Every organization loves a great pipeline. A great pipeline, hopefully, drives more sales. There are a lot of ways to increase pipeline, but there are three proven ways to increase the pipeline in an ethical way.
- Research about your market in detail
You need to know more about the business you are in. You need to know about the way products are made in your business, the way products are sold in your business, the way people are engaged in your industry, and the way organizations work in your industry. But more importantly, you need to understand the details of the market you operate in.
Many call it market research, but it is more than that. It is knowing the details and intricacies of each customer and each region in detail and being able to tell the difference between the different customers. It is about understanding the big picture and smaller details from the data that is available. It is about creating information from data.
This research will make the job of organizations easy because it makes their decisions regarding their products, people, process, and markets simple. No questions can be asked if an organization’s decision is based on research and not based on guesswork.
To make this a reality, organizations will have to think in four aspects.
One – Learn about the customer. Understand the customer and prospect in as much detail as possible. If the customer is a business, understand their financial information for at least five years, but ten years would be optimal. Use financial indices such as EBIDTA, ROA, ROE, and Enterprise Value, and Market Capitalization to understand the customer more. Understand the aspirations along with the history of the customer. Use not just secondary data, but your own data set. Do not think of only numbers as data. Even the customer preferences and the use cases preferred by each customer are data point. Leverage as many data points as possible. And make this data to build the most detailed picture of the customer as possible. And think of building a relationship heatmap. Not just a heatmap that shows the relationship between the people in the organization and the people in the client, but also a relationship heatmap that reflects the nitty-gritties of the relationship between the key decision makers of the client.
Two – Learn about the region. Put all the data you learn about the customers and build a picture of where each region. Understand the unique features of each region. Very few people will have this holistic view of each region because they focus on one customer. Understand how the highs of one customer may have caused the lows of another customer. Look at the region from the perspective of a third person. And make the information useful. Look at secondary research like Forbes Global 2000 and Fortune 500 to enhance your research. Understand more about the regulatory policies of the region.
Three – Look around. Make sure you look at other industries that are close to the industry you operate in. You may find examples of see ideas that may be relevant for the customers in your industry. You may come across use cases that no one else would have seen or would have seen but would not have observed. Look at what the industry that you operate in can learn from the other industries. And make it part of your research.
Four – Lead the way. Do not treat the data you gather and the research you build as secrets that can be accessed only by the top management in your company. Create thought leadership that will highlight your expertise and invite opinions. Go for a printed magazine on a regular basis if there is a need. Share it with the customers. Give it your prospects. Build the industry that you are in. Let others build on your insights and create further ideas. Because that will help you grow further. Tell the world that you are the leaders in your industry.
So, go ahead and research about your market. Understand your customer in so much detail that they are surprised to learn insights from you that they would not have thought through by them. And lead the way.
2. Drive demand, ethically
Your product will not have demand unless it is sold. Yes, some products become viral and sell off in an extremely easy manner, but those are products that occur once in a blue moon. 99.99% products need to be sold.
This is where the role of a lead generation team comes into play. The role of a sales team is to sell, and the role of the account management team is to sell more. The role of a marketing team is to bring in awareness about the product. Somewhere between sits the role of a demand generation function which is supposed to drive demand for a product.
Demand generation makes things simple for the team that sells the product. The demand generation team understands the buyer psychology and acts on it to make sure that the buyer is not lost during the initial process in which the buyer makes the decision to go with a brand.
There might be 101 ways to drive demand generation, especially for companies that are B2B. But, going forward, the rules of demand generation will change drastically.
Most importantly, the focus will be on hyper-personalization. Gone will be the days in which a mass mailer would have worked. The click rates are coming down drastically. Email filters are getting stronger. The only thing that will work will be understanding the customer or the prospect in the deepest possible way and trying to leverage that understanding for generating demand.
The success of demand generation will also come from your organizations strategy for thought leadership and the thought leadership is disseminated across different platforms. Do not get me wrong, many people read a lot. And key decision makers read more. Hence, it is important that you have a focused thought leadership strategy that will supplement the demand generation strategy. The thought leadership strategy that your organization follows cannot be different from the demand generation strategy of your organization.
Also, do not be ashamed of using your telephone. The telephone still remains the most basic and most useful convenient way of connecting with your customer. Yes, spam filters like Truecaller will block unwanted callers, but try using the most traditional way to connect – the desk phone, and the results will probably surprise you.
In case you are selling a B2C product, consider leveraging the freemium model to drive demand. Or even better, give the entire product free for a short period. This will help you understand what the users want and do not want. Companies like Netflix and Adobe Stock are using this model to drive up their demand. Both give a month’s subscription as free for its first-time users. Caveat alert – do not make the exit process tough if you are doing this. And as far as possible, do not ask for the card details of the customer. If thought through, this can also be relevant for B2B companies with the right model.
This is the age of Instagram influencers. And there is no shame in using influencers to drive up the demand of your product. Demand generation is not something that is successful if done internally only. Look outside. Partner with trusted companies who can help you drive the demand.
All the while make sure you do not abuse the data that you have. Use the data that you have responsibly. The owners of the data that you have about your customers and prospects are the customers and prospects themselves. Do not disappoint them. Unless you have the product that sells without a marketing and sales team, you need to drive demand. So, focus on driving demand that will help you drive the pipeline and not on short term results. Do this responsibly.
3, Invest a lot in your brand
A brand is a promise that you make to your customer. True. I could not get a better explanation for the word brand.
In fact, the brand of your organization is the foundation for its strategy, its identity and the benchmark which is used to measure the trust of your organization’s customers.
Many companies confuse branding with product management. It is not. While product management is about managing the product across the entire lifecycle, branding a product is not the same. The best products do not make the best brands, and the best brands may not be the best products.
As I said, the brand is the promise that an organization makes to its customer and is derived from the vision of the company. It is a story that organizations tell their customers and which the organization aims to make true. Branding is the act of taking this story to the customer and making the customer understand the story.
Why should organizations invest in building their brand? It is important because it will make the jobs of everyone including the salespeople and the hiring team simple. People connect with brands, not products and organizations. Better brands are able to sell more and hire faster in a simpler way.
Let us leave aside the retail companies and other B2C companies for a moment and focus on tech companies. Very few organizations spend less time on creating and building their brand.
Companies like Zuora, Google, and Microsoft are exceptions in the world of branding. They have invested in their brand so much that the industry is recognized by their names. Today no one will talk about subscription economy without mentioning Zuora. No one will be able to argue with Google, Microsoft, and AT&T about what they stand for.
In case you have decided that you will invest on your brand, it is important that you look at certain key aspects. No matter the industry, marketing will have to take ownership of the brand. It is a fad to say that branding is the job of everyone, but it is marketing that sits in the driver’s seat.
Define what your product stands for in the eyes of the customer. Define what the customer gets when he or she uses your product. And that is the promise that you deliver to your customer. And this promise is what will define your brand.
If you are a technology company, the promise that you will deliver may be security, efficiency, or effectiveness. If you are a luxury restaurant, the experience may be your promise. If you are a tour bus operator, convenience may be your promise. Leverage the 30 elements of value that I shared with you in one of the previous chapters in case you are trying to finding it tough to identify the value that you are providing to your customer.
Do not be satisfied with where your brand is. A brand is like a person. And continuous refinement of the brand is akin to exercise for a person. Do not sit back and relax once your brand is recognized. Push to make it a further recognized brand.