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The Modern Sales Communication Handbook


Introduction to sales communication


The mantra ‘prospecting is a numbers game’ is a little overplayed. There is some truth to the adage that numbers are important, but more importantly, to be successful at sales prospecting you have to have a methodology and a solid sales communication strategy. A routine or system you follow consistently – that connects with your prospects, makes what you have to offer relevant and helps them reach a decision in your favor.

There’s actually empirical evidence that supports this. In CSO Insight’s 2015 Sales Performance Optimization Study, Jim Dickey and Barry Trailor found that high-performing sales organizations are those that are disciplined about their sales process. (You can read more about this in A Modern Sales Roadmap: 7 Best Practices to Drive Sales Success). They are not only more likely to make their goals each year, but they have a higher percentage of reps who contribute to that goal. Their success is predicated on the team being successful, rather than that one super star rep.

‘Modern Sales Communication: The Path to Prospecting Success’ offers sellers a road map to the daily and weekly activities that are the basis of effective prospecting. From your initial approach to becoming your prospects’ trusted advisor, we’ve pulled together a collection of our most popular blog posts that give you the insight and specific steps needed to prospect successfully. This isn’t just busy work– if followed consistently, these are the fundamental elements of a successful sales communication process that will move prospects from being unaware, to being a loyal customer.

Enjoy!

Contents

Section 1

INSIGHT SELLING:

THE GENUINE SALES EFFECTIVENESS TOOL

Buyers prefer to buy from sales reps who are sources of helpful information and good ideas. Although this is not a new or even radical concept, many sales reps fail to bring new and valuable ideas to the table. Instead, they continue to focus on what they’re selling, not on what the customer needs. And buyers see through thinly veiled product pitches presented as education. Research shows that 74% of buyers choose the rep that was first to add value and insight.

However, these are not the only causes for concern for you as a sales manager. Since buyers can conduct research independently, they often turn to sales reps later in the process once they have a grasp on the solution. Buyers are completing 75% of their buying journey before even talking to a company. Although today’s buyer has access to a lot of information, that does not necessarily mean they have all the answers. Actually, the opposite may be true: They still have questions, albeit educated ones. This presents an opportunity for sales reps to share ideas and help buyers think these ideas through, therefore becoming the kind of sales rep who adds value and gets the sale.

This is why insight selling is so effective. It places the focus on the buyer and the buyer’s needs by training the sales rep to uncover those needs and to offer new ways of thinking about and approaching possible solutions.

Insight selling, therefore, becomes more targeted and personal. Each customer is different and is looking for different things. They also follow a different decision-making process and their desired outcomes vary. This is yet another reason for sales reps to be customer-focused rather than going after prospects with practiced sales pitches. To succeed at insight selling, sales reps should problem solve on behalf of prospects. They should strive to thoughtfully discover and present solutions with quantifiable benefits.

For insight selling to be successful, use these techniques to replace process-driven selling with deal-specific insights.

Step 1: Gather insight data

The essential ingredient in a successful sale is gathering important customer insights-hence the term “insight selling.” This knowledge enables a sales rep to align the value and benefit in the mind of the prospect. It also allows the seller to differentiate the solution they’re selling from competitive alternatives.

Therefore, the first step in insight selling is the gathering of data, so the sales rep has something to work with. This information should be stored in the CRM system you use so each sales rep and manager has visibility on the prospect’s journey. This allows sales managers to see the captured data, to know where sales reps are in the sales process and how well they are doing. Capturing data this way will also give the team benchmarks to help them understand, manage and improve their sales outcomes.

Step 2: Develop insights

After capturing data on the prospect, it’s time to comprehend and develop the insights that are the basis for insight selling. Sales reps used to capture insights on their prospects and then subjectively assigned probability to opportunities based on specific data points. Now, sales reps take all of the captured prospect insight and use that in their sales strategy. It increases their sales effectiveness.

