June 18, 2023

How to Create a Winning Pipeline Generation Strategy

How to Create a Winning Pipeline Generation Strategy

Generating new customers and driving consistent growth is crucial for any business—yet many companies struggle with an ineffective pipeline generation strategy. An unpredictable flow of leads, lengthy sales cycles, and over-reliance on a few sources hurt revenue goals.

To thrive in today’s competitive landscape, your pipeline needs a purposeful, data-driven process that produces results. This no-nonsense guide will provide concrete strategies to build a scalable and sustainable strategy that finds the right prospects and converts more of them.

We’ll cover metrics that matter, mapping the customer journey, optimizing lead sources, honing your messaging, qualifying prospects, nurturing leads, and integrating sales and marketing systems. Follow these steps to generate a steady stream of ideal customers for long-term growth.

Let’s begin with knowing the numbers that matter most. Measure what you hope to improve, set benchmarks and establish KPIs to optimize every step of the process over time.

Define Key Metrics & Set Benchmarks

Before improving your pipeline generation, you need visibility into what’s currently working and what’s not. Audit your pipeline to identify gaps and define key performance indicators (KPIs) to track, like:

  • Lead volume: How many leads are generated per month from each source? Are volumes increasing, decreasing, or staying flat?
  • Conversion rates: What percentage of leads convert into opportunities and sales? Compare rates by lead source and stage in the funnel.
  • Cycle times: How long does it take on average for a lead to progress from one stage to the next? Are there bottlenecks that increase drop-off?

Set benchmarks based on industry averages, internal targets, and growth goals. For example, aim for:

  • At least 30% of total leads from non-traditional sources
  • A conversion rate of 20% from MQL to SQL
  • An average sales cycle of 60 to 90 days

Then establish systems to track these metrics regularly. Review data monthly to identify underperforming areas that need refinement. Use benchmarks to set achievable yet challenging goals that drive continuous improvement.

With visibility into what’s working and what needs work, you can optimize processes and resources to improve key pipeline metrics over time. Keep data and goals at the center of your strategy to help validate changes and investments that move the needle.

Map the Customer Journey Across Channels

First, gain a holistic view of how prospects typically move from awareness to purchase across all channels to improve pipeline generation.

Map out the stages in the ideal customer journey from awareness to conversion. Define 3 to 5 stages aware of the problem/need, exploring options, evaluated solutions.

For each stage, identify the following:

  • Typical tasks prospects perform
  • Common questions and concerns
  • Preferred channels of communication

Flag any gaps, frictions, or drop-offs between stages that reduce conversions. Does it take too long to move from one stage to the next? Are prospects lost or confused at any point?

Optimize your messaging and outreach based on what resonates most with customers at each stage. For early-stage leads, focus on relevant information and value. For later stages, emphasize features, ROI, and success stories.

Test different contact approaches for each stage. Early-stage leads may prefer organic content and social ads, while evaluators want targeted emails, briefings, and demos.

Understanding how prospects navigate their journey and what motivates action at each point will help you tailor your outreach, creativity, and offers to drive maximum progress through the funnel. By removing friction and meeting prospects where they are, you can move more prospects efficiently toward becoming customers.

Mapping and continuously improving the customer journey should be key to optimizing your pipeline generation strategy.

Audit & Optimize Lead Sources

Every company relies on a mix of lead sources, from paid media to organic traffic and outbound sales. Regularly evaluate how effectively each source produces qualified prospects to generate a sustainable pipeline.

Do an audit of all your current lead sources, tracking metrics like:

  • Total leads generated per month
  • Cost per lead
  • Lead quality score
  • Conversion rate to the opportunity
  • Revenue per lead

Identify underperforming sources based on quality, volume, and cost criteria. For example, sources with low conversion rates or high cost per converted lead.

Test optimizations to improve weaker sources. For content marketing, try more targeted topics or distribution channels. For ads, refine targeting, creatives, or value propositions.

Experiment with emerging channels that align with your ideal prospect and offer the potential to scale. These may include services like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, niche media buys, and industry influencer outreach.

Regularly evaluate potential new sources based on their fit with your ideal customer profile. Can they efficiently reach your target audience? How easy are they to optimize? What is the learning curve?

