How maritime businesses can build a quality pipeline

How many leads per month through your website is a good number of leads for your business?

You probably have a number that springs to mind immediately. Perhaps you need fifty ship operator leads to have a ‘good month’, or if you sell larger machinery or inventory then perhaps that number is only five or ten.

But what if we were to tell you that half of these leads wouldn’t be suited to your business? That 25% or so wouldn’t go on to purchase? Or that 10% would not be a great fit to partner with you, creating a long sales cycle that only produced revenue in six months time?

Would that change your view on how website leads you needed per month?

Defining your pipeline

A good pipeline is a qualified pipeline, one where you know not only how many leads you have but whether those leads are a fit for your business and how likely they are to close.

The first step to get to this point is to start to put some definition and structure around your pipeline.

We do this for our clients using HubSpot’s lifecycle stages. Lifecycle stages are a way of identifying how likely a client is to buy from you, how suitable they are for you and how long it will take them to make a purchase.

Along the way information is gathered which helps you to qualify leads against your ideal buyer profile, making it easier to make judgements on all of the above factors.

The goal is to weed out unsuitable prospects and generate a pipeline of ideal customers. With the information gathered along the way your team will find it easier to move your prospects along your pipeline.

The lifecycle stages of a quality maritime pipeline

Using these stages to assess your pipeline will help you to build a more robust stream of opportunities, focusing your team’s attention on the leads that are more likely to close.

Lead

In a quality pipeline the ‘lead’ definition is given to any opportunity that has entered your funnel. At this stage the lead is unqualified. It may be suitable or unsuitable. All you know is that there is a business here interested in your business.

Typically leads have enquired through your website or they have engaged with your marketing to the point where you have some contact details and a dialogue of some form can or has started. You can also include proactive enquiries that may have viewed your website and followed up with a telephone call or email.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

Now we can start to assess whether the lead is suitable for your business and how likely it is to close. MQL’s are assessed against a set of initial criteria and questions to gauge their suitability. Is the lead in the right geographic area for you?

Are they the correct size of ship operator? Is there enough initial information available about their requirements to pass the lead on to your business development team?

Often MQLs will need to have interacted with some of your marketing assets - perhaps by downloading a piece of material from your website - to undergo an MQL assessment.

Leads which fail these assessments can remain the property of your marketing team, who can nurture them further or assess them as unsuitable.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

Once a lead has been assessed as meeting your MQL criteria, it can be further assessed against SQL criteria.

The ship operator appears to be a fit and has a requirement, but how likely are you to complete the sale? Companies can often use a BANT assessment methodology here (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline) to gauge a lead’s seriousness.

For example, your team could seek to establish if the lead has at least £25,000 to spend with you, if they have purchasing authority, why they need your product or service and when they need it delivered. This information will allow you to assess the lead’s suitability and the level of attention it should receive.

Some of this information can be gathered from their interactions with your website and the automatic assessment available in a tool like HubSpot, whilst others will involve your business development team having a conversation of some sort with the lead.

Opportunity

An Opportunity in our structure is a fully qualified lead, which fits your ideal buyer profile and is actively engaged with your sales team, working towards agreeing a defined purchase.

You will have all of the information gathered as part of the MQL and SQL assessment process, giving you a much higher chance of completing a sale to the right customer, at the right price in a timeline that works for your growth plans.

We think that’s a better assessment than merely looking at ‘leads’ and though it might seem like a small change, we believe it’s a change that can create a higher quality pipeline and enable your business to grow faster.

Working towards opportunity

And that’s why we talk to our clients about opportunities, not leads. A lead isn’t truly a lead until it’s qualified and we know your team has a great chance to make a sale.

Opportunities create better, more complete, higher quality pipelines that help maritime businesses to grow faster.

Implementing a lifecycle stage pipeline can help your business to do just that.