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How to Identify and Measure the Sales Metrics That Matter

Mon, 2017-11-20 06:00

Sales teams care about numbers. From revenue to growth, from conversion rate to customer lifetime value – sales metrics that matter helps us understand what’s going on and what we need to accomplish. After all, “what gets measured gets managed.”

So life should be good when today’s sales and marketing technologies are enabling us to collect as much data as we can, right?

Well, not so fast… now we’ve got a different problem.

We have too much data! Many sales managers are trying to measure anything and everything without a clear sense of what’s really driving business. Meanwhile, salespeople are drowning in metrics and getting lost in the noise.

The real challenge in utilizing data to drive sales is identifying the right key performance metrics (KPIs) so you can focus on activities that have a high impact on your bottom line and profitability.

How to Identify Sales Metrics That Matter

A KPI-driven sales approach provides the focus a sales team needs to grow a business in the right direction. For such an approach to be productive, you first have to identify what needs to be measured and here’s how:

1. Start with the Big Picture

First and foremost, you need to define the primary business goals you want to focus on in a specific timeframe.

Do you want higher revenue or more growth? Do you want to increase customer acquisition or improve customer retention?

The KPIs you measure needs to support the achievement of your goals. Otherwise, your sales teams will be doing a lot of busy work that isn’t aligned with the company’s vision.

2. Look for Leading, Not Lagging, Indicators

The most important question you need to ask is, “What activities are really significant?”

To get a good answer to that question, you need to identify the leading indicators.

Leading indicators measure the proactive steps required to create long-term success. Examples include the number of sales calls made per period, total opportunities added/lost, compliance with the sales process, and pipeline weighted value.

On the other hand, don’t get overly distracted by lagging indicators. This data shows what’s already happened – total sales, renewals, acquisition costs, etc. – and your sales team can’t change the past. Measuring lagging indicators is important; it lets you know if you’ve achieved your goals. However, only focusing on lagging indicators doesn’t allow you to change outcomes – you can only use the information to change behaviors for the next month or quarter. If you’re monitoring leading indicator KPIs, you can course correct during the period to reach your sales goals (lagging indicators).

Here’s an infographic from Sales Hacker that identifies leading indicators and how to know what the data you have available means.

Credit: Sales Hacker – Sales Metrics Cheat Sheet For SMB & Enterprise – https://www.saleshacker.com/sales-metrics-cheat-sheet-smb-enterprise/ 3. Understand What Makes Your Customers Tick

What would you do if you knew what triggered your customers to buy? You would do more of it, wouldn’t you?

To find out what makes your customers proceed further down the purchasing path, you need to deconstruct your sales funnel by examining the different stages: prospecting, qualifying, advancing opportunities, closing, and post-sale.

Look at each stage from the customer’s perspective – what happened during the purchasing path that triggered them to move closer to conversion? Was it a phone call from your sales team? Did an email elicit a response? Maybe a social media message piqued the prospect’s interest. At what point in the sales cycle did these actions take place? Identify the triggers and evaluate their effectiveness. Try A/B testing scripts, emails, and other messaging to improve effectiveness.

Analyze your sales and marketing activities and their impact at different phases of the buyer’s journey. Use this information to help formulate some of your leading indicators to ensure your team consistently takes actions required to generate sales.

4. Get the View from the Frontline

Your salespeople interact with leads and customers every day and are a valuable source of information to help identify the right triggers and activities.

Don’t just interview your top performers. Instead, talk to sales reps with different track records so you can compare and understand what activities correlate with sales success.

Your sales reps are on the frontline and have insights about customers that management isn’t aware of. Listen to them, enjoy the front row seat, and do your best to understand what makes your customers tick and how you can best equip your sales representatives to address the pain points and needs of potential customers.

5. Assess Information to Identify Trends

After gathering input from many sources, it may feel like you have a lot to measure.

However, tracking too many KPIs can make things too complicated and dilute your team’s focus.

Sometimes you just have to pick a horse and ride it. Identify commonalities and trends from all the information you’ve gathered and choose three to five KPIs to focus on. Keep track of the results so you can fine-tune what and how you measure.

Make the Metrics Work For You

Gathering and measuring KPIs is just the beginning. You must also communicate their impacts and implications to the sales team clearly and improve visibility and transparency of sales with the organization at large.

Use sales tools that allow organization-wide access to these metrics and encourage salespeople to chime in with their insights. Summarize and visualize the data using dashboards, scorecards, and reports to make the data easy-to-digest. Use role-based access to make sure team members can get the appropriate type and amount of information.

Of course, KPIs aren’t set in stone, and they can change as a response to market trends and customer preferences. Revisit these steps periodically to validate you’re tracking the sales metrics that matter to help you stay on top of your game.

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Tips for Hiring The Right Inside Sales Representative

Mon, 2017-11-13 06:00

Buyers are waiting longer and longer to interact with your company’s sales representatives. When they do finally fill out the request for a demo or contact form, you want top-notch talent on the phone and sending emails to these prospects. You probably have some great performers on your team. Did you luck into those hires, or do you have a methodology when hiring for inside sales pros?

Here’s how the world shakes out when it comes to people pursuing sales: 5% of people can sell anything to anyone at anytime. Those people are typically successful entrepreneurs. They don’t need your sales job. Then there’s the 5% who couldn’t sell a fire extinguisher to a man on fire. These people need career counseling if they continue to try to pursue a job in sales. That leaves the rest of us — people with the potential to be great sales representatives for your organization. The keyword is potential.

Skilled Salespeople Have Four Things in Common

According to Lee Salz, Founder and CEO of Sales Architects, people with the potential to be your next inside sales rockstar have the following things in common, and they are all non-negotiables for your hires. If you want to learn more about evaluating candidates on each of the characteristics below, watch Lee Salz’s webinar.

