This is a great time of year to take stock in so many of the processes you’re using across your company – especially the sales process. It’s probably one of the most important processes you’re executing, and there’s a high likelihood that it could use some upgrades going into 2022.
Regardless of how 2021 finishes up, I’m sure there were at least a few sales-related disappointments this year, like that big deal you thought you were getting that you missed out on or those opportunities you lost to your big competitor.
The handful of sales missteps definitely cost you a few new customers, and maybe some deals took much longer to close than necessary.Now’s a perfect time to look at your sales process, identify the weak spots and install upgrades that will impact your January and get 2022 off to an amazing start.
Here are 16 relatively easy-to-install sales process upgrades that you can start doing this week so that they impact your January.
1. Build A Process That Makes Prospects Feel Safe
Don’t lose sight of why people choose your company instead of your competitors. Most of the time it’s not about price, product or fit, as the experts tell you.
Most of the time it’s not logical. Most of the time the person making the final decision felt safer picking someone else. It’s that simple.
In most cases, if you lose a new customer opportunity, it’s because your competitors made the people at your prospect’s company feel safer than you did.
To combat that in 2022, let’s look a little more closely at what makes people feel safe. First, they have to get to know you, like you and trust you. By you I mean your reps, their managers, your products/services and your company as a whole.
Design your sales process upgrades with plenty of opportunities for your prospects to get to know, like and trust you along the way. In fact, most of the remaining ideas all fall in line to help deliver a prospect that feels safe choosing your company over your competitors.
If you need help with this, no worries. Schedule a session with us to talk about your sales process and we’ll give you some additional sales process improvement ideas you can install on your own.
2. Add A Meeting Link With Direct Access To Your Calendar
One way to improve your sales process is to make it easier for prospects to work with your sales team. We’ve all had those annoying back-and-forth emails to set up a meeting: “What times work for you?” “These times work for me.” “Let me know what’s good for you.”
Forget it. Just give your prospects access to your schedule and let them pick a time that works for them. It might seem like you’re making them do the work, but it’s their schedule, so let them tell you exactly what works for them and when exactly they want to meet.
This is guaranteed to cut at least a couple of days out of your current sales cycle, and your prospects will appreciate the control you’re giving them.
3. Start Using A Qualification Methodology
Not all prospects are created equally. Some big opportunities at major companies are far less qualified than some smaller opportunities at smaller companies.
Arm your sales reps with the ability to use a company-wide scoring system to qualify ALL prospects with the same methodology. Everyone in the company needs to use the same vocabulary for describing opportunities.
At Square 2, we use pain, power, fit. We score every opportunity the same way. How much access do we have to power (the person who signs our agreement)? If we’re talking to that person, it’s a five. If we’re talking to an assistant who works for a director who reports to a VP who reports to the CEO who will sign our agreement, it’s a one.
How acute is their pain? Do they need an agency immediately, or are they looking to make a change next summer? If they need someone immediately, it’s a five. If they are looking to make a decision next summer, it’s a one.
How good is the fit between what they want and what we do? If it’s a B2B company that needs a lot done quickly, has the right investment estimated, is committed to marketing growth and values a strategy-first approach, it’s a five for us.
If the company has a list of things it needs done and is looking for the cheapest vendor, it’s a zero for us.
On a scale of zero to 15, opportunities that score 14 or 15 always close inside of 30 days and are great opportunities for us. Our sales team works aggressively to close them.
Instantly everyone is on the same page and talking about opportunities in the same way. Also, operations can focus on only prospects who are forecasted to close in the next 30 days, so this process aligns with the entire organization.
We talked about this in detail during episode 14 of our LIVECast, What’s Wrong With Revenue? To hear more about qualification methods, click here to watch this episode.
4. Install Lead Scoring
While having a sales qualification methodology like the one we discussed in the above section is important, you also want to have a prospect qualification methodology for people who haven’t yet said they want to talk with a rep.
Scoring your leads means you can put sales reps on the best opportunities and let those that are less qualified continue to be marketed to with marketing tactics.
Typically lead scoring is based on a prospect’s onsite behavior. If they visit more pages than most prospects, if they visit key pages like pricing, if they engage in chat or if they return to the site frequently, they might earn a high lead score.
Lead scoring can also be based on the information they share with you on your website. If they are of a certain size, if the person has the right title, if they download certain materials or if they watch certain videos, they might get a higher lead score.
