101 B2B Sales Strategy Tips for Sales Managers
B2B sales managers are tasked with substantial responsibility. While the specific duties of a sales manager may vary based on factors such as the size of the company, the size of the sales organization, budget, and other variables, sales managers handle a spectrum of duties ranging from direct sales rep management to territory planning, crafting the company’s sales strategy (and gaining buy-in from both higher-ups and direct reports), managing change, implementing and overseeing incentive programs, researching and adopting the right technologies to support sales, sales development, and sales enablement functions, and more.
Even under the B32B sales strategy umbrella, there are myriad options and considerations for which sales leaders are tasked with analyzing and smart decision-making. Above all, the blame for an under-performing sales team often falls squarely on the shoulders of sales management. That’s why creating the right strategy, understanding how the digital world is impacting B2B sales, coaching and mentoring sales reps to exceed expectations, performing competitive analysis, and other best practices are key to B2B sales success for today’s high-paced sales organizations.
We’ve compiled this list of 101 sales strategy tips for B2B sales managers to help you achieve those goals and lead your sales team to producing better results than anyone thought possible. Whether you’re thinking about shortcomings in sales development, a need to foster better marketing-sales alignment, contemplating how social selling fits into B2B sales, or another pressing strategic challenge, we’ve rounded up 101 thought-provoking, informative tips from some of the best and brightest minds in sales, leadership, and marketing to empower you to create an effective sales strategy that boosts results and grows your company.
Use these links to jump to a specific section:
- Analyzing and Defeating the Competition (Tips 1-6)
- Targeting and Selling to Your Ideal Customer (Tips 7-18)
- Refining Your B2B Sales Strategy (Tips 19-36)
- Sales Enablement (Tips 37-52)
- Strategic B2B Sales Leadership (Tips 53-66)
- Setting Sales and Sales Development Up for Success (Tips 67-75)
- Sales Data, Technology, and Automation (Tips 76-93)
- Social Selling Strategy (Tips 94-101)
Analyzing and Defeating the Competition
- Conduct a competitive analysis via social media. “Social media is often used for researching customers. B2B companies especially should use this tool to find out more about their competition.
“The leading social media network for B2B companies is LinkedIn. It’s quickly become a hub for professionals in this industry. Follow the major influencers in your niche to learn what they’re doing. The more data you can gather, the better.
“You don’t necessarily have to copy what others are doing, but you can quickly find out what is and isn’t working for them.” – AJ Agrawal, 5 Tips for Developing Your B2B Sales, Entrepreneur; Twitter: @ajagrawal24
- Don’t compete on price alone. “What about the customer that says, “We can always find other suppliers…” Fundamentally, they’re playing a short game. As suppliers choose not to play that game, dropping out of competing for business, the only ones that are left are the bad ones. Those that compete only on price, continually cutting their investments in R&D, sales/marketing, product quality, investments in their plants. Overtime, the number of alternative suppliers dwindles to a few–each of which since they compete only on low price, becomes very risky. Eventually there own viability becomes questioned, or the risk to the customer skyrockets. Sure, it works for a few years, but long term viability comes into question–first for the supplier, then to the customer.
“We’ve seen examples in many industries where customers have so squeezed their supply chains that they ultimately fail, causing the customer to fail.
“Our pricing and profit margins exist for a reason. The core is to continue to allow us to grow and innovate by helping our customers grow and innovate.
“We need to defend our pricing vigorously, not just for what it means to us, but for what it really means in supporting and growing our customers!
“We need to make sure our customers understand this, that they understand our strategies in investing and growing so they may, in turn grow.” – David Brock, Customers Should Care About Your Profitability!, Partners in Excellence; Twitter: @davidabrock
- Rather than compete on price, demonstrate ROI. “Many B2B companies still make the mistake of trying to compete on price. This is a bad move. You shouldn’t try to be cheaper than your competitors; you should try to show your buyers why your solution is the best value by demonstrating an ROI to them to show how much money your solution will help them save (or make). Add an ROI demonstration to your sales process and you will see more deals close.” – Gregg Schwartz, 3 Things to Change in Your Sales Process This Year, AllBusiness.com; Twitter: @manageyourleads
- Stop focusing so much on your competition and instead focus on your customers. “Stop fixating on your competition – you are taking your eye of the ball when you do. Focus instead on your customer or what is in front of you. Focus on the bigger game. Know your ultimate result, because competition is everywhere today and the rules have changed. The courier company’s competition is not another courier company. It is Uber. The photocopier guys competition is not the other photocopier guy sitting in his Porsche around the corner, it’s a little word called ‘maybe’. The entrepreneur’s competition is not another entrepreneur, it is themselves.” – Bernadette McClelland, At Last! The Real Rules of the Game…, Bernadette McClelland; Twitter: @b_mcclelland
- Approach competitive analysis from a customer’s perspective. “Although it might sound unreasonable, it is an excellent research and observation exercise regarding the competition as it provides us with first-hand knowledge and closely, what they offer and how they offer it.
“Don’t forget to inquire about prices, offers, characteristics and main benefits of the product, in addition to important aspects such as waiting time, client support and the maturity of the sales process.
