Improve Sales Revenue with HIRO Pipeline

If you’ve noticed a disconnect between your sales and marketing initiatives, or searched for ways to make every marketing dollar more effective, you’re not alone. Traditional marketing campaigns can generate a huge volume of low-quality leads, making it far too easy for high-quality leads to get lost in the shuffle.

Even worse, sales teams and marketing teams end up working toward completely different metrics, even competing against each other, when they should be working toward the same goal: generate more sales.

The high intent revenue opportunity (HIRO) pipeline addresses this disconnect through standardized criteria that identifies highly qualified leads in order to sell more effectively. We’ll cover the basics in the paragraphs below, as well as link to a few resources with more information on this pivotal marketing and sales methodology.

Read on to learn how to use the HIRO framework to improve sales revenue by marketing more effectively.

HIRO Pipeline vs. Marketing Qualified Leads

In many companies, marketing and sales teams work as separate units, and their productivity is measured by completely different metrics. This can lead to inflated ad spend, marketing campaigns that seem effective (due to their high click-through rates) but don’t actually lead to more sales, and a lack of clarity for both departments overall.

In this very typical scenario, the marketing team is generating a high volume of low-intent, low-quality marketing qualified leads (MQL), and every lead is treated the exact same way: funneled through a multi-step process designed to keep your product top-of-mind if and when they decide to buy.

The problem with this method is that, inevitably, a few high-quality leads that are ready to buy immediately are mixed in and pushed though the same multi-step process as the multitude of low-quality leads. This can be frustrating for potential customers who already made the decision to buy, but now have to jump through multiple hoops to do so. It can even result in a loss of sales.

The HIRO pipeline framework was developed by Chris Walker and the team at Refine Labs to address this disconnect and help sales teams sell more effectively.

What is HIRO Pipeline?

The HIRO framework was designed to give B2B marketing professionals a standardized benchmark for qualifying pipeline sources. A pipeline source is defined as HIRO at whatever stage it reaches a consistent close rate of at least 25%. However, this tool for tracking conversion rates and customer acquisition can be applied to advertising as well as marketing strategies.

This framework helps you identify which lead sources are bringing in high-quality leads and which ones aren’t, and at what stage they become high-intent revenue opportunities.

Using the HIRO framework allows you to fine-tune your ad spend to prioritize the lead sources that mean the most to your bottom line. It can also help identify additional means of demand generation, create more customized sales processes, and ultimately make every marketing dollar more effective.

Marketing for HIRO Pipeline:

While the finer points of marketing for HIRO pipeline can be complex, the overall strategy is fairly simple.

  1. Realize that most of your market isn’t ready to buy. Create demand by educating them on what makes your company and product stand out.
  2. Once a lead decides to buy, convert that into a meeting. Don’t make them jump through hoops or wade through a multiple-step sales sequence if they meet your Ideal Client Profile allow them to instantly book a meeting with your sales team.
  3. Track win rates for each opportunity/deal stage. When a stage has a 25% win rate to closed won, that pipeline source is considered HIRO. Optimize your marketing efforts toward this opportunity/deal stage.

The Undeniable Power of Self-Attribution

Another vital component of HIRO pipeline is self-attribution. Put simply, when a lead expresses an intent to buy by booking a meeting, give them the opportunity to self-identify how they heard about your product or service.

While it isn’t going to be as precise as other, more traditional forms of attribution measurement, self-attribution data is invaluable when it comes to measuring the reach of dark social (that is, shares or recommendations from friend-to-friend or colleague-to-colleague that are hard to track using traditional tracking methods), and it gives key insight into which demand generation efforts are most effective.

Once you’ve identified different demand generation streams, you can compare HIRO pipeline stages (stages with a win rate of 25% or more). This will give you a much clearer picture of the actual value of your marketing efforts.