To increase sales effectiveness, there are specific data points that are more helpful than others. Be specific with your sales reps about the data you want gathered during ongoing prospect contact and discovery. Suggest they follow these tips for a casual and natural way to add insight selling techniques into a sales conversation. In addition, coach your team to use the information they gain to:

• Capture the question in data rather than text

Being able to show specific data points for where your prospect is struggling, and how they can benefit from your product or service is much stronger in numbers than text.

• Develop a list of common answers to questions

As a seller, you are constantly learning with each prospect interaction. Keep tabs on the questions your prospects ask so you can be prepared for future prospects asking the same question. This process will help you learn more about your product or service, and help you become a more effective seller.

• Give each question/answer with your prospect a score

This process can help you assess how your selling strategy is working. The higher the score, the more likely the customer is to purchase your product. The lower the score, the more work you’ll need to do in order to show the value of your product.

Step 3: Practice insight selling

Insight selling is not rocket science. Insight selling simply focuses on the customer’s world. Sales conversations should be flexible and navigated by where the customer wants to go next.

Suggest to your sales reps to start with these three goals during conversations with prospects:

• Educate the prospect with new ideas and perspectives.

• Collaborate with the prospect.

• Persuade the prospect that they’ll achieve results if they work together.

Above all, sales reps should be ready and willing to put forth ideas that are genuinely geared toward teaching and guiding the prospect. This is what the data and research put forth in the early stages with the prospect will lead to.

Insight selling can benefit anyone responsible for driving revenue: business owners, entrepreneurs, sales representatives and sales managers. With the basic principles of insight selling in place, your sales strategy can gain the full power needed to succeed.

Section 2

HOW LOUD CAN YOU BE?

FINDING THE RIGHT NUMBER OF PROSPECTS TO NURTURE

Just how loud-or quiet-are you? What’s the “volume” you’re selling at, and is that volume effective for your target audience? Finding the right volume, and by that we mean determining how frequently to reach out to prospects at all stages of the buyer’s journey, is critical for effective sales.

But how do you determine that volume? By paying attention: Matching the sales process to the buyer’s journey and continually tweaking it will lead to the appropriate volume level. The advice below should help.

The sales process as a series of milestones

Whatever you’re selling, a refined sales process ideally creates a series of milestones in the buyer’s journey: from target to prospect, prospect to opportunity, opportunity to client, and client to brand advocate.

At each milestone, you will likely have fewer people than you did in the one before. For example, you’re going to have fewer leads than you had targets, and fewer opportunities than you had leads, etc. (We would love to tell you there’s a way to take every target all the way to the point of closing and opportunity, but no one has figured out that magic formula yet!). Knowing the numbers drop off this way, you are better off talking to more prospects at the beginning of the process to drive better results at each phase.

However, it’s not just about the numbers. The key is proper execution at each milestone, and this includes knowing how many prospects you can effectively nurture, in other words, your volume. Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. When a sales strategy is executed properly, large numbers going into the funnel produce large numbers coming out. You are better off talking to more customers at the top of the process to drive better results at each phase.

With that in mind, what is the appropriate volume? How many times can a sales rep reach out before it gets to be too much and too overwhelming for the prospect? How many prospects can you reach out to without sacrificing quality and personalization? Where’s the sweet spot between the two?

Focus your funnel

Use a sales funnel to organize your sales process with prospects into each stage to track progress across the team. Do this based on common definitions with the goal of driving accurate forecasts for future closed business. You also need a consistent understanding of how customers go through the buying process. Though the journey has general stages, or milestones, each individual buyer takes unique specifics into account. It all goes back to tailoring your outreach to match your buyer’s needs and wants. According to MarketingSherpa, 9% of B2B organizations touch leads with lead nurturing on a daily basis, 22% do so weekly, and 34% do so monthly.

To start, you can focus your sales funnel on the most common buyer’s journey for your industry. Then later, once you have your own data and understanding of your industry, you can set yours up as you see fit for your business.

Remember, however, that your funnel is not made of stone. Be flexible and reinterpret the funnel based on the uniqueness of each buyer. According to MarketingSherpa, 68% of B2B organizations have not identified their funnel. This step can be a huge advantage!