“Be critical of this exercise, accept the disadvantages you have before your competition and look for ways to overcome these disadvantages, compare results and try new roads.” – 5 Tips to Do a Complete Competitor Research, Carvajal Medios B2B
- Use your unique value proposition (UVP) to differentiate your company, products, and services from the competition. “Create your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). A UVP communicates what it is that your company, products or services do that your competition doesn’t do, can’t do or won’t do. Define what makes you different, and therefore, better.” – John Boyens, 5 Keys to Staying Ahead of your Competition, Boyens Group; Twitter: @JohnBoyens
- Create an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and keep a narrow focus. “Even if you’ve researched the market ahead of building a product, developed an ideal customer profile (ICP), the challenge arrives when you take the product to market. A unexpected surge of interest from a customer type raises the question, ‘Should we serve that market segment too?’ ‘Was our initial research correct?’ Inbound demand from a Fortune 500 precipitates excitement about winning an exceptional logo. Will that logo lead to inbound interest from others? Managing that doubt is difficult.
“Nevertheless, the hidden costs of non-ICP customers are real. Changing a product roadmap to suit the needs of one big customer divides an already small engineering team. Managing a marketing message to several distinct customer bases scatters the brand. Higher customer success costs and churn rates from supporting non-ideal customers. Internally, questions arise about priorities. Having two ICPs creates interference across every department.” – Tomasz Tunguz, One of the Hardest Things to Do in Sales, TomTunguz.com; Twitter: @ttunguz
- Create value for every member of the buying team at each step in the buying journey. “Think about it for a moment. The key number in sales (revenue) depends on a decision we don’t make in sales. Whatever we do or don’t do, whatever we automate internally or not, buyers make buying decisions. However, all our efforts in sales enablement are focused on empowering salespeople to influence this buying decision. That requires navigating the dynamics throughout the customer’s journey, and it requires creating value at each stage of the customer’s journey for the relevant members of the buying team.” – Tamara Schenk, Navigating the Dynamics of the Customer’s Journey, CSO Insights; Twitter: @CSOInsights
- Create a business case for buying. “Most companies provide potential customers with a list of features, followed by a price quote that compares favorably with what other companies charge for similar features.
“This is crazy.
“Selling the lowest ‘price per feature’ propels you into a price war with your competitors. More important, customers don’t care about features; they only care about what buying a product will mean to them.
“Thus, rather than tout ‘price per feature,’ only discuss a feature in the context of how it either saves money or makes money, preferably in as specific a way as possible.
- If price complaints are common, you’re not offering enough value. “You will get haters when you run any business, but if people complain about your prices, it’s because you are not showing enough value. Dropping your prices should be the last thing you do to be competitive. Your margins are probably already tight enough and the last thing you want to do is engage in price wars. Using price as your selling point is an indication that you need to get back to developing what makes your product a unique proposition.
“For any product or service, there is only one business that’s the cheapest. While your buyers may shop the lowest price, it is value that they really want. When value exceeds price, price is no longer the issue.” – Grant Cardone, When Value Exceeds Price…, Grant Cardone; Twitter: @GrantCardone
- Create opportunities by telling stories with contrast. “We all dream of the situation where the prospect has already recognized and wants to solve the problem that your solution addresses. In this selling environment, you don’t need a solid sales strategy and message. But too often, you are not in a great selling environment and you need to work the prospect from every angle. You need to create opportunities. And to help prospects see the value of your offering, you need to tell stories with contrast. You need to tell both the ‘before’ and ‘after’ story – and it’s the contrast between the two that creates a powerful perception of value. The bigger the contrast you create between the ‘pain’ the customer experienced before your solution and the ‘gain’ the customer experienced with your solution, the greater the perceived value.” – The Most Effective Sales Strategy is a Great Message, Corporate Visions; Twitter: @corpv
- Create anchors. “When potential customers look at the price of a product or service, how will they know if it is fair or unfair? Their brains will automatically contrast the price with something else. Perhaps what they thought it would cost, what they paid last time, what a competitor quoted them or something else entirely. The studies which have analyzed this phenomenon all come to the same conclusion: the anchor the brain uses as its starting point is highly influential. Here’s why:
“When the brain forms an anchor it creates a bias that shapes how it perceives subsequent information. This is why you need to address price before you reveal it by creating a point of comparison. So, if you are entering into a negotiation you should always strive to create the anchor. However, if the other party does so first and presents a low anchor, you should adamantly reject it and immediately refocus the conversation on a new, more favorable anchor.” – Dave Kerpen, The Science of Selling: 5 Proven Sales Strategies, Inc.com; Twitter: @DaveKerpen
- Clone your high-value customers with a clearly defined sales process. “Cloning your high-value customers is the foundation of your growth engine. Developing a sales process allows you to target these ideal customers and get the same ones time and time again.” – Nick Frost, The Benefits of Building a Repeatable Sales Process, MatterMark; Twitter: @Mattermark
- Go beyond simple demographic data to define your ideal customer. “Market segmentation has traditionally been based on demographic factors such as company size, sector and location. But these simple characteristics are hopelessly inadequate predictors of which specific organisationsyou should focus your marketing and sales energies on.
“That’s because in any complex B2B sales environment, there will be a set of specific unique-to-you structural, behavioural and situational characteristics that are much more reliable indicators of the long-term potential of any given organisation, and of your chances of doing business with them either now or in the future.
“I’m not suggesting that you should ignore demographics – but I’m urging you not to stop there when it comes to targeting your marketing efforts or assessing the attractiveness of your potential sales opportunities.” – Bob Apollo, Identifying Your Ideal Customers, Inflexion-Point; Twitter: @bobapollo
- It’s not a matter of when to introduce price in the buying process, but whether you present price in the context of value. “If you haven’t established that the intended outcome is urgent, that it’s tied to a critical business objective or milestone, it’s difficult to understand if your price is reasonable or justified.
