The Secret to Multiplying Sales
Sales representatives who’ve spent time in the sales trenches know that it’s often feast or famine. But that’s because sales leaders often focus on the wrong things when forming and training a sales team. By creating—and using—a consistent sales process, sales leaders can make sure that they’re enjoying success twelve months a year.
Success, Thy Name Is Consistency
Inconsistency plagues many sales departments, including major corporations with brand recognition. In fact, a survey from Vantage Point Performance and the Sales Management Association indicates that 44% of executives think their company is ineffective in management of the sales pipeline.
Many sales managers think that inconsistency is rooted in sales representatives’ failures. They may believe that the problem can be solved through hiring for certain skills. But, in fact, it’s more likely that the root of inconsistency is in your sales process. Even highly skilled sales representatives cannot thrive if they lack the right tools for the job.
The solution to inconsistency is a clearly defined sales process. Because selling B2B products and services is such a complex process, sales managers need to create standardized procedures for representatives. This same survey also demonstrated that companies with a formal sales process received 18% more revenue as compared to those that lacked such a process. Studies also show that sales representatives spend only one-third of their time actually selling—a statistic that should strike terror into the hearts of all executives. This is a problem that can only be addressed through systemization.
So, How To Create A Consistent Sales Process?
A consistent sales process needs to address all points of the sales cycle. These include:
- Attracting prospects
- Identifying leads
- Making initial contact
- Following up
- Closing the deal
- Providing after-purchase support
For each stage of the sales cycle, develop detailed protocols for sales representatives—and write them down. Make sure that data is incorporated throughout the process. For too long, sales departments have relied on gut instinct or “feel” when deciding what steps to take next in closing a deal. Now that we have access to advanced analytics tools and a wealth of research, there’s no excuse for making major decisions based on loosey-goosey criteria.
Identifying Leads (And Getting Them In The First Place!)
Leads are the lifeblood of sales. You should already have a robust content marketing program to draw potential leads into your company’s orbit. But that in and of itself isn’t enough. Too many leads are wasted simply because there is no follow-up—or the follow-up just isn’t fast enough.
When it comes to turning a lead into a qualified lead, speed cannot be underestimated. If a web-generated lead receives a response within five minutes of first contact, they are 100 times more likely to become a qualified lead. Yes, that’s two zeroes. Waiting until the 10 minute mark cuts your chances by a factor of four. Half of all buyers select the vendor that reaches out to them first, so it is clearly to your advantage to respond quickly. Sales representatives need to learn how to be on the ball when it comes to responding to web-generated leads.
However, missing the five-minute window need not spell despair. Since less than a quarter of companies who receive a web lead respond by phone, there is a huge opening for companies who develop a solid sales process. All viable web leads should receive a follow-up, ideally by phone.
First Contact: Making An Effective First Call
Let’s walk through an example: A sales representative has identified a promising lead and is ready to make that critical first call. This first impression is a big deal. To help sales representatives make a good one, institute standard processes. Here are some helpful procedures:
Research all prospects before picking up the phone. This is one of many areas where your CRM comes in handy. Make sure you are using the CRM to record every interaction.
Make sure that you’re contacting the right decision-maker at the organization. Again, the CRM should be consulted.
Before making a goal, think (but not for too long). What do you hope to achieve with this call?
Generate scripts for sales representatives. Obviously you don’t want to come off as a robot, but scripts can provide a strong starting point for sales representatives to make their pitch. And you won’t want to just write one script. Write several for multiple products and buyer personas. If a salesperson needs certain information available during the call, make sure it is easily accessible.
Don’t launch into the pitch right away. Take some time to get to know the person with whom you are speaking and above all, listen to their concerns before jumping in with a pitch.
Learn about their timeframe and other critical decision-makers. Although few major sales are closed on the first call, learning about the prospect’s timetable and buying procedures will help you determine where and how to allocate your follow-up efforts.
Follow up immediately after a call. While your company is still fresh in the prospect’s mind, send a nice e-mail thanking them for their time. Don’t try to make a sales pitch, although it is acceptable to provide useful information.
All of these best practices should be spelled out in your sales process. Also make sure that you are allotting plenty of time for your representatives to make sales calls on a regular basis. As veteran sales reps know, it can take a lot of calls to make a sale.
