Companies Are Being Forced To Rethink Sales, But Better Late Than Never
We’ve been asking clients for years to allow us to help them close the leads we helped them generate, and most of the time the response has been, “Don’t worry about that, we’ve got it.” Even when we knew they didn’t. Close rates of 20% on proposals submitted aren’t acceptable.
But it’s hard to help someone when they don’t want to be helped.
Over the past few months, clients are telling us they need help with sales, and we’re there to assist them. From click to close is how we like to think of our services.
You should be thinking about a seamless prospect experience, too. Think about that experience and consider this illustration.
Your prospects first hear about your company, services or products from a trusted source, or they search for related terms and find your site. Almost every single buyer journey starts on your website.
They visit your site, look around and read your pages – hopefully you have the educational content to drive a conversion. You move them from anonymous visitor to new contact, and then the touches that educate them turn them into a sales lead. The touches that your sales team applies should get them to sign your paperwork and become a new customer.
But it doesn’t always work as easily as I made it sound.
As you start rethinking how you sell your products or services, here are some solid areas where you should be working to upgrade the experience your prospects have with your sales team.
What used to work won’t work anymore. The tools in the sales rep’s tool kit are no longer effective. The email, the phone call, the personal meeting, the lunch, golf, tickets, gifts – do I need to go on?
Email boxes are swamped with bad sales emails. You can’t call anyone in their office. You can’t visit anyone in person. You can’t go out to lunch, play golf, go to a game or send gifts. You have to rethink the entire effort, and you’ll need new tools.
Some of those new tools might look like the old tools:
Email – Salespeople have to be able to email prospects. But you have to stop doing it poorly. Don’t ask for five minutes, don’t ask for a meeting and don’t ask if I want to see a demo.
Instead, share an insight. Ask if I want to see some interesting research. Ask if you can help me. Ask me about me. Craft a series of emails that makes that initial outreach about your prospect and then start testing. Spend a week sending different prospect-focused emails until you find one that outperforms the others.
Then take that email and make it more personal. Edit the content to be role specific. Edit the content to be industry specific.
Create a library of highly personal prospect-focused emails that actually work. And by work, I mean get people to respond, reply and act.
Video – Use video in these emails. Not GIFs or silly videos, but actual value-added video content where you educate me about your area of expertise. If I learn something, I’m much more likely to want to talk with you to learn more.
Since people generally like doing business with other people, the video is a much warmer and more personal introduction. As long as your content is educational, maybe even edutaining (educational and entertaining), I would be more willing to respond, reply and act.
Chat – Conversational marketing has come of age. People want to chat with companies, and by turning on your chat tool inside your existing marketing automation platform, you can drive new conversations today with new prospects.
We recently closed a $100,000-plus client that originated from an initial chat on our website.
Chat can be set up so that prospects chat directly with their assigned sales rep. Chat can be set up to disseminate leads to reps in rotation. Chat can be used to qualify prospects and then engage reps only when the prospects are of a certain quality.
It’s time to make chat part of your sales process.
Intent Data – OK, so if reps can’t make cold calls, what are they supposed to do? It’s a legitimate question and I hear it often. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong question to be asking. You should be thinking about how you can use sales reps to efficiently target the right prospects proactively, not blanket the world with phone calls.
The answer is intent data. Intent data is data used to signal off-site activities that could signal interest in your products or services. Today you can use an intent data model to serve up people who have visited your competitors’ websites, searched selected keywords or phrases, visited industry or association websites, watched certain videos, registered for webinars and more.
By building a custom intent data model for your business, you provide sales reps the name, company, email and phone number for people who are signaling intent to purchase off-site. In addition, you should be getting similar signal data in the form of lead scoring for people who are signaling intent to purchase while they are on your website.
Between on-site and off-site signaling, you can provide reps with plenty of people to follow up with. Make sure that follow-up is contextual based on their on-site and off-site behavior. This gets back to having the right emails, content offers and valuable information when you do your initial outreach.
ABM – Speaking of outreach, account-based marketing (ABM) is also a better approach than straight cold calling. ABM targets selected people at selected accounts and builds a series of touches that use social media, content, email, connect tools and ongoing nurture to tell your story.
This approach, executed by sales, uses a more directed effort than the shotgun cold-calling strategy. It also marries content and engagement tactics that are less sales-y and more helpful to draw contacts at targeted companies into your world. You can even marry online advertising targeted directly at individuals to help with air cover.
Each of these new tools should be part of your sales operations, sales execution or sales enablement effort through the end of 2020, into 2021 and beyond. Also, some of these take time to get started, so don’t wait if you’re looking for sales lift this year. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll start seeing more sales-qualified leads and more sales opportunities flowing in.
Since you can’t meet in person, go to networking functions or have lunches, it’s likely that a big part of your sales process is now nonexistent. That means your new sales process is going to be 100% virtual.
This isn’t a bad thing. Actually, it’s a great thing. It’s something you should have been considering years ago. Do you know that our sales process has been virtual for the past 17 years? We’ve never traveled to meet with prospects, and we’ve sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue to companies.