“If you pitch price while reinforcing a quantified value, you’ve done the math in advance for the prospect. You make it difficult to argue that achieving the outcome isn’t worth paying a fraction of that for it.
“Some use price at the very front of the sales process as a filtering mechanism. If they freak out about your proposed number without understanding what they are buying, is that really an objection to price? Or is it a lack of understanding of why or how they need what you’re selling in the first place?
“Along those lines, it’s never too early to introduce price as long as it’s in the context of value. And for that, the sooner the better.” – Matt Heinz, When do you introduce price in the sales process?, LinkedIn; Twitter: @HeinzMarketing
- Don’t just sell; collaborate with buyers. “Selling is hard work. Ironically, it only makes it harder if you don’t collaborate with the buyer. The extra work you put into each deal, to engage and collaborate with the buyer to help them define and choose the best solution for their requirements, ultimately will increase your conversion rate. (You’ll win more orders!) And, while that is extra work, hitting your number is a lot easier than taking the ‘easy’ path and not getting the order. After all, chasing quota from behind is no place to be.” – Andy Paul, Collaboration Is Easier Than Selling, The Sales Fix; Twitter: @ZeroTimeSelling
- Understand your customers’ problems and care about actually solving them. “At the end of the day, it’s not just about price and product. There’s a reason that people will answer your call or call you back. You really have to care about solving an enterprise’s problem. When you put their challenges at the center of your focus and provide real solutions, you’ll start to develop aligning interests. You have to take not only an interest in their business and problems, but also in the people. As you truly look out for your clients’ best interests — like you would for friends or family — you’ll eventually end up solving your own challenge as well: achieving your sales goals.” – Warren Wick, 3 Keys to Navigate the Unique Challenges of Enterprise Selling, Salesforce, Quotable; Twitter: @Quotable
- Always research sales prospects. “This is a no-brainer. If you don’t do research, you’ll run into the following problems:
- You won’t know whether the prospect is a good fit
- You won’t be able to guess what your prospect’s top priorities are or tailor your pitch accordingly
- You’ll have to ask your prospect to provide you basic information you could have found yourself
“The result? You won’t be able to ‘hook’ your prospect, you’ll waste their time, and you’ll make them think (rightly so) that you couldn’t be bothered to do a five-second LinkedIn search. Ultimately, they won’t trust that you care what’s right for their business, and so they won’t buy.
“You should always enter a call with at least one assumption or conclusion about your prospect’s business you gleaned from your research that you can have them confirm or deny. Not only does this build your credibility and demonstrate the effort you made, it’s also a good benchmark to determine how much research is necessary. You don’t need to know your prospect’s birthday, but you should have a sense of why they would want to talk to you or how their business operates.” – Leslie Ye, 8 Fatal Sales Prospecting Mistakes You Might Be Making, Hubspot; Twitter: @lesliezye
- Leverage Big Data, particularly when selling to millennials. “The most important thing to remember when selling to millennials is that they value technology, but not just for the communication purposes previously mentioned. Rather, this generation likes to evaluate data and statistics to help make sound, well-informed purchasing decisions. Often, Generation Y is dismissed due to their tendency to be less traditional than say, the Baby Boomers; however this mustn’t be mistaken for naiveté. Besides recommendations from friends and family members, the most influential element in a millennial’s buying decision is data analytics.” – Tips on How B2B Salespeople Can Successfully Sell to Millennials, Hoovers; Twitter: @Hoovers
- Conduct a risk assessment on every sales opportunity. “Every sales opportunity – no matter how cast-iron – has its share of risks, and most deals have many more risk factors than are usually acknowledged. Sales people tend to be predisposed to listen to good news, and to avoid seeking out bad news for fear of what they might discover.
“This is why thoughtfully designed checklists have become such an important element of the modern sales process – they force sales people to assess factors that have been proven to impact their chances of sales success. They make it harder to miss the obvious. As Atul Gawande points out in The Checklist Manifesto, they serve to systematically eliminate errors of ignorance and ineptitude.” – Bob Apollo, Why Every Sales Opportunity Needs a Regular Risk Assessment, Membrain; Twitter: @bobapollo
- Don’t underestimate the value of relationship-building in the digital age. “Customers don’t buy your technology, your service, or your products. They buy because of the impact your team has on their businesses. People do business with people, not with technology. But too many reps forget it’s the quality of relationships, and not the quantity of connections, that really counts. The art of conversation is your team’s competitive advantage. Conversation is the key to problem-solving and relationship-building, which are critical in sales. These have also become unique skill sets in the digital world.
“So, let your competitors believe the myth about buyers not needing salespeople. While they’re waiting for the phone to ring or for LinkedIn connections to come through—or cold calling people who don’t want to talk to them—your sales reps will be building trusted relationships, uncovering real needs, getting referrals, and crafting solutions in collaboration with clients. That’s true salesmanship.” – Joanne Black, What Is the Most Effective of Account-Based Sales Strategies?, No More Cold Calling; Twitter: @ReferralSales
- Account-based everything places emphasis on an organization-wide commitment to the activities necessary to land and retain target accounts, facilitating cross-functional alignment that fosters success. “Like everyone else, we started with Account-Based Marketing. The analysts began researching ABM programs and we identified a significant issue – organizations that struggled with account-based programs lacked cross-functional alignment across marketing, sales, sales dev, and customer success. There’s an organization-wide commitment to mobilize efforts against a key set of target accounts. So we decided to create a new category – Account-Based Everything (ABE). It’s not just marketing, it’s everything.” – Craig Rosenberg, as quoted in TOPO Summit, Craig Rosenberg and Account Based Everything, Green Leads, Smashmouth B2B Blog: Sales & Marketing Demand Gen; Twitter: @funnelholic
- Don’t make the mistake of treating account-based marketing as a marketing-only approach. “Actually, it’s for sales, too.