Direct most of your focus and investment to the 2-3 sources that produce the highest volume of converted leads relative to cost. But test and rotate in 1-2 emerging sources each quarter.

You can refine and improve the mix over time by continuously evaluating and optimizing lead sources based on hard data to generate a more cost-effective and scalable flow of qualified prospects. The right mix of channels forms the foundation of a sustainable pipeline.

Refine Your Messaging

Generic, one-size-fits-all messaging will never generate an effective pipeline. To motivate prospects to take action, your outreach must resonate with their specific needs, pains, and jobs to be done at each stage.

Define key buyer personas based on research, customer interviews, and analytics. Segment by demographics, business type, role, reasons for interest, and budget. Create profiles to represent each persona.

For each persona and stage in the journey, craft tailored:

  • Value propositions
  • Problem statements
  • Calls to action

Test different angles and wording with target audiences. Get feedback from prospects and customers on which resonates most strongly. Look for language that motivates and convinces.

Fine-tune all marketing and sales collateral like:

  • Website and landing page copy
  • Ads and social posts
  • Email nurture streams
  • Case studies and assets
  • Sales decks and scripts

Train sales and marketing on how to speak in an authentic yet customized manner to different prospect types. Avoid generic boilerplate.

Always use the prospect’s pain points, objectives, and goals as a framework for your value proposition and story. Keep the focus on their needs, not your features.

By refining your communications based on what motivates different personas at different stages, you’ll create messaging that prospects genuinely want to engage with. This increases the likelihood they’ll respond, request more info and move further down the funnel.

Build A System To Qualify Prospects

Not all leads are created equal. To generate a sustainable pipeline of ideal customers, you must implement a rigorous qualification process that identifies and routes the most viable prospects.

Define what qualifies as an “ideal” prospect based on criteria like:

  • Business size and industry fit
  • Clear business need or pain point
  • Budget and timeline for purchase

Train sales and marketing on this profile and how to identify strong indicators during initial outreach and research.

Implement systems to score leads based on preset qualifiers. This could include:

  • A weighted scoring rubric in your CRM or marketing automation platform
  • Tags or stages to classify leads as Suspect, Prospect, or Opportunity

Route higher scoring leads directly to sales for immediate follow-up. Have marketing and customer success teams qualify and nurture lower-scoring leads before passing them to sales.

Continually optimize your qualification criteria based on data from converted deals. Determine which factors truly predicted a buyer’s readiness and willingness to purchase.

Refine processes to identify and fast-track “hotspot” prospects within targeted accounts.

With a systematic process to evaluate, score and route the most viable prospects for sales attention and nurturing, you can focus time and resources on opportunities with the highest likelihood of closing - generating a better ROI from your pipeline.

Qualifying and appropriately filtering prospects is essential to efficiently scaling your pipeline generation strategy.

Create Nurture Streams To Engage Leads

Getting a prospect’s initial contact details is just the first step. To generate real pipeline value, you must steadily nurture and qualify leads through targeted communications.

  • Develop a series of automated and personalized email, video, and web content sequences for each buyer persona.
  • Start nurture streams by sharing valuable, relevant information that establishes credibility and builds trust. Avoid hard sells initially.
  • Gradually integrate educational resources, how-to guides, checklists, ebooks, and webinars that provide social proof and demonstrate your expertise.
  • As prospects engage more and their intent increases, follow up with targeted offers, demos, trials, and calls-to-action.
  • Test different pacing, messaging, and creativity to find the frequency and content that generates the highest engagement rates for each persona.
  • Continuously refine nurture streams based on data from people who convert into customers. What specific touches and offers motivated them to take the next step?
  • Pass the hottest prospects in each nurture stream (those with high engagement rates) to the sales team for personalized follow-up.
  • Integrate nurture streams with your CRM and marketing automation platform so leads scoring and qualifying data can automatically route prospects to the next appropriate stream or sales rep.

By gradually engaging prospects with helpful, relevant content that illustrates your value over time, you’ll steadily build their interest, qualify their fit, and motivate more of them to move further down the funnel - generating steady sales-ready leads.

