Improving your sales conversion rate is a joint effort between marketing and sales. When these teams collaborate, the process usually goes something like this: marketing drives traffic toward the website and then the sales team takes over from there, hoping to convert visitors into qualified leads.
However, there is more to this process than driving traffic and converting visitors. By squeezing more conversions out of existing traffic and leads, a business can set itself on a long-term growth path.
Two main strategies can help you achieve this: lead qualification and lead nurturing.
Let’s take a closer look at how you can increase the sales conversion rate for your business by focusing on the following:
- Defining marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) vs. sales-qualified leads (SQLs)
- Lead scoring
- Building a sales funnel
- Lead nurturing
- Converting MQLs into SQLs
- Finding synergy between marketing and sales
The difference between MQLs and SQLs
In order to explain how you’ll be able to increase your sales conversion rate, we need to start by clearly differentiating marketing qualified leads from sales qualified leads.
Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
MQLs are individuals who your marketing team has determined are more likely to become clients. This could be for a few different reasons, including:
- They fit the buyer persona
- They engaged with the brand in a certain way
- They expressed interest in the product or service
The criteria for MQLs will vary from company to company, based on the type of products and services you sell. Every lead that doesn’t fit these criteria will be marked as unqualified and will not be further engaged at this point.
However, these unqualified leads are still important to track. In the future, they could perform an action that moves them from unqualified to qualified. Even if that doesn’t happen, those leads will serve as a litmus test to help you distinguish between a good and a bad lead.
Identifying and tracking your MQLs can also help you with lead scoring. The more information you have on them, the better you can qualify them.
Sales qualified leads (SQLs)
SQLs are leads that have been vetted by the sales reps and deemed potential customers with a high chance of converting. This means that these leads met specific criteria and have engaged with the sales team.
SQLs are owned by the sales team so that they can actively sell to them and close deals. The amount of lead nurturing may differ from SQL to SQL, but ultimately they are qualified as having a better chance of converting than other types of leads.
Lead Type Comparison Chart
|Leads with potential||Yes||Yes|
|Leads that are ready to buy||No||Yes|
|Leads that you should nurture||Yes||Yes|
|Leads that require a lot of nurturing||Yes||No|
While SQLs are more likely to lead to closed sales, and in turn, increase your revenue, this doesn’t mean that MQLs aren’t important.
Both of these lead groups have conversion potential, which is why it’s important to qualify them properly and nurture those relationships with the information you gained.
Let’s take a look at how to perform lead scoring.
Did you know that 63% of companies use lead scoring to prioritize leads?
Segmenting and scoring your leads will help you to more easily determine which leads have a higher likelihood of converting. In order to score your leads successfully, you need to create your own scoring system.
Lead Scoring 101
Start by creating a table to input your leads, as well as important criteria, and leave space for your lead score. Once you have all the necessary information, you can score every lead based on how likely you think they are to convert. Usually, this is done on a scale of 1 to 100.
Determine how many points you’ll give out to leads for actions such as:
- Visiting the pricing page on your website
- Signing up for a newsletter
- Engaging with a newsletter
- Downloading a resource like an e-book
- Registering for a webinar
If you don’t want to build a sheet from scratch, download a lead scoring template with built-in equations:
After you have a scoring system in place, you’ll need to define the barrier that needs to be overcome in order to be labeled as a SQL.
With this process, you can better align the efforts of your marketing and sales teams since everyone will know the exact profile of a potentially good versus bad customer. It will also help you understand which leads to prioritize and how to shape your lead nurturing and other marketing and sales activities.
Additional Lead Segmentation
Once you’ve collected enough data to understand what a sales qualified lead looks and behaves like, you can start to further segment your leads. This will allow you to speed up your sales process and ultimately, spend less time on low-quality leads and leads that turn out to be bad customers.
Generally, you want to start segmenting your leads based on categories such as:
- Demographics (age, gender, location, education level)
- Needs and interests (their industry ad how they would use your products and services)
- Other specific criteria (anything specifically linked to your industry and brand)
Now that you know exactly who to target, it’s time to create a bulletproof process for moving them through the sales funnel.
Building a sales funnel
The steps we’ve covered so far will help you build a solid foundation for identifying and scoring your leads. However, you’ll have a hard time converting your prospects into loyal customers if you don’t consider the entire sales funnel.
The sales funnel shows you the position of your leads in their decision-making process. It starts with awareness – educating them that a solution for their problem exists, and ends with loyalty – where they become loyal customers of your brand.
But how can this funnel boost your sales conversion rate?