“While it’s been dubbed ‘account-based marketing,’ it applies just as much to your sales team as it does to your marketing team. When sales works in a lead-based system, each lead is an isolated entity, separate from his/her company and his/her interactions with their coworkers during the buying process.
“An account-based sales approach looks at a company/account holistically. Salespeople tailor their outreach to specific personas in that buying center, and they try to engage as many personas as possible across that account.” – Lauren Frye, 7 Myths about Account-Based Marketing for the Unconvinced, Bizible; Twitter: @LaurenMFrye
- More options and more information aren’t always a good thing. Make it simpler for customers to buy. “Suppliers have of course been working on simplifying sales since the dawn of selling—and the majority in our surveys assume they’re succeeding. Unfortunately, the very tactics they think will increase ease of purchase often do the opposite. Our research finds that the vast majority of sales professionals believe that giving customers more information helps them make better decisions; that they must flexibly respond to a customer’s direction (even when they disagree with it); and that it’s “extremely important” to help customers consider all possible alternatives. Sellers are striving to be more responsive than ever—taking the customer’s lead and providing whatever support is requested. They ensure that customers have all the data, cases, and testimonials they might need to guide their decision making, and they lay out a suite of options, continually adjusting the offering as customer demand evolves. This approach seems like the right one, and it’s in keeping with suppliers’ desire to be more customer-centric. Yet it drives an 18% decrease in purchase ease, according to our survey of more than 600 B2B buyers. Piling on more information and options just makes things harder.” – Nicholas Toman, Brent Adamson, and Cristina Gomez, The New Sales Imperative, Harvard Business Review; Twitter: @HarvardBiz
- Sell to the C-suite to gain momentum for the sale, but do it by providing context and anticipating implications for every department. “Unlike buyers, who typically want specs, execs care most about outcomes. Sales has to lay out the larger context of the rollout, such as what it will look like and how different departments are likely to react. This is a time for realistic appraisals, not sunny optimism. Execs don’t want to be surprised by pushback from departments that see the solution as a threat to their way of doing things. Do internal research to see what problems customers had in rollout and how they overcame resistance to change. Context is also about what comes after the solution is in place. Think about how the solution changes the dynamics of the buyer’s business relationships. It takes experience and social selling research skills to make educated projections about the implications this far ahead. Aberdeen refers to this process of thinking all the way through to the impacts on the customer’s customers as B2B2C.
“There’s no question that selling to the C-suite is the smartest way to gain consensus and momentum for the sale. Top level execs know it as well, which means they are harder to reach and harder to convince.” – Jamie Shanks, Winning Over the C-Suite with a 3-Front Sales Strategy, SalesforLife; Twitter: @MySales4Life
- Don’t slow down the buying process. “In today’s fast-paced, competitive business world, it is all about velocity.
“It might come as a big surprise to many sellers to find out that they are slowing down the purchasing decision a buyer needs to make. I imagine right now some of you are saying, heck no, I don’t slow the process down, buyers move slowly. In truth, many salespeople are their own worst enemy.
“If you sell, you have one job to do. Contrary to what you might think, it isn’t to sell something.
“Selling is about helping customers solve their business problems and make buying decisions. I want you to think about delivering value in a different way. Think of adding value as providing information quickly, in order to move buyers one step closer to a purchasing decision. If a core issue has been identified within an organization that needs to be addressed, there is executive support for the initiative, budget has been allocated and an implementation timeline has been put in place, then buyers typically do want to move quickly. Make it easy for them to get what they need.” – Barbara Giamonco, Sales Acceleration Is An Inside Job, Barb Giamonco; Twitter: @barbaragiamonco
- Understand how the digital shift is impacting the B2B buyer journey. “The customer experience for B2B and B2C customers may be looking ever more similar, with more and more B2B customer journeys beginning with online research and even social interaction with peers. But the revenue from B2B digital commerce remains low.
“That’s the implication of a recent report from Accenture Interactive (‘Channel Shift: Measuring B2B Efforts to Shift Customers Online’), which found that half of the 50 senior digital commerce professionals surveyed reported online sales as responsible for less than 10 percent of their revenues. Of course, to some extent that’s a glass-half-empty view: half of those surveyed reported healthier online revenues: ‘Fifty-five percent of ‘digital-first’ B2B organizations (those that began focusing on eCommerce five or more years ago) report that more than half of their customers currently complete transactions online, compared to only 22 percent completion for ‘lagging’ firms that began focusing on eCommerce less than three years ago.’
“The opportunity to expand digital B2B sales is nevertheless clearly huge. What are the obstacles standing in the way of buyers resistant to online commerce? According to the report, there are three main ones:
- Long-term customers are the main hold-out, with around 80 percent of mid-maturity and lagging eCommerce sellers reporting resistance to change. Understandably, this is much less of an issue for digital first sellers, who report only 43 percent of customers reluctant to complete purchases online.