1. Resilience

Sales is a job where the number of rejections outweighs the number of wins. However, the quality of wins makes those losses bearable. You must hire sales representatives who are resilient enough to handle every “no” and intelligent enough to understand that multiple small rejections are nothing compared to significant, quality wins.

2. An Inclination Toward Continuous Self Improvement

While we may agree that sales is a job where you hear “no” quite often, the successful sales representative doesn’t just accept every rejection and move on to the next lead. Great salespeople should occasionally examine those rejections. While they should let the obvious “no’s” go, talented sales pros will review the questionable losses and find ways to improve their pitch or approach should they face a similar situation in the future. People with a zest for learning and dedication to improvement are a sales manager’s dream candidate.

3. Goal Orientation with a Focus on the Client

When hiring your next sales rep, don’t just think about how goal-oriented the individual is. Consider how client goal-oriented he or she is. When hiring managers think of “goal-oriented” candidates, that often means the candidate is driven to achieve his or her own goals. A successful sales organization must be built with people who are fanatical about helping clients achieve their goals. This type of sales organization is a win-win-win. Customers get great counsel and service. Your company is more effective with consultative selling. Your sales representatives make more sales when they care about the client.

4. A Naturally Inquisitive Personality

What makes a salesperson really successful? His or her ability to ask questions and listen to the prospect’s answers. Curiosity is an incredible trait in salespeople. The more thoughtful and intelligent questions they ask, the more opportunities they have to uncover pain points and help solve customers’ problems.

Hiring for Inside Sales Rep Based on Potential for Greatness

Great inside sales performers have two things in common. First, top inside sales performers possess the four traits listed in the section above. Second, they have a committed sales leader focused on doing what it takes to ensure the salesperson is the right fit for the job and has the necessary support and solutions to excel. That second commonality requires that sales managers do a little more homework before hiring. Here are seven things that Lee Salz suggests to help hiring managers identify and hire the best inside sales candidates.

7 Things to Try Before You Make Your Next Hire
  1. Accurately define the performance factors for the sales role. Even when your candidates possess the four non-negotiable skills, they may need additional competence in key areas. Define what those are — phone sales skills, writing, etc.
  2. Determine what skills you are willing to help a new hire learn. The odds are that you won’t find the ideal, dream candidate, so you must be ready to compromise. Are there skills that you are willing to help the right candidate cultivate?
  3. Match incoming resumes against those must-have attributes that will help the candidate effectively address the sales role’s performance factors.
  4. Conduct a phone interview with those candidates whose resumes stand up to your scrutiny. This conversation isn’t just the typical HR interview. You, the sales manager, should perform a phone interview to get a general feel for the person’s phone presence. If they can’t deliver during a phone interview, how well will they perform in your inside sales job?
  5. Allow the candidate to interview one of your top performers in the same role. This reverse interview allows the potential employee to understand the role and know whether or not he or she really wants this job.
  6. Run through simulations to test drive a candidate’s skills.
  7. Request a one-page plan from the candidate that outlines how he or she will prepare to be successful in the role. Ask the individual to set the due date. If a candidate can’t follow instructions (a one-page plan) and deliver on his or her own timetable, then that person probably isn’t right for the job.

Want to Learn More About Hiring a World Class Inside Sales Team?
Lee Salz spent time with VanillaSoft to create two webinars to help hiring managers hire inside sales talent and onboard sales reps. If you’d like to hear terrific tips and insights on hiring, view these webinars today.

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Sales Automation Rocks…Don’t Forget to Personalize the Sales Experience

Fri, 2017-11-03 08:56

Automation is a powerful part of your sales and marketing arsenal, so this may seem like a strange question to ask– Is it really possible to over-automate your customer and prospect communications?

In short, yes.

Over-automation is, basically, treating every prospect and customer the same. You remove any customization or personalization from the sales or customer service process. To avoid this problem, you must keep communications personal. Customer relationship management (CRM) tools are one way you can personalize the sales experience on every call and email to individual leads, prospects, and customers. Specifically, sales automation software can help your sales team benefit from automation without slipping into impersonal over-automation.

SCALE COMMUNICATION WHILE AVOIDING OVER-AUTOMATION Understand the role of personalization.

According to CEB, 53% of buying decisions are driven by the sales experience. While automation certainly does increase efficiency and productivity, it only works in communications if it’s done correctly. Simply merging a contact’s first name into an email or greeting them by name on the phone isn’t personalization; it’s laziness. Personalization takes communications to the next level and demonstrates that you have:

  1. Done your homework on the prospect’s business.
  2. Taken time to understand possible pain points and the climate your prospect’s business operates in.
  3. Invested time and energy into serving the potential customer.

Giving your sales communications this level of personalization doesn’t mean you have to do a lot of manual research or crafting of one-to-one custom emails and call scripts. Use solutions that automate aspects of communication preparation so that every touchpoint is personalized. Here are a few examples:

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator can help your team easily stay on top of news and job changes with their target accounts and contacts. Sales Navigator also delivers lead recommendations and provides advance search filters to make research more efficient. Team members can use the information they uncover to create proactive personalized communications.
  • Marketing automation software can help you understand a lead’s on-site actions. Work with your marketing technologist to route details to your sales reps such as pages the lead viewed, items downloaded, and more so salespeople can understand a lead’s likely interests. Work with marketing to develop sets of email and call script templates based with various on-site behavior scenarios so that sales reps have easy-to-personalize templates to drive personalized communications.
  • Social media listening tools allow sales reps to set up listening streams based on specific companies (leads), your brand name, keywords, competitor names, etc. Your inside sales team can use intel they gather from social media to start meaningful conversations with prospects via social media, email, and phone calls.