Create a repeatable sales process

Your goal here is not to continually re-invent the wheel, but to create a repeatable sales process that’s mapped to the buyer’s journey. To do so, first, lay out each step of the process, with a branch for inbound vs. outbound leads. To begin, ask yourself some questions:

During the initial contact

• What are your most predictable and effective forms of lead generation – networking, cold calling, inbound leads from marketing or referrals?

• Do you use the same qualification process each time?

• What questions work best in that very first conversation with a prospect?

• Do you foresee the same buying process for each new prospect?

During the follow up

• What type of follow up do you send after that conversation (e.g., an email, a hand-written note, a white paper or piece of collateral) that garners results, and do you have a proven template for it?

Next, create scripts, templates and tools to automate the process for your team. Make it easy for them to replicate the process and measure its efficiency. sales communication should still be personalized for each particular prospect, however.

Try it as outlined for a month-give or take depending on the length of your sales cycle-and document your conversion rate. The idea is to create consistency and measure how it works across the team.

Then, tear it apart one little piece at a time to improve your conversion rate. Keep enhancing it and adding value for your prospect to ultimately increase his or her receptivity to your proposal in the second meeting and improve your close ratio.

Revamp a single step, one at a time and test your refined sales process. Isolating a single change, one at a time will allow you to accurately measure the impact of that change on your overall sales process.

We hear that sales is a number game. For every 1000 accounts prospected in a given quarter, how many opportunities should an SDR group generate? According to Bridge Group Inc., 33 should be accepted into the funnel. Keep this in mind as you define your sales process.

Top sales influencers Jill Konrath and Jeb Blount have argued that it’s really an effectiveness game. We argue it’s both and that your prospecting volume plays a vital role in improving your targeting and effectiveness in closing more deals.

Make an objective assessment of the situation, goal, strategies and tactics you’ll employ. Creating a consistent process and continually tweaking it with knowledge of the buyer’s journey will enable you to reach a consistent volume and appropriate level of personalization.

Section 3

4 ATTENTION-GRABBING WAYS

TO GET NOTICED BY YOUR PROSPECTS

Inside sales reps spend a lot of time prospecting and desperately need to find a way to get their prospects to the next level. Email, phone and social are the typical methods they have for their outreach. It’s hard to really know what will catch a prospect’s attention. How do you know if your communications with your customers and prospects are working? You need to think differently about the effectiveness of your sales communications in order to understand how to optimize.

The odds are not in your favor: You have only 15 seconds (tops!) to capture the attention of your prospect. And if you do capture their attention, they are less likely to click than they used to be, so measuring engagement via click-through is less effective than before.

Even if you do get the click, it might not mean anything. Just because someone clicked on something, it doesn’t mean they are interested in what you have to say, or at least interested enough to stick around: 55% spend fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page. Check out your own web analytics and you’ll be shocked at just how little time anyone spends on any one page.

Social shares don’t mean that your content was read (or will get read) either. It’s just too easy to share content after a glance without ever engaging with or reading it.

However, grabbing your prospects’ attention can still be a simpler feat than you might think. Here are four ways to effectively gain the attention of your prospects: content, frequency, channels and mobile.

1. Content

Improving content is critical to success, and there are several ways to do it. For example, research shows that news, current events and other types of newsworthy content gain more attention than generic content. Can you find a way to make your content relatable to current events or meaningful issues that are happening in your prospect’s world?

Also, strive to move away from talking about your product or service and towards understanding the industry you are selling to and the pain points of the target audience member. Focus on being helpful and on problem solving, not on selling. Then your content will be relatable content, and therefore more engaging.

You can also use specific data points to build credibility and demonstrate your own expertise (and that of your organization) in the industry. Not all of this content has to be developed from scratch. You show this kind of expertise when you share relevant content as well, demonstrating to prospects that you’re “in the know.”

2. Frequency

Frequency doesn’t mean as often as you can, sending your prospect an email every hour or even every day. Instead, supplement your email marketing and keep you and your brand top of mind through a consistent and value-added social strategy that is just frequent enough.

