The Reality & Importance of the Sales Pipeline
For starters, there’s a variety of marketing funnels out there…
Now you might be wondering why a marketing agency is talking about growing or lengthening the height of a sales pipeline. Isn’t that the job of sales? Yes and no.
YES — In one sense, the new business pipeline is owned and reported on by your sales team. Deals won. Deals lost. Size of opportunity. Etc.
NO — But we believe marketing and sales both play a complementary role in the revenue function of a business. They certainly shouldn’t be competitors. Therefore, effective marketing must have a positive impact on the sales pipeline, even if that effect is indirect. More on that in a second.
In fact, we might even say the sales team fills the pipeline, but the marketing team should grow the pipeline.
Consider this common scenario: The sales team works hard in Q1 to work through their target prospects in search of leads, referrals, and new business. At some point, there are so many opportunities in the pipeline that it’s ‘all hands on deck’ to turn those deals into contracts.
Everyone wants a full pipeline, but there can be a future downside to a full pipeline. If your salesperson or sales team spends most of its time closing deals — rather than prospecting and networking to re-fill the pipeline — you likely will create a gap in the future pipeline which cannot be easily filled.
For project companies, especially, this results in lost opportunity for the business if there are gaps in the pipeline.
How Marketing Fuels Future Pipeline Growth
As previously mentioned, marketing and sales are complementary functions for the purpose of revenue growth. Marketing is unique in that it can do work that pays dividends in nine months, 12 months, 18 months — work that slowly matures over time. Sales doesn’t typically have the luxury of living that far in the future.
To be specific, here are two ways Marketing Grows the Future Pipeline:
1. Marketing builds the company brand with prospects who are not currently in ‘Buy Mode.’
If you’re a B2B company, it’s likely that only a fraction of companies who can buy from you (prospects) are currently actively engaged in a buying conversation. Most of your prospects are not. We would say these prospects are in the ‘Top of the Funnel.’ This is critical to understand.
If you are working only with prospects who have expressed an interest in buying, the reality is, you aren’t talking to the rest of your prospects who will likely buy at some point. Not talking to the top of the funnel signals danger for your future pipeline. It makes you overly dependent on deals that come to you.
However, marketing should be targeting those prospects who aren’t currently in ‘buy mode’ while sales focuses on the prospects who are in ‘buy mode.’ This keeps your brand perpetually in front of your target customer in relevant ways, without requiring a sales person picking up the phone.
2. Marketing creates new demand for your product or service.
‘Demand’ simply refers to customers in the market who are actively seeking out your solution to their problem. For example, there is no current demand for real estate on the moon, as intriguing as that might sound.
Marketing to your prospect who isn’t currently searching for your solution requires a different approach. It isn’t “Buy Now” or “Schedule a Demo.”
Marketing to the top of the funnel involves targeted messaging about the issues your prospect is facing — issues they haven’t tried to solve yet or issues they don’t even think of as problems yet. They may have accepted a challenge as the new normal.
So, you aren’t asking them to ‘Buy Now.’ You are connecting your company’s brand to the issue or challenge they’re currently facing. You are giving examples of how you have solved customer challenges that may resemble the problems they’re currently facing, or will face in the near future.
Marketing grows a bigger pipeline by establishing your brand with a larger number of prospects on a consistent basis. This is work that sales can’t really do. This is why growing companies have fully functioning sales and marketing functions in the business.