People Do Business With People, And Your Reps Need To Be Exceptional
I was talking with a director of marketing at a large pre-IPO software company. The guy was incredibly smart around what he had built from a marketing perspective – data modeling with intent data, technographic, firmographic and demographic data to drive the modeling, optimized lead scoring and lead nurturing, and all the necessary tech stack.
This director was among the top 5% of marketers I’ve talked with over the years, but he had a common pain. Junior business development reps (BDRs) were picking up his highly qualified leads and fumbling the opportunity at the goal line. He was extremely frustrated.
He provided them with tools, scripts, training, content and process around how to handle the leads, evaluate the data, uncover any issues and use playbooks to move leads through the process. It still wasn’t working.
You can do so much with marketing science, technology and nurturing, but in some businesses, it’s going to come down to the people you have talking with your prospects.
Here are some sales enablement actions you can take to make sure your sales team is prepared to handle the leads your marketing is serving up.
Start With A Pilot
I’ve had a lot of experience working with sales teams, and one of the biggest key learnings is that sales reps tend to want to be involved in successful programs after they’re proven to work. In addition, like most people, they want what they’ve been excluded from having.
My recommendation here is to start with a small pilot. Get a handful of sales reps (no more than five) with a cross section of ages, experiences and positions. Try to have some influencers, people who are respected within the ranks of the sales team.
Include only this group of sales reps in your new initiative. Spend a lot of time with this team. Make sure they know the strategy behind the change in process, tools or techniques. Explain why this initiative is important to sales. Let them participate in the development or refinement of what you’re doing.
Clearly lay out your expectations for the pilot and the measurement objectives associated with your initiative. If you plan to hand them leads, how many? What do you expect them to do with the leads? What tools and technology should be used? How do you expect the pilot to go? What is success? What is failure? How long will the pilot last?
Make sure you include time to sit down with them and get their feedback on their progress. Do this frequently in the beginning so they know to expect changes based on their feedback.
Publicly share the progress and the successes the pilot team is achieving. This is the best way to get the rest of the reps interested and excited to use the new tools when the pilot is over.
Gamify The Desired Behaviors
Everyone loves games, so turn your desired outcomes into a game. If closing highly qualified leads is the goal, then assign points for every new lead closed. Provide a multiplier for reps with a higher-than-average close rate. Give them bonus points for high-revenue customers.
Set a time frame for the game, like a month or a quarter. Longer games are harder to maintain. People lose focus and their attention wanders. Offer regular updates and communication around the game. Do a leaderboard and share it weekly at a companywide meeting. Post the leaderboard on the company intranet or email it to everyone.
You can run additional mini-contests, like giving leads to the rep who responds to or claims the new leads the fastest. This teaches reps to jump on these new highly qualified leads. It’s a behavior you’ll need, and by encouraging reps to act quickly, you’ll be teaching them a new habit.
You could give additional points for using tools. For example, reps who send content in context based on the lead’s behavioral profile or intent profile might earn extra points when the deal closes. Again, this encourages people to use new techniques and teaches them new habits. Over time these new habits will become second nature.
Report Publicly On Performance
While everyone loves games, they also love public recognition. Sales reps especially love being at the top of the list and hate being at the bottom of the list. By sharing contest or performance data publicly, you can leverage some of this human behavior.
Reps who are at the bottom of the list will work harder to move up. Reps at the top of the charts will work hard to maintain their position. Reward the people at the top of the list publicly and ignore the people at the bottom of the list.
There is no need to chastise those at the bottom – their position does it for you. When they see the rewards and recognition bestowed on the leaders, that will be motivation enough.
Make sure you talk about why the leaders were successful. What did they do to get them to the top? What was their secret? Let them tell their own story. Leverage these stories to make them seem attainable for the ones who are outside the pilot or in the pilot but producing middle-of-the-pack performance.
This is an important part of sales management and sales operations. Using data to encourage new behaviors can be one of your most powerful tools.
Automate As Much As Possible
Part of your quest to make reps better and improve the performance of the entire sales team is to automate and drive efficiencies within the rep ranks. If you can achieve the same performance or better with one fewer rep, that is a major improvement. What about two or three fewer reps?
What about eliminating an entire team of reps, like new business development reps? If you could serve up highly qualified leads based on the prospect’s behavior and profile, why do you even need an NBR calling them to set up an appointment? You don’t.
Simply send that lead to your closers and let them work closely with the prospect to help answer their final questions and facilitate your agreement. They could close a new customer in days instead of weeks.
That would be a monumental shift in your company’s ability to drive sustainable, repeatable and predictable revenue growth. It would be a game-changer and it’s 100% doable.
Evaluate And Respond Regularly
Once the pilot is over and you’ve rolled out changes to the sales process or introduced new tools and new lead scoring tactics, you’ll have to monitor sales rep performance closely. Unfortunately, there are always going to be people who don’t want to change or can’t change.
Some companies are constantly reviewing team performance and removing the bottom-performing 10%. I’m not suggesting that, but I am suggesting a regular process that flags people who are underperforming habitually. If they won’t make the necessary changes, I do recommend removing them from the role. Perhaps there is a role better suited for them elsewhere in the company.
If they are in the right role but simply need more training and support, then providing additional training, support or assistance might be a solid idea. The goal is to regularly improve the entire sales team’s performance in a systematic way, not to tolerate or ignore underperformance in a portion of your sales team.
This will regularly lift the overall performance of the entire sales team. You’ll be sending more leads to better reps. You’ll reduce the total cost of sale by reducing the cost of the sales team. You’ll increase your close rate because you’ll have better reps working on high-quality leads.
Almost every metric across the board will improve. Not only do the metrics improve, but the overall team improves as people realize performance is important.
The future of sales is going to be science, not hard work. The smarter your marketing and sales program is today, the better your company sales will be tomorrow.
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