Personalization isn’t just a fad. Your customers expect it in both B2C and B2B buying scenarios. As LinkedIn recently found, the majority of millennial and Gen-X decision makers expect personalization in their communications during the sales process.

If we don’t treat communication as the meaningful, personalized interaction it should be, we’re bound to get it wrong. Without personalization in your communications, automation will produce limited results.

Go beyond segmentation and personalize the sales experience to recognizes individuals.

Segmentation and personalization aren’t necessarily the same. You can use segmentation as a strategy to help you customize sales, but don’t assume that segmented communications are sufficiently personal.For instance, you wouldn’t presume that understanding prospects’ demographic characteristics means that you’ve understood an individual. Just grouping leads into categories doesn’t mean you’ve successfully identified their needs. 

Empower your sales team with sales automation tools

Forrester Research, Inc. found that 45% of companies struggle to personalize offers or pricing for customers. The right sales automation platform will empower your inside sales agents by providing lead-specific information and streamlining sales processes. Automating sales workflows make sales reps more successful without making your communications sound impersonal.

Examples of this include:

  • Access lead history details–During calls, agents have access to prospect or lead information to help them customize the call. Past correspondence such as emails, notes from prior phone conversations, chat transcripts, and other information can be available on-screen to guide the agent through a dialogue with the prospect.
  • Automate call activity–next-best lead routing, auto dialing, and voice drop make your sales agents more productive and efficient.
    • Queue-based lead management workflows ensure the next-best lead gets called every time. Inside sales reps don’t need to worry about finding the right lead to call next. This also prevents cherry picking to ensure every lead gets worked.
    • Auto-dialing speeds up call activity. When an agent finishes one call, he or she can quickly connect with the next best lead through progressive dialing.
    • Voice drop allows agents to craft a custom voicemail recording so they leave the perfect voicemail every time. While VanillaSoft drops the message into the contact’s voicemail, your agent can move on to the next call without missing a beat.
TIPS FOR REFINING YOUR PERSONALIZATION STRATEGY

Now that we’ve discussed over-automation, let’s talk about ways you can prevent a lack of personalization throughout the sales funnel. No matter where your lead is on the road to conversion, you need a proactive means of protecting the sales experience for your customers.
Here’s how.

  1. Build a buyer persona for your target prospects, but don’t use it in place of personalization. Buyer personas are great tools to help sales and marketing teams understand who your target customers are. Personas are valuable, but don’t trade personalized communications for persona-based content. Persona-based content has its place in the sales and marketing experience. However, sales reps should focus on making a personal connection with qualified leads.
  2. Use what you know. Once you have information in your CRM, use it. Train your entire team to think creatively about conversations with leads–what little details, past experiences and bits of data do you know about a contact’s business? How does a lead’s earlier conversations with your sales team influence the conversation you’re rep is having now (or about to have soon) with that person?
  3. Keep improving the process. Congrats, you’ve identified what works and your sales team is improving in multiple key benchmarks! Keep at it; you’re never done. You need to keep responding to changes in the sales environment and to new challenges. Continuous improvement is a philosophy that will serve your sales team well.

The sales process boils down to two significant factors: building relationships and establishing trust. The inclusion of personalization throughout the sales process creates an environment where you can engage with prospects on a personal level so that you can build a relationship. Once a relationship is sufficiently established, trust will follow. Over time, the buyer starts to view you as a trusted advisor rather than as a self-serving sales rep.

As you look at your sales calls and communications, maybe you’ll begin finding signs that you’ve left out the personalization. Don’t despair! This is your opportunity to retool your communications process. Having the right CRM for your sales team can help. VanillaSoft’s sales automation software solution helps you manage your leads, automate your contact center’s workflow and still deliver a great sales experience for your customers.

Perform a Routine Sales Process Audit for More Sales Success

Fri, 2017-10-20 09:20

Imagine that a sales rep from the 1980’s magically transports into a sales team operating today. Perhaps that rep would find fellow salespeople still listening to Journey or Whitney Houston, leaving him to suppose that not a lot has changed. Once this time traveler settles down to work, he will confront CRM tools, Slack chats, emails, text messages, and computerized calendaring. Instantly, it will occur to him just how much things have changed.

Sales has come a long way, and it’s changing faster than ever. If you’re not keeping up, then you’re falling behind. As a director or a manager, you need to conduct a regular sales process audit to make sure that your team is working at its optimal levels. Below are four critical areas that require regular review.

4 KEY AREAS TO REVIEW IN YOUR SALES PROCESS AUDIT
  1. WORKFLOW AUTOMATION – When you automate many of the behind-the-scenes processes, you free up time for your salespeople to concentrate on what they do best: selling. Pace Productivity reports that sales professionals often spend just 22% of the work week on sales activities. Smart sales organizations implement automated workflows and processes to free salespeople from the administrative burdens of managing data and manual processes. The right solution can help you get better leads into the sales pipeline, ensure that every lead is followed up, generate insightful reports, and nurture prospects. Technology constantly improves and brings new opportunities for workflow and process automation. Review your solution and options regularly.
  2. SALES & MARKETING ALIGNMENT – When you get sales and marketing to work together, you start to see real results. In fact, Act-On found that, “56% of aligned organizations met their revenue goals, and 19% beat their goals.” Set up opportunities for collaboration when it comes to content creation, and define a set of shared revenue goals everyone can get behind. Sync CRM and marketing automation data so that both teams can keep an eye on the success of shared initiatives.
  3. LEAD MANAGEMENT – Lead management is critical to your success. Run an audit to make sure you have covered lead management best practices such as scoring, nurturing, and distribution. Also, take time to review what your sales reps are doing. Are they following the prescribed sales methodology or winging it/doing their own thing? Finally, check out your personas and marketing qualified lead (MQL) and sales qualified lead (SQL) criteria. Are they still relevant? Are they correct?
  4. CALL TECHNOLOGY – The phone is still at the center of the sales process, and there have been significant advances that your sales organization should embrace. Are you aware that technology can now evaluate and route your next best lead and then dial the contact for you? Did you realize that there are solutions that can pop up a preview of the contact’s information before initiating a call? Did you know you can record calls and link those recordings to contacts’ records? Audit your current calling technology to understand if it integrates with your lead management solution to make every call more efficient and productive. When it comes to the phone, use all the tools at your disposal.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

If your sales are going up, you’re doing it right. If your numbers are going south, then things are not fine. Management measures your team’s success based on close rates and attainment of revenue goals. It’s as simple as that.