What it means is that you need to reengineer your entire sales process from scratch. You now need to do more qualification, and you need to do it over Zoom or some other video conference technology.
You’ll need a qualification methodology, so every rep is qualifying prospects the same way. The methodology should include quantitative measures of qualification. We use Pain, Power, Fit, but you might be more familiar with systems like BANT.
Regardless of the scoring methodology you use, with every new prospect you quickly get insight into who has the best potential of closing and when.
After they’re qualified, you’ll need a system for getting them to know, like and trust your sales reps, your company and your products or services. People only do business when they feel safe. Getting them to feel safe should be the overarching goal of your new sales process.
In our case, we ask a ton of questions, we introduce them to client services people, we share videos and we send them copies of our book. It’s all designed to help us stand out, make them feel like we’re the best choice and make sure we get to know them enough to provide thoughtful and personalized recommendations.
This might sound elongated, and it is, but we often get rave reviews on our sales process and our close rate is pushing 80% these days.
Take as much time as you need, spend as much money as you need and include as many conversations, questions and touches as you need to get your prospects to feel safe with your company.
All of this sounds much more complicated, and it is, but today there is technology to enable almost all of it.
First, you need a CRM. Not a homegrown or industry system, but something SaaS-based that is rated at the upper end of the spectrum. HubSpot CRM and Salesforce are the two leading CRM systems that you’ll need to create a sales experience that closes deals.
You might need additional technology to build your sales tech stack, such as tools like Drift for chat, Conversica for automated email follow-up and Sendoso for sending gifts or ice-breaker items that get your foot in the door.
If you’re wanting to do a lot of sales rep videos, then Vidyard or Wistia will help make it easy for reps to make videos, embed them in emails and build a library of reusable assets that makes telling your story easy, compelling and highly effective.
With a new process, new tools and new technology will come new metrics to track. We actually recommend building a set of sales dashboards to aggregate data from marketing and sales systems or from your different tech stack products so data is presented in a single place and it’s easy to find insights in the data.
It’s not about collecting data or building dashboards. Metrics are supposed to inform insights so that changes, adjustments and upgrades can be made to improve performance over time.
We’ve actually created a number of sales dashboards and identified a number of interesting sales metrics that always uncover areas where improvements can quickly shorten the sales cycle and increase the close rates for clients.
Here are some of the more interesting metrics, like pipeline velocity, revenue by lead source, number of referrals per month, sales cycle in days and percentage of new revenue from current customers vs. new customers.
Set up these metrics and dashboards, review them weekly or monthly and make sure after each review that a set of action items informed by your insights drives improved performance.
With new tools, new technology, new processes and new metrics will also come new training. Your old dogs will need to learn new tricks, like how to:
- Make connections on Zoom
- Deliver content in context to a prospect’s challenges
- Ask the right questions at the right time in the buyer journey
- Qualify prospects using new qualification methodologies
- Do forecasting with different data inputs
You’ll need to invest much more time training sales reps, old and new. They’ll need ongoing training around technology specifically, and they’ll need ongoing reminders around your sales process.
Create a schedule for regular sessions to focus on tools, technology, process and performance.
Make sure everyone attends and that people are available to work with individual sales reps as needed. Not everyone is great at group training, and some reps might need one-on-one help.
Training should not be something that gets done once or even twice a year. Sales training on all the topics we’ve been talking about should be getting done every month, and in some cases, every single week.
For example, if you’re rolling out a new CRM, the more often you do training in the beginning, the better your uptake on usage is going to be and the more value you’ll get from the investment in the system.
To illustrate, new sales technology or CRM training should look like this:
- A half-day technical training class delivered remotely on how to use the actual software
- A weekly hour-long review highlighting key features and recognizing the successes reps are having using the software
- A daily 30-minute review of specific parts of the software that are either taking longer to gain traction or causing extra challenges
Run this rhythm for at least a month, and probably more like 60 days, and you’ll transform your sales team’s ability to execute your sales process and close new customers.
By the way, your sales process is not optional. Your best reps can no longer do whatever they want. Everyone needs to be executing your sales process, using your tools, interacting with technology and measuring success the exact same way. There is no room for lone wolves in sales anymore.
This also means everyone in sales is going to be accountable for the same (or at least similar) metrics.
In addition to quota attainment, look at new customers and new customer revenue. Salespeople should be expected to shorten their sales cycle, increase their close rates, convert a higher percentage of sales-qualified leads and sales opportunities into new customers and be fully versed in all aspects of your technology stack.
Dashboards should inform sales management, marketing and sales leadership and company leadership on the effectiveness of your revenue growth effort.
Each month the data should be uncovering insights, and these insights should be used to create action plans that allow you to optimize sales performance month over month.
Sales execution is now just as complex as marketing execution, and you’ll need an entirely new set of tools, processes and people to be successful. Now is the time to start making these changes if you want to finish 2020 strong.
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