Like a single ad on TV, a single social media post isn’t going to garner any attention (unless it’s shocking, of course, which you don’t want). Rather, this is about finding an authentic voice on social media, listening for information that is relevant to your prospects and sharing it. (And being strategic about it helps too!)

To avoid the temptation to over-email, use social media to increase frequency-increasing the number of times your prospects might see you.

3. Channels

Let’s face it: Your arsenal is pretty limited. Your channels are limited to social media, email, phone and (sometimes) chat. What’s a sales rep to do? Use them all! Triumphing via one channel alone is unlikely. The power comes through using a variety of channels in a consistent cadence. (And that helps with your frequency too!)

You shouldn’t rely on email alone-but you should be good at it. You shouldn’t rely on the phone alone-but you should be good at it. And obviously, you shouldn’t rely on social media alone, but it should definitely be utilized as part of your prospecting plan.

As for chat, inside sales reps are finding that chat (or instant messaging) enables them to engage with a prospect much faster than via email-dramatically so. Using chat as one of your channels means quicker responses than email or voicemail. In addition, it’s less intrusive than a phone call, takes less time than using email or the phone, and lets you multi-task. Plus, it creates a more casual exchange accelerating your relationship with your prospect. If you haven’t yet considered chat as a channel, now is the time.

4. Mobile

For sales people, “mobile” is not about having a mobile-friendly site. It’s about how you as an inside sales rep can capture your prospects’ attention, and how you can give them a clear and easy way to engage with you while they are on their phone.

Although the exact number varies depending on whose research you refer to, half of all email is now opened on a mobile device. Mobile devices are now the first screen of choice for many executives to check email, browse the web, conduct research and communicate. Studies show that now people spend more time on their mobile device (51%) than their desktop computer (42%). In fact, people check their mobile phones up to 150 times a day!

That means all of your email sales communications should be mobile friendly, from the template your company uses to your approach in your one-to-one sales communications.

This mobile prevalence also means you should use email and social together to reinforce your message in all the places people visit on their phones.

Getting clicks may make for easy metrics. But gaining your prospects’ attention is what turns prospects into leads and leads into opportunities. Start implementing these four attention-getting strategies to optimize your prospecting and you will be more effective in your selling.

Section 4

STAYING TOP OF MIND

WITH A SALES COMMUNICATION STRATEGY THAT ROCKS

Communicating clearly and efficiently with prospects, and even existing customers, is the key to a good sales process. Doing so consistently is perhaps even more important.

Make sure your sales process includes a plan for communicating with prospects and customers on a regular basis by developing a sales communication strategy; one that is simple to implement, easy to adhere to, and built for continuous improvement.

Once it’s in place and being used on a regular (almost automated) basis, a sales communication strategy will create consistency, reinforce messaging, and mirror stages of the purchasing process. And that in turn will help you to:

• Reach and exceed quota.

• Increase awareness of your products, services and solutions.

• Capture add-on business from your existing customers.

• Prospect within your existing customer base.

Considering those benefits, it sounds like a good idea to get one going then, doesn’t it? Here’s some help to get you started…

Getting started

Remember, the purpose is to capture new customers (via prospects) and market share (via customers). Create a clear timeline for implementation of each tactic in your sales plan. A week-to-week plan works best for a lot of sales reps.

Also set a goal to keep you focused so you know where to invest your energy and effort. As an example, aim for 75% of your sales quota from new business and 25% of your quota from add-on business from your existing customers. Then set up your strategy accordingly.

Next, define your strategy

When planning your strategy, keep in mind that it’s not only about the timing, but about the “place” too. This is the most essential function of a sales communication strategy: to be where your prospect is when he/she needs you. A prospect who cannot find you cannot buy from you. You never know when a decision to move forward with a purchase will occur. Many times it’s the company that is most convenient to contact that gets the call or even the sale. Neither prospects nor existing customers have time to read every email they receive and neatly file away contact information for future reference. Therefore, as a sales rep, you need to be in front of your prospects as often as possible so you are there when they are ready. You need to be top of mind for when that prospect is ready to proceed with a deal.

