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Sales pipeline management 101

October 8, 2020

You can fill me up, but I can’t be held.

I am valuable, but cannot be sold.

What am I…?

A sales pipeline!

Sometimes it can be hard to visualise and manage this intangible aspect of B2B sales, but learning to do so is the key to unlocking your sales potential. To make this easier, we break the pipeline down into 5 stages:

  1. Prospecting
  2. Qualification
  3. Meeting
  4. Consideration and decision
  5. Closing

To move a prospect through these stages effectively, a salesperson needs a few things: a varied set of techniques, organisational skills and the flexibility to adapt on the fly.

Luckily, we have just the person!

Ben Mouquet, Head of Sales at Mailtastic, knows B2B sales inside out - and his record speaks for itself.

During his 2 years at Cognism, Ben generated over $2 million in net revenue, consistently hitting over 140% of target. Hard work and refinement of his processes propelled Ben to his current position as Head of Sales at Mailtastic.

Ben provided some tips and tricks for navigating each step of the SaaS sales pipeline.

Scroll down to read them! 👇

1 - Prospecting

Having worked at a few companies of different sizes, including Red Bull, Cognism and Mailtastic, Ben understands that your approach to B2B prospecting depends on the position of your company.

“A smaller company, such as Mailtastic, might not have a clear picture of their TAM or ICP. It’s an evolving process. You start broad, looking at all marketers for example, and then use your results to refine your ICP.”

A certain amount of data needs to be gathered before you can really narrow down your ICP. Doing this too soon can cause you to miss out on valuable segments.

“My team are constantly taking notes on our conversations, so we can keep up to date and stay on the same page. You’ll prospect more efficiently because you’ve got a backlog of information, which helps you to identify your target market.”

Ben also uses technology to help with this stage of the sales pipeline.

“We mostly use Outreach, the sales enablement platform. We also use LinkedIn and Sales Navigator, along with Cognism Prospector, to make sure we’re getting high-quality contact information. This helps us build a more predictable funnel. We use a CRM to keep notes on everything.”

“If you keep your CRM up to date, everything else becomes a lot easier.”

2 - Qualification

Qualification isn’t just ‘stage 2’ of the sales pipeline. It should be happening throughout.

“It’s important to be an ethical salesperson. You need to be sure that the person you’re speaking to will benefit from what you’re selling. If we’re not the right fit for them, it’ll lock up some of their budget. You’ll end up with a problem customer - which isn’t good for anyone.”

Finding the right way to qualify leads depends on your company size and strategy.

“There are several qualification ideologies you can use, BANT, MEDDPIC, PACTT etc. At the moment we’re using BANT because it’s more in line with our sales strategy. It’s simple and we are scoping. We use the minimum requirements so we can see what works - and what doesn’t.”

Qualification can also be supplemented by sales technology.

“The bottom line is ‘if we speak to this person, will it progress to an opportunity?’ You can build a better idea of this by using sales tech. Record your conversations. We use Jiminny to transcribe ours - and log everything of note in your CRM. The more information you have there, the more accurately you can qualify prospects.”

3 - Meeting

Before any meeting happens, the salesperson needs to prepare. The quality of preparation depends on the quality of the notes. Once again, updating your CRM is key.

“Before the meeting, I give myself 20 minutes to go through my CRM, my sales enablement platform, and also speak to the SDR. Because we’ve kept good notes up to this point, we’re able to jump straight into the call without going over the same points again. Making things easier for the prospect will make things easier for you - so take good notes!”

Once you’re up to date, it’s time for the sales call.

“Always have your camera on. It builds trust and credibility. People like being able to see who they’re speaking to - especially at the moment whilst working from home is the norm.”

There’s a routine for the start of any sales call.

“The start of the call is about building rapport and answering any questions they have. This helps you to position yourself as a helpful contact, and gain information about the prospect.”

“Throughout the call, and all other communications with the prospect, you want to be demonstrating value. They have to look forward to every conversation you have, or they’ll stop turning up.”

