It’s still shocking to me how many companies still think about sales in the “old way.” Did you know that the traditional sales funnel was created in 1898? I’m not kidding. You can Google it. Better yet, here’s the link.
If you’re thinking it’s three steps and gravity that helps your leads flow through a funnel, you are woefully mistaken and using logic created over 100 years ago.
Yet company after company continues to design sales teams, sales processes and sales support around this archaic approach to sales.
Today, your prospects are in charge of the process, and they are influenced at every step of that process. That influence provides a chaotic experience that is peppered with content, comments, ideas and distractions. It’s as if they are caught in a cyclone and trying to simply navigate it successfully to a safe decision.
That’s why we created the Cyclonic Buyer Journey™ model to better illustrate what prospects are going through today and how they make purchase decisions.
This model helps us map a client’s prospect journey, but it also helps us align marketing, sales and customer service execution to match the new buyer journey.
Of the eight stages, marketing is responsible for the first four stages or 50% of the buying journey:
The next stage, Evaluation, is usually when sales gets involved. Prospects have done as much as they can, and now they need sales to take them the rest of the way.
Understanding this view of how your prospects buy should inform how you market but also how your sales team does its job.
For example, a lot of software companies are pushing for a demo. The demo is the key metric for their sales teams, but this might be a mistake.
What about the prospects who aren’t ready for a demo but are highly qualified? What about the highly qualified prospects who get a demo, but the demo is done poorly? How do the people doing the demo know what to show, how to prioritize portions or ask compelling questions to help the prospects feel safe about their purchase?
I’ve also seen highly trained expert salespeople sell six-figure software deals without a demo because they understood their prospects and could create an experience that met their every need.
For software company CEOs, what is your conversion rate on demos to sold deals? Industry experts say it’s 20%. That sounds horrible to me. If your software shines, shouldn’t the demo produce an 80% close rate?
This is just another data point that sales is still using old-school tools and an old-school process.
But let’s focus on what you should be doing to fix this instead of what you might be doing wrong.
Today, most sales organizations run a process that puts the produce/service or the sales rep first. They make a ton of cold calls and or send a ton of cold emails.
Instead, design a process that attracts the right people who are ready to engage in a conversation with the sales team. Some of these people might be early in their buyer journey and need more education, which the reps should be able to provide. Others might be further along in their buyer journey, and the reps can hold their hand as they make the difficult decision on how to proceed.
The better this process, the higher your close rates, the shorter your sales cycle and the more efficient your sales reps will be. They’ll be spending their time with people who are interested in your products and services.
No matter who you’re selling to or what you’re selling, your prospects need education, they want to be smarter, they want to be informed and they want to make sure they make a safe decision on behalf of their company.
The more educational your sales process, the better they are going to feel. How they feel is important because people make purchase decisions emotionally, whether they admit it or not. This gets back to the demo – while it’s interesting to you, it might not be (and in fact rarely does) help them get educated around their issues and challenges.
Instead, build out a library of educational materials that sales reps can share with prospects. Design these tools based on the questions prospects ask during the sales process.
Here are some examples:
Every question and concern has educational material that helps the prospect feel like you listened to their issue, offered content in context to their specific situation and provided helpful content.
Personalization is the key to successful revenue generation in 2023 and beyond. One-to-many approaches are out and a one-to-one at scale approach is in.
This means you’ll need process and supporting materials for each of the individual personas you have to get to say “yes” inside your buying process.
If you’re talking with the CFO of a larger biotech company, you’ll need content that addresses her needs specifically. If you’re talking to a CEO at a regional bank, you’ll need content and educational material that speak directly to his unique needs and requirements.
While you have an overarching sales process, each time you use the process it should be personalized as much as possible for the people you’re talking to.
The days where CEOs don’t know their average order size, lifetime value of a customer, close rate by product type and sales cycle days are over. If you don’t know this information, you are flying blind.
You should know in real time how many companies are in each stage of your buyer journey model and how many companies are in each stage of your sales process.
You should know your conversion rates from stage to stage, and you should be actively working each month to improve them. It’s not always about more leads or even better leads. Often, it’s about what you’re doing with the leads you have.
You should know how long it takes to get a new lead from qualified to closed, and you should be working to shorten that timeframe as much as possible without jeopardizing the experience for the prospects.
You should know the total pipeline value, and that number should be increasing month after month.
These are all metrics that healthy and growing businesses are aware of and actively optimizing every month.
Finally, it’s just too hard to do everything I’m advocating you do without tools, specifically technology. The modern sales force is armed with a variety of technologies to:
While nothing I’m suggesting is easy, it’s necessary. Make it a fourth-quarter rock and get started today.