Arm yourself with all the data you need and ensure your ability to access that data when you need it. Modern sales platforms like VanillaSoft deliver excellent reports and dashboards on everything from lead management to call success, values of deals, team management and much more. How you visualize those reports can be customized to suit your business and the kinds of information that you need to be monitoring.

The bottom line is that the sales process needs to be well defined and that the opportunities in the sales pipeline are understood. You have to review your sales process regularly. Sales tech blog SalesHacker explains why reviews are so vital, “There are several reasons for regularly auditing your sales process: your company, team, and product or service changes over time; insight and understanding of your customers deepens and matures; and most importantly, regularly auditing your sales process transforms results and is key for business growth.”

SALES AUDIT ACTION PLAN

Start by looking at your complete sales funnel. Map out every single step of the way, and how a prospect should move through the buyer’s journey. Next, decide on how you are going to monitor sales activity — what metrics are most important, and how you want to receive that information?

Your next step is to take a look at your sales team and the ways that reps work with each other and with other departments in your organization. Ensure other departments understand their role, even if indirect, in the customer’s sales experience. Encourage dialogue among departments so salespeople get a first-hand account of typical support and customer service-related issues, product updates and release information coming soon, new marketing programs, and more. This communication also allows your sales team to provide valuable insights to customer service, support, marketing, product management, and other mission-critical departments.

Finally, take a step back and look at your sales efforts and achievements in context of the company’s stated goals. Do you meet more than just revenue goals? Your organization likely has targets for customer satisfaction, customer retention, and more. How well is your team supporting these targets, too?

Our time-traveling sales rep from the 80s may be flabbergasted by the technological changes that have occurred over the past three decades, but he won’t be surprised by the need to continually improve and refine the sales process. Change is the only constant. If things are not working for your salespeople, you have a continuing opportunity to fix issues and improve. Audit your sales process routinely to ensure your sales reps are successful in meeting your sales goals.

Cold Calling: What Kind of First Impression Are You Making on Prospects?

Fri, 2017-10-13 08:20

Despite many claims about the “death” of cold calling, 92% of customer interactions still take place over the phone. Initial sales calls usually last for 30-40 seconds. In this limited time, your team should be able to make a fantastic impression on your prospects.

Here are a few proven techniques that can help your team improve the average 2% cold calling conversion rate to perhaps 5% or higher.

1. Do Your Homework

Many sales reps equate making a large number of calls to more absolute conversions. This is a mistake.

On average, only a small percentage of these calls actually reach a decision maker who is relevant to your business. Therefore, it is important to do your homework to find out who are the right people to connect with within the organization and what do they care about. The right decision makers should be willing to listen to your cold calls since your solution or offer is relevant to their organization. You can create a list of prospects and decision makers by:

  •          Obtaining industry contacts
  •          Focusing on your competitors’ targets
  •          Researching local businesses through Google
  •          Finding companies through Twitter, LinkedIn

According to Kirsten Boileau, Head of Regional Engagement and Social Selling, SAP:  “Going through social media accounts of the key decision makers of a company will help you understand what matters to them – professionally and personally.”  

While conducting this research, note any similar interests that you have in common with the prospect. Weave these subjects into your conversation to make a connection at a personal level. Understanding your prospect helps you leave a memorable first impression and improves the likelihood of a future conversion.

2. Build Team of Cold Calling Experts 

58 percent of buyers report that sales representatives are unable to answer their questions efficiently. To avoid creating buyer frustration, create a detailed document for your sales representatives that highlights key selling points and information about your products/services.Your employees can integrate this information with the cold calling script to create a comprehensive reference guide.

Encourage your employees to create a list of answers to frequently asked prospect queries. The team can also create a shared knowledge bank which can be used to tackle difficult buyer questions.

Your team should access the knowledge bank every week to have a better understanding of the product and/or service.

3. Avoid Trying to Sell

The goal of the first call is to build trust and get an appointment with the potential client. A common mistake that some salespeople make is to launch into the sales pitch immediately. This can often annoy the prospect as he or she has no idea about you, your product, and how it relates to his or her business. Moreover, prospects are busy, and it’s unlikely that you would have someone’s full attention on that first call. Therefore, your goal should be to get an appointment, in person or via a call, or to schedule a demo.

To make sure your team can persuade the prospect to set an appointment, they should personalize each call.

4. Be Persistent to Get Your Chance at a First Impression  

You must be persistent to get the chance to make a first impression. Rarely is one call attempt enough to get a prospect on the phone. Examine your level of persistence. An average salesperson gives up after two failed call attempts. That’s a mistake. It can take up to eight attempts to reach a prospect.

Not only does it take multiple attempts to reach a single contact; it takes numerous tries to reach the right prospects. In any medium-to-large company of approximately 100-500 employees, an average of seven people is responsible for most buying decisions. Therefore, don’t give up after one rejection. Try to contact other decision makers before moving on to the next company. After all, you want to make a great first impression with the right contact.

