Essentials of Sales Execution and Pipeline Development
Sales execution and pipeline development are critical components of any successful sales and marketing operation. For small and midsize businesses (SMBs), optimizing these areas is especially important because limited marketing funds make high sales execution rates critical.
Sales and marketing leaders need ways to better align their B2B buying behaviors and sales strategies to increase buyer engagement, enhance sales productivity, and drive high-quality deals. SMBs are often faced with the challenge of figuring out how to convert a high proportion of leads into paying customers, particularly because they may lack a large sales team.
Using insights from Gartner  and other research , we'll explore how sales and marketing operations leaders and CSOs at SMBs can optimize their sales and execution pipeline development.
What is sales execution?
Sales execution refers to the process of effectively implementing a sales strategy to close deals and generate revenue. It involves a series of activities, including:
Identifying potential customers
Guiding them through the sales funnel
Sales execution also entails maintaining a clear understanding of the customer's needs and preferences, as well as the competitive landscape you’re working within. By optimizing sales execution, businesses can increase their sales productivity, boost revenue, and improve customer satisfaction.
Why does sales execution matter for SMB leaders?
Sales execution is crucial for SMBs because it can have a significant impact on customer growth and retention, pipeline generation, and sales processes.
Customer growth and retention
Sales execution plays a critical role in customer growth and retention because it ensures that a sales team is aligned with company goals and objectives and has the necessary tools and resources to meet customer needs and expectations.
Effective sales execution can result in increased revenue and profits, higher customer satisfaction and loyalty, and a stronger competitive position in the marketplace. On the other hand, poor sales execution can lead to missed opportunities, lost sales, and damaged customer relationships, which can negatively impact customer growth and retention.
In terms of pipeline generation, sales execution refers to the process of effectively managing and converting sales leads into customers.
It involves the implementation of sales strategies, tactics, and tools to identify, qualify, and prioritize leads and to move them through the sales funnel toward a successful purchase.
Need help managing leads? These tools automate lead tracking from acquisition to conversion, increasing efficiency, qualification, and conversion rates.
For sales processes, sales execution includes developing and implementing effective sales strategies, training and coaching sales staff, as well as monitoring and analyzing sales data.
In this way, it empowers you to continuously optimize your sales process to improve performance. It also involves ensuring that your sales team is aligned with overall company goals and objectives, and that they are consistently meeting or exceeding their targets.
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What are the benefits of effective sales execution?
Effective sales execution comes with a range of benefits, all of which either directly boost revenue or make it easier to establish consistent sales processes.
Gain the ability to reimagine a holistic view of the customer lifecycle
Businesses need to shift their focus from isolated sales activities to a customer-centric approach. This involves identifying customer needs, preferences, and behaviors at each stage of the customer journey and tailoring sales activities to meet those needs. This way, you don't go several weeks or months without adjusting your sales execution processes to stay in line with the customer’s expectations and experience.
Define a cohesive end-to-end customer revenue lifecycle
Organizations can align their sales and marketing activities to create a seamless customer experience. This involves revisiting existing assumptions around pipeline generation, sales processes, and customer growth and retention to identify areas for improvement. This allows SMBs to optimize their customer engagement strategies, boost sales productivity, and increase revenue generation.
Generate the insights needed to identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities
Developing effective account management processes involves:
Analyzing customer data to identify potential opportunities for revenue growth
Creating targeted marketing campaigns
Establishing strong relationships with customers
By doing this, businesses can maximize customer lifetime value and increase revenue from existing customers.
Collect the data needed to orchestrate demand generation
Businesses need to create a consistent pipeline of qualified leads through effective marketing and sales strategies. This involves identifying the right target audience, developing focused messaging and campaigns, and using data-driven insights to optimize the sales process. This creates a predictable and consistent pipeline of qualified leads that drive revenue growth.
Get the information you need to revisit selling motions and customer engagement approaches
Companies need to align their sales strategies with customer buying behaviors and journeys. This involves developing effective sales methodologies, creating tailored sales approaches, and leveraging data-driven insights to optimize the sales process.
By doing this, businesses can boost sales productivity, close high-quality deals, and improve customer satisfaction.
What types of businesses should consider effective sales execution?
Sales execution can benefit a range of SMBs, particularly when it comes to improving buyer engagement, the customer journey, and aligning teams around the customer experience.
SMBs and sales organizations that need to reevaluate buyer engagement
Considering the rapid rise of digital channels, many organizations are reevaluating their buyer engagement strategies. This involves a careful examination of the customer journey and identifying areas where digital channels can be used effectively to engage buyers.