To Recap HIRO Pipeline:

  1. Create demand by educating leads about your product and company.
  2. Capture demand through a scheduling link or form when a lead declares intent to buy.
  3. Convert demand into a closed won deal through a highly efficient sales process.
  4. Expand and retain current accounts through account management and customer service efforts.

As you implement this method, over time you’ll be able to refocus your marketing spend and make every marketing dollar work more effectively.

Benefits of Using the HIRO Pipeline Framework:

  • Unify sales and marketing efforts by connecting them with a pipeline metric tied to win rate.
  • Allow marketers to operate in dark social – sharing social content and recommendations without requiring direct response lead generation activities.
  • Improve buyer experience by engaging with the buyer as soon as they’ve expressed intent to buy from you.
  • Scale better and faster than traditional MQL methods, meaning fewer leads are required to make a sale.
  • Be challenged to look at outbound sales differently, and more easily see new and better opportunities to create demand.
  • Make your sales and marketing campaigns more efficient and cost-effective over time.


The HIRO pipeline framework helps companies identify their most profitable lead sources, enabling them to better prioritize ad spend, streamline sales and marketing efforts, and find new ways to create demand for products and services.

The four core actions of HIRO pipeline are: creating demand, capturing demand, converting demand, and retaining/expanding accounts with current customers. The HIRO pipeline method is an efficient and profitable alternative to traditional MQL generation methods.

Paired with powerful sales tools, sales automation, a robust customer relationship management (CRM) software, and other sales solutions, the HIRO framework will help drive growth and give your team what they need to strategically apply their efforts and maximize their sales skills.

Additional HIRO Pipeline Resources:

Want to learn more about HIRO pipeline? Here are a few resources we found helpful:

Enabling Buyers at Every Stage

Buyer Enablement helps steer prospects toward your offer. It’s about feeding them the right information at the perfect time, potentially boosting conversion rates by 20%.

The buyer’s journey into three stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. Here’s how to craft content for each stage:

Awareness Phase

Goal: Educate and guide

What Buyers Want: Knowledge about their problem

Best Vehicles:

Indications that a lead is in the “Awareness” stage:

  • Website visits to educational or informational pages
  • Google searches with symptoms of a problem included in keywords
  • Attending informational events.

Tech that Can Help:

  • Social Media Management Tools: Tools such as Hootsuite, Buffer, or Sprout Social let you schedule, post, and monitor social media content to engage with early stage leads
  • SEO Tools: Platforms like SEMrush, Moz, or Ahrefs ensure content is optimized for organic search, attracting potential buyers during their research phase
  • Google Analytics: To understand the source of website traffic and what content potential buyers are engaging with

Consideration Phase

Goal: Showcase expertise

What Buyers Want: Deep insights, comparisons, and potential solutions

Best Vehicles:

Indications that a lead is in the “Consideration” stage:

  • Engagement with content that compares one solution with another
  • Inbound questions regarding specific differentiators of your products vs others
  • Engagement with tools like cost calculators and product configurators

Tech that Can Help:

  • Email Marketing Platforms: Tools like Mailchimp, HubSpot, or Constant Contact enable lead nurturing through email marketing and more
  • Chatbots and Messaging Platforms: Tools like Intercom, Drift, or MobileMonkey engage leads in real-time, answering questions and directing them to resources or reps
  • Webinar Platforms: Solutions like Zoom, Livestorm, or Webex hosting informational sessions or workshops

Decision Phase

Goal: Make the Sale

What Buyers Want: Address objections, showcase value

Best Vehicles:

Indications that a lead is in the “Decision” stage:

  • Requesting detailed pricing information, terms and conditions, etc.
  • Requesting references or further social proof (e.g. industry-specific specific case studies)
  • Requesting a trial

Tech that Can Help:

