How We Optimize Conversion Rates At Each Step of The Funnel

Sydney Senior
October 25, 2022
min to read

How We Optimize Conversion Rates At Each Step of The Funnel

Sydney Senior
October 25, 2022
min to read

Here at Chili Piper, CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) is one of our guiding principles — both for our product and our own sales cycle. 

A conversion is defined as anytime a prospect completes a desired action during the buying cycle. This could be: 

But we think of the marketing funnel a little differently... we believe in optimizing (and measuring) conversion rates at every stage of the funnel — instead of simply looking at the conversion from “handraiser” to pipeline. 

We've broken it down into six stages:

  1. BRAND: Build brand awareness through our values and create trust with our potential customers before they connect with us
  2. ENGAGE: Roll out the red carpet when someone is interested to learn more so they can instantly connect with someone in our team 
  3. ACCELERATE: Accelerate closed-won deals 
  4. RESTART: Revamp closed opportunities 
  5. EXPAND: Help our customers make the most of our platform across teams 
  6. RENEW: Continue providing value, so our customers stay with our products 

Our funnel acts as a torch B.E.A.R.E.R, providing product value throughout the full journey. 

We improve conversion rates across the entire funnel by increasing metrics like meetings booked from our demo forms, outbound efforts, and email marketing.

From A/B testing our landing pages, to optimizing our booking flows, to follow-up strategies, we are continually working to improve the journey from top to bottom of the funnel.

It’s not enough to say, “this initiative will get more prospects through the buying cycle.” 

What stage of the cycle does it impact? How do we know if it has been effective? How can we continue to iterate and improve on the initiative if we don’t know exactly which components it affects?

To meaningfully increase a metric, you need to be able to measure it. To be able to measure it, you need to figure out what “it” (the metric) is.

So that's exactly what we did. In this article, we will share our own breakdown of conversion benchmarks, how we work to continually optimize them, and some data points we’ve gathered around each stage.

For this article, we’re covering the engage part of the funnel in our inbound activities. 

How to engage customers in five stages

  1. Meeting handraiser: A prospect on your site who has expressed interest in booking a meeting. This is usually through filling out a demo or contact us form.
  1. Qualified meeting handraiser: A meeting handraiser who fits the criteria that your sales team wants to talk to (i.e. they have the right company size/job title/tech stack/ARR). We use Form Concierge to automatically determine which of our meeting handraisers are qualified.
  1. Meetings booked: Qualified meeting handraisers who complete the booking process and get time on a rep’s calendar. For us, this process happens automatically through Form Concierge.
  1. Meetings held: Qualified booked meetings that end up taking place.
  1. Qualified sales meeting: Manual sales qualification of the held meeting.

Continuous improvement

How do we improve conversion rates at every stage of the funnel? By getting super granular. 

The progression from each of these stages to the next presents an opportunity for improvement (and a stronger bottom line). Here’s how we measure each one and go about improving them. 

Note that a lot of these CRO efforts could relate to more than one stage — strategies like A/B testing messaging could be utilized effectively for any of them.

Stage 1 to 2: Meeting Handraiser to Qualified Meeting Handraiser

This stage is about creating demand within your target audience.

For us, the process of qualifying handraisers is completely automated through Form Concierge

We wrote about inbound SDR automation process and ways to optimize for it 

No matter how you do it, the actual qualification process is only part of the equation — targeting the right prospects is another huge component. 

Increasing the proportion of qualified handraisers comes down to a few key factors, like:

  • Our positioning 
  • Our messaging 
  • Our targeted ad audiences 
  • Our outreach strategies

And if we ever find that an increasing number of handraisers turn out not to be a good fit? We start asking questions like: 

  1. Has anything changed about our Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), and are we still targeting them effectively? We keep living documents about different personas we target, updating them whenever we learn new information to ensure that marketing and sales are in alignment. Within this persona, what are the jobs to be done that we need to cater to? 

  1. Have we communicated recently with current customers about the messaging that resonated with them through their buyer journey? Tools like Wynter are helpful in testing potential new messaging with a targeted audience.
  2. How can we improve different landing pages/ad campaigns/etc? By AB testing and tracking which variations lead to a higher proportion of qualified handraisers, we’re able to empirically improve this part of the funnel. This AB test on one of our demo landing pages yielded a 55% increase in conversion rates to a booked meeting. 
chili piper demo request ab test
  1. How targeted is our prospecting in outbound motion? Are we effectively reaching out to our ICP with tested messaging or do we need to refresh our strategies based on newer info? 

