The pandemic shut down the world, but progressive CEOs and innovative sales leaders responded by adapting, overcoming and working around their constraints.
Instead of finding additional hurdles, this approach uncovered and unlocked hidden improvements that today make up the backbone of how progressive companies engage with prospects.
Going into 2022, every leader should be rethinking how their sales teams work with prospects, and in this article we’ll share some of the best ideas to help you make similar transformations at your companies.
One of the biggest takeaways that we’ve seen from clients and heard from other CEOs is that once some of these new playbooks were installed, companies were able to achieve the same revenue with fewer sales reps. Or, better yet, they were able to grow revenue with the same number of sales reps.
This shattered the myth that in order to grow, you need to hire more sales reps.
Here are a few important areas to consider when looking at sales going into next year.
You Should Have A Sales Strategy
Yes, sales needs a strategy just like marketing does. You need to know how you’re going to engage with your prospects. Ask yourself:
- Do you want a new business rep making the first contact, qualifying and then turning the opportunity over to an account manager? That’s a little old-school but it’s a proven model used by a lot of sales teams.
- Do you want marketing to deliver high-quality and qualified sales opportunities directly to your account team and have them work on closing these opportunities?
- Do you want your sales team doing outbound prospecting or do you want them spending their precious time handling inbound leads?
- Are you sticking with virtual sales calls via Zoom or going back to in-person sales meetings? Are you considering a hybrid? What’s the tipping point for a rep to move from virtual to in-person?
These are all important questions that need to be answered before we get into the details of sales execution.
Most of our direct experience and the efficiencies we’ve seen from our work with sales teams shows a smaller dedicated team of highly experienced sales guides (people who are guiding prospects along their journey) who are fed highly qualified sales opportunities from marketing produce the best results.
This configuration produces shorter sales cycles, higher close rates, higher average revenue per new customer and overall better revenue performance for the companies investing in this approach.
You Have To Have The Best People
When it comes to sales, the people on the sales team are a major factor in whether you hit your goals.
You might have a set of old-timers who perform most months but are locked into their ways. This is fine as long as everything is going smoothly, but ask them to hop on a Zoom call and, well, it breaks down pretty quickly.
You might have a mix of old and new, making it challenging to get them to work together or to follow the same process and use the same tools.
You might have an entirely new team that, while enthusiastic, need a lot of coaching and hand-holding.
Deloitte reports that 44% of salespeople are planning to leave their current company in the next 24 months. This makes finding new people, getting them hired quickly, onboarding them efficiently and coaching them up a major task.
All of this needs to happen while you’re trying to hit your sales goals month over month. It’s like trying to change the tires on your car while you roll along at 60 miles per hour. No, it's not an easy task.
To handle this, you’ll need a talent assessment system or process. This ensures you’re looking for and screening sales reps the same way every time and in a way that boosts their success rate.
It means you’ll need regular and standardized onboarding to make sure every rep knows the company story, positioning and sales process as well as how to use the sales tools you’ve created for them. You’ll also need a way to regularly check in on them to ensure this story is consistently delivered and it doesn’t change over time.
You’ll need a way to measure their sales performance to feed the eagles and starve the turkeys. This will also help you find the people who, with solid coaching, can emerge as superstars.
Of course, you'll have to do it all while working on the actual sales opportunities you need to drive to your goals. It’s a big lift and sometimes too big for one or two people. You might want to consider bringing in some expertise that helps you identify high opportunity sales reps and provide the coaching they need to thrive in your company.
Again, if we’re building a revenue generation machine, everything needs to be a system, process and methodology that can be repeated month over month.
We agree that even sales needs ongoing optimization to drive improvements. Today, this is assigned to a new role in sales called sales operations. The sales operations role is responsible and accountable for everything in sales that is not direct selling.
They produce reports, manage dashboards and drive the analytics. They maintain, upgrade and improve the CRM. They build the automation required to support your new sales process. They investigate new sales tools and recommend tools to help improve sales performance. They might be required to integrate new technology with your CRM system. They’re responsible for the data in the system and making sure it's clean, complete, and accurate.
This is a critical new role in sales for 2022 and one that should be considered for most sales teams.
You Need A 30-Day Sales Plan
Just as with marketing, you need a plan for sales. Consider how many reps, what are your expectations for them, and how does that align with the company goals? How do marketing and sales align to work more efficiently together?
Typically, this means starting with the company goals and rolling them down to the sales reps. You'll need to make sure both the company goals and the sales rep goals are attainable when compared to the total available market, the marketing investment and expected lead flow and the competition.
A larger plan like this then becomes a set of monthly plans with goals and expectations at both the company and individual rep levels. Of course, not every month needs to be equal. If there is seasonality in your business, build a few down months into your plan.