- But sales teams themselves are also a problem. Perhaps reflecting the perceived resistance of customers, 50 percent of mid-maturity and over 60 percent of lagging sellers are hesitant to drive customers online.
- Finally, there’s a lack of executive push, with some management resistant to driving online commerce.” – Kim Davis, B2B: Glass Half Empty on Digital Commerce, DMN; Twitter: @dmnews
- With increasingly disparate buying committees slowing down the buying process, sales should focus on finding a ‘mobilizer’ within the buying committee who can drive the group forward to the best course of action. “You really should think about breaking the purchase down, from the customer’s standpoint, into three distinct phases: a Problem Phase, a Solution Phase and a Vendor Selection Phase. When you break it down that way, it helps you think about the points of agreement you need to create among the key stakeholders. It turns out that this is a really hard thing for most customers to do, let alone for a vendor to try and influence. Within a buying committee — whether you’re a marketer, in IT or in finance — each buyer views the problem differently. And finding a common course of action to take is never going to happen in that state.
“The big question is: How do I help these committees understand the route of the problem? Our research has shown that it’s critical to find that individual, or the ‘Mobilizer,’ that can help tie these people together around this common course of action. We must be careful not to confuse this individual as a ‘vendor champion.’ This individual is not necessarily championing or advocating for a solution, but championing for a course of action the business should take. They aren’t talking about vendors; they’re talking about a course of action. That’s what gets the attention of the business stakeholders. You have to be really careful when engaging with these Mobilizers and work with them to give them answers that are relevant to their business — not your solution.” – Nick Toman, as quoted by Brian Anderson in #B2BMX Event Preview: The Challenger Customer Author On Consensus Among B2B Buyers, Demand Gen Report; Twitter: @dg_report
- A consistent, repeatable sales process will reap great rewards. “Sales reps are goal-oriented people. Quotas, targets, deals—these are the numbers that matter and they want to hit. Every rep will have their own special craft and go-to techniques for closing deals. While there is nothing wrong with having techniques that work just for you, your company’s success cannot be beholden to individual inspiration.
“Instead you need a repeatable process that will work team-wide, for every rep, every time. This isn’t something that comes easy, but with a willingness to analyze your internal processes and coach your team to better workflow, you can build a consistent, efficient, repeatable sales process that becomes the engine for your growth.” – Nick Frost, The Benefits of Building a Repeatable Sales Process, Mattermark; Twitter: @Mattermark
- Sell solutions, not products and services. “Today it is almost impossible to meet a product salesperson in the business-to-business sector. Everyone sells ‘solutions’ in the hope they can charge a premium or perform some miracle that will instantly differentiate them from their competitors.
“And management—often ignorant of the subtle differences between selling products or services and selling solutions—becomes frustrated when they find the expected boom in sales doesn’t materialise; that their salespeople continue to face pressure for lower prices, better service delivery and a wider range of offerings.
“The challenge is understanding what selling a solution requires. The real starting point for a truly solutions-selling orientation is at corporate philosophy and culture.” – Sue Barrett, How selling a solution is different from selling a product, Smart Company; Twitter: @SueBarrett
- Conveying economic utility impacts willingness to pay (WTP), which enables your sales team to overcome competitive pricing challenges. “In business to business sales, utility is the unquestioned number one factor that determines willingness to pay, because it is the fundamental reason that customers spend and invest, and it is often the factor over which you have the most objective and tangible control.
“In economic terms, an asset is worth the present value of its differential cash flows. In plain English, that means that business buyers pay dollars in the expectation of getting more dollars in return, or preventing a greater loss.
“The expectation of future cash flows is based on how the buyer uses what you sell to either increase cash inflows or reduce outflows. In sales terms, that means that your effectiveness depends on a) an intimate knowledge of how your customer can increase revenues, cut costs, or reduce asset investment, and b) being able to quantify and gain agreement in measurable financial terms.” – Jack Malcolm, High-Margin Selling: What You Must Know and How to Learn It, Jack Malcolm; Twitter: @jackmalcolm
- Outbound is the lifeblood of B2B selling. “For professional B2B selling, deals happen based on trust. If you work backwards for how deals are made, you can see a pattern:
- A signed deal happened, but before that
- A negotiation occurred, but before that
- A conversation happened, but before that
- An appointment was scheduled, but before that
- You got a referral or attention in a personal way, but before that
- You reached out to someone via networking
“The outbound selling approach works because you are human and interacting in a personal way. However, it is a lot of work that also requires being organized, efficient and consistent. It’s building relationships, remaining professional and increasing trust.
“Ironically, we pay attention to someone addressing us personally. It breaks through the enormous amount of noise.
“The question then becomes whether you will do the outbound selling or partner with someone that will execute day in and day out.” – Don Dalrymple, You Have Limited Options for Selling, Don Dalrymple; Twitter: @DonDalrymple
- Skip straight to the decision-makers. “Most businesses put their buyers and purchasing managers on the frontlines of buying situations — but they’re not actually qualified to make any buying decisions. That’s why the most successful B2B salespeople skip right over those folks, and straight to the real decision makers.
