How to build quality pipeline: Aim for the center of the bulls-eye

Shaalin Parekh
April 27, 2023
How to build quality pipeline: Aim for the center of the bulls-eye

What worked to build pipeline five or ten years ago isn’t working anymore. Market conditions have changed rapidly in recent years, and it’s getting harder for SaaS companies to generate opportunities. To run an efficient go-to-market strategy, you need a new approach to pipeline generation.

In a recent webinar, we connected with Bob Moore, co-founder and CEO of Crossbeam, and Kyle Coleman, SVP of Marketing at Clari, to get their insights for building a quality pipeline in today’s cost constrained market.

The old way of pipeline generation is dead

In the old way of generating pipeline, sales reps relied on high-volume outbound tactics to go after the entire addressable market for a product. Automation tools flooded inboxes with messaging addressed to key decision-makers. Tracking technology enabled targeted ads and lead-generation campaigns and ready access to capital enabled SaaS companies to hire more sales people and gave their prospect room to make purchases where ROI wasn’t clear.

The approach worked—for a while. “[SDRs] generated a lot of pipeline because there was bandwidth available in people's inboxes to receive that signal and actually interpret it and translate it into, ‘Hey, maybe I should have a conversation here,’” says Bob Moore. “[Then] the other 80% picked it up, and a whole universe of software tooling got built around the automation and delivery of these things at scale.”

Eventually, inbox saturation hit a peak, and relentless automation lost its appeal. “As that ratio of signal to noise gets driven out of whack by everyone on the planet doing this cold SDR thing, the efficacy of those things [drops] proportionally,” says Moore.

Then COVID came along and caused a radical shift in business environments. Sales teams that once collaborated in person had to adapt to remote work and the reality that their prospects were suddenly in efficiency mode and less willing to buy. Around the same time, changing privacy laws and limitations on cookie sharing made it harder to maintain a clear picture of prospects’ buying journeys.

As these traditional methods of lead generation and qualification disappear, going after the entire target won’t help you reach your goals. Today’s market requires an approach to pipeline strategy that prioritizes quality over quantity.

Building Quality Pipeline in a Changing Market

Focusing on quality helps your sales team do their jobs more efficiently. Instead of spending time chasing unqualified leads, they can focus on accounts with a high probability of converting. This approach leads to more revenue and ultimately lowers your CAC. 

The trick is to go after the center of the bulls-eye. Zero in on the market segment that’s the perfect fit for your product and put all your energy into targeting them. Choose criteria that narrow your focus to the prospects most likely to close, such as:

  • Growth: What industries are doing well? Which companies are growing?
  • Fit: Which companies see the most value from your product?
  • Intent: Which companies are actively looking for the solution you offer?
  • Familiarity: Who has already used (and enjoyed) your product? Can you make new connections through previous customers?

Analyze the data to identify specific prospects to target. Unlike the old “spray-and-pray” method, this analysis gives you a list of companies that meet specific criteria—and that will be the most receptive to your messaging. It’s a mindset shift that could feel unnatural because it doesn’t seem like you’re targeting enough accounts to help you hit your targets, but it’s far more effective.

How to Execute: Strategies for a Better Pipeline

For this approach to work, you will inevitably have to do some things that don’t scale. The high-signal, low-noise messaging that generates a quality pipeline takes time to create, and it’s worth the effort. Kyle Coleman summarized it well:

“We're so obsessed as revenue leaders, thinking about scale. That's not the way to think right now. You need to go all the way down to the micro-units that make up your sales-addressable market, and you need to say, ‘Hey, this messaging may only be right for five accounts.’ Fine, write it, take the time to do those things, and make sure that you are creating the right messaging [and] value props, and [addressing] pain points … that have the most resonance with that hyper-targeted way that you're going to market.”

Break down your go-to-market strategy into micro-components

Aiming for a narrower part of the addressable market means limiting the number of accounts you can go after. To increase your chances of turning prospects into quality opportunities, it’s critical to get clarity on how you connect with them. Once you’ve identified the accounts to target, make it your goal to develop an impeccable approach to:

  • Connecting with company strategic initiatives: Understand what’s most important to your prospects and how your product can help them reach their goals.
  • Addressing pain points: Know your prospects’ problems, and identify exactly how your solution meets their needs.
  • Targeting the right personas: Use what you know about your prospects and their needs to create a holistic view of the people you’re targeting. Hone in on the personas that fit your criteria for ideal prospects.
  • Delivering resonant messaging: Speak directly to your personas. Avoid generic language that speaks to a broad audience or industry.
  • Communicating specific value: Draw on your personas to develop a value proposition that’s an exact fit for prospects’ micro needs and macro circumstances.

Maintain narrow focus during this process. To stay focused on the center of the bulls-eye, Kyle recommends approaching every account as if it were your only account. How would you treat a prospect if they were the only person you were serving?

Follow this method with each account until you’ve nailed down every detail of your go-to-market strategy.

Research, evaluate, repeat

Coleman stresses the importance of proficiency in go-to-market basics as you continue the process of hyper-targeted pipeline generation. 

“There’s no magic formula that's just going to create an unbelievable amount of pipeline overnight,” he says. “It really is about doing thorough account research, really understanding your personas, really understanding your own product and solution, really understanding the pain points that you can solve, and then effectively messaging against them. It sounds like something of a boring answer, but it really does matter. Focus on the 101- and 201-type stuff. Don't feel like you need to go in and reinvent the wheel.”

Applying these basic principles to new market conditions will help you replace your outdated go-to-market playbook. You’ll start to see what doesn’t work anymore and what you need to update to connect with your prospects’ specific goals and needs. As a result, you’ll enable your sales team to focus on the right people, work more efficiently, and generate a higher-quality pipeline with greater revenue potential.