Don’t forget that making a live connection isn’t the only chance that counts when it comes to first impressions. Work on your voicemail message skills, too. A brief, interesting voicemail can be the deciding factor as to whether or not a prospect takes your next call or calls you back.

Conclusion

The first impression will determine whether or not your prospect is going to take you and your company seriously and move forward in the sales process. If you know about the prospect’s business and can answer all of his or her questions, you will have a far better chance of making a great impression during cold calls. With 78 percent of decision makers taking appointments or attending meetings as a result of a cold call or email, that first impression can really make or break success rates.

Engage With Prospects Early in the Buyer’s Journey

Fri, 2017-10-06 08:05

The sales game continues to change thanks to the ways technology has empowered the modern buyer. Purchases that once required a salesperson to engage with prospects through a phone call or face-to-face meeting can now happen partially or entirely online. Customers research solutions via search engines and review sites. They crowdsource feedback through social media networks. However, they don’t tend to reach out to salespeople until they are ready to purchase.The modern era of digital commerce has put buyers in control in both B2C and B2B scenarios. This empowerment is great when you are the shopper but what about when you are the sales rep?

The modern era of digital commerce has put buyers in control in both B2C and B2B scenarios. This empowerment is great when you are the shopper but what about when you are the sales rep?

How to Engage with Prospects Who Aren’t Ready to Engage

Buyers have grown more averse to speaking with a salesperson early on in their buying journeys. Salespeople, on the other hand, want to — need to — engage with prospects and customers early to help make a case for their brands. Good old cold calling, dial-and-smile tactics are not enough to reach decision makers. Let’s look at these three tips to uncover better ways to engage your target audience earlier in their buying process.

Tip 1: Meet prospects on their turf

Sales and marketing teams must be ready to address customers and prospects across various channels. An omnichannel marketing approach will ensure a consistent experience for your audience no matter where they choose to engage with your brand.

Beyond marketing considerations, there is a role for the salesperson. Take time to research your prospects, leads, and customers online. If you’re in B2B sales, start with LinkedIn. B2C sales reps may have more luck with Facebook or Twitter. Learn about who the person is, his or her concerns, and ways your communication can make a difference to that individual. The next step is to engage the prospect on the channel of his or her choice through social selling.

If you’re going to delve into social selling to engage with prospects and customers, remember to think in terms of “social helping.” People have begun to circumvent the salesperson because they don’t want to be “sold to” — they want to learn about solutions that can solve their problems. Help your social connections by providing valuable information and insights. Create a bond before trying to make a sale on social media. Try these relationship-building approaches:

  • Participate in LinkedIn and Facebook groups, as well as Twitter chats, where your prospects are active. Answer questions, provide valuable insights and don’t be afraid to share other people’s content. Don’t make everything about you or your brand.
  • Post thoughtful, relevant comments on posts published by your prospects. Show genuine interest in the information someone shares. Don’t immediately use the post as a springboard for a sales pitch.
  • Private message people with whom you’ve built a rapport. Once you’ve established that you have expertise and interest in understanding a prospect’s problems, your private message has a better chance at a warm reception that can lead to bigger conversations.

Other opportunities for reaching prospects and customers before they are ready for a “sales call” include texting them useful tips and sending educational emails with personalized insights. This approach can work well when you have an existing relationship with a prospect or customer. Use texts and emails responsibly to stay top of mind between customer purchases or when building up to the first sale.

Remember that your contacts have granted you privileged information by sharing their mobile phone numbers and emails. No matter how excellent your advice or tips may be, never send unsolicited messages to people who have not opted in to receive your messages.

Tip 2: Learn and guide instead of talk and sell

Merkle Loyalty Solutions conducted a 2017 study on what drives loyalty in B2B purchasing. The respondents, made up of executives from across North America and the U.K., were asked to list their greatest challenges in searching for, identifying, and choosing a B2B service or product provider. The number one issue deals directly with the sales experience: “vendors/sales reps are more interested in selling their products/services than listening to my needs.” Sixty-five percent of respondents chose this as the number one challenge. Ouch.

I get it. You have a job to do and a quota to meet, so it’s easy to get laser-focused on your goal instead of uncovering the goals of the customer. But, this approach just isn’t working. In fact, it’s part of the reason why:

  • 59% of B2B buyers prefer not to interact with a sales rep as the primary source of research (Forrester & PROS)
  • 93% of B2B buyers prefer buying online (Forrester & PROS)
  • 53% of customer loyalty is driven by the sales experience and the rep’s ability to provide unique, useful insights (CEB)

Make every sales call count by learning the needs of the customer and guiding the buyer to a unique, relevant solution that addresses his or her needs.

Don’t set yourself up for failure before the call has actually begun

We all get into habits that don’t always serve us well. Listen to recent call recordings of some of your cold calls and observe your style and approach. Do you set yourself up for success or failure from the very outset of the call? Some of the well-meaning things you do may work against you.

Do you ask a prospect, “Is now a good time to talk?” This approach seems like a respectful and reasonable way to start off a conversation, but it’s a trap you’ve set for yourself. If you’ve reached out unexpectedly, you have given that prospect an easy way out of the conversation. “No, now isn’t the right time. Please email me a link to your website.” Ugh. No sales rep wants to hear that.

Mr. Inside Sales Mike Brooks says, “Never ask if it’s a good time to pitch or qualify or have a conversation with a prospect or client. . . . rather than ask if you caught them at a good time, listen to their voice and to how they answer the phone to see what their mood is. If you actually listen, you can always tell.” Use these cues to help you gauge how open a contact is before you launch into your pitch or qualifying call.

As you listen to your call recordings, look for other ways you may be inadvertently giving prospects a way out of the conversation before you’ve even had a chance to engage with them. Think about additional ways you can evaluate a buyer’s interest and openness and serve up alternative ways to overcome common objections.