“Don’t waste your time developing relationships with buyers or purchasing managers, no matter how convenient or comfortable it may feel. They simply don’t have the budget — or the power — to make an actual investment in your product or service. Instead, sell only to high-level decision makers who have the power and budget to actually tell you ‘yes’.” – Marc Wayshak, 8 Insider Tips for Closing More B2B Sales, Hubspot; Twitter: @MarcWayshak
- Be able to identify the triggers that motivate your target buyers to purchase. “Understand the buyer’s “compelling events”. By this, I mean the factors that are most likely to lead to a sale. What are the triggers that can motivate the buyer to purchase now? What are the consequences if they decide not to change? How can we put our offer(s) in front of the prospect when the motivations and/or consequences are greatest?” – Christopher Ryan, Six Ways Marketing Can Shrink the Sales Cycle, CustomerThink; Twitter: @CRyanFusionMkt
- Know when to stop selling. “Some customers love the experience of doing business with your company; unfortunately, others have encountered problems with the experience. But aren’t all customers fair game for a cross-selling or upselling pitch?
“Not so fast. Think hard before blindly committing to another sales pitch. In particular, stop wasting time and energy selling to customers who are detractors of your company.
“Instead, spend that time fixing those relationships. Turn around the situation so that these detractors become at worst neutral, and ideally real promoters. Only then will you have decent odds of winning new business.” – Mark Kovac, Good Sales Teams Know When to Stop Selling, Harvard Business Review; Twitter: @HarvardBiz
- Great storytelling builds rapport. “As a sales professional, your ability to connect with your prospect is paramount. To do so you’ll need top-tier communication skills to help you build rapport. People buy from people, and you need to help your prospects believe in you and your product. Studies have shown that emotion frequently proceeds logic when making purchase decisions. A true salesperson can generate enthusiasm for a product through great storytelling, connecting a product to an emotional need by the prospect.” – Top Skills Every Sales Professional Should Have, Sales Logic; Twitter: @saleslogicjobs
- To meet the needs of B2B buyers in the digital age, a sales content strategy is crucial. “Sales content strategy is needed to address the new requirements borne of digital-era buyers who self-educate through online content. In response to this reality, B2B selling organizations are shifting to become more buyer-centered, relevant and useful.
“Leading organizations realize that ‘how you sell’ is often a key differentiator and value creator for buyers. This means shifting from the traditional, product-feature-benefit pitch, to a problem-cause-value-centered conversation. It means being useful, by bringing unique insights to buyers.
“Content is the vehicle for this shift. It’s also the currency by which sales professionals acquire B2B buyer attention. It both enables and leverages selling activities. This means sales content strategy must shift from a promotional orientation, to an educational purpose. The ultimate purpose is to have content lead buyers to adopt the vendor’s solution for a successful sale.” – Jim Burns, The Ultimate Guide for Developing Your B2B Sales Content Strategy, Marketing Insider Group; Twitter: @BrennerMichael
- Customer-facing content not strategically mapped in context throughout the buyer’s journey will fall short. A customer-core enablement framework should be a sales force’s strategic imperative and a top priority for sales managers. “Content must become a sales force’s strategic imperative and a number one priority on every sales leader’s agenda.
“Customer-facing content is an element that can impact the relationship with prospects and customers quite significantly. To provide highly effective content, a customer-core strategy is mandatory, and that requires a customer-core enablement framework to be able to tailor content services accordingly.
“Highly effective customer-facing content that covers the entire customer’s journey is a must-have ingredient to remain successful in an ever-changing, buyer-driven world.” – Tamara Schenk, Why Content Has To Be A Strategic Imperative: Content Impacts Your Customer Relationships, LinkedIn; Twitter: @tamaraschenk
- A well-defined sales process serves as the foundation for sales enablement development. “TOPO’s research has found that companies with a well-defined and standardized sales process deliver faster onboarding and ramp times. Their sales reps know what to do, when to do it and the reasons why.
“What was more significant is what TOPO found at the highest growth organizations. For the highest growth organizations, the sales process is the foundation for their success. They tie their sales enablement activities including skills development, content and technology to the context of their sales process. For example, instead of delivering horizontal sales training where reps must apply what they learned afterwards on their own, they deliver training within the context of specific sales stages and plays so that reps can immediately apply and perfect those skills.
“The first step in delivering world-class sales enablement is to build a well-defined sales process. Once that is complete, sales enablement infrastructure can be created.” – Robert Koehler, Sales Enablement Best Practices: Sales Process is the Foundation, TOPO; Twitter: @topohq
- Sales enablement isn’t just about sales-marketing alignment anymore. “Sales needs to turn into a full-collaboration machine that extends to all arms of the organization from Customer Success, Support, Marketing, Engineering, Product and Business Operations.
“As the sales process gets more complex, Sales is going to need to partner with all departments in order to move deals forward. Sales needs Customer Success on the post-Sales side. Sales needs Support to help prospects out during their product trial. Sales needs alignment with Marketing to provide relevant content throughout the buyer’s journey. To foster collaboration beyond the sales floor, here’s are four steps to follow:
- Hire or train your Sales team to be collaborators within and outside of the sales floor
- Make time for the work that matters
- Invest in tools that improve collaboration and productivity across an organization
- Don’t be afraid to have transparent meetings” – Tina Nguyen, Sales Cannot Afford to be the Jack of All Trades, ToutApp; Twitter: @toutapp
- Marketing and sales must work closely together in the final stage of the buyer’s journey. “At the final stage of the journey is where information and relationships matter most. In order for marketers to best nurture prospects who are at the end of the buyer journey they must work closely with sales.