Camping out in the lobby of that prospect’s building is probably not the best way to stay top of mind (and might get you arrested) so this is where your sales communication strategy comes into play to keep you top of mind. Consider these examples of weekly tactics one could employ toward this goal:

• Send at least 50 emails introducing yourself to new prospects.

• Call and introduce yourself to at least 50 new prospects.

• Send follow-up communications to at least 50 existing prospects.

• Meet face-to-face with 20 new prospects.

• Create 10 proposals.

• Schedule and make five presentations.

• Stay in contact with five existing customers.

These are examples only. You should set your own numbers based on your needs. What’s important is to monitor your process and calculate exactly how many contacts you’ll need in order to make your sales quota. Also be careful to work wisely, with as many repeatable processes as possible, so you’re not spinning your wheels re-inventing the wheel with each new prospect.

Make your sales communications worthwhile

There is a caveat to regularly contacting prospects and customers, however. If you overwhelm them with communications that are of no value to them, you are at risk of losing access to their inbox. They will opt-out of your email communications or send your phone calls directly to voicemail.

To make your sales communications worthwhile and even anticipated, you need to be in the position of a trusted advisor. How do you get that status? You earn it!

Make sure you understand the prospect’s company, the industry in which they operate, as well as the key influencers in the marketplace. You can learn all of this, or at least most of it, if you:

• Research, join and participate in at least three professional organizations your prospects and customers belong to.

• Attend the tradeshows that your best prospects and customers attend.

• Write or contribute articles and whitepapers focused on the interests and concerns of this market.

• Volunteer to speak at 10 or more organizations in your territory that have an interest in what you’re selling.

• Participate in at least three networking groups.

• Ask customers for referrals.

Use all of this knowledge to craft the communications you use as part of your sales communication strategy, and you won’t come across as a sales rep, but as a knowledgeable resource!

Include existing customers in your sales communications strategy

We touched on it above, but let’s reiterate it here: Your sales communication strategy is not designed for prospecting only. You need to use a similar strategy in order to capture add-on business from your existing customers. Here are some possible tactics you can employ on a regular basis to make sure you stay top-of-mind with your customers, and that they turn to you when they have additional needs:

• Contact each of your existing customers once a month with a new and

unique idea that will help their business.

• Distribute a monthly newsletter that’s full of useful information

(not sales speak).

• Create a web-based seminar series for existing customers.

• Each month, take at least three existing customers to lunch and invite

a new prospect to join you.

• On a daily basis, use your social-selling techniques.

Once you’ve created your sales communication plan, all you have to do is work it consistently. It matters less what you do and more that you do it consistently. In addition to that consistency, closely monitor your results so you can revise and refine as you figure out what works. Will two emails in one week get you a higher response rate or does that increase the spam complaint rate? How many phone calls do you have to make to get a call back, and do you get better results if you send an email first? These are the kinds of questions you’ll want to keep asking yourself so you can keep tweaking your plan-and increasing your sales!

Section 5

HOW A STRONG SALES CADENCE

KEEPS YOUR SALES TEAM MARCHING FORWARD TOGETHER

Research shows that in order to maximize your conversion rate you’ll need to touch a prospect 8 to 12 times, in part because 80% of leads do not close on the first call. Typically, this series of “touches” will occur as a combination of emails and phone calls on the part of your sales team. These multiple attempts to communicate with a prospect are more than just tasks to keep the sales team busy. Rather, these touches should make up the foundation of your prospecting strategy. You therefore need a plan for all of these communications, to ensure sales reps are consistent in their use of them.

The best sales team management accomplishes this by following a sales “cadence.” Ideally, this cadence is determined by testing, to determine the best time to reach out to prospects and how (i.e., with what message and via which channel). However, there is another kind of cadence that’s critical to an effective sales prospecting strategy: The cadence that gets and keeps your team marching in the same direction toward the same goals.