The more active and thus the higher the score, the more ready to buy they might be and the more appropriate it is for a rep to engage with them.
5. Use Embedded Video In Email
While getting a lead-scoring model and sales opportunity qualification system up and running might take more than a few days, this upgrade is easy.
Helping your reps add a video to their regular sales emails is easy.
Tools like HubSpot, Vidyard and Wistia allow reps to turn on their laptops, shoot a short video and embed the video directly into the emails they’re sending prospects.
Instead of writing long emails, make short videos. When you send large presentations, include a video to explain what’s in the deck.
Better yet, record a video talk track for the presentation so there is no ambiguity about what messages, stories and takeaways you want them to have when they’re done reviewing your materials.
People want to watch, and helping your reps upgrade their communication with video is going to help prospects feel safe.
6. Introduce Them To Other People At The Company
Don’t you feel better when you know three or four people at a company you do business with than when you only know one person? Of course.
If your sales process includes having one sales rep as the only point of contact throughout the sales process, that’s not going to help your prospects feel safe.
Try introducing one or two other people. How about the person who heads up client services or perhaps the CEO or even the VP of sales? Anyone else besides just the sales rep is going to help.
Of course, this has to be planned and part of the process. The new people participating need a role and a reason for joining the process.
This simple upgrade is guaranteed to improve your sales process and how your prospect feels about your company while your sales process is executing.
We all know that people make purchase decisions emotionally, and the better they feel about your company, the more likely they are to choose you.
7. Use Customer Testimonial Videos Before People Ask For Referrals
Want to shorten your sales cycle and improve your close rate? Consider adding a customer testimonial or reference reel for your sales process and send it right before prospects ask for referrals.
We’ve deployed this technique many times and it works like a charm. In some cases, it eliminates 90% of the reference requests. This has been proven to cut at least two weeks off the end of your sales process.
You must send it before people ask for references. If they ask and you reply with your video, it doesn’t have the same effect. By giving it to them before they ask, it makes it harder for them to request referrals because they already have the information.
This sales process upgrade works every time. Creating the customer reference reel costs between $3,000 and $5,000, depending on how many customers you include. The reel pays for itself the first time you use it. For more information on reference reels, click here.
8. Give Your Reps Questions To Work With At Each Stage Of The Sales Process
When you go to a party and people ask you questions about yourself, how do you feel? When people talk only about themselves, how do you feel? It’s the same way in sales.
The more questions you ask your prospects, and the more you get them talking about themselves, their company and their issues, the better they feel about you. It’s human nature.
Arm your sales reps with a digest of potential questions they can ask prospects at each stage of your sales process. Some reps might already be doing this, but you want every rep doing it and you want them asking similar questions – the best questions.
I wouldn’t make reps ask all the questions, but they should use the right questions at the right time. The more relevant the questions, the better. Over time, reps will naturally remember these questions and use them naturally.
In the meantime, these questions will help prospects feel better, feel safer and trust your reps more, helping them generate more new customers.
9. Replace Your Legal Contract With An Agreement Written In Clear English
Have you ever heard this? “Your contract is in legal. As soon as it comes back, I’ll let you know.” If so, this might be a problem.
I know some companies need legal-heavy contacts to protect their businesses, but most companies don’t need contracts that require legal review. If you do, review it again and make sure the legal contract can’t be turned into clear English that anyone could understand.
If you can make this simple change, you’ll cut another few weeks off your sales cycle. Better yet, you won’t make your prospect feel anxious because your contract needs to go through legal. No one likes sending contacts to legal.
Make sure your business contacts can understand your contract. In fact, stop calling it a contract and start calling it an agreement. Contracts need legal review, while agreements are for businesspeople.
It might be a challenge, but I think most of us can have agreements written in plain English that can be understood, discussed and signed in a day or two, not weeks or longer.
10. Never End A Meeting Without Next Steps And Setting The Next Meeting
This isn’t new, nor is it fancy, but I’m shocked at how many salespeople still don’t practice this simple move.
When your meeting is wrapping up, make sure there is clear agreement on the next steps. Before the meeting is over, sync up calendars and agree on a date for the next meeting or follow-up. Be sure everyone understands expectations and next steps before the meeting wraps up.