“Competitive information needs to be available for sales teams in the form of sales collateral that answers very specific questions. Sales one sheeters are the marketer’s magic pill for getting the sales opportunity through the funnel. Feature comparisons between competitors, economic impact calculations, and product customization capabilities are important sets of information which marketers can provide the sales team.
“This stage of the buyer journey highlights the importance of sales and marketing alignment.
“Information is just one piece of the puzzle. Creating ways for sales and prospects to meet in person is also highly important, especially for large deal sizes. Trust matters not only on a brand level but also on a relationship level.
“These relationships include existing customers, prospects and the account executives. Marketing’s role is to build these relationships through field marketing and events. While today’s marketing departments are heavily focused on digital and one-to-many messaging, the end of the customer journey is characterized by face-to-face engagement and one-to-one messaging. This is best done with events, dinners, in person product demos, and happy hours organized by sales.” – Andrew Nguyen, A Complete Guide To The Buyer Journey, Bizible; Twitter: @bizible
- Allow the lines of marketing and sales to blur in order to meet the demands of today’s B2B buyers. “Five years into the age of the customer and the modern B2B buyer has high expectations. They’re more knowledgeable, independent and self-directed than ever. They no longer rely on your sales people for product, pricing and other information. And they don’t want to be told what they already know. As I explore in our recently published report, B2B Buyers Mandate A New Charter For Marketing And Sales, the empowered B2B buyer is neither concerned with how your organization is structured and who’s responsible for the content on your website, nor are they interested in talking to a sales rep simply because they downloaded a white paper. Your buyers want contextual interactions with both human and digital assets across a holistic but non-linear journey. And, by in large, they want their experiences with sales people to be high value or frictionless. Think of a 2 or 5-star hotel experience – each has its merits – but 3 and 4-star hotels often disappoint.
“So the question remains…how prepared is your go-to-market organization to meet the needs of today’s B2B buyers? And what are you going to do if they are not? Start by allowing the lines between marketing and sales to blur to better serve your customers. Identify a couple of buyer-centric initiatives like social selling or account-based marketing and align marketing and sales compensation in more meaningful ways. Be open to new profiles and constructs. Place the buyer at the center of your universe and seed more cohesion between teams.” – Mary Shea, B2B Buyers Make The Case For Better Marketing And Sales Alignment, Mary Shea’s Blog at Forrester; Twitter: @sheaforr
- Don’t confuse marketing-qualified leads with sales-qualified leads. “A Sales Qualified Lead should not be confused with a Marketing Qualified Lead.
“That definition involves understanding the terminology, but also (maybe just as important) the indicators within your own process that alert you to potential customers moving down the funnel.
“If you know the terms (prospects, marketing qualified, sales qualified, etc.), but don’t understand how your company determines and segments the leads within your sales process—you’ll end up losing potential clients.
“One of the most crucial terms to understand is the sales qualified lead (SQL).
“Without a clear series of events that alerts your marketing team and then the sales reps of when a lead is ready to be fit and then closed, you will be pitching leads that aren’t ready and losing those that were ready sooner.” – Justin McGill, What is a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)?, Business 2 Community; Twitter: @b2community
- The sales-qualified lead is the perfect handshake. “We don’t make money on leads, we don’t make money on clicks, we don’t make money on likes. The only way to solve this is to have sales and marketing sit together and find a way in which they figure out what the perfect handshake is between them.
“How can marketing increase the demand of qualified leads for sales? And how can sales contribute to content so marketing can create better insights? In fact, according to SiriusDecisions, ‘Up to 65% of your marketing team’s digital content never makes its way into the customer’s hands.’
“That perfect handshake in our company is called a sales qualified lead, or a sales qualified opportunity. We’ve discovered it’s the right place in which sales and marketing touch hands. They can work and collaborate with each other on the volume, velocity, and probability of what those sales qualified leads are, and they can hold each other accountable for what they need out of those sales qualified leads to both hit their goals. Marketing can hit the volume, velocity, and probability that they need, and sales can do the same all the way to the close.
“Once you get to that piece, that magic handshake is a great service level agreement. Sales can create and record documents, and say, this is what I’m promising to give you: volume, velocity, probability, and service to get you there. And sales says, once you give me that, I promise to do these x, y, and z things to bring it over to home.” – Jamie Shanks, The Status Quo is No Longer Viable: Let’s Measure Marketing Like Sales, Sales for Life; Twitter: @MySales4Life
- Sales development consultants are giving way to a new demand generation consultant paradigm. “Success in the sales development consultant paradigm is contingent on the ability to create a vision, not just manage a prospecting process. Sales development consultants serve as the premier evangelists within their respective companies. They set the tone for the engagement in initial conversations, enable the team to drive high quality, high velocity opportunities, and most important, exceed prospect and customer expectations in every interaction.
“As leading sales developments teams increasingly introduce account-based prospecting to keep up with the move towards increasingly complex, strategic engagements, expect the old sales development representative paradigm to fast move towards obsolescence, while the Demand Generation Consultant paradigm will rise to primacy.” – Steven Broudy, Enter the Demand Generation Consultant – A New Paradigm for Sales Development, Sales Hacker; Twitter: @stevenbroudy
- Brand uniformity boosts lead gen and conversions. “There is nothing worse for a brand than a sales team that doesn’t understand the status quo for a brand’s messaging and goals, yet it happens all the time. A salesperson can become very single-minded, only thinking of his or her numbers and commissions, and seeing sales as a personal mission.
