7 Causes of Sales Pipeline Stagnation (and How to Restore Flow)

“Why is my sales team not closing a large percentage of the leads they’re given?”

This question often keeps sales team leads up at night, and the result is new strategies and revamped training programs. While some fault may lie in these areas, the real reason for a lack of deals is an issue in your pipeline.

Your pipeline’s health closely reflects your sales team’s success. Providing your team leads from a healthy pipeline is a lot like playing chess while knowing what your opponent is going to do ahead of time. The game gets easy in a hurry, and your salespeople won’t have to stretch themselves to their yes extremes every time they need to close a deal.

If you’re receiving complaints about leads not being good enough or of too much leakage in the middle of your funnel, chances are you have a clogged sales pipeline. Here are seven causes of a blocked pipeline and what you can do to rectify the situation.

1. Poor Quality Leads Entering Your Pipeline

First, let’s talk about low-quality leads.

Why this is happening

Let’s start with the obvious reason for pipeline blockage. It contains too many low-quality leads or irrelevant deals. Often, companies choose to stuff their funnel with as many leads as possible to satisfy vanity metrics. For example, if your organization considers metrics such as view-to-contact-entries as a “conversion,” it’s natural that poor quality leads are going to enter your pipeline. However, the problem goes beyond metrics. More likely than not, a cultural shift is needed to first recognize the problem and then apply solutions.

What You Should Do

Conduct a deep review of your current metrics and check whether any of them tie to business goals. Often, KPIs get divorced from business goals in the heat of campaign creation. Make sure to involve your marketing teams in these reviews as well.

A lack of alignment between marketing and sales also results in irrelevant leads clogging the pipeline. Is your sales team represented when marketing campaigns and buyer personas are being developed? Does the marketing team use sales data to understand buyer values and pain points? If not, your marketing team is probably putting out material that attracts people who aren’t a good fit.

Here’s where changing organizational culture comes into play once again. Make it a point to convene meetings between sales and marketing teams to align their campaigns with your business-driven goals. These meetings will prevent your campaigns from losing focus and clogging your pipeline with irrelevant leads.

Tools to Help You

Consider installing an account-based marketing (ABM) program that focuses only on your best prospects and delivers customized content to them. The volume of deals in your pipeline will decrease, but your odds of success will skyrocket. It’s better to fill your pipeline with deals that are stacked in your favor than to target everyone and hope your best prospects identify themselves.

You can also use automation technology to improve your lead qualification process. For example, a tool such as Matomo collects important data about your website visitors and scores them according to their likelihood of closing a deal or moving further into your funnel.

 

Another helpful tool is Oribi, which can help you to delve deeper into your data. Oribi acts as a sort of replacement for Google Analytics, providing a more intuitive interface for website user data collection.

Takeaways

  • Pay attention to the following: pipeline conversion rate, the length of your sales cycle, and the average deal size; when you begin laser-targeting customers, you’ll find that all three metrics are impacted.
  • The best-case scenario is for your sales cycle to decrease with the other two increasing. However, as deal size increases, you can expect a moderate increase in the length of your sales cycle.
  • Exercising patience is the key when implementing an ABM campaign; don’t be in a hurry to close deals to beef up vanity metrics.
  • Always ensure your KPIs connect to business goals and pursue quality over quantity.

Mid-Funnel Assets are Unengaging

Are your mid-funnel assets unengaging? Let’s discuss why this might be.

Why This Is Happening

Lead nurturing is a critical task that many companies fumble. Often, lead nurturing is thought of as a top of the funnel task, but the reality is that until a prospect signs the dotted line, they need nurturing. Mid-funnel marketing assets are crucial to ensuring leads pass through without falling off or stalling.

The middle of the funnel is a prolonged stage by nature, with multiple substages within it. For example, some users might need more education to convince them to move forward, while others who are knowledgeable might require detailed technical content regarding your service or product.

Tools to Help You

Consider using an AI-powered tool such as Exceed to help you automate and manage lead engagement and qualification at this stage.

