Rethinking the Pipeline

At a recent HIVE LIVE discussion, many of our associates got together to hear from Georgina Gilmore and Paul Murphy on their learnings from 2021 and predictions for 2022. Both Georgina and Paul have years of experience in B2B technology marketing, having worked for some of the biggest IT and telco companies in the world. One thing that we absolutely predicted; it was going to be a lively session with plenty of interesting ideas! In the first blog of this series, we look at how the pipeline needs to change.  

Georgina started the discussion with her view that “there’s only one pipeline” and that the widely held view of a separate marketing funnel and sales pipeline is flawed “Our internal processes, reporting and systems are driving how we engage and manage prospects. That’s fundamentally wrong” she said. “If we take a customer focused view, outside in, it will provide a clearer framework of how we operate”  

“Today, marketing hands off qualified leads to sales and walks away with little or no idea of what happens to the opportunity” she said, “But are buyers really ready to have a direct conversation with sales at that point?” She went on to explain that some recent research from G2  suggests that as a result of the pandemic,  buyers are in fact choosing to engage with sales far later in their journey and doing more research and evaluation themselves and that 67% of companies usually engage a vendor’s sales team after they have already made a purchase decision 

Sellers must optimise their touchpoints with stakeholders to get the right information in front of the right people before buyers seriously consider alternatives. Sellers can get ahead of this by vetting their buyer lifecycle to identify pain points, understand personas, and proactively reduce friction to facilitate a quick purchase process once a prospect contacts them. The buying journey is not linear, and meeting different buying personas with the right information, in the right place, is key. 

“Surely this means that marketing must continue the conversation with the prospect and introduce sales when the buyer is really ready. There’s so much that marketing can do to continue to engage the prospect, working together with sales through the entire journey” 

“I completely agree” said Paul “It’s no longer about the number of leads that have been produced, it’s the amount of attributed revenue that is being made because of marketing activity” He maintained that measuring individual activities and specific tactics such as a LinkedIn campaign and calculating campaign ROI is misleading. “We must start looking at a blended view the whole way through the pipeline. It’s no longer about impressions, it’s no longer about clicks, it’s about this is how much revenue we’re producing and here’s the ROI” Marketing will still need to assess and optimise their campaign activities, and according to Paul the challenge will be the expertise and knowledge required to do this well.  

Then what should a sales and marketing performance meeting cover in the future? Number of attendees at a webinar? Downloads of a whitepaper? “Absolutely not” argues Georgina.  “As Paul has said that’s marketing’s role to assess the performance of tactics and try and work out the perfect recipe and sequence”   

She went on to explain that we must look at the overall health of the entire pipeline, top to bottom. The questions to answer in a sales and marketing performance meeting must be:  

Are we attracting the right prospects aligned to our target audience and ideal customer profiles?  

  • Do we have enough of them and healthy pipeline coverage? 
  • Are prospects getting the right content and support to make decisions?  
  •  If we win a deal, why did we win it?  
  • What is the customer profile? 
  • What was the experience for them?  
  • Conversely, if we lose a deal, why did we lose it?  
  • What could we have done differently?  

“I’m continually amazed that little time is spent on discussing win /loss data. This has to be the most valuable information a company has” Georgina states. “And not enough time is being spent here” She continued that more focus being spent on understanding why deals are won or lost helps the entire business flex it’s strategy to drive higher performance. “The insights are critical for not only sales and marketing, but for R&D, product development, and commercial teams working on pricing and RFPs” 

So, as we enter a new year and meetings are starting to be scheduled, let’s challenge how we review the pipeline, by focussing on the prospect buying experience and leveraging that powerful data to drive better business decisions.