“That is not how it should be. Each individual’s actions affect the entire business. Brand uniformity increases lead generation and conversions. It ensures that once a potential customer is in the conversion funnel, they will feel safe and confident to move forward.
“In more practical situations, brand uniformity means that your leads will feel less inclined to hang up on you when they hear your company name. We also want leads to be less likely to delete an email with your company name in the ‘From’ field.
“Encourage your content team to create a brand identity guide for the whole company to use. Use your business plan to develop your brand identity guide and then share them both with your entire team.” – Gail Gardner, Unleash Breakthrough Profits By Unifying Your Sales And Marketing, Forbes; Twitter: @AllBusiness_com
- Sales and marketing alignment begins by agreeing on a common core in the technology stack to de-silo data and reporting. “Sales is usually the larger organization within a company, and they typically use Salesforce or another CRM solution to track leads, generate reports and manage data.
“Marketing typically generates its own data via marketing automation solutions, but technology advances now enable them to easily stream data from popular automation tools into CRM platforms such as Salesforce. This allows marketing and sales to collaborate using a common source of data and reporting.
“When sales and marketing align around the CRM solution the sales team uses, they’ll be speaking a common language and working from the same playbook for the first time. Not only will this allow marketing to take its rightful place in the value creation chain, it will give them a voice at the strategy table. And it all starts with a common technology stack.” – Bonnie Crater, Marketing and Sales Alignment Starts With a Common Technology Stack, Sales & Marketing Management; Twitter: @fc_insights
- Technical Sales Ops could be your missing link to sales efficiency. “Without filling the Sales Operations role, companies put in jeopardy the efficiency of their sales team and also risk missing important sales opportunities. If you ask sales reps to do too much data management and spend too much time sorting through reports, they tend to withdraw from the critical person-to-person skills still needed in sales, especially B2B sales. They spend more time staring at their desktops and smartphones and less time thinking about how to engage with a good prospect and address their pain points. They rely too heavily on time-saving approaches like firing off emails and wonder why their close rates keep going down.
“With data-driven Sales Ops people focused on systems, data and processes, sales reps are freed to do what they do best—engage in real conversations with prospects and customers that add value and build trust. Another important advantage they bring to the table is making better use of the technology to beat the competition to key opportunities. With accurate, timely data, sales reps get an immediate heads-up when their leads are engaged, what they’re seeking and why. Armed with that information, they can reach out quickly and start solving customer problems on the spot. Sales Ops professionals also provide accurate, up-to-the-minute reporting on KPIs that matter to sales managers and executives, so the sales process can be continuously improved.
“In the old days, we had time to plan out thoughtful sales campaigns and let our sales professionals do what they do best. Now, we still need good strategy and great communications, but do we have time to execute them well? Have we overwhelmed our sales team with technology and data? Maybe it’s time to consider adding technical sales operations to the mix and let your sales reps do their thing.” – John McTigue, Is Technical Sales Operations Your Missing Link?, Business 2 Community; Twitter: @jmctigue
- Ensure your marketing and sales teams are relying on the same vision of an ideal prospect and utilizing the same buyer profiles or personas. “Prospect and buyer profiles can be a tricky business. Chances are, your sales and marketing teams each have an established view of their ‘ideal’ prospects, and a lot of their daily activities reflect that vision.
“Here’s the problem: Marketing and sales teams often use radically different prospect profiles – and they may not even know it.
“The first step towards solving this mismatch problem is to get your sales and marketing leaders together to compare their prospect profiles, focusing on where they overlap and where they don’t. At the same time, you should compare both sets of current profiles against what you know – based on intelligence gathered from your marketing automation, CRM, and sales systems – about your best (and worst) customers. What traits really define a long-term or exceptionally profitable relationship? Which ones could serve as a warning that some prospects might consistently present challenges?
“Armed with this knowledge, you can proceed to build a single, mutually acceptable set of prospect profiles. In the process, you’ll build an important bridge between your sales and marketing teams that will facilitate better communication and cooperation and go a long way toward resolving entrenched conflict.” – Cindy Collins-Taylor, 7 Steps to Achieving Optimal Sales & Marketing Alignment, Business 2 Community; Twitter: @B2Community
- Your sales team may be concerned that account-based everything will result in fewer leads, but that’s actually a good thing. “The reality: They’re right. But they’ll get true engagement in a pre-qualified list of buyers, and a lot less garbage to filter through. Lead conversion rates are abysmal—for every 400 initial inquiries, only 1 becomes a closed opportunity—and quantity is to blame. Sales needs to be reminded that just because they’re busy, doesn’t mean they’re being effective. The goal is not simply activity.
“What you need to run a successful ABE strategy is full team buy in on a truly threaded approach. We’ve been doing the baton pass between marketing and sales forever, with marketing generating leads and handing them off to sales to close.” – Justin Gray, Managing Sales’ Expectations For Account-Based Everything, LeadMD; Twitter: @graymatter
- Traditional marketing and sales processes fail to meet the needs of today’s buyers. You must adapt how you market and sell and adopt agile sales strategies aligned with your buyers’ needs. “Unfortunately, many organizations are still using traditional sales and marketing models, which were developed for a different time. Companies today need to realize that buyers are in the driver’s seat, and they’re driving fast! In order to create authentic and effective agile marketing and sales strategies that are aligned with the needs of the buyer, companies need to consider the following:
- How authentic storytelling sets the tone
- Content