Then follow up with an email so everything you discussed is in writing and everyone (including anyone who might have missed the meeting) can review and agree to what was discussed.
This simple step is going to keep your process moving and eliminate any potential misunderstandings.
11. Make Sure You’re Talking To The Person Who Signs Your Agreement
We talked briefly about this earlier. If you want to improve your close rate and shorten your sales cycle, get to power early.
Most people might tell you they’re the decision-maker. In their own mind, they might be. But if they don’t sign your agreement, they’re NOT the decision-maker.
Some CEOs think they’re the decision-maker, but if they must take your proposal to their board, they’re not.
Do your best to uncover all these nuances. One way I like to ferret this out is by asking what their decision-making process looks like. Who’s involved, how long does it take and what meetings are going to be needed to get this approved?
This often uncovers the board’s involvement or additional people who will need to agree.
Make sure this is all crystal clear within your sales process and do everything you can to get in front of those ultimate decision-makers. Remember, no one is going to tell your story like you do, no matter what they say.
12. Seed The Sales Process With Educational Content
One of the best ways to help prospects feel safe and trust you along the way is to educate them. A smart prospect is a safe prospect. The more you can help them feel smart, the more they’ll trust you, too.
The best sales processes strategically use content along the way, with sales reps sending or sharing that content in context to the questions the prospect is asking or about to ask.
Some of this content should come from outside your company. This helps validate their decision to go with you or their decision to move forward with their project.
For example, if you can send them research or validating content from other noncompetitive companies, it’s going to help. If you can send them to a place with real reviews on your business, that’s going to help.
The more helpful and educational information you can provide them, the safer they’re going to feel.
13. Send Prospects Something That Helps Tell Your Story And Differentiates Your Company
You might not have noticed, but a lot of these upgrades are designed to create a better experience for your prospects compared to the other companies they might be talking to.
Sending them something valuable during the sales process is going to upgrade their experience and help you stand out.
For example, qualified prospects get a copy of our book, Smash The Funnel. We know that not all agencies have books. In fact, most don’t. We know that this book helps tell our story, positions our agency and shares our thought leadership on how to grow revenue in today’s world.
Prospects who read our book close faster and more frequently.
But you don’t need a book, you just need something that helps differentiate your company, helps tell your story and helps prospects feel safe choosing your company.
It’s these little wows that help create a remarkable experience for prospects and get them excited to work with you when they become customers.
14. Set Clear Expectations Up Front
Remember, your goal is to make your prospects feel safe. People are more relaxed when they know what to expect. Make sure you explain exactly what’s going to happen and when. Break down your sales methodology into each step and explain why you do it like this.
Explain that it’s in their best interest to work with you like this. Prospects who follow along are likely to be great customers. Prospects who tell you what process they want to follow are likely to be horrible customers. Consider this when deciding whether to follow along or lead.
15. Make Your Company Feel Exclusive
Let’s be honest: We want what we can’t have. So being a little standoffish during your sales cycle isn’t always bad. Telling prospects that you’re qualifying them as much as they’re qualifying you puts you in partner status and removes you from vendor status.
No one wants to be a vendor. You don’t want to be a vendor. Vendors get squeezed on pricing, terms and delivery. Partners get treated as equals, and you want to establish your business as a partner early and often.
Once you let prospects know that you’re not sure if they’re a good fit for you, you’ll have their attention. They’ll want to work with you. They’ll want to follow your process, and they’ll be looking at you as a partner trying to educate, advise and help them, not as a vendor trying to sell them something.
16. Co-create The Recommendations With Your Prospects
You need to involve prospects in the solution and recommendation development process. If you spring your recommendations on the prospect, is that going to make them feel safe or more anxious?
The latter, of course. But by including them in the process and talking through options during your recommendations phase, they’ll get exactly what they want and feel part of the process. What you suggest will match their specs perfectly. How can they argue about price or what’s included when they participated in that selection process?
Now you’ve increased your chance of getting the deal and you’ve eliminated the need for a bunch of back-and-forth messages late in the game.
You should be able to see that most of these upgrades are light lifts. They can be done in days, not weeks or months. A few might require a bit more work, but when you add all these together and install them in your sales process, the impact is going to be significant.
You will see real acceleration in the time it takes to close new customers and realize a significant improvement in the percentage of opportunities that you close. Shorter sales cycles and higher close rates – that’s how you drive revenue in 2022.
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