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Pipeline Acceleration: What's to Be Done?

March 21, 2014 | By Julian Archer

What can marketing do to ensure pipeline acceleration program success? We determined that marketing should deliver stimulus offers and sales enablement offers to push new and stalled opportunities through the pipeline more quickly.

In my previous post, I explored the benefits of breaking down the sales pipeline into specific zones in order to drive more effective pipeline acceleration programs. We looked at the main program types – rapid entry, intra-pipeline and last mile – and explored how marketing can best prepare and engage with sales to push new and stalled opportunities through the pipeline more quickly.

Let’s turn our attention now to look at what marketing can deliver to ensure program success. In essence, all activity should be designed o educate and encourage the prospective buyer to feel confident enough to move forward, or educate and enable the sales executive to be in a position to re-ignite the opportunity.

SiriusDecisions recognizes two major tactic categories to achieve those goals: stimulus offers and (sales) enablement offers:

Stimulus offers are tactics extended to prospects in order to educate and encourage them to increase the velocity of the buying process. Offers can be directly delivered by marketing or created by marketing and handed to a salesperson who, in turn, delivers them to the prospect. Stimulus offers can be further divided into the following categories:

  • Informational void. A common cause of stalled opportunities is buyer uncertainty or hesitation, due to a lack of understanding or insufficient information to make an informed decision to move forward within the buying cycle. Offers are designed to fill a gap in the buyer’s knowledge and might include more focused customer reference material, a solution comparison document or business benefits case support.
  • Customer proxy. Buyers within new customer opportunities are often taking a leap of faith when making the final purchase decision. Offers should be designed to encourage a buyer to progress by showing the benefits of becoming a customer and thereby reducing the perceived risk of the purchase in the process. Examples include limited (perhaps read-only) access to a customer portal and executive-level customer reference visits.
  • Financial. Ultimately, any solution will come at a price. This type of stimulus offer is designed to “buy” the business via a combination of financial measures (e.g. discounting, more favorable payment terms, added value within the solution offered).
Enablement offers are internal tactics designed to educate and enable sales reps to get past roadblocks and increase the likelihood of driving the buying process further. These offerings are typically built by marketing and used by individual reps at their discretion. Examples include ROI calculators, playbooks and training refreshers.

With an understanding of the type of pipeline acceleration program types available and tactics that can be deployed, you are now ready to create a menu that outlines tactic options for each program type. Consider the context of the specific opportunities that are getting stuck and their zone position within the pipeline.

Additionally, consider the impact of demand type on the appropriateness of each pipeline acceleration tactic. Work with sales to determine who will be responsible for acceleration program execution. Start a dialogue to explain tactics that sales may not have considered in the past, but also allow sales to teach marketing about potential difficulties that could hinder their ability to properly use the tactics.

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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