  • Sales Enablement Platforms: Tools like SalesLoft, Highspot, or Showpad equip reps with the right content or knowledge at the right time
  • Proposal and Quoting Software: Platforms like PandaDoc, Proposify, or Qwilr to create, send, and track professional proposals quickly
  • E-Signature Platforms: Solutions such as DocuSign or PandaDoc expedite the closing process by allowing leads to securely sign contracts or agreements online
  • Competitive Intelligence Tools: Platforms like Crayon or Kompyte help reps stay updated on competitors’ moves, allowing them to position their offerings more effectively

Pipedrive CRM – Everything You Need to Know

If you’re looking for a solid customer relationship management (CRM) platform that won’t break the bank, Pipedrive is a definite contender. While it’s not the best CRM for everyone, Pipedrive CRM packs a lot of value into a very affordable price point that makes it an appealing option for many users.

Pipedrive CRM Strengths & Weaknesses

Every CRM platform has strengths and weaknesses, and Pipedrive is no exception. Knowing the potential pros and cons of the CRM you’re looking to purchase is an essential part of the research process. Read on to learn what we’ve discovered as experienced Pipedrive users.

Pipedrive strengths:

Pipedrive offers the best value of any CRM

Pipedrive’s Advanced and Professional tiers provide significantly more value than other CRMs at that price point. Pipedrive’s Professional tier (~$60 user/month) includes workflow automations, webhooks, custom fields, quotes, e-signatures, email sequences, custom reporting, scheduling, a dialer, and more. The majority of these features are either not included with other CRMs or are priced upwards of $100 per user per month.

Pipedrive’s UI/UX is excellent

It’s tough to pack a lot of features in a CRM while keeping it streamlined and easy to navigate. Many people leave CRMs like Salesforce, Zoho, and ActiveCampaign because the user interface is too confusing and difficult for sales reps to navigate. Ease of use is important in a sales CRM solution. Pipedrive is user-friendly, visually appealing, and easy to learn, and it maintains the difficult balance of containing lots of data without being visually overwhelming.

Pipedrive Weaknesses:

Limited scalability

Because Pipedrive has many of the same features as enterprise CRMs, it’s easy to feel like you’ll never grow out of it, but features are different from capabilities. Anytime you see a feature advertised by Pipedrive, know that it will have fewer capabilities and be less customizable than the same feature in premium tiers of HubSpot or Salesforce.

This is a tradeoff many are willing to make, as the cost of Pipedrive is 10-20 times lower than a premium tier enterprise CRM software. However, changing CRMs is such a big job that ability to scale provides a lot of reassurance and not everyone will find that in Pipedrive.

Some key features require paid add-ons

There are features you’ll find in other full-suite CRMs that aren’t included with Pipedrive and must be purchased as add-ons. Depending on how you look at it, this could be a strength or a weakness, since a trimmed down core product helps keep the price down for those who don’t need these features.

However, many of these features are very basic and really shouldn’t be behind a paywall. For example, it’s an additional $32/month for a meeting scheduler, live chat, and web forms, which are all included in HubSpot’s completely free tier. Document library, document tracking, proposals and quotes, and e-signatures cost another $32/month. The list goes on.

Pipedrive Features for Sales Team Success

To be successful, sales reps must have a written, enforceable, transparent, and efficient sales process. The last two qualities, transparency and efficiency, are not possible without CRM functionality like the features we’ve listed below.

Pipedrive features that create efficiency:

Efficiency is the effort required from sales reps when moving deals through the sales process, from lead scoring to the moment you close deals. Too often, salespeople end up spending too much time on repetitive or even unnecessary tasks. By becoming more efficient, your reps will be able to spend more time actually selling. Time and time again, we’ve seen that increased sales team efficiency translates into increased revenue.

Pipedrive offers multiple sales tools to improve sales team efficiency. Below, we’ve listed a few of our favorites.

1. Workflow automation

Use workflow automations to email new leads, and set reminders for follow-ups and deal management. While Pipedrive’s workflow automations aren’t sophisticated, they’re enough to automate routine tasks. Also, Pipedrive integrates with many other software platforms, including third-party automation apps like Zapier for complex sales automation.