Tip 3: Add Value Instead of Disruptions to the Buyer’s Journey

As you go about your day calling prospects and qualifying leads, put yourself in your prospects’ shoes. Your typical customers, whether B2C or B2B, face a ton of interruptions all day. There are thousands of emails to read, coworkers or family members to deal with, tasks to accomplish. If you can’t find a way to add value to their day, then you are just another disruption — and another reason why they go online to find their answers first.

Approach your prospects and customers as a trusted advisor who listens. Your delivery of a top-notch sales experience can make a difference between a sale for you or one for your competition.

11 Ways to Get Sales and Marketing on the Same Page

Tue, 2017-09-26 09:00

Why are marketing and sales teams so divided in many businesses? Both teams have the same end goal – to increase revenue by closing deals. The interaction between the two teams shouldn’t merely be a handoff of leads. It’s time to break down the silos and get on the same page with sales and marketing alignment.

The traditional buyer’s journey has changed. Modern technology has altered expectations and added complexities we haven’t had to deal with in the past. Below let’s review how to begin aligning your marketing and sales teams to improve the generation of qualified leads and sales.

How to Achieve Sales and Marketing Alignment

Alignment between your sales and marketing teams won’t happen overnight, and it will take some effort. Here are eleven areas where you can work with both groups to bring about positive changes in the sales and marketing process.

  1. Establish a playbook for your sales team. Knowledge of the selling process allows marketing to create relevant content for each stage of the buyer’s journey instead of fielding random requests from the sales team. Datasheets and email templates that guide the prospect to the sale and reference content marketing materials will be both timely and relevant.
  2. Conduct regular meetings to keep both sides of the organization up-to-date on current objectives and marketing campaigns. If there’s a new eBook that marketing is promoting, make it accessible to the sales team in case their prospects reference it.
  3. Align reporting so that both speak the same language. Marketers often refer to the number of leads, while salespeople focus on the number of dollars in the pipeline. Agree on a data set that can be easily understood and compared.
  4. Build understanding and empathy by showing each team how the other works. Have employees shadow each other for a few hours and experience “a day in the life.” Encourage marketing to listen to some sales calls – it can help with idea generation too.
  5. Ensure open lines of communication. Prospects’ questions to salespeople could be turned into blog posts, but sales must feel comfortable and know how to communicate those ideas to marketing. Dealing with contacts directly, the sales team may receive valuable feedback on the content that marketing created. Build a process to relay that feedback.
  6. Collaborate on content creation. Marketing can work with the salespeople to help strengthen their thought leadership through blogging, podcasting, videos, or other forms of content. Most sales start from searches. According to Fronetics, “62% of B2B buyers say that a web search was one of the first three resources they use to learn about a solution.” Working alongside marketing, sales can share their expertise and show prospects more of who they are.
  7. Provide scalable training on “marketing tasks.” Social selling and employee advocacy are not just for marketing. Your sales team should receive proper education and be encouraged to use social media in their outreach. Marketing can provide relevant links and content to make it easier for the sales team to share.
  8. Ensure the sales team has access to marketing resources. Marketing spends massive amounts of time creating content for sales enablement, but without proper organization, it can go unused. Create a system for sharing that’s easy for both teams to utilize.
  9. Build comradery by bringing sales and marketing together to have fun at lunches, celebrations, team building functions, etc. Creating a supportive environment forms trust and eliminates egos, thereby allowing for better collaboration.
  10. Get leadership involved. Sales leaders, marketing leaders, and the C-Suite need to support the sales and marketing alignment movement. When employees see a commitment from the top-down, they’ll be more encouraged to participate in the shift.
  11. Bring marketing and sales software together. A powerful CRM keeps data in a centralized location and assists in both marketing and sales activities. Most CRM solutions can also integrate with the marketing team’s marketing automation platform of choice so you can share information between the two systems and teams.

Today, sales and marketing alignment is more critical than ever. Customers find most product information through online research. Marketing should work with sales to ensure content is relevant and compelling to potential customers.  After all, most buyers do not speak to a salesperson until they’re  57% of the way through the buyer’s journey.  If the marketing team doesn’t develop the right content, they reduce lead flow and put salespeople at a disadvantage.

Building an alliance between sales and marketing will benefit both parts of the organization. Is your company working towards sales and marketing alignment? Let us know how in the comments below.

 

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Sales Lead Management for Winners: Prioritizing Your Best Leads

Tue, 2017-08-29 09:30

Poor sales lead management is much like spending hundreds of dollars of groceries to cook a gourmet meal and then letting the food spoil in your refrigerator. You “shop” for leads online through your website or social media, webinars, ebooks, or free reports. Offline, you attend trade shows and network. The problem: you don’t follow up or you focus on the wrong potential customers.

Before you can establish a process for sales lead management, you need to understand the two different types of leads and how to organize them.

