Leveraging Sales Engagement Tools to Improve Pipeline Forecasting


To successfully manage the pipeline, organizations must know the number of opportunities in the pipeline, the value of every deal in the pipeline, how long prospects spend in the pipeline, and the win rate.

While CRM tools historically have done a good job delivering much of this data, advanced sales engagement tools are now coming on the market that complement CRM systems -- and provide even greater insight into the pipeline. These new 'digital listening' tools give sales reps capabilities they've never had before -- letting them improve timing for follow-up and engage with prospects more successfully through an 'insight-selling' approach.

By leveraging digital listening, sales tools give organizations increased visibility into the buying process and customers' interests with deep and comprehensive analytics. With knowledge about when and how potential buyers engage with sales content, teams can drive opportunities faster through the pipeline and shorten overall sales cycles. Sales engagement analytics tools achieve this by:

* Showing exactly how a sales proposal is moving through the pipeline
* Revealing everyone involved in the decision-making process
* Uncovering customer hot buttons to keep opportunities moving forward

See how sales proposals move through the pipeline

According to an Inside Sales Market Size Study conducted by InsideSales.com, more than half (53%) of B2B sales reps sell remotely, and inside sales is growing 15 times faster than field sales. With less face-to-face contact, sales teams don't always know where things stand with a prospect -- and barraging a prospect with phone calls to find out isn't a good solution.

Automated and real-time analytics can track the level of activity surrounding a sales proposal. With digital listening, sales reps can see exactly how many times a prospect is opening a proposal -- whether they've viewed the budget -- and for how long -- and whether they've shared it with others. All of this gives greater understanding about where customers are in the pipeline.

Equally important, these tools also reveal prospects who are not engaging. By getting to a 'no' faster, sales can stop wasting time on prospects going nowhere and focus their efforts on more viable opportunities.

Identify all stakeholders in the decision-making process

Complex deals involve numerous decision makers in multiple departments. Without visibility into all of the stakeholders, managing the pipeline for complex deals can be a nightmare. New decision makers who seemingly appear out of nowhere can derail or delay a deal. To manage the pipeline, organizations need insight into all stakeholders and their individual specific criteria.

How can sales analytics help?

Sales engagement analytics make it easy to quickly identify everyone involved in the buying process. Advanced sales tools, such as LiveHive's sales engagement platform, automatically alert you every time a prospect forwards a sales document or email and can provide complete profile data for the recipients. If a document is re-shared, you instantly get detailed contact information for the new stakeholder. By seeing how your sales content is being shared across an organization, you gain insight into all the decision makers -- and get more understanding about where they are in the buying process.

With insight into how much time a prospect in the pipeline spends on a proposal, sales can better assess their interest. They can see precisely what pages are looked at and for how long. Empowered with these data, sales teams can better forecast and qualify leads.

Uncover customer hot buttons

With the ability to learn more about products and services via the Internet and social media, consumers are more informed than ever before. Forrester Research calls this the 'Age of the Customer' -- an era of educated customers who have more control over the selling and buying process.

In this scenario, sales needs as much insight into a customer's interests as possible. Sales analytics show sales teams what content engages prospects -- and provide valuable context for how and when they should engage with leads. They can instantly see what features or products are of most interest and improve timing for follow-up.

Did you know? Sales reps who respond to a prospect within 30 minutes from the time the prospect opens an email, views a document, or makes an inquiry, increase the probability of doing business with that prospect as much as 50%.

Additionally, according to Aberdeen Group, 45% of best-in-class companies make personalizing customer conversations a priority.

A paradigm shift has transformed sales processes -- and transformed the way that organizations must manage the pipeline. By showing how prospects engage with shared communications and materials, advanced analytics have become essential to manage the pipeline of the future.
Micheline Nijmeh
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Micheline Nijmeh is the CMO for LiveHive, Inc., whose cloud-based, sales engagement platform provides real-time intelligence based on customer engagement with digital content. A seasoned Silicon Valley executive, Nijmeh has served as Senior Director, Integrated Global Campaigns at Salesforce.com, where she led the market launch of Salesforce's Chatter and Go-to-Market strategy of Force platform. Nijmeh also served as Senior Director, Integrated Marketing for Silver Spring Networks, where she oversaw global marketing strategy for networking solutions across multiple organizations, including brand awareness, product marketing, demand generation, and management of worldwide marketing events.