How To Run Your Pipeline Engine To Drive Growth
In this article on how sales pipeline should be your biggest driver for growth, Justin Le Roux lifts the hood on Salesforce's own sales strategy and how Salesforce's Sales and Marketing departments align to make it happen.
Justin Le Roux
People often ask me how Salesforce drives sustainable and consistent revenue growth the way we do. Salesforce’s revenue has been on a strong upward trajectory for years, and every year we see terrific growth. The magic is our maniacal focus on our pipeline, which represents all the deals all of our various sales teams are collaborating on.
Why pipeline? Because it’s the greatest indicator of future sales bookings, or annual contract value (ACV). This keeps our focus on sustained and strategically aligned growth.
Pipeline is the glue between the marketing and sales departments. It’s what helps drive forecast accuracy and transparency, it’s how we enable collaboration, and how we drive accountability by product, industry, geography, and segment. It’s something an entire team can rally around as they prioritise their time and effort accordingly.
This blog will look at strategies and tactics for creating, managing, and measuring pipeline, with a focus on how our team at Salesforce does it.
How Salesforce manages its sales pipeline with CRM
At Salesforce, every potential deal is recorded as an opportunity in the Salesforce CRM (customer relationship management) platform. This is where sales teams manage all the details, like contacts at the account, what products the customer is interested in, the size of the deal, next steps, customer interactions or engagements, deal status, and when the opportunity is projected to close.
Tip 1: The sales organisation needs to have a very high level of discipline and rigour when it comes to inputting and keeping this data up to date. Sales managers need to review every opportunity so the data rolls up correctly in the platform. If this isn’t happening, the rest of the process won’t work. App rigour is absolutely foundational to pipeline accuracy and reliability.
How to generate leads and build a pipeline engine
Your pipeline engine needs to have all cylinders firing. At Salesforce, the cylinders of pipeline generation include multiple sales roles:
- Account Executives (AEs) create more than half of the pipeline at Salesforce. They are considered the key orchestrators, and are responsible for creating new opportunities, closing deals, and managing customer relationships.
- Business Development Representatives (BDRs) create about a quarter of the pipeline. They focus on outbound prospecting and are responsible for making calls to leads and then passing them to AEs who drive them to closure.
- Sales Development Reps (SDRs) focus on inbound lead qualification, following up on opportunities that come through social or digital channels, chat, and calls. SDRs also pass opportunities to AEs and are critical for our small business sales teams.
- Enterprise Corporate Specialists (ECSs) manage smaller deals within large Enterprise accounts so that AEs can focus on larger ones.
- Cloud Sales are dedicated to a specific product (for example, Salesforce Platform). They mostly work on existing deals but do represent a small percentage of the pipeline creation.
Tip 2: Understand each of the functions that make up your pipeline engine. What’s their capacity? How do they operate day-to-day? What do they care about? And is each area getting the support it needs? This will help you equip them with the best resources they need to generate pipeline.
How marketing fuels pipeline
Salesforce’s large marketing department has one goal: to help the AEs, BDRs, SDRs, ECSs, and Cloud Sales drive high-quality pipeline generation. This includes:
This drives new audience growth by helping prospects and customers understand who we are and what we do. It’s a key step in building credible and trusting relationships. For example, you may have seen our brand campaign that featured Matthew McConaughey during the Super Bowl.
These include paid social and display ads, gated e-books and research reports, content syndication, third-party emails, and webinars. At Salesforce, we run demand generation campaigns that market products to specific industries and regions.
This serves as a direct connection to peers, industry leaders, and the community. For example, events like Salesforce World Tour, Dreamforce, Trailblazer DX, and Connections drive massive pipeline for Salesforce. These experiences are in-person, live-streamed in real time, and available on demand afterward.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
This is our white-glove service. Teams deliver specific content, campaigns, experiences, and programs to help increase relevance and engagement with our top accounts. That in turn helps drum up more pipeline and ACV.
Our website includes Trailhead, Community, AppExchange, and more. This is where we engage customers and present them with offers like Trailhead links and product demos. Each of these turns into a lead that goes to the SDRs and BDRs. We drive more traffic to our website with paid media, email marketing, social media, and awareness campaigns.
This is arming our sales teams with the right tools to sell and win deals. For example, we equip BDRs with emails, call scripts, and one pagers with use cases. We provide AEs with deal-acceleration tools like return on investment (ROI) calculators, competitive analysis, and playbooks to create and close deals.
Tip 3: Drive a healthy mix of marketing tactics to support pipeline creation, maturation, and close. Make sure everything Marketing does, including every headcount and dollar, has a direct line to pipeline and ACV.
How to measure and analyse pipeline progress
Since we use the Salesforce platform, our sales and marketing teams can view pipeline data in real-time reports and dashboards. And our sales operations team can do a deeper pipeline analysis with Tableau.
At Salesforce, we have a high-level framework called the APM (accountability performance matrix) that allows us to view the pipeline by product, region, industry, segment, and source.
For example, on the product APM, we can see:
- Closed Business (ACV)
- Open Pipeline and maturity
- Pipeline generation
- Pipe Coverage Ratios
Tip 4: Setting up a good measuring framework helps to identify and fix problem spots. Measure your pipeline by product, industry, region, and source.
Drive action with pipeline councils
Every week, Salesforce brings together its sales, product, marketing, and operations leaders to review the pipeline. It’s forward-looking, focused on progress and qualitative indicators, and facilitates action oriented, data informed outcomes. For example, you can deploy sales performance incentives, sales enablement, customer engagement initiatives for prospects, executive outreach, paid-media, lead buys, or whatever is appropriate to drive remediation, or capitalise on momentum.
Tip 5: Commit to weekly pipeline councils. Make sure you have cross-functional representation in the room so you can make decisions and act on them quickly, with clear accountability established.
As you can see, it takes a village to make this all work: cross-functional teams, data, reporting, and real-time adjustments to the strategy and execution. That’s how Salesforce aligns our sales and marketing teams around pipeline to drive growth. We hope what we’ve learned can help you, too.
Things are always better when we work together, and Revenue Operations (RevOps) is no different. It’s a way of thinking about Sales, Marketing, Service and Finance teams all working together to achieve business objectives. Read our complete guide to RevOps to find out more.
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