In the awareness stage, you need to attract prospects who aren’t already aware of your brand and products. The discovery stage is where you engage them, learn about their needs, and educate them. Once you do this, you can move into the evaluation stage and send them an offer. The negotiations come in the intent stage. If you can successfully finalize your proposal in this stage, you can easily move the leads down to the purchase stage.
Now, even when you convert leads, your job isn’t done. You need to re-engage your customers so they become repeat buyers – the loyalty stage.
Now that you’ve identified your qualified leads and where they fall in your sales funnel, it’s time to answer the burning question: How do you turn those MQLs into SQLs?
If you want to move prospects through your sales funnel and help them convert, you need to nurture those relationships. Nurtured leads tend to make 47% larger purchases than other leads. It’s important to invest in this process and build relationships that not only help you convert but also upsell.
Lead nurturing is all about guiding your leads through the sales cycle with valuable information and educational content, providing answers to their questions, and helping them overcome any objections.
This process should be as personalized as you can make it. If you know the exact needs and primary pain points of a lead, you can address them in your nurturing process. However, it’s crucial to know the right time at which you should present this content.
You are the expert in this relationship. Your potential clients are expecting you to explain the intricacies of your products and services, pinpoint the value drivers that are most relevant to their business, and ultimately help them make a decision between you and your competitors. In order to keep your leads engaged with your brand, you need to present yourself as the authority in your industry. Taking a thought-leadership approach can help you come off as less salesy and more informative.
Remember, converting someone through your sales funnel doesn’t just result in a singular sale. You’re building loyal relationships with clients that will repeat the purchase over and over again, and may even refer other clients along the way.
How to turn MQLs into SQLs
Let’s break down the best lead nurturing techniques and how you can make them work for your brand.
The first step is to create high-quality content for every stage of the sales funnel. This content needs to be personalized, and in order to be effective, you need to create a multi-channel approach to getting it in front of your audience. Then, you can use your buyer personas to create a content plan that addresses your leads’ needs and show it to them at the right moment in their customer journey.
Think of it as personalizing your unique selling point (USP), the essence of what makes your product or service better than your competitors, based on your buyer persona’s lifestyle. Some will be drawn to saving time, some to the benefits you offer, and some will be looking for an alternative to the product or service they already use. Use that knowledge to tailor your content and create an email sequence that goes alongside social media posts, sales outreach and other marketing and sales activities.
Why you need a multi-channel approach
Let’s talk about the importance of having a multi-channel approach. Particularly for B2B companies, it may feel like email is the only touch-point needed. However, recent data shows that 72% of people would like to connect with brands through multiple channels. A multi-channel strategy allows you to leverage the best traits of each channel to maximize the impact of your communication with customers.
The key to a successful multi-channel approach is in selecting the right channels. Learn where your customers are spending their time, what their preferred channels are, and which channels your competitors are focusing on. For DTC companies, that typically means prioritizing social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, as well as email marketing. B2B companies tend to focus on LinkedIn, website and blogging channels.
Asana is a great example of a successful multi-channel approach. Their team has developed a robust resources section that is full of helpful and highly-relevant content to their user’s needs. For example, Asana classifies its product as a “work management tool,” so you’ll find constantly updated content around productivity, goal-planning, and project management.
When a user engages with their organic content, they often have free templates available to download.
Once a user has taken enough actions to qualify them as a potential lead, they have retargeting campaigns on various platforms like LinkedIn to offer free trials of their platform.
If a user signs up, they’ll be contacted by a member of the sales team who will provide information on product offerings and pricing.
Sending timely follow-ups
Once you have their attention, make sure you’re quick to follow up with leads. If an interested buyer has to wait for an answer for a long time, they are more likely to quickly move on and start talking to your competition. Your follow-ups should be fast and provide valuable information your leads are looking for.
We recommend having actual people responding to these queries, not bots, because they can get pretty annoying and insufficient really fast.
Finding the perfect cadence for your follow-ups may differ based on the action your lead takes, but you generally want to get a response back within 1 business day. Zendesk has a great example of follow-up cadences for B2B vs B2C customers that shows a mixture of contact points.
Using Live Chat
Live chat helps you gain the trust of your prospects. The visitors automatically perceive your website as more authentic when they know there’s someone on the other side they can talk to – someone who can solve their problem immediately. The trick is to have your customer success team answer these questions, instead of bots that make the conversation run in circles.
