Sales Pipeline

Whose responsibility is the sales pipeline anyway?

When the sales pipeline dries up, the blame more times than not is placed solely on marketing and the market awareness and demand generation campaigns employed — or lack thereof. While marketing may have some fault in a lack of steady or valuable leads, the truth is that this shortcoming is both the fault of marketing and the sales teams.

In fact, through our experience across a broad base of clients, we have found marketing to hold the power to generate just 15% to 20% of the sales pipeline through its efforts. That means sales is directly responsible for more than 80% on average of pipeline development efforts.

The trick here is for marketing to do its job well, while sales follows up on the marketing department’s work in valuable ways. I am talking about sales and marketing alignment, a long-time issue for many companies.

The Pipeline-Generating Ingredients to Put into Play

Consider sales and marketing alignment as an army for hire looking to find the right buyers to support and the right ammo to support them with. There are three components this entails — and they do not all fall to marketing.

  1. Marketing leads market awareness, with big-picture oversight and messaging: public relations pushes, thought leadership content, industry events, etc. These efforts rarely directly translate into qualified leads but instead are the air cover that is setting up the market for the sales troops.
  2. Marketing should take advantage of additional cycles for demand generation: Promotions, email blasts, Google ads, etc. In order to be effective, these efforts need to be targeted and centered around the ideal buyer profile.
  3. Sales must put the thought leadership into action, through insightful engagement with buyers with whom the sales team already has a relationship. Sales has their boots on the ground and face-to-face with buyers. Without them taking marketing’s ammo, all efforts will fall short and the pipeline will halt. For example, say marketing has created a newsletter that contains thought leadership articles directed at a target buyer. Sales can leverage that newsletter by calling up a prospective buyer and engaging them in a conversation such as: “Did you see our newsletter yet? You have not. Well, there is this article in there that I think you would find very valuable. How about we do lunch tomorrow, and I can give you the highlights.”

This is marketing’s work in action — and it can be achieved only by sales.

Ensuring Beyond Sales and Marketing Alignment That All Efforts Are Aligned

Even by putting the above ingredients into play and by engaging sales to take a direct approach on generating the sales pipeline, these efforts can lead to little demand generation or the wrong demand generation.

For the top-performing organizations, sales and marketing — and often product teams as well — need to align on big-picture items such as:

  • Ideal Buyer Profiles
  • Buying Journeys within Those Profiles
  • Territory Coverage Model
  • Value and Differentiation Messaging

For example, the buyer profile should inform marketing where to run demand generation, either in geographic or industry coverage, so there is not a major awareness campaign targeted at Midwest manufacturing companies when they should be targeted at Northeast medical device companies.

The overall takeaway for maintaining a steady sales pipeline is follow-through. If you would like to learn more about how to align your sales and marketing teams to do just this, contact me. Or explore more about Mereo demand progression strategies.


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