At Chili Piper, we have a team of Trailblazer SDRs in charge of experimental and strategic outreach. They test out new messaging, cadences, and approaches to help optimize the bigger SDR team’s strategy. We also have weekly cadence metrics meetings to determine which strategies are working and which need to be updated. Keeping constant communication between the sales, marketing, and leadership teams help us ensure that our messaging stays relevant and fresh.

  1. How many fields do we have on our form? Too many forms and you risk prospects abandoning the page altogether (sometimes before you can find out if they are qualified). Can you leverage any enrichment tools (like Clearbit) to shorten your form and reduce the friction of booking a meeting? Is your meeting automation tool asking for extra form fields after they book?

For more tips on increasing the conversion rates from your form, check out these three tips to optimize your inbound conversion .

In summary: If our conversion rate between these two stages is low, we take a look at our messaging and targeting. We focus on increasing alignment between marketing and sales, and conduct more customer research. 

Stage 2 to 3: Qualified Meeting Handraiser to Meeting Booked

This stage is all about capturing the demand you just created.

Ensuring that qualified handraisers are able to book with the right rep, instantly, will have the biggest impact on your conversion rates in this stage. 

After all, 78% of deals go to the vendor that responds first — if you’ve gotten to the point where a qualified prospect is asking for a meeting, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to get one.

We use Form Concierge to achieve this instant speed to lead on the inbound side.

If you’re noticing any dropoff between qualified handraisers and meetings booked, there are a few things worth looking into:

  1. Meeting scheduling automation: For Inbound, it's a way for prospects to book directly from your form. And for outbound, it creates an automated way to handoff prospects between reps (i.e. if your SDR cold calls a prospect and they want to book a meeting, a way for that SDR to get them scheduled with the right AE live from the call)
  1. Continuity through the process: If a qualified prospect goes to book and your scheduling automation tool kicks them to a new tab/external booking page, that’s additional friction that could prevent them from booking.
  1. Lead follow-up: Do you have a way to follow up with leads who were qualified and expressed interest in booking (i.e. filled out your demo form) but ended up dropping off before choosing a time? The ability to follow up with these leads to get them booked/learn more about why they dropped off/etc will help you increase this conversion rate as well.

In summary: We make it as easy as possible to book, and make sure we can follow up with any leads that drop off.

Stage 3 to 4: Meeting Booked to Meeting Held

Your rep has a qualified meeting on their calendar, but the prospect doesn’t show up. What gives? 

This conversion rate is particularly important. Every missed meeting with a qualified handraiser is essentially money down the drain — so let’s fix it.

We’ve found a lot of success leveraging our custom reminders and have optimized them over the years to be as effective as possible. A particularly favorite of mine is the “ready when you are” one-minute reminder.

Another important step at this stage is making sure that we are building enough value throughout the prospecting/advertising/booking process. If our handraiser has a very clear understanding of how we can help them before they even arrive at the meeting, they will be much more likely to show up.

Show your value so consistently through the process that the demo becomes something they can’t miss.

In summary: We work to ensure that our value is crystal clear, and keep ourselves top of mind with custom meeting reminders.

Stage 4 to 5: Meeting Held to Qualified Sales Meeting 

This final step is one that can't be fully automated, but we can learn from it and use it to refine the rest of our process.

At Chili Piper, our AE’s can mark their held meetings as either qualified or unqualified after the meeting, based on whether or not the prospect was actually a good fit for our tool (i.e. compatible tech stack).

While tools like Form Concierge can automatically qualify your handraisers to ensure that they are (on paper) a good fit to meet with you, the tool is only as good as the input. 

For example, if we consistently find that prospects from a certain company size are arriving at a demo but end up not being a good fit for our tool, then we need to re-evaluate that criteria and see if: 

  1. Our messaging isn’t clear enough, or
  2. Our ICP has shifted/isn’t dialed in as tightly as it could be

To try to get to the bottom of this, we first look at our current conversion rate for this metric. If there’s an uptick in the percentage of held meetings that end up being disqualified, here are a few steps to address that.

