We get asked to help out with marketing tactics frequently, and the improvements we’re asked to help out with are almost always because the company needs help hitting their revenue goals.
However, if revenue is your challenge, starting with the sales team always produces faster and more dramatic results.
You shouldn’t be surprised. Even if we doubled the number of leads for a company, if their sales process was shoddy, most of those incremental leads would likely be wasted.
You should never prioritize marketing improvements over sales improvements. These two areas should be addressed at the same time, because to your prospects, there is no difference. This is one continual process and experience for them — their interactions with marketing AND sales should be remarkable.
Here are 10 sales improvements you should consider making immediately.
If we’re going to start at the top, let’s start with some core principles every salesperson should understand. First, no one wants to be sold to.
This seems elementary, but many organizations don’t help the sales team to see themselves as anything other than salespeople whose job is to convince people to buy. That is where you might be going wrong.
In today’s world, the more you push, the more people tend to push back or ignore you.
People only buy when they feel safe. Trying to sell them or convince them would produce the opposite feeling and delay the sale even more.
Instead, teach the reps to act more like guides than traditional salespeople. As a sales guide, their role is to help the prospect navigate their buyer journey. Guides answer questions, provide advice and assistance, are trusted and add value to the journey to make it better, easier faster or more efficient.
If you want to illustrate it for your team, consider my favorite guide metaphor, the Sherpa who helps you climb Mt. Everest. The guide helps you pack and tells you what to take or leave at camp. The guide plots your course and tells you which routes are best according to the time of year.
The guide helps you look out for weather-related challenges and helps you navigate around danger. Their goal is to get you to the top safely and then back down the mountain.
As a sales guide, you would answer any and all questions your prospects have, including helping with questions that are typical but perhaps they didn’t ask. You would help them navigate the decision both internally and externally.
You would provide with all the information they need, whether it pertains to your products or services or your competitors.
You would advise them on mistakes they might be about to make and do so in a neutral way, providing all the information they need and respecting whatever decision they make.
You would map out a process that gets them through their buyer journey quickly, efficiently and in a way that aligns with their stated goals for this particular project.
The more you guide and the less you sell, the higher your close rate and the shorter your sales cycle.
Giving your sales reps a way to think differently about their role is the first step to creating a better, more remarkable experience for your prospects.
If you like the idea of a sales guide and want more information on it, consider our book, Fire Your Sales Team Today! There is a section available on our website here, or you can get the book on Amazon here.
As we say frequently, you need a strategy before you start working on tactics. While that usually applies to people in marketing who are running random acts of marketing with no plan, this also applies to sales when you don’t have a documented and visual sales process that everyone follows to the letter.
If you don’t have this documented and visual sales process, and if this process is not built into your CRM, you don’t have a process. Your reps are doing whatever they want, whenever they want.
If you do have a process, then one of the key improvements is to make sure that process is prospect centric and not company or rep centric.
This means the sales process has to serve the prospects. It has to give them access to information, help them feel safe, build trust and educate them. If done well, it creates an experience that is dramatically different than all your competitors.
Look at your process and identify every single touch point along the way. That means every phone call, every email, every chat, every meeting and every document you share.
Now go back and make sure all those touch points and the materials you share are prospect centric. This is also a good time to look for gaps where additional touch points could help your prospects or make their experience better.
The more remarkable your sales process and the better this process is at helping prospects feel safe, the more new business you will close — that is a guarantee.
What a perfect transition to this next topic. When it comes to sales communication, email is still the go-to platform:
The data is unwavering — video helps salespeople perform.
We strongly recommend salespeople have access to easy-to-use videos and embed these videos into almost all their email correspondences with prospects.
Even Zoom can provide the platform to quickly record a less-than-60-second personalized video. Add it to emails and off you go. No muss, no fuss — just better experiences for your prospects.
While the video features need to be personalized, most of the email reps tend to send prospects can be templated. This gives the reps a starting place for almost every type of email they might have to send during your sales process.
If you go back to the touch points idea, these emails always align closely with those touch points — setting up the initial call, following up on that call, delivering the proposal, providing reference checks, scheduling meetings, delivering information, following up with answers, etc.
Each email can be templated and added to your CRM. Your reps can be trained to use the right template at the right time.
Of course, each template should be personalized or customized as needed based on their experience with the specific prospect.
But the idea of arming reps with approved templates that are written with the prospect experience in mind is going to save the reps time, ensure your story is told consistently and make sure the prospect experience is always on point.
We see this as a common challenge. We look at a lot of clients’ final presentation decks, and if there are 100 slides in those decks, 90 are about our client and only 10 about their prospect.
This should be reversed.
Your prospect already knows about you at this point in the process, as they’ve likely been working with you for weeks.