High-performing sales organizations put processes in place to ensure their salespeople focus on the highest value sales opportunities. That’s because the repeatability and consistency that come from such a cadence will drive effective sales planning. In addition, if you maintain a predictable cadence with regard to territory, account and opportunity planning, you’ll forecast more accurately and reps can more easily build a healthy pipeline.

A good cadence of this kind is like glue that keeps everyone together. It takes key elements of success into consideration, such as strategy, structure, individual skill sets and processes. The cadence you choose to establish is less important than having one. A cadence can follow any sequence based on the needs of your organization, such as these four meetings suggested by The Sales Benchmark Index.

That said, according to sales influencer Jim Keenan, a good sales cadence must cover these five critical elements:

1. Daily meetings

Meet with your team every day to keep on top of the day-to-day things that can be overlooked. These might be meeting quotas, tracking deals, reviewing pipelines, reviewing products, or other topics specific to your organization. Although regular sales training is important, and 55.6% of companies invest more than $1,500 annually training sales reps, according to the 2015 CSO Insights Performance Optimization Study, these kinds of daily check-ins can be invaluable in keeping everyone marching to the beat of the same drummer.

2. Coaching

Sales team management has another role to play beyond keeping reps on track: coaching. And providing that coaching on a regular basis is an important element of your sales cadence.

A predictable and consistent coaching schedule demonstrates that support for individual team members is always available, in addition to creating more effective sales reps. Coaching is essential to the success of a team, improving sales performance by up to 19%, and it can be particularly beneficial to the middle performers.

3. Planning meetings

Reviewing quarterly and yearly plans and how well your team is attaining those goals is critical. Have the team regularly report on progress during these meetings. B2B companies that don’t align sales and marketing teams around the right processes and technologies have lost upwards of 10% or more of revenue per year, according to IDC.

4. Performance reviews

Nearly 50% of sales managers cited increasing sales effectiveness as a top sales objective in 2015, according to the 2015 CSO Insights Performance Optimization Study. However, almost half of all sales teams don’t have a playbook. The solution? Performance reviews. Performance reviews provide individual team members with a benchmark for them to gauge against desired results and behaviors. These kinds of reviews can be the apex of career planning, performance improvement plans and motivation.

5. Team and organization reviews

Your sales cadence is not only about individual sales reps, but also about the team. And the best way to put together a great team is to constantly review the make-up of the team and how well they operate together. Assessing the team on a consistent basis ensures you’ll have the right team in place to be successful. In addition, you’ll have reps who are engaged as a team, and engaged organizations grow profits as much as three times faster than their competitors.

There isn’t any set cadence you can download from the Internet and put into place. The sales team management at your organization will need to determine the best cadence, one that improves sales prospecting on a continual basis. Nor will determining this cadence affect only the sales department. “Ultimately, sales cadence will involve adjusting internal processes for the whole organization, and will probably hinge on learning how to redeploy or redesign the organization’s CRM in order to more efficiently track, manage and organize information across all divisions,” according to Salesforce.com.

Still, it’s worth it, even if developing a sales cadence might seem like a bother, and more work to add to your already overflowing plate. Think of it like rowing a boat. Initially, it can be hard to keep the boat straight. Once you find the right rhythm, the momentum of the entire team will increase and you will move together almost effortlessly.

Section 6

3 WAYS TO TURN INSIGHTS INTO PROFIT

Part 1

Your team’s sales success rate probably fluctuates quite a bit depending on a number of factors. Factors that can impact sales success include:

• Lead quality that you get from marketing

• Volume of inbound leads

• Sales process

• Messaging and content

• Quality and motivation of your sales reps

These five factors cover a lot of territory! How do you know which factors you need to change, or which changes would make the biggest positive impact to your sales efforts? First you need insight. You need to understand where you currently are and how you define success. What makes your success rate “better” can be defined in any way you like, including increased revenue, increased customer satisfaction, greater efficiency or all of the above. How you determine “better” is up to you.

Whichever definition you choose, as long as you want to improve, you must use data to develop a baseline: Your sales leadership/VP probably cares about these statistics, so your metrics need to line up. Second, you need to know (and come to terms with) what you do and don’t have any control over.