  1. Pull a report of these meetings and create a list of the accounts that were DQ’d after the demo
  2. Look for common characteristics (it helps a lot here if your AEs mark a reason for disqualification)
  3. Compare these characteristics to those of our existing customers
  4. Find any patterns/discrepancies between the two, and use that info to make changes in the earlier stages

Additionally, we’ll look at the less quantifiable data — do prospects have a clear understanding of our tool/what they’re getting into in the demo? If not, how can we further clarify our offering and value prop? This could take the shape of better education along the buyer journey, AB tested messaging, and customer/prospect interviews.

In summary: We take a look at the qualification criteria in our booking process, take a closer look at our ICP, and test messaging variations to make sure that prospects know what to expect from our product and demo.

Data/Benchmarks

If you’re reading this, you might be wondering, how do I know how my conversion rates stack up? 

This is a tricky question. Your qualification rates will likely depend on the specific criteria you set — this includes things like ICP, ACV, sales cycle, type of tool, etc. Therefore it’s difficult to give an exact benchmark to shoot for.

For example, improving booking rates has more to do with communicating your value and making the booking process as easy as possible.

The most important thing is to focus on consistently improving these numbers, which usually takes the form of improving the buyer experience.

If you continue to iterate your messaging and targeting, a larger percentage of your handraisers will turn out to be qualified. If you make your value prop clear and booking flow seamless, a larger percentage of those qualified leads will end up in meetings. 

Happier prospects, smoother processes, and a better bottom line? Paying closer attention to conversions is never a bad call.

If you’re still curious about our customer numbers, though, we got you — here are the conversion rates we’ve seen from 715,987 form fills from customers in the IT/SaaS sector:

More than 75% of those that ask for a meeting are qualified to sit for a demo. That’s because most of our customers automate the qualification process through data augmentation in forms

Most of our customers see a conversion rate to qualified held meetings close to 80% (this is because the app optimizes heavily for no show rates). 

However, this only takes into account bookings through the form — qualified prospects will often indicate interest, but eventually, book with an AE’s followup after the fact. 

If you’re curious about conversion optimization and want to make booking time with your reps an absolute breeze, we’d love to chat.

Here at Chili Piper, CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) is one of our guiding principles — both for our product and our own sales cycle. 

A conversion is defined as anytime a prospect completes a desired action during the buying cycle. This could be: 

But we think of the marketing funnel a little differently... we believe in optimizing (and measuring) conversion rates at every stage of the funnel — instead of simply looking at the conversion from “handraiser” to pipeline. 

We've broken it down into six stages:

  1. BRAND: Build brand awareness through our values and create trust with our potential customers before they connect with us
  2. ENGAGE: Roll out the red carpet when someone is interested to learn more so they can instantly connect with someone in our team 
  3. ACCELERATE: Accelerate closed-won deals 
  4. RESTART: Revamp closed opportunities 
  5. EXPAND: Help our customers make the most of our platform across teams 
  6. RENEW: Continue providing value, so our customers stay with our products 

Our funnel acts as a torch B.E.A.R.E.R, providing product value throughout the full journey. 

We improve conversion rates across the entire funnel by increasing metrics like meetings booked from our demo forms, outbound efforts, and email marketing.

From A/B testing our landing pages, to optimizing our booking flows, to follow-up strategies, we are continually working to improve the journey from top to bottom of the funnel.

It’s not enough to say, “this initiative will get more prospects through the buying cycle.” 

What stage of the cycle does it impact? How do we know if it has been effective? How can we continue to iterate and improve on the initiative if we don’t know exactly which components it affects?

To meaningfully increase a metric, you need to be able to measure it. To be able to measure it, you need to figure out what “it” (the metric) is.

So that's exactly what we did. In this article, we will share our own breakdown of conversion benchmarks, how we work to continually optimize them, and some data points we’ve gathered around each stage.

For this article, we’re covering the engage part of the funnel in our inbound activities. 

How to engage customers in five stages

  1. Meeting handraiser: A prospect on your site who has expressed interest in booking a meeting. This is usually through filling out a demo or contact us form.
  1. Qualified meeting handraiser: A meeting handraiser who fits the criteria that your sales team wants to talk to (i.e. they have the right company size/job title/tech stack/ARR). We use Form Concierge to automatically determine which of our meeting handraisers are qualified.
  1. Meetings booked: Qualified meeting handraisers who complete the booking process and get time on a rep’s calendar. For us, this process happens automatically through Form Concierge.
  1. Meetings held: Qualified booked meetings that end up taking place.
  1. Qualified sales meeting: Manual sales qualification of the held meeting.