If your leads have any difficulties or questions while making a shopping decision, they can ask instantly. If you address their concerns right there and then, there’s a good chance they’ll buy from you. Live chat has undoubtedly positive effects on sales, revenue, and loyalty. A study that included over 100 businesses found that 51% of customers are likely to purchase again from companies that offer live chat. The same study found that 63% of visitors are likely to revisit a website with live chat, while 38% of customers found live chat helpful in making purchases.
Live chat software is expensive but worth the investment. A budget-friendly option is to integrate Facebook Messenger with your website.
Finding synergy between marketing and sales
As we’ve mentioned before, your marketing and sales teams need to work together. It will give you the best chance of increasing your sales conversion rate. After all, both teams have the same goals. If your marketing team doesn’t know how to properly vet and qualify leads, they will attract low-quality leads that the sales team will have a lot of trouble converting. In the same vein, if the sales team has a need for specific content or finds an increased interest in a specific feature, but doesn’t share this with the marketing team, there is a significant loss of opportunity.
Implementing a strategy like Account-based marketing (ABM), can help your sales and marketing teams operate together more efficiently. ABM is a highly targeted, data-driven marketing strategy that focuses on specific accounts (businesses) rather than broad demographics. In other words, ABM emphasizes building relationships with high-value accounts and customizing campaigns tailored to their specific needs, goals, and challenges.
Companies with aligned marketing and sales departments on average generate 208% more revenue for their marketing efforts. In fact, a survey conducted by TOPO highlighted that 90% of respondents believe that alignment between sales and marketing is better with account-based GTM versus traditional GTM.
7 Steps to Implementing ABM
Let’s take a look at how incorporating ABM into your organization can work in tandem with the efforts we covered above to dramatically improve your sales conversion rates and help you achieve better results.
Identify High-Value Accounts
The first step to implementing successful ABM is identifying your high-value accounts. High-value accounts are the ones that, if won, will significantly impact your organization’s revenue growth. To identify these potential clients, consider factors such as:
- Company size
- Growth potential
- Complimentary needs to your product or service offerings
Research and Gather Data.
Digital platforms have become a treasure trove of valuable data. Leverage these platforms to gather critical information about your target accounts, such as their organization structure, key decision-makers, influencers, technology stack, and pain points. The more in-depth information you have about your target audience, the better equipped you’ll be to craft highly personalized and tailored campaigns.
Develop Targeted Content and Campaigns.
With a deep understanding of your target accounts’ pain points and their organizational structure, you can now develop highly customized content and campaigns that speak directly to their needs. Develop content that showcases your understanding of their challenges and offers solution-focused value propositions.
Forget mass and generic messaging. Instead, focus on delivering highly personalized and targeted communication. Use your gathered data to craft compelling messages that resonate with your prospects. Utilize templates to maintain brand consistency, but be sure to tailor the content to each account’s specific needs and goals.
Leverage Multi-Channel Engagement
To make a more significant impact and deliver consistent messaging across channels, employ a diverse range of marketing tactics, including email marketing, social media, events, webinars, retargeting campaigns, and more. Be present on platforms where your ideal customers are engaging and provide them with valuable content.
Align Sales and Marketing Teams
To optimize your ABM strategy and drive meaningful results, your sales and marketing teams must work collaboratively. Keep both departments informed about your ideal account profiles and ensure they understand each other’s goals, objectives, and strategies.
Measure, Test, and Optimize
Just like any other marketing strategy, regular measurement and optimization of your ABM efforts are crucial. Track engagement levels, content performance, and progress toward revenue objectives to determine the success of your campaigns. Be agile and adapt the campaigns based on what works and what doesn’t.
Account Based Marketing offers a strategic and results-driven approach to targeting high-value accounts, leading to improved sales conversion rates, customer retention, and revenue growth. By narrowing your marketing focus and personalizing your campaigns to suit the unique needs of your target accounts, you’ll gain a leading edge over your competitors and establish meaningful, long-lasting relationships with your customers.
Improving your sales conversion rate won’t happen overnight. Not only do you need to insure that you are providing a great user experience, but you also need to set up the foundation for a strong sales funnel and continually retest and shape your process as you go.
Clearly defining your MQLs vs. SQLs and having the ability to identify where they are in the sales funnel will make it easier for prospects to find what they are looking for. If and when they decide they’re going to buy, it will make their onboarding process seamless as well.
With your marketing and sales team working together on the same goal, you’ll be able to attract, identify, and communicate (at the right time!) with high-quality leads and close more deals.
That’s what lead nurturing is all about. It will help you turn your marketing-qualified leads into sales-qualified leads that are ready to buy and repurchase.
Following this actionable guide will help you to create bullet-proof strategies for converting more leads into customers and shortening your sales cycle.