For instance, as a sales manager you have very limited impact on the volume of inbound leads or the quality of the leads coming from marketing. But there are things you can control.

As a sales manager, you can (and should) use data and insight to directly affect your: 1) sales process, 2) how your team is trained and 3) the content they use to engage with leads.

1. Use insight to improve your sales process

Many experts say the key to making improvements in your sales success hinges on your sales process. But in order to improve anything, you must first know how well you are (or aren’t) doing and where you need to improve.

To uncover this information so you know where your sales process needs improvement, measure your current pipeline metrics, and ask yourself two questions: 1) How are you doing currently? And, what’s your baseline?

According to the Pipeliner CRM blog, pipeline metrics you should consider include:

• Your sales target, because it’s like the benchmark that determines all other benchmarks! Keep it a reasonable target, however, one that encourages growth yet is still reasonable.

• Your total number of leads and opportunities: As the Pipeliner CRM blog says, this can be a tricky metric to nail down because leads can come from different places and represent different types of opportunities.

Getting leads from a variety of sources such as website traffic and tradeshow attendees is a good thing. Just make sure you have a way to track all of them, no matter the source.

• Your ratio of leads to qualified leads, because-just as your leads come from different sources-your leads are likely of a varying quality. Are your leads what you need them to be?

• Your quote-to-close ratio, so you know how many quotes turned into

actual dollars. If you’re getting a high number of quotes to a low number of sales, you know you have a problem!

• And finally, your sales lead-to-close ratio, so you know how many leads (not quotes) turn into actual sales.

Becoming familiar with and keeping track of these sales metrics should help you to spot areas that need improvement, and then to continue to monitor so you can continue to improve.

2. Use insight to evaluate your sales training

The second factor that you as a sales manager can control is the training your team gets. When was the last time you asked yourself, “Just how effective is my team?” Do you know? The effectiveness of your sales team can be a direct reflection of their sales training. In fact, Jeff Goldberg says training is the number one way to improve the efficiency of your sales team.

If you’d like to make sure your team is performing optimally, ask yourself some questions to get a handle on their effectiveness as individuals. Questions should include:

• How many calls must a sales rep make to get a live connection or a return call?

• How long does it take to convert a prospect from a lead to an opportunity?

• Who among your team has better conversion rates?

• Who gives better presentations?

• Are there reps who are better at managing top-of-the-funnel leads?

• Who has better negotiation skills?

Find tips for measuring sales performance here. Find the gaps in the performance of your sales reps, and take action to provide better training for them.

3. Use insight to measure the effectiveness of sales content

The last area you as a sales manager can control is the content your sales reps use, from the messaging to the call-to-action. In order to know how well your current content is or isn’t working, track your sales team’s efforts to understand engagement metrics on the content used. For example, ask:

If you’d like to make sure your team is performing optimally, ask yourself some questions to get a handle on their effectiveness as individuals. Questions should include:

• Does this email get response from new leads or leads that your reps are trying to nurture?

• Does your collateral help to educate the customer or does it cause more

confusion?

In addition to how well current content is working, take a look at what you offer. Does your team have access to value-added whitepapers or e-books that marketing sends out in their campaigns? If not, can they get access? Then track how well this material does or doesn’t engage your leads.

Although data didn’t play a big role in old-school sales, we’re not living in an old-school world any longer and data should be a key component in any sales organization. And it’s a fact that data-driven sales organization garner improvements faster than grasping at straws. DoubleDutch saw increases of 300% when they started using data-driven sales techniques.

Are you ready to do some self-evaluating to discover where you need more insight into areas to improve? To help you get started, take a look at our Modern Sales Prospecting Scorecard to uncover where your sales team could use improvements. Then start tracking the metrics that matter to make better decisions on where and how to improve your team’s ability to reach their sales goals-and that big sales target.