 

Exceed’s AI bots conduct human-like two-way conversations with your leads via email or on your website to evaluate them for re-engagement, thereby saving your team valuable time on follow-ups. Your team can also customize their dashboards to help qualify mid-funnel leads better. Whichever tool you eventually use, make sure you have the right processes backing up automation.

A similar solution is the one offered by Conversica. Through the use of AI assistants, you can align your marketing and sales teams with one another. Measuring engagement via KPIs is critical at this stage of your pipeline. Take a look at the performance metrics for each stage in the middle of your funnel and measure relevance. Scroll depth, page heatmaps, average time spent on the page, and CTA engagement are a few examples of metrics you should look at.

Takeaways

  • Don’t hesitate to change the style and focus of content if your prospect isn’t engaging as much as you’d hoped.
  • The key to nurture leads is to deliver hyper-personalized content.
  • Many sales teams obsess over pushing as many leads as possible through the mid-funnel stage to latter stages since they believe this gives them an easier path to closing a deal.
  • Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. All this approach does is harry prospects and they end up leaving your pipeline. Exercise patience and focus on attracting them through your funnel instead of pushing them.

Lack of Funnel Exit Points

So you have no funnel exit points. Why might that be?

Why This Is Happening

This cause of funnel stagnation is a bit counterintuitive. Sales teams focus on pushing high quality leads into their funnel but don’t focus enough on giving low quality leads the opportunity to filter themselves out. Without providing your less than desirable prospects to show themselves out, you’re forcing irrelevant content on them, and your metrics will naturally skew towards a lack of engagement.

What You Should Do

One way of giving prospects a chance to show themselves out is to give them the option to tell you what they want. By creating periodic prospect quality reviews to filter out prospects who aren’t interested, you are giving them a chance to express dissatisfaction. Additionally, this will help your sales and marketing team craft more relevant material.

Often, prospects won’t engage with content because they’re looking for other solutions:

  • Use surveys and questionnaires to check whether your content is unengaging or uninteresting
  • Monitor a prospect’s open rates and clicks to figure out how engaged they are
  • Create periodic prospect quality reviews to filter out prospects who aren’t interested

This exercise is negative in nature and most managers won’t like executing it. However, it’s essential to maintaining the quality of your pipeline.

Next, examine the middle of your funnel to check whether it can be broken into further steps. While you don’t want to create too many steps, you should steer away from wanting to push as many people through as possible. Many organizations create inefficient mid-stage funnels for fear of losing too many prospects.

Takeaways

If you’re afraid of too many prospects exiting, the problem lies at the top of your funnel. Trying to ‘stop them from exiting’ is sugarcoating the problem. Your end-stage metrics will look pretty dismal if this is the case. Tailor content to relevant personas as much as possible and allow prospects to show themselves out. If you encounter resistance to this notion, then a cultural shift is needed within your organization.

Lack of Patience With Prospects

Are you impatient with prospects? Let’s explore why this happens.

Why This Is Happening

As much as salespeople would love prospects to immediately sign contracts after a product demo, this isn’t quite the case. In fact, every prospect moves at an unexpected pace, be it too fast or too slow. Sales teams can sabotage themselves by trying to “push” prospects instead of trying to “pull” them.

Prospects will act when they feel compelled to do so, and there isn’t much a sales team can do except nurture them and wait for them to arrive at their hour of need. Going back to my example of prospects going silent after a product demo, many salespeople feel the need to reach out to prospects and force a sale.

What You Should Do

A better approach would be to nurture them and seek feedback. See if changing the style of content works. Either way, give them time and space while you let them you’re there in case they ever need help. Give them a chance to exit your funnel if they’re dissatisfied. This sounds counterintuitive but if a prospect has made their mind up to avoid your product, no amount of convincing is going to bring them back into the fold.

Focus on engaging your most promising prospects and keep delivering value. Channel your attention to what your team can control and deliver relevant content instead of trying to force prospects to make decisions you cannot control.

Lack of Reactivation Loops

You’re noticing a lack of reactivation loops. But why? Let’s explore.

Why This Is Happening

Prospects often go silent for no reason, and it can be frustrating to figure out what to do with them. Your sales team needs to have a reactivation strategy in place that either reengages them or points them towards the exit. Remember that each prospect in your funnel must be there for one reason: to potentially close a deal.

