marketing automationHave you set goals for your business in 2014? Is accelerating your sales funnel somewhere on that list? If not, it certainly should be. Not only does a shorter sales cycle enable you to close deals faster, it also saves time, leads to a more unified relationship between marketing and sales departments, and notably impacts your bottom line.

Fortunately, the features and capabilities of marketing automation can go a long way towards accelerating your sales pipeline. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways marketing automation can increase funnel efficiency and save your sales reps, your marketing department, and your potential buyers a significant amount of time.

1. Focus on the leads who are ready to talk

In today’s inbound marketing world, sales reps are not only faced with the challenge of identifying prospects that are a good fit for their product, they also must determine the right time to reach out. Marketing automation simplifies this process with automated lead scoring and grading.

Lead grading automatically qualifies leads based on factors such as company size or industry, and can effectively prevent your sales reps from wasting time on unqualified leads. Lead scoring, on the other hand, gauges a prospect’s level of interest and buying intent by assigning scores based on implicit buying signals (such as form submissions, downloads or page views), and preventing reps from calling leads who aren’t sales-ready. Automation users are able to build a blended scoring and grading model based on their product, industry, and ideal buyer persona, to ensure that their sales reps are reaching out to the right people at the right time.

Learn more about lead scoring and grading: Marketing Automation 101: Intro to Lead Scoring and Grading.

2. Identify interests and pain points ahead of time

A prospect’s activities on your website can tell you a lot more than how ready they are to speak with a sales rep — they can tell you what aspects of your product are of particular interest to them, and what specific pain points they may be trying to address. With prospect tracking and progressive profiling, all of a prospect’s interactions with your brand — form submissions, links clicked, website pages viewed, etc. — are compiled into a comprehensive profile and placed at your sales reps’ fingertips. This insight can lead to far more meaningful conversations with prospective buyers, allowing sales reps to skip the generic sales pitch and focus in on the selling points that are most relevant to the buyer.

Learn more about prospect tracking: How to Build a Complete Customer Profile.

4. Start building relationships before you even pick up the phone

Many buyers may not want to speak with a sales rep until they’ve conducted sufficient research on their own, but that doesn’t mean your company can’t be a part of this research process. With marketing automation, colder leads can be placed on an automated lead nurturing track and gradually educated to a sales-ready state. By emailing them helpful (and non sales-heavy!) content over a period of time, your company can begin to build trust with the prospect and establish itself as a dependable resource. Furthermore, by having these emails appear to come from one individual, you give your prospect a contact to reach out to with questions, and begin the relationship-building process between sales rep and prospect before they even reach out.

Learn more about lead nurturing: 4 Things Every Marketer Should Know About Lead Nurturing.

Interested in learning more about increasing sales funnel efficiency? Download our free ebook to learn how you can improve the health of your sales cycle from lead management and distribution to lead nurturing and automated follow-up.