For example, if people purchase less frequently during the end-of-year holidays, make sure that’s reflected in your plan. Sometimes these down months uncover that your expectations around the up months might be too aggressive, which might mean your overall goals for the year are too aggressive.
Finally, it’s good to socialize the plan. No, I’m not suggesting every sales rep has to buy into the plan, but your journey will be easier if reps understand the bigger picture. If the sales team knows what you’re thinking, how the plan was created and feels like they’ve given at least a little input in creating it, you’ll have a higher chance of success. Buy-in is important.
You Need A Sales Process
For us, this is one of the most important parts of creating a revenue generation machine that helps you hit your goals every month.
If you want a scalable, repeatable and predictable revenue generation machine, then you must have a documented and battle-tested sales process that every sales rep knows and follows.
Want to hit revenue goals more consistently? Your sales process has to be strategically designed to do one simple thing – help guide your prospects through their buyer journey and do it in a way that makes them feel like your company is the safe choice.
People make purchase decisions emotionally and then rationalize them later. Understanding that changes how you think about your sales process. When you help customers feel safe, you produce an emotional buy-in. When they are anxious or nervous, they extend the sales process and, in many cases, feel that doing nothing is safer than hiring you.
You want a sales process that weeds out unqualified people quickly. You don’t want to hear "no" at the end of your sales process – you want to hear it very early.
Asking questions – sometimes difficult questions – on the first sales call will uncover poor-fit prospects. It might show that you’re not talking to power or that their pain is not acute. Doing this effectively means spending more time with high-quality opportunities and less time with low-quality opportunities.
As we discussed earlier, understanding your prospect’s buyer journey and aligning your sales process to match is a smart way to build out your new guided sales process.
Just like you match your marketing to their buyer journey, you want to match your sales process to their buyer journey.
Make sure you document, train on, enforce and talk about your sales process. Simultaneously, build your sales process into your technology (CRM) platform and make sure all your sales reps understand it’s mandatory to follow it.
By having a well-designed and clear process, you’ll be able to better optimize it over time as you start to see what works well and what could work better. It’s critical to continually optimize your sales process, just like you optimize your marketing execution.
This is an important piece of your revenue generation machine.
You Have To Track Performance Beyond Sales Numbers
Just as you do in marketing, you need to track sales performance. Sales vs. quota is the most obvious data point, but you’ll want to look at other metrics too.
- Conversion rates on sales-qualified leads (SQLs) to sales opportunities will uncover how good your reps are at qualifying.
- Conversion rates on sales opportunities to proposals show how good your reps are at moving people along the buyer journey, answering their questions, using content and helping prospects feel safe.
- Close rates will display how good your reps are at helping people rationalize their decision and negotiate tricky terms.
- The average revenue per new customer will clarify which reps are selling larger deals or more comprehensive solutions.
- Pipeline velocity shows you who’s good at moving opportunities through the sales process quickly and efficiently.
- The sales cycle in days helps you see how long it takes to close new customers. As you optimize your process, you should see this number start to go down.
All these numbers together give you a much better view of how effective and efficient your entire sales team is at executing the sales process. This is a process companies with high-performing revenue generation machines all work hard to manage, optimize and improve over time.
The Right Technology Is Mandatory
You’re going to need a CRM to handle all aspects of this more scientific approach to sales. Most companies have a CRM of some kind, but in this case, you’ll need a CRM that is integrated with your marketing automation.
You’ll need a CRM that has automation tools that make executing your sales process easy for the sales reps.
Your CRM should allow the sales reps to serve up content including e-books, videos, audio files, presentation decks and more, and should do so quickly and easily right from the CRM.
Sales reps should be able to see a complete chronology of the prospect from the first time they visited your website all the way through each and every touch in the sales process. This helps sales reps start their conversation with your prospects from a point of context, instead of asking, “What can I help you with today?”.
Your CRM should also be efficient in helping your reps to follow your new sales process. With this, you’ll know every prospect is getting the same experience regardless of who is their rep. You should look for a CRM that allows you to track and record contact with your prospects both via email and voice touches.
This integration helps you ensure that your reps are telling the same stories, as well as the right stories at the right time in the sales process. You’ll also get to hear prospect responses and gauge their level of engagement.
These are all positive and necessary steps in helping with that important continuous improvement part of building your sales machine.
All of these elements are critical for designing a sales process that produces revenue growth month over month. The technical details around in-person or Zoom, the content your sales team services prospects, and how the sales process is designed are in good hands with sales leaders.
Once you get your strategy, people, plan, process, analytics and technology in place, you’ll have all the elements necessary to build a revenue generation machine.
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