This can be done by...

  • Telling the prospect about your product and the challenges it will solve.
  • Answering any questions they have.
  • Clearly demonstrating the value your product could provide for them.

“Answer their questions on the call, and if there was anything you couldn’t answer, send it through in a follow-up email. Then book in the next call and send through an agenda so you have concrete next steps on both sides. If you leave the call without doing so, the odds of you reaching them next time are drastically lower.”

Ben gave us some interesting advice for conducting product demos.

“I always write my notes by hand. Look into the camera when you’re speaking to someone and demonstrate that their time is valuable to you. If you’re typing the whole way through a demo, it doesn’t look like you’re engaged. You’re busy focusing on transcribing the conversation rather than listening to it. It takes longer to type this up after the call, but doing so helps you to recap your conversation afterwards. It’s worth it.”

If you do want to transcribe your call, let technology do it for you. Tools like Jiminny and Gong will transcribe everything that’s said during your demo, so you don’t have to worry about it.

4 - Consideration and decision

Similar to qualification, consideration isn’t just a single stage of the outbound sales funnel. It’s a process which is ongoing from your first meeting all the way to the last.

“Arrange checkpoints every 5-14 days to catch up. You need a touch point arranged so they don’t just drop off the radar, even if it’s just a quick phone call. Don’t just call and say ‘do you have an update for me?’ You still need to provide value. Instead, say ‘Hi, I’m just checking in to see if you’ve spoken to X and Y. I also saw this article on LinkedIn I thought you might be interested in, here’s a link.’

Over time, a salesperson should collect the content they send to prospects, so they have a library to refer to.

“You should always have some good content ready. It doesn’t even have to be something your company created. Sending something relevant and interesting shows that you’re really listening to the prospect and trying to solve their problems.”

During the decision period, there’s not a lot the salesperson can do. It’s mostly about tying up loose ends and ensuring everything runs as smoothly as possible.

“The best way to keep in contact during the decision phase is on the phone or via a video call. Find out where the prospect is up to with their decision, and help in any way you can. Maybe you need to arrange a meeting with other people in the company to get it over the line. Maybe you need to send through some more information. It’s all about making things as easy as possible for the prospect.”

5 - Closing

The prospect has made their decision. They want to buy your product and become a customer! The B2B lead generation cycle is complete...or is it? It may seem like you’re at the finish line, but the salesperson’s journey isn’t over just yet.

Ben told us:

“You have to make the final stages go as smoothly as possible. If they have any questions, answer them as quickly as you can. Send through a contract without sending it at an unsociable hour. Signing a contract should be an easy process. If you use signing software like DocuSign, PandaDoc or GetAccept the prospect only has to click a couple of boxes to become a customer. This is really worth the investment.”

Once they’ve signed, it’s also the job of the salesperson to make sure they’re ready for the next steps.

“You have to deliver what you said you’d deliver. For us, this means introducing them to their dedicated Customer Success Manager and giving the CSM all the information they need. A new customer shouldn’t have to worry about anything, it’s all been taken care of. Throughout the entire sales process and beyond, simplicity is king.”

Final thoughts

Ben left us with some final sales advice.

“In every aspect of sales, you need to make things as simple as possible. Be clear, succinct, upfront, and honest. Outline everything for the prospect and deliver everything you need to in as few words as possible. The easier you make the process for the prospect, the easier they will find it to sell your proposition to their team.”

Get more sales tips!

Many thanks to Ben Mouquet for providing us with some insights into his sales pipeline management techniques!

If you enjoyed it - there’s plenty more where that came from.

We recently released The Outbound Prospecting Playbook, which is bursting with tips on managing your outbound, throughout the funnel. Take a look today and learn about:

  • Cold calling
  • TAM identification
  • Outbound email
  • Social selling
  • Sales cadences
  • Much, much more!

Click 👇 to download your free copy!

Outbound Prospecting Playbook