2. Smart contact data

Researching leads is an all too easy way for sales reps to waste time, but with Pipedrive’s Smart Contact Data there’s really no excuse for spending hours on inefficient lead research. Smart Contact Data uses publicly available information from the web and social sources, allowing reps to auto-populate lead information in just one click.

3. Two-way email sync

It’s important to log all communication in your CRM, and connecting your email inbox to Pipedrive via two-way email sync means you can put email logging on autopilot. Two-way email sync also enables transparency by providing visibility into conversations and negotiations in real time, making it easy to stay in the loop or quickly get up to speed as needed. Users who have synced their Gmail or other email accounts can also access email templates.

More Pipedrive features worth noting:

  • Sales forecasts – a comprehensive view of your predicted revenue.
  • Multiple sales pipelines – gives you the ability to separate your sales pipelines by product, team, or sales process for better visibility into each one.
  • Lead management – a complete overview of each lead and deal, with detailed communication and activity history.
  • Email open and click tracking – get notified when leads open your emails or click on a link you’ve sent them.
  • Native mobile apps – make changes to contacts, deals, and activities from your smartphone, whether on Android, iOS, Microsoft, or other operating systems.
  • Web-to-mobile calls – outgoing calls can be made from your desktop or you can send them to your phone.

Bottom line:

Pipedrive is a solid budget CRM that provides a lot of value for the price point. However, you may end up paying extra for basic features that are only available as add-ons. Still, it’s a great CRM platform, especially for small businesses that don’t need a lot of bells and whistles.

Boost Email Engagement with Video

Boost your email open rates by 19%, click-through rates by 65%, and cut unsubscribes by 26% with one tool: video. Video, especially in emails, has become a powerful marketing tool because:

  • It’s now affordable and accessible to produce high-quality content.
  • Videos can simplify complex topics better than text.
  • They showcase the brand’s personality, fostering familiarity.
  • They naturally grab more attention than plain text, boosting visibility and engagement.

For prospecting, videos are invaluable. Start with an email introduction and then offer a personalized video. This makes your video anticipated and tailored to the recipient, increasing engagement.

Example strategy:

  • Email 1: “Thanks for downloading our Commission Modeler. What challenges do you face in selecting the right commission structure? Reply, and I’ll provide a personalized video with recommendations.”
  • Email 2 (if no response): “Here’s a video about selecting the right commission model for various sales models. If you want personalized insights: <insert link to sales page>”

Thinking of using video? Here are tips:

  • Personalize: Address specific issues of the prospect.
  • Keep it concise: Aim for about 30 seconds. Anything longer than that, and viewers drop off.
  • Be clear: Have a succinct message with a defined call-to-action.
  • Prioritize quality: Even smartphone cameras work, but ensure good lighting, minimal background noise, and stability.

Expand video use to social media, post-event emails, testimonials, and demos. Incorporating video in your email marketing not only boosts engagement but also effectively addresses prospect needs, paving the way for conversion.

Zoho One CRM – Everything You Need to Know

Zoho One is customer relationship management software (otherwise known as a CRM) that gives you access to 40+ apps to manage nearly every sales and business operations need. With an appealing price point, and the ability to make a one-and-done purchase decision, Zoho One can be an attractive option. That said, there are a few things you should know before choosing Zoho CRM.

An important note: Zoho actually offers two CRM-related products: Zoho One, and Zoho CRM Plus. While Zoho CRM Plus sounds like a solid and affordable option, in reality you would need to upgrade (and pay significantly more) for multiple other Zoho “apps” just to get features that are standard in the minimum tier of almost every other CRM. Zoho One, on the other hand, includes all 40+ Zoho apps (including Zoho CRM), bundling nearly every feature you could ever need into a slightly higher subscription price.

This article is primarily focused on Zoho One.