Align Sales & Marketing Systems

Many companies fail to generate an effective pipeline because sales and marketing operate as silos with misaligned goals and processes. To fix this:

Give sales representatives access to leads’ full profiles and behavioral data from your marketing automation platform. This includes lead scores, nurture stream progress, content consumed, and more.

Provide marketing insights into what is and is not resonating with prospects based on engagement data. Look for trends to refine messaging, offers, and creativity.

Have marketing and sales teams collaborate on the following:

  • Prospect persona profiles and qualification criteria
  • Target account lists
  • Creative briefs and collateral
  • Campaign planning and promotion

Align OKRs and KPIs between sales and marketing to incentivize joint pipeline generation goals. Examples:

  • # of qualified leads passed to sales monthly
  • Lead to opportunity conversion rates
  • Average sales cycle times

Implement processes for sales to give timely feedback on lead quality to marketing. Use this data to continuously refine and optimize lead qualification.

Coordinate marketing nudges and sales outreach for a consistent, non-intrusive buyer experience that progresses prospects smoothly toward conversion.

Conduct post-mortems on lost deals to identify what marketing could have done differently to help close more business. Refine strategy accordingly.

By integrating systems, aligning goals, and collaborating regularly, sales and marketing can work as a unified team focused on generating the most pipeline value from every potential customer. This synergy is critical for scaling and optimizing any pipeline generation strategy.

Implement Account-Based Strategies

For many B2B companies, the majority of pipeline and revenue comes from a relatively small number of accounts. To maximize these opportunities:

Compile a target account list of your best-fit prospects based on criteria like:

  • Industry and business type
  • Employees and Revenue
  • Strategic fit and growth potential

Map the key contacts and decision makers within each target account using tools like LinkedIn, Crunchbase, and Datanyze.

Design tailored campaigns and content for each account that directly addresses their unique needs, goals, pain points, and buying committee.

Orchestrate a coordinated approach across sales, marketing, and service to penetrate accounts genuinely, helpfully versus overtly “salesy.”

Nurture key contacts within accounts with relevant, timely content even when not actively selling to gradually build relationships over time.

Implement a scoring system to identify “hotspot” accounts with high intent signal or in-market criteria. Prioritize sales and marketing resources towards these opportunities.

Gather qualitative and quantitative feedback from your best customers to refine your optimal “customer journey” and AM approach.

Measure key account-based metrics like:

  • # of accounts engaged monthly

  • # of active opportunities by account

  • Revenue and pipeline growth by priority account

Leveraging account-based strategies alongside a healthy mix of broader lead-generation activities can maximize the pipeline value generated from your most importantly potential customers. With a data-driven AM approach, you can gradually optimize how you penetrate and grow target accounts over time.

Test & Experiment With Emerging Tactics

Make testing and experimenting a regular practice to continuously improve your pipeline generation.

Constantly explore emerging channels, platforms, tools, and tactics that could help reach more ideal prospects or nurture leads more effectively.

These may include:

  • Using VR/AR in demos or explainer videos
  • Running Snapchat ads
  • Leveraging TikTok for viral content
  • Creating an Alexa skill

Start small by testing newer tactics with a limited budget and narrow scope. Look for indications they can efficiently reach your buyer personas and resonate at different stages of the funnel.

Measure key metrics like lead volume, lead quality, conversion rates, and cost per converted lead. Compare performance to your existing channels and processes.

Quickly drop tactics that do poorly and double down on those that show promise. Be willing to kill ideas that don’t move the needle.

Always test changes against a control group to accurately read their true impact.

Prioritize testing optimizations to existing high-performing channels before adopting many emerging tactics. Focus on refining the 80% of activities already driving the most pipeline value.

Allocate a modest percentage of your budget (5-10%) to experimenting with new tactics representing true innovation versus incremental improvement.

By testing, learning, and optimizing core habits, you can continuously refine your overall pipeline strategy with the approaches that generate the most qualified prospects at the lowest cost. An openness to new ideas will keep your funnel fresh and relevant in a rapidly changing environment.

Measure & Continuously Improve Your Process

The final - and most important - step is regularly measuring results and using data to improve every aspect of your pipeline strategy.

