especially when combined with sales and marketing alignment. Regular meetings are key components to the process – there is no substitute for the best recipe — communication is the foundation of optimization.
Once leads are ready to go back to sales, the transfer should be timely and seamless. Create an atmosphere of sales collaboration with a pre-determined process based upon agreement between sales and marketing to smooth the transition.
3. Sales owns the bottom. When leads are ready, sales optimization should focus on efficient lead management programs that update fields, create tasks, assign owners, and convert leads directly in Salesforce or other sales management systems.
In addition, employ automation software to track sales follow-ups, helping reps prioritize and interact with the hottest leads.
Keep in mind that every so often, even a well managed lead will end up not closing as planned. When this happens, quickly determine why, and if, the lead should stay with sales or go back into lead nurturing.
When sales and marketing teams are firing on all engines, the sales funnel shows the results – only the best leads go in and more sales come out. Be sure your funnel is optimized from top to bottom. It’s a simple matter of utilizing the best-automated software combined with a commitment to a strong relationship between the two power generators that fuel the process.