What You Should Do

Reactivation campaigns are a great way to unclog your funnel:

  • Examine your engagement metrics to isolate prospects for these campaigns
  • Make sure you give your prospects enough time to identify themselves as re-engagement prospects
  • A period of three months since their last contact is a good timeframe

Whatever the nature of your campaign is, make sure you’re not allowing prospects to ‘marinate’ in your funnel for too long. Pull them deeper or direct them towards an exit, but do so with patience. Give them enough time to identify themselves as uninterested or unengaged. You’ll increase the quality of your leads and increase deal conversions.

Tools to Help You

You can automate this process and free up your sales teams’ time by using a tool like Ontraport or ActiveCampaign.

Re-engagement tends to be a drawn out process with many variables. Smart automation throughout your workflow is the key to creating an efficient process and maintaining productivity.

Consider

Take your product’s ticket size into consideration when giving prospects time. The costlier your product is, the more time your prospects will need. You can examine prior sales data to determine how much time is reasonable.

Lack of Experimentation

There’s no experimentation left, right? Time to figure out why.

Why This Is Happening

Companies often fall into the trap of doing the same old thing over and over again. It’s understandable why this happens. You achieve a lot of success with one channel or method and become attached to it. For example, you might have launched a great email campaign a few years ago and have become wedded to email marketing ever since.

The thing with the modern sales landscape is that consumer behavior is changing faster than ever before. If you’re swearing by year-old methods without data backing them up, you’re a dinosaur. Using the same methods over and over again leads to similar types of leads populating your pipeline.

What You Should Do

Make it a point to experiment with your content as well. Switching up your marketing tactics and experimenting with different content channels is a great way to cast your net wider. You never know where your next great prospect will come from. Sure, you’ll meet with abysmal results on some platforms, but this helps you identify your strengths. Combine the insights you gain from each platform to narrow what your prospects engage with the most.

Tools to Help You

As technology becomes more sophisticated than ever, AI is entering the field of content generation. Platforms such as Outreach can help you engage with leads in less ordinary ways, allowing your sales team to put forth fresh tactics and ideas instead of recycling the same scripts. The AI behind Outreach utilizes funnel insights to suggest engagement-driven actions.

 

To complement this, Broca can come handy as well with its AI that creates high converting ad campaigns and content. While the technology is still in beta, there’s no denying that you can gain insights into the kind of ad content that could potentially work with your prospects.

Outdated Persona Data

So your persona data is…well, out of date. How can you fix it?

Why This Is Happening

Persona creation is an iterative process. Neglect the iterative part and you’ll have a pipeline of confusing prospects that cut across multiple personas. Your marketing and sales teams need to revisit buyer personas to check their relevance to your business. Relevance in this context implies data that backs up persona behavior and values.

What You Should Do

Look at sales data and collect up-to-date impressions using surveys and interviews.

When presenting your prospects with surveys, make it a point to present them with no more than three choices. For example, when surveying existing customers about a product feature, ask them to note whether this feature is “most important,” “neutral,” or “unimportant” to them.

What NOT to do: Some companies present an answer scale from one to 10, and this creates confusion. A person who doesn’t need a feature might circle it as a six, while someone who doesn’t need it, but doesn’t mind it either, might circle the same number.

Next, evaluate your data gathering techniques and tie your pricing to what your prospects value the most.

Consider

The key to smart pricing is to tie your value proposition directly to what each persona wants. Data will point the way. Validate this against your existing customers’ behavior. You can use a pricing survey method such as the Van Westendorp model to figure out how much your prospects are willing to pay.

By tying value propositions and price thresholds to personas you’ll create a seamless link between your prospect personas and your pricing strategy. Data will back your decisions up every step of the way when you do this and you’ll make less missteps.

Restore Flow Through Transparency

Admitting your pipeline is clogged and is filled with less than perfect prospects requires honesty and transparency. You won’t like what you see, but the key is to implement better practices instead of ignoring your issues. Use the seven tips mentioned here, and you’ll notice a bump in the quality of your prospects and deal conversions.

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