This presentation should be all about them and how you’re going to help them, how much money you’re going to save them, how quickly you’re going to get them implemented and the results they should expect from working with you.
Provide details on what they’re going to get from you, the impact this is going to have on their business and, perhaps, what might happen if they don’t move forward.
If you absolutely feel like they still need information about you, include it as an addendum and let them review it on their own time.
Finally, ask the hard questions at this meeting. It’s your last chance to talk to your prospect before they make their decisions.
Ask them how you did and what you could have done better. Make sure no questions have gone answered. Ask what the decision-making process looks like and if you can help in any way. Ask about timing. Finally, ask if there are any remaining reasons why they would not choose you.
You should leave that meeting knowing you’re likely to get the business or it doesn’t look good because of something specific. This is going to help you improve your process over time.
References are a tough pill to swallow for a lot of businesses. Everyone asks for them and providing them is challenging. You have to bother your customers, and then they have to find time to talk to your prospects. Plus, you never really know exactly what they’re saying to your top prospects.
There’s a new way to resolve this age-old challenge.
We call it the reference reel. Click here to see a sample or click the image above.
Almost every company has its set of tried-and-true referenceable customers. Ask them to make a short video about their experiences with you. You can direct them during the shoot to make sure you get what you need. All of this can be done remotely.
Then collect the footage and put together a five- to seven-minute video collection of your customers talking about their experiences with your company and its products or services. All of this can be done for less than $1,000.
Now, right before prospects ask for references, proactively send this video. It’s going to eliminate 80% to 90% of the reference requests immediately, and it will be the best $1,000 you ever spent across marketing and sales.
OK, so the reference reel helps with traditional reference checks, but there is another way to create a remarkable process that also activates your happy customers.
Consider this: You’re working with one of your prospects and out of the blue they get an email from one of your customers telling them how great you are. How is that going to make the prospect feel? Amazing, we know.
This is a little challenging logistically, but it works wonders for building trust and moving prospects along quickly.
You would need to orchestrate this with a handful of prospects and ask them to send these emails at the right time in the sales process. I would also make sure these same customers are OK if the prospect replies and wants to talk, but you should know that doesn’t happen frequently.
I would also recommend writing a sample email for your customer and sharing it with them, not to tell them what to send but to make it easy for them to do you this favor when you ask.
Once you put this together, it runs very efficiently in the background, and perhaps you can reward customers for helping you with this by offering them something of value or a small thank-you gift.
Let’s shift gears here and move from process to data and ways to use data to drive better decision-making.
Since we’re talking about sales improvements, data, reporting, dashboards and how you use data should be on the table.
In other words, how long does it take your team to turn a sales opportunity into a new customer? Are there differences by rep or rep team?
Once you have this full process data, drill down into different deal stages and track the timing between stages. How long does it take to move a deal from sales opportunity to proposal? How long does it take to move them from proposal to closed-won?
This analysis and this data help uncover opportunities to make improvements. Those improvements are going to speed up your overall sales cycle. Again, this is guaranteed.
Once you start working on these improvements, you’re going to want to see how these improvements are impacting results over time.
To do this, you’ll need some dashboards that track this data over time (monthly in this case).
If the overall sales cycle is 45 days and you’re actively working on lowering it, then you should see it go down to 30 days or even 35 days over a period of three to six months.
You should be able to see similar movement on the individual stage timing, too. You can also track and monitor individual conversion rates for each of the stages in your sales process.
Most people think this exercise is about creating the dashboards, but it’s not. It should be about the learning and insight that the data unlocks. You should know exactly what improvement was installed and the results.
The dashboard is simply the view of the data that allows you to see your progress.
Finally, there’s an improvement that is often overlooked yet so important. This involves ensuring that sales feedback makes its way to marketing and that marketing feedback makes its way to sales.
Both flows are equally important if sales improvement is key to hitting your goals this year.
Marketing needs to know how sales is doing. They need to know how the tools are working. They need to know what prospects are saying, what questions they’re asking and how the sales process is flowing.
This information is going to inform everything from content creation to the website experience and even advertising decisions around paid search and paid social campaigns. It’s not a "nice to have" anymore; today, it’s a need-to-have feature of your revenue generation efforts.
Sales must know what marketing is working on. They need to know what campaigns are planned, what content is coming out and what website features are under development. Sales needs to tell marketing what additional tools they need to be more effective.
All this information needs to flow seamlessly back and forth in a regular fashion. The best way to do this is to have a regular meeting with both marketing and sales to discuss what’s working well, what’s working OK and what’s not working.
This should align plans and help prioritize those efforts. That will have a big impact with just a little effort.
One of the best ways to impact revenue is to install these sales improvements. None of these ideas require a massive amount of lift or work. Most can be done in days if not weeks.
If your first quarter was below expectations, you could have these installed early in the second quarter and look forward to a better, more successful quarter.