Section 7

MORE WAYS TO TURN SALES INSIGHTS INTO PROFIT

Part 2

As a sales manager, there are many factors you can’t control that directly impact your team’s results-but some things you do have some power over, and you need to pay close attention to them! In Part 1, we talked about using data to look at three things you can control in order to improve your sales: your sales process, how your team is trained and the content your reps use to engage with leads.

In Part 2, we’re going to delve a little deeper into ways to use data to improve your success rate in sales by developing insights based on that data. No matter what you are trying to improve, you need to base your changes on more than just a hunch. You need data, because data is the key to building a solid foundation. Yet you also need to know how to gain insights from that data. To put your data to work for you to improve sales (and profits), follow these four steps:

Step 1: Collect your data

Data you can easily access and gather likely includes transactions as tracked by your CRM or marketing automation platform, prospect behavior, survey results, input from focus groups, and external resources such as industry whitepapers. The three that you probably have immediate access to are:

• Prospect behavior: Dig into your own internal data to determine things like, is there a time of day that people are more likely to answer the phone or open an email from your organization? When people do respond, what type of content are they more likely to engage with? E-books, shorter guides, podcasts, webinars, something else?

• CRM data: Track your sales activities closely and find out things like, how many calls does it take to get a call back? What cadence of activities is most successful in accelerating a deal?

• External data: Take advantage of any external data that’s available about your customers. This might include information you can glean from research using LinkedIn, whitepapers, reports, or other data sources like InsideView or InsideSales.

Step 2: Build insights

Insight means getting information you can use from looking at your data; information that will resonate with your prospects and help them associate their needs with your solutions. When you have insights, you’re able to apply your data to your strategy so you can make a real connection with your prospect, and your message or offer provokes a clear response and has the power to change customer behavior.

In order to build your insights, match the data you are collecting to the prospect’s buying process to create hypotheses about situations. For example, maybe determine why your sales cycle has slowed down. Is your prospect not getting the right information from the sales rep, so he/she has to go elsewhere to complete his research?

Is there a direct competitor who has a slightly different value proposition that distracts the prospect and has them second guessing yours sales rep? For excellent advice on creating impactful insights, see this Salesforce.com post.

After you’ve created them, use your insights to validate lead score and prioritize leads for your team. Vary the mix of channels or engagement offers. Don’t expect that the same actions will produce different results. If you keep getting put into voicemail, try email or social outreach instead, for example. If prospects aren’t responding to a certain message, change it or offer a new value-add asset to get their attention. Target your campaign and personalize it as much as possible. MarketingSherpa reports that emails that have been tailored to specific audiences through segmentation get 50% more clicks than their counterparts.

Emails that have been tailored to specific audiences through segmentation get 50% more clicks than their counterparts

Step 3: Test your insights

Take the insights you’ve gained and test your hypothesis. Include email, phone and social selling tactics to get a quick read. Insights don’t need to only come from new prospects and new sales. Test your insights with customers through cross-sell or up-sell opportunities. (Product recommendations like upsells and cross-sells are responsible for up to 30% of ecommerce revenues.) Track results and analyze what has worked. Identify metrics and set up a dashboard. Define the testing parameters narrowly to measure success more clearly. Make your dashboard public for the whole team to view. Discuss testing strategies, what worked and what didn’t work in daily huddles to gain feedback from the team. Then constantly tweak, adjust, improve…and test again.

When you’re paying attention to what’s going on in your sales process by gathering data and analyzing it, you can start to understand the effectiveness of your messaging, determine the real ROI on each sales activity, and understand how each activity helps achieve sales (or hinders!).

Gathering and understanding your data enables you to tie it to a result-like a sale. Doing so means you will understand the effectiveness of your sales efforts from top of the funnel all the way through to opportunity conversion and closed-won deals. With that kind of critical information, you can go about constantly striving to improve!

About Tellwise

Tellwise is smarter sales communication that drives significantly more customer engagement for sales teams of all shapes and sizes. From field sales and partner channels, to inside sales and customer care, Tellwise delivers a richer, more robust experience that speeds the sales cycle and creates happier customers.

Productivity. Insights. Experience. Tellwise.

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