The Follow Up: Getting It Right
It’s no good throwing a strike on the first pitch if you’re just going to serve up a home run on pitch number two. The same applies to sales: follow-up is everything.
Since you’re probably not going to get a sale on the first call, follow-up procedures are perhaps the most important part of your sales process, yet also one of the most neglected. If you’re generating a lot of leads but not enough sales, poor follow-up may be the underlying cause. Too many representatives don’t follow up adequately on the leads they receive. In fact, it is much more time-efficient to follow up on an existing lead than to try and find new ones. For that reason, sales department needs to define follow-up procedures.
Your first form of follow-up should be an e-mail thanking the lead for his or her time. While you shouldn’t push a sale too hard during this e-mail, it is still an opportunity to make a positive impression. In fact, this is oftentimes a good time to provide the lead with information that can help them in their buying decision. All of the white papers, case studies, and blog articles you have in your arsenal are a great tool at this point in the sales process. An e-mail that provides useful information and links will be much more welcome than one that’s a badly disguised sales pitch.
However, many sales representatives lack the skills to locate appropriate content for leads. Only half of them will conduct a search to find content, and only half of those representatives will search correctly. This is another area where procedures can step in. Searching for content should be a standard part of the process. Teach your representatives how to do it, and eventually it will become second nature to them.
Follow-up doesn’t end there. Sales representatives should be making multiple follow-up calls. Right now, too many are giving up too soon. 44% of sales representatives give up after a single follow up call-even though 80% of sales take at least five calls to make a sale. The missed opportunities are truly staggering.
Again, a standardized sales process can help close the gap. Develop procedures for follow-up. Typically, a staggered approach works best, using a combination of calls and e-mails. Most people don’t like to be bombarded with daily reminders, but a consistent effort will keep your company in the forefront of buyers’ minds.
Closing The Deal: Standardized Procedures
Effective and consistent follow-through should help sales representatives close deals. If that’s not the case, you need to closely examine your sales performance—using data—to determine where the holes are in your process.
Although signing on the dotted line once a customer has decided to make a purchase may seem like the simplest part of the sales process, don’t neglect the post-sales period. As with all other stages, protocols can greatly improve performance.
Make sure your procedures are focused on making new customers happy with their purchase from the get-go. Your existing customers are the most valuable asset you have and should be treated accordingly.
It should be standard to set up an onboarding call on the next business day. Ideally, both the sales representative and account manager should be included on the call. Make sure the customer knows who to contact for support and that they are provided with the training they need in order to make full use of their purchase.
A Data-Driven Sales Process
In setting up your sales process—and tweaking it as you go—make sure that you consult data in order to see what’s working and what isn’t. Data often will reveal things that subjective impressions miss.
Also, make data easily available to all sales representatives. Managers aren’t the only ones who benefit from data. Your sales representatives will learn a lot from the data—and may come up with insights that sales managers miss.
Simplifying Your Workflow: A Necessary Step In The Sales Process
Now you have an idea of how to set up a consistent sales process in terms of big-picture stuff. But what about daily workflows?
It’s important that the sales process doesn’t further complicate sales representatives’ workflow. Since sales reps are spending two-thirds of their time doing something other than selling, it’s clear that the tasks associated with the job are demanding: reading and responding to e-mails, entering information into databases, filing reports, etc, etc.
That’s why sales forces need a tool that actually simplifies their workflow rather than adding to it. This is where Fileboard comes in to save the day. Instead of adding to representatives’ workload, Fileboard provides an integrated platform that actually reduces the amount of time sales representatives spend opening and closing different tools. It even integrates with Salesforce and other CRMs.
Fileboard is designed to help sales departments implement a consistent, effective sales process. For example, Fileboard can help representatives determine what to do next when contacting a lead and prioritize tasks. The platform builds in suggestions, based on best practices as proven by data. Even inexperienced sales representatives can learn the ropes more quickly when guided by Fileboard.
Building a consistent sales process doesn’t have to mean making everything more complicated. Ideally, a sales process should reduce the amount of time representatives spend on non-selling activities. With Fileboard, sales representatives can do just that.