Continuous improvement

How do we improve conversion rates at every stage of the funnel? By getting super granular. 

The progression from each of these stages to the next presents an opportunity for improvement (and a stronger bottom line). Here’s how we measure each one and go about improving them. 

Note that a lot of these CRO efforts could relate to more than one stage — strategies like A/B testing messaging could be utilized effectively for any of them.

Stage 1 to 2: Meeting Handraiser to Qualified Meeting Handraiser

This stage is about creating demand within your target audience.

For us, the process of qualifying handraisers is completely automated through Form Concierge

We wrote about inbound SDR automation process and ways to optimize for it 

No matter how you do it, the actual qualification process is only part of the equation — targeting the right prospects is another huge component. 

Increasing the proportion of qualified handraisers comes down to a few key factors, like:

  • Our positioning 
  • Our messaging 
  • Our targeted ad audiences 
  • Our outreach strategies

And if we ever find that an increasing number of handraisers turn out not to be a good fit? We start asking questions like: 

  1. Has anything changed about our Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), and are we still targeting them effectively? We keep living documents about different personas we target, updating them whenever we learn new information to ensure that marketing and sales are in alignment. Within this persona, what are the jobs to be done that we need to cater to? 

  1. Have we communicated recently with current customers about the messaging that resonated with them through their buyer journey? Tools like Wynter are helpful in testing potential new messaging with a targeted audience.
  2. How can we improve different landing pages/ad campaigns/etc? By AB testing and tracking which variations lead to a higher proportion of qualified handraisers, we’re able to empirically improve this part of the funnel. This AB test on one of our demo landing pages yielded a 55% increase in conversion rates to a booked meeting. 
chili piper demo request ab test
  1. How targeted is our prospecting in outbound motion? Are we effectively reaching out to our ICP with tested messaging or do we need to refresh our strategies based on newer info? 

At Chili Piper, we have a team of Trailblazer SDRs in charge of experimental and strategic outreach. They test out new messaging, cadences, and approaches to help optimize the bigger SDR team’s strategy. We also have weekly cadence metrics meetings to determine which strategies are working and which need to be updated. Keeping constant communication between the sales, marketing, and leadership teams help us ensure that our messaging stays relevant and fresh.

  1. How many fields do we have on our form? Too many forms and you risk prospects abandoning the page altogether (sometimes before you can find out if they are qualified). Can you leverage any enrichment tools (like Clearbit) to shorten your form and reduce the friction of booking a meeting? Is your meeting automation tool asking for extra form fields after they book?

For more tips on increasing the conversion rates from your form, check out these three tips to optimize your inbound conversion .

In summary: If our conversion rate between these two stages is low, we take a look at our messaging and targeting. We focus on increasing alignment between marketing and sales, and conduct more customer research. 

Stage 2 to 3: Qualified Meeting Handraiser to Meeting Booked

This stage is all about capturing the demand you just created.

Ensuring that qualified handraisers are able to book with the right rep, instantly, will have the biggest impact on your conversion rates in this stage. 

After all, 78% of deals go to the vendor that responds first — if you’ve gotten to the point where a qualified prospect is asking for a meeting, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to get one.

We use Form Concierge to achieve this instant speed to lead on the inbound side.

If you’re noticing any dropoff between qualified handraisers and meetings booked, there are a few things worth looking into:

  1. Meeting scheduling automation: For Inbound, it's a way for prospects to book directly from your form. And for outbound, it creates an automated way to handoff prospects between reps (i.e. if your SDR cold calls a prospect and they want to book a meeting, a way for that SDR to get them scheduled with the right AE live from the call)
  1. Continuity through the process: If a qualified prospect goes to book and your scheduling automation tool kicks them to a new tab/external booking page, that’s additional friction that could prevent them from booking.
  1. Lead follow-up: Do you have a way to follow up with leads who were qualified and expressed interest in booking (i.e. filled out your demo form) but ended up dropping off before choosing a time? The ability to follow up with these leads to get them booked/learn more about why they dropped off/etc will help you increase this conversion rate as well.