  • Track key pipeline metrics like lead volume, lead quality, win rates, and cycle times monthly. Compare to targets and historical trends.
  • Continually test optimizations across the buyer’s journey from awareness to conversion. Even small tweaks can have an outsized impact when applied at scale.
  • Conduct post-mortems on lost deals to identify any process breakdowns or messaging misalignments that impeded closing business. Make needed changes.
  • Gather iterative feedback from your sales team, customer success managers, and top customers on what is and is not working at each stage.
  • Closely monitor metrics from new experiments and tactics. Quickly abandon what does not work and scale what does.
  • Reward marketing and sales teams for jointly hitting pipeline objectives to incentivize cooperation versus working as silos.
  • Regularly audit your lead qualification process to ensure criteria remain accurate predictors of a prospect’s buying intent and fit.
  • Constantly refine OKRs and KPIs used to measure and manage pipeline performance. Adjust as strategies and priorities evolve.

A growth mindset, data-driven decisions, and a willingness to improve processes by 30% versus 100% will allow you to relentlessly optimize your pipeline generation strategy over time. The most successful companies make the measurement, experimentation, and adaptation core habits - not one-off projects.

Integrating measurement, testing, and ongoing improvement into your DNA allows you to gradually optimize every element of your pipeline to produce a steady flow of ideal prospects that drive scalable growth.

Pro Tip: Leverage Product Demo Tools

An often overlooked part of pipeline generation is how well you demonstrate your product or service to prospects. Interactive product demos and trials can significantly impact:

Comprehension: Prospects better understand complex solutions when interacting with an engaging demo versus static slides.

Credibility: Seeing your product in action helps prove claims and assuages doubts. It gives social proof.

Conversion: Prospects who experience a demo are much more likely to move forward in the sales process versus those who only hear about features and benefits.

To maximize the impact of demos:

Implement an interactive product demo tool that lets prospects:

  • Self-navigate key features and workflows
  • Input their data to see the results
  • Ask questions in real time
  • Bookmark sections for later review

Train sales and marketing on using the demo tool to illustrate how your solution solves real business problems, not just promote features. Keep the focus on the prospect’s goals.

Integrate the demo tool into your nurture streams to give prospects self-serve product exposure on their timeline. This boosts comprehension and builds credibility between sales interactions.

Test different demo scenarios and examples that resonate best with key buyer personas. Fine-tune demonstrations based on which generate the strongest response.

Measure the impact of demos on pipeline metrics like requests for pricing, proof of concept starts, and converted deals. Optimize your demo approach accordingly.

By leveraging innovative product demo tools, you can make prospects truly understand your value and give them confidence in your solution - two key drivers of advance through the funnel. Product demonstrations deserve an integral role in any pipeline generation strategy.


In today’s ultra-competitive B2B environment, a healthy pipeline filled with qualified leads is essential for sustainable growth. Yet, for many companies, pipeline generation remains an afterthought versus a strategic priority.

The ten steps outlined in this guide provide a proven framework to build a scalable, data-driven approach that consistently delivers the right prospects and converts more of them into customers.

The key is to make measurement, testing, optimization, and improvement inherent to your process - not separate projects. Flexibility, experimentation, and a growth mindset will allow you to continually refine your pipeline strategy as the market evolves.

But you must start with the basics:

  • Defining the metrics that matter.
  • Mapping your ideal buyer’s journey.
  • Optimizing channels and offers.
  • Refining your messaging and qualifying leads appropriately.

Get these foundations in place and scale what works.

Then integrate systems, align goals, and collaborate between sales and marketing to generate the most pipeline value from each prospect. Implement account-based strategies where appropriate. Test new tactics selectively. And never stop learning through data, feedback, and experimentation.

By following these principles and putting the right processes in motion, you can generate a sustainable, scalable flow of ideal prospects that drives long-term growth for your business. An effective pipeline generation strategy is one of the clearest paths to thriving in today’s business environment.

So take the first step today. Define your key metrics and set initial benchmarks. The rest will fall into place once you have visibility into what currently works - and what needs improvement. The journey to a winning pipeline starts with knowing your numbers.

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