In particular, SMBs need to consider how to blend digital and seller-led channels across the customer lifecycle. This means rethinking how they interact with customers at various stages of the buying journey, from initial awareness and consideration to decision-making and post-purchase support.
By reevaluating buyer engagement strategies, SMBs can ensure that they meet customers where they are and provide a seamless experience across all channels.
SMBs and chief sales officers looking to cater sales execution to the customer journey
Designing sales execution around the customer journey involves carefully analyzing the customer experience at each phase of the journey, pausing to evaluate how it can be improved, then how to capitalize on the improvement to drive sales execution rates higher. For example, if, after a product demo, customers still have questions regarding how much a product costs, you may want to consider revealing pricing options earlier in the customer acquisition process.
By taking steps like these, you can gain a better understanding of how to engage customers effectively at each stage of their journey. This involves breaking down silos—and fostering connections—between sales, marketing, and customer success teams to create a cohesive approach to customer engagement. By aligning around the customer journey, SMBs can deliver a more personalized and effective customer experience that drives growth and customer loyalty.
SMBs wanting to align teams across the customer experience
While trying to align their teams across the end-to-end customer experience, SMBs can also benefit from a systematic sales execution process. This involves increasing coordination across the entire funnel, from marketing and lead generation to sales and customer success.
By doing so, SMBs can ensure that all teams are working together toward a common goal of delivering a great customer experience. This may require them to:
Create shared metrics, goals, and incentives that align with customer success.
Create a culture of collaboration.
Leverage cross-functional communication by connecting different departments using video conferencing, collaboration, and workflow management software.
By aligning teams across the end-to-end customer experience, SMBs can increase efficiency, reduce friction, and deliver better outcomes for their customers.
What are the key features of sales execution?
The sales execution process is built on a foundation of account management, pipeline generation, and the sales process.
Account management enables effective sales execution by identifying selling opportunities throughout the customer lifecycle, versus ONLY when first trying to convert them from leads to paying clients. Account managers work to:
Build relationships with existing customers
Understand customer needs and challenges
Help identify opportunities for additional products or services
This approach allows SMBs to deepen relationships with existing customers, increase revenue, and improve customer retention. By identifying opportunities for growth within existing accounts, account management enables sales teams to focus their efforts on high-potential accounts and increase overall sales productivity.
Pipeline generation is critical to effective sales execution because it supports consistency in the sales process. By developing a consistent and predictable pipeline, SMBs can ensure that their sales teams are focused on the right opportunities and are working efficiently.
Effective pipeline generation involves a combination of:
Inbound and outbound marketing strategies
Targeted lead generation
Effective qualification processes
A strong pipeline gives sales teams the freedom to focus on the highest potential opportunities, prioritize their efforts, and close more deals.
The sales process
A defined sales process serves as a guideline for your team to close deals consistently. A clear, well-defined sales process provides structure and guidance to sales teams, ensuring that they are working efficiently and effectively toward their goals.
A defined sales process combines:
Clear stages and milestones
Well-defined qualification criteria
Consistent messaging and communication
This approach helps SMBs standardize sales activities, streamline processes, and reduce inefficiencies. By providing sales teams with a clear roadmap for success, a defined sales process enables SMBs to improve sales productivity and drive better results.
Prepare your business for effective sales execution
To position itself for effective sales execution, SMBs should:
Create and establish account management and sales procedures that correspond with customer purchasing behaviors and sales strategies. You can also enhance account management techniques based on customer characteristics.
Match sales resources with the demands of both the buyer and the seller. This balanced approach can support an effective, digital, cross-functional buying journey.
Encourage teamwork with other departments and reenergize the sales development team. To do this, you can integrate people, procedures, strategies, technology, data, and metrics. As a result, you can create new sales opportunities.
Gartner found that to accomplish these goals , successful companies are asking critical questions, such as:
How can sales organizations build pipelines in today’s commercial environment?
How do we develop messaging that drives higher engagement with prospects and customers?
How can sales and marketing work together to qualify high-quality opportunities?
How can sales development teams help improve outbound prospecting?
What competencies should sellers possess to support nurturing leads and opportunities for a more digital customer?
You can use software to streamline and automate your sales execution and pipeline development strategy. Start by exploring these tools, and connect with an advisor to find the right software for your business:
Sales Execution Primer for 2023, Gartner (full content available to clients)
How To Manage Your Sales Pipeline, Outreach.io