In summary: We make it as easy as possible to book, and make sure we can follow up with any leads that drop off.

Stage 3 to 4: Meeting Booked to Meeting Held

Your rep has a qualified meeting on their calendar, but the prospect doesn’t show up. What gives? 

This conversion rate is particularly important. Every missed meeting with a qualified handraiser is essentially money down the drain — so let’s fix it.

We’ve found a lot of success leveraging our custom reminders and have optimized them over the years to be as effective as possible. A particularly favorite of mine is the “ready when you are” one-minute reminder.

Another important step at this stage is making sure that we are building enough value throughout the prospecting/advertising/booking process. If our handraiser has a very clear understanding of how we can help them before they even arrive at the meeting, they will be much more likely to show up.

Show your value so consistently through the process that the demo becomes something they can’t miss.

In summary: We work to ensure that our value is crystal clear, and keep ourselves top of mind with custom meeting reminders.

Stage 4 to 5: Meeting Held to Qualified Sales Meeting 

This final step is one that can't be fully automated, but we can learn from it and use it to refine the rest of our process.

At Chili Piper, our AE’s can mark their held meetings as either qualified or unqualified after the meeting, based on whether or not the prospect was actually a good fit for our tool (i.e. compatible tech stack).

While tools like Form Concierge can automatically qualify your handraisers to ensure that they are (on paper) a good fit to meet with you, the tool is only as good as the input. 

For example, if we consistently find that prospects from a certain company size are arriving at a demo but end up not being a good fit for our tool, then we need to re-evaluate that criteria and see if: 

  1. Our messaging isn’t clear enough, or
  2. Our ICP has shifted/isn’t dialed in as tightly as it could be

To try to get to the bottom of this, we first look at our current conversion rate for this metric. If there’s an uptick in the percentage of held meetings that end up being disqualified, here are a few steps to address that.

  1. Pull a report of these meetings and create a list of the accounts that were DQ’d after the demo
  2. Look for common characteristics (it helps a lot here if your AEs mark a reason for disqualification)
  3. Compare these characteristics to those of our existing customers
  4. Find any patterns/discrepancies between the two, and use that info to make changes in the earlier stages

Additionally, we’ll look at the less quantifiable data — do prospects have a clear understanding of our tool/what they’re getting into in the demo? If not, how can we further clarify our offering and value prop? This could take the shape of better education along the buyer journey, AB tested messaging, and customer/prospect interviews.

In summary: We take a look at the qualification criteria in our booking process, take a closer look at our ICP, and test messaging variations to make sure that prospects know what to expect from our product and demo.

Data/Benchmarks

If you’re reading this, you might be wondering, how do I know how my conversion rates stack up? 

This is a tricky question. Your qualification rates will likely depend on the specific criteria you set — this includes things like ICP, ACV, sales cycle, type of tool, etc. Therefore it’s difficult to give an exact benchmark to shoot for.

For example, improving booking rates has more to do with communicating your value and making the booking process as easy as possible.

The most important thing is to focus on consistently improving these numbers, which usually takes the form of improving the buyer experience.

If you continue to iterate your messaging and targeting, a larger percentage of your handraisers will turn out to be qualified. If you make your value prop clear and booking flow seamless, a larger percentage of those qualified leads will end up in meetings. 

Happier prospects, smoother processes, and a better bottom line? Paying closer attention to conversions is never a bad call.

If you’re still curious about our customer numbers, though, we got you — here are the conversion rates we’ve seen from 715,987 form fills from customers in the IT/SaaS sector:

More than 75% of those that ask for a meeting are qualified to sit for a demo. That’s because most of our customers automate the qualification process through data augmentation in forms

Most of our customers see a conversion rate to qualified held meetings close to 80% (this is because the app optimizes heavily for no show rates). 

However, this only takes into account bookings through the form — qualified prospects will often indicate interest, but eventually, book with an AE’s followup after the fact. 

If you’re curious about conversion optimization and want to make booking time with your reps an absolute breeze, we’d love to chat.

Sydney Senior

Sydney Senior is a Product Go To Market Manager at Chili Piper. She enjoys creating strategic positioning, messaging, and enablement materials. Outside of work, she loves trying new foods, traveling, and trying to learn how to do handstands. Connect with Sydney on LinkedIn.

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