Zoho One Strengths & Weaknesses

Even the best CRM platforms have strengths and weaknesses, and Zoho One is no exception. Knowing the potential pros and cons of the CRM tool you’re looking to purchase is an essential part of the research process. Read on to learn what we’ve discovered as experienced Zoho CRM users.

Strengths of Zoho One:

For the price, Zoho One is the more well-rounded of the two CRM-related Zoho products, especially for small businesses and startups with limited sales and marketing teams. It integrates with Salesforce, HubSpot, MailChimp, and other solutions. The Zoho CRM mobile app allows you to receive notifications anywhere and access and modify customer data even while offline.

Zoho One is affordable

Individual subscription costs can add up fast, and Zoho One’s bundle of 40+ sales, marketing, and other business operations apps is a compelling reason to consider Zoho One. Unfortunately, in our experience, this strength is also one of Zoho’s greatest weaknesses, but more on that later.

Zoho One is an all-in-one solution for business processes

Along with including a complete CRM, Zoho One markets itself as a business operating system. With sales, marketing, support, HR, accounting, and operations software bundled into one semi-integrated platform, Zoho One is a one-stop shop for business software needs.

For example, Zoho Analytics allows you to create custom reports and configure dashboards with varying layouts, and Zoho Campaigns allows you to manage your email marketing campaigns across customizable email templates.

While that’s all well and good, there are a few things you should know before settling on Zoho One for your CRM.

Weaknesses of Zoho One:

When choosing a CRM software, one of the most important things to look for is the combination of scalability and user experience. In other words, your sales CRM should be easy enough to use that your sales reps will like it and commit to using it, and it should be scalable enough to still be a good choice as your business grows.

Zoho One’s user interface is terrible

With a visually confusing user interface and perplexing navigation, Zoho One scores negative points in the user experience category. CRM software is supposed to be the lifeblood of your sales team, but when it’s difficult or impossible to learn and use, reps end up not using it properly or, even worse, not using it at all.

Customer support is available 24/7, but a dedicated help desk doesn’t make up for a negative customer experience.

Zoho One can do almost everything, but none of it well

While Zoho One provides a ton of functionality, none of the apps are truly good enough to stand on their own. Zoho Sites may give you a website, but it isn’t WordPress. Zoho’s combination of Zoho Books, Payroll, Invoice, and Expense apps doesn’t even come close to the functionality of QuickBooks. You may love the idea of a one-stop shop for your entire business needs but you’re in for a rude awakening if you try to replace your specialized platforms with Zoho apps.

Zoho One’s user experience is also terrible

A good portion of the “apps” included in Zoho One – forms, sales pipeline management, meeting scheduler, and document library – are standard features in almost any CRM solution, not add-ons. Splitting these features into apps (each with their own unique navigation) is not user-friendly and results in an experience that’s clunky, disjointed, and extremely frustrating.

While some CRM systems may charge extra for certain features, it’s insane to compartmentalize each one. Zoho One users need to constantly click to the main menu, find another app, open it, perform a task, click to the main menu, go back to the CRM, etc. And, since apps are separate modules, it’s often not possible to link tasks between two modules.

Zoho One features you might find helpful

  • CRM – basic, non-intuitive customer relationship and pipeline management.
  • Appointment scheduling – allows customers to book a meeting with you at a time that works for them.
  • Email marketing – create, send, and track email campaigns in real time.
  • Forms – build lead generation and customer engagement forms.
  • Chat – team instant messaging tool.
  • Shared inboxes – allow teams to manage shared email inboxes and turn emails into tasks.
  • Workflow automation – automate routine tasks and sales processes for your team members.

As we mentioned before, these features are usually included in most CRMs, rather than standalone apps, and the lack of true integration among everything makes the user experience subpar.

Bottom line:

Not recommended, unless you don’t care about the user experience, have a small team, and need a cheap all-in-one solution.