  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL): These leads have responded to your company but have not been vetted. Their demographics, actions, and firmographics mirror those of your clients.
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): Once an MQL is vetted, they become SQLs. These leads have shown an interest in purchasing, possibly after an appointment or other types of sales calls.
Lead Prioritization

How do you determine how to prioritize your leads? Here are a few factors to consider:

    1. Lead-to-Opportunity Conversion by Source – Review which sources of leads have the highest conversion rate. For example, leads from hosting a webinar or other inbound leads tend to be higher quality than those collected from trade shows. Another consideration when looking at conversion by the source is the average size of the deal. Look at your data and invest more in your higher performing outlets.
    2. Time Since Last Interaction – The time contacts spend in lead status has an impact on closing rates. It’s important to respond to inquiries efficiently. Start engaging with prospects while they’re on your website.
      1. Use chatbots to assist in making initial contact with visitors on the web. For example, have a messaging box appear on your website when someone visits. The message can simply ask the visitor if they need help. To further qualify a lead, you can program the message box to pop up only after a visitor has been on your site for a certain amount of time. A person who stays on your site for a few minutes and not just a few seconds is likely to be interested.
      2. Respond to inquiries quickly. One in two buyers goes with the vendor who responds first. Prioritize follow-up around the time elapsed since the last action the lead took (opened an email, read a blog post, etc.), according to HubSpot.
      3. Schedule Follow-Ups – Future appointments and scheduled actions, like email drips or phone calls, affect a lead’s priority level too. A prospect with a planned follow-up will rank lower on your priority list. It is not pressing and doesn’t require immediate action unless circumstances change.
Automating sales lead management

Sales is no longer going door to door or making phone calls and writing the information down in a spread sheet. Several tasks can be automated allowing your sales team to respond to priority leads faster.

  1. Reporting – Eliminate the time spent creating reports by automating them. Salespeople can even schedule when these reports will run.
  2. Interactions – Emails and calls are just a couple of the many interactions that can be automated. A powerful CRM will be able to initiate these actions and keep track of them without any extra steps.
  3. Paperwork – Simplify contracts and invoices with templates and fillable forms.
  4. Scripting – Provide your sales team with a script to follow when speaking with prospects. A script will keep them in line with the brand’s message and help to guide the conversation.
  5. Dialing leads – Instead of manually dialing numbers, look for a CRM that offers one click dialing.
  6. Voicemails – Salespeople with the ability to drop a pre-recorded voicemail in a mailbox and move on to the next call are more productive than those who have to stop, wait for the beep, and then take 30 seconds or so to leave a message.
  7. Notes and logs – Invest in software that allows the caller to record data as they go and automatically logs the call information.
  8. Appointment setting – Simplify scheduling with appointment setting software. Scheduling software makes the process more efficient, eliminates time zone errors, combines multiple calendars, and more.
  9. Selecting content – Software powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence can help in the selection of content. Recommendations are provided to help guide the prospect towards the sale.

Don’t get overwhelmed while prioritizing your sales leads. Invest in a sales lead management solution. The investment in your business will pay off when you close more sales and increase your profits.

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Have You Asked Your Sales Reps What They Need to be Successful?

Thu, 2017-08-17 09:30

As a sales leader, you know the ins and outs of your business. And you probably think you know what your salespeople need to reach their sales quotas. However, there is likely more that you’re not seeing. Just showing them how to be a successful inside sales representative isn’t enough. Have you asked your team what they need to succeed in their roles?

In this article, we will look at eight factors that lead to sales success. We’ll also review a few ways to open up a conversation with your sales reps and find out what else they need to thrive as a sales professional.

8 Factors to Address for Sales Success

Let’s take a look at the qualities and skills required to be an accomplished sales professional. Do your sales representatives embody these qualities?

  1. Product Knowledge – High-performing sales representative know their products inside and out. They can adequately respond to most questions and know how to redirect technical inquiries.
    Your Job as a Manager – Provide ongoing training and keep your team updated on any changes to your company’s products.
  2. Focus –To understand and connect with prospects, sales reps must practice active listening. Eliminating distractions and avoiding multi tasking keeps a rep’s mind on the task at hand, in this case, interpreting how your product is a solution for the prospect.
    Your Job as a Manager – Ensure a clean working environment free of as many distractions as possible. Provide distraction-free sales tools that keep salespeople on task, too. A system with features such as lead routing automation and auto dialing can keep sales productivity flowing.
  3. Ability to Handle and Prevent Objections –Your team should have a clear understanding of your prospective clients’ recurring concerns. Enable your inside sales team to address any gripes before they become an issue. Instead of just handling these problems as they arise, they can be prevented.
    Your Job as a Manager – Deliver coaching to your team on a regular basis and keep an open-door policy. Give them an opportunity to come to you with any grievances they’re facing in their work.
  4. Thought Leadership – Prospects are more likely to become customers when they’re dealing with someone they trust. Salespeople can build their thought leadership presence on social media to form relationships with their clients and prove their competency in the industry.
    Your Job as a Manager – Allow your salespeople the time to devote to social selling. Foster their journey to becoming a thought leader and consider starting an employee advocacy program. An advocacy program enables you to provide your team with content to share that will help them stand out in the industry. The better they do individually, the better your company will do as a whole.
  5. Conduct Demonstrations – Customers want to see the product in action. You wouldn’t buy a vehicle without taking it out for a test drive, so how can you expect your prospects to spend thousands of dollars or more on your product if they haven’t seen it in action?
    Your Job as a Manager –Provide a tool for demonstrations. There are free and paid options like Zoom, WebEx, and GoToMeeting that offer screen sharing for virtual meetings.
  6. Time Management – A successful salesperson spends more of their time on the phone or in sales meetings than they do on menial tasks like inputting notes into more than one system. These reps are organized and have access to technologies that save them time.
    Your Job as a Manager – What can you do to streamline their work? Consider any duties you can take off of their plate, so they have more time to focus on calling leads. Automation software will give them the ability to drop a voice message in a mailbox, send a follow-up email, or nurture their prospects with the click of a button.
  7. Spend Less Time Prospecting – Salespeople who thrive in their space are working with qualified leads. They’re not usually the ones spending their time identifying prospects through cold calling.
    Your Job as a Manager – Take your experienced salespeople off the job of making cold calls. Instead, assign them only qualified leads that they can quickly close and then move on to the next. Your new salespeople should be making the cold calls and working to qualify leads.
  8. Understand the Competition – Prospects consider price and lack of features when comparing your product with competitors and good salespeople are aware. They know how their product compares to competitors in the marketplace.
    Your Job as a Manager – Consume as much industry content as possible so you can learn about any new products or updates in your space. You’ll want to keep your employees in the know of how the product their selling lines up against competing goods or services. This will give them an advantage when questioned by a prospect.
Ask Your Salespeople What They Need

Many employees will not come to management asking for things, even if these requests could lead to improvements to help them to do their jobs better. Consider surveying your sales team just as you would your clients, on a regular basis. Surveys can be printed or emailed, and ask yes or no questions as well as open-ended ones.

