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Getting Ready for Pipeline Acceleration

February 17, 2014|Julian Archer

When the sales pipeline is not where it should be, marketing should be ready to work with sales on a variety of programs to help accelerate an opportunity through to completion. At SiriusDecisions, we often help our clients plan pipeline acceleration programs to address these situations.

Whether preparing for a dry-stone wall or the manufacture of the finest piece of jewelry, there will always be hard-working souls who prepare and rough shape the rock (read: sales lead) before passing it onto the skilled craftsman (read: sales rep) to create a work of wonder. Should a “rock” accidentally fall prior to being worked on, have no fear, marketing is ready with recycled nurture programs to pick up the pieces, dust them off and pass them carefully back to the sales rep.

But what if a craftsperson is sitting idle for lack of appropriate stones? What if work has already begun but a problem prevents work from continuing, or an expected purchase falls through? Well, you guessed it; marketing will be ready to work with sales on a variety of programs to help accelerate an opportunity through to completion.

At SiriusDecisions, we often help our clients plan pipeline acceleration programs to address these situations. Pipeline acceleration programs can be classified as one of three types: rapid entry, intra-pipeline and last mile.

  • Rapid entry. These programs are designed to create well-qualified opportunities at the top of the sales funnel, but often require intense effort and come at a cost premium. Although sales executives always appreciate receiving more high-quality leads, keep in mind that rapid-entry programs require additional time and input from sales: support for segment/account high-priority list selection, support for validating teleprospecting guides to determine high propensity to purchase, and immediate followup on forwarded leads. Ensure that sales expectations and objectives are realistic, achievable and in line with broader company goals. Avoid supporting “lone shark” initiatives (e.g. entering a new territory) that have not been carefully planned and earned executive support.
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    • Intra-pipeline. Intra-pipeline programs support deals that have stalled in the middle of the pipeline and need to be reinvigorated. Work with sales to determine a minimum length of time that must have elapsed and a pipeline stage that must be reached before an opportunity can be considered for entry into the program. Together, identify opportunities for the program and group them by their reason for stalling. When planning the program, leverage account executive feedback, augmented with feedback from existing customers on their own purchase cycle experiences.
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      • Last mile. Last-mile acceleration programs focus on late-stage opportunities that face a final barrier to completion. Sales may turn to marketing for support in facilitating a final interaction to help push late-stage prospects to close. Jointly agree on criteria for opportunity selection (e.g. likelihood of close, deal size, strategic importance). Whatever tactic is employed, avoid losing focus and including opportunities in stages other than the last mile.
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        For all pipeline acceleration program types, marketing must ensure it has access to sales data and confidence in its accuracy. This will provide the necessary input in guiding decisions on accounts to include or, just as importantly, what accounts to exclude and the type of program to adopt. Agree on opportunity expectations with sales, and determine what observable outcomes will deem marketing activity successful.

        Now that we know the types of pipeline acceleration programs to consider, my next post will discuss the types of tactics and offers marketing can use to stimulate deal progression through the pipeline.

        Julian Archer

        Julian Archer is a Senior Research Director of Marketing Operations Strategies at SiriusDecisions. He has more than 25 years of international b-to-b demand creation experience within corporate and pan-European field functions. Follow Julian on Twitter @julianarcher

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