Another way to get your sales team talking about what could improve their performance is to devote part of your meetings to this conversation. This could be in a team or one-on-one meetings. Maybe you even have lunch with your employees a couple of times per month to invite a casual discussion. It’s essential to have an open-door communications policy where your inside sales representatives can come to you and know their ideas will be considered.

People who want to know how to be a successful inside sales representative should first and foremost be optimistic and confident when talking to prospects. When stressed out take the time to exercise and relieve some stress. As a manager, bear in mind that each salesperson will have their own vision of success. There’s a difference between hitting goals the company has set and reaching their own ambitions.

 

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Are You Guessing or Asking What Your Customers Want?

Wed, 2017-08-09 09:59

If you have the opportunity to gather insider information that can help you to achieve your goals, why wouldn’t you? Assuming is a horrible business practice. Invalid and incomplete assumptions can lead you down an empty rabbit hole, and in the case of inside sales, away from closing a deal. Conduct the research, fill your customers wants and needs, and augment your sales by applying the sales prospecting tips in this article.

4 Research Tactics for Management

Management should research target audiences before salespeople jump on a call. The more information and understanding your callers have about your prospects and the daily issues that they face, the more they’ll be able to relate and dig deeper into specifics. Regularly scheduled training is an excellent way to provide sales representatives with the information discovered.

Here are four ways to find out more about your current and future customers:

1. Conduct Surveys – Survey your current clients. Ask questions about how their purchases have improved business, what were the major selling points. While you’re at it, ask for criticisms. The customers’ responses will be highly valuable in building your relationships with them, as well as with your prospective clients.

2. Review Industry Statistics – Industry research can reveal a lot about your customers. What other areas are they investing in? Are there any new trends affecting how they do business? How much are they spending on products like yours? Find out anything you can about driving factors in their companies and industries.

3. Ask your Salespeople – Meet with your sales team and ask for insights. They’re the ones calling on your prospects and working to understand them better to make the deal. Find out the questions and concerns your salespeople hear over and over again. Ask reps about the requests they receive, too.

Maybe clients want an app that pairs with your product or customers have voiced concerns about an online chat system. You may never know if you don’t ask. Are any of these concerns and requests that are falling through the cracks? Establish an open line of communication so your employees can easily share this type of information with you.

4. Consume Trade-Related Content – Staying up on current trends is vital in business. In addition to the newest technologies that can simplify your processes, you’ll learn about tools and problems your customers face, too. You may even find out what your competitors are doing. In addition to magazines, follow hashtags on social media to see what’s trending in real-time.

15 Sales Prospecting Tips for Your Salespeople

After researching, be sure to relay any new insights to your sales team. From there, ask them to familiarize themselves with the following sales prospecting tips.

  1. Ask the right questions. You should already know the basics about your prospect, but try to get more details from them by asking open-ended questions to get contacts talking.
  2. Find out what problems your prospects face and how your product or service can serve as a solution.
  3. Build your social media presence and your position as a thought leader by sharing your knowledge. When people see you as an expert in your field, they’re more likely to trust you.
  4. Be confident. On the occasional call, you will stumble. Use those experiences as learning opportunities to build your confidence for the next time when you’re in a similar situation.
  5. Remember that not everyone you call is a good fit. Prospects that you initially thought would be the perfect buyer for your product may actually be better suited for a competitor’s product.
  6. Be more helpful and less salesy. Take on the role of a consultant. Relating back to number five, being helpful includes letting them know if your product isn’t right for them.
  7. Don’t give up after one objection. If the prospect cites price as a barrier to entry early in your conversation, don’t accept it as a no. Instead, explain the value of your product to them and show how it can actually save or make them money.
  8. Maintain a positive mindset. Don’t let an objection or a missed sales quota keep you down. When you’re optimistic, you’re more productive.
  9. Be a human, not a robot. Scripts are very helpful when making sales calls; however, be sure you’re not speaking in a monotone voice. Study and practice your pitch. Don’t just jump on a call and simply read the script verbatim with no rise and fall in your voice.
  10. Remember that the call is about the prospect, not your pitch. Ask about the person and his or her processes and any issues they face. Find out what the buyer wants!
  11. Organization is key. Software can help to keep you stay organized throughout all your calls. If you’re taking any notes, keep them orderly. You don’t want to be flipping through papers or browser tabs while on a call.
  12. Take a break. As with any work, regular breaks allow you to refresh and come back to the phone more focused.
  13. Follow up with prospects. Most sales will require multiple calls and meetings to close the deal, especially if you’re selling a high-dollar product. Use technology to set reminders and send personalized communications.
  14. Ask for referrals. Once you transform a prospect into a customer, it’s time to ask for referrals. There’s a reason the person did business with you and not your competitor – it could be your shining personality, your expertise, or your ability to listen. The customer likely knows contacts in the industry who could benefit from your product too. If you ask for referrals, your customers are more apt to take action.
  15. Be open to coaching. Most inside sales professionals today are familiar with having their calls recorded. To improve your selling skills, review recordings with your manager from time to time and pay attention to any constructive criticisms.

These sales prospecting tips combined with the above research tactics will set your sales team up for success. Knowing exactly what your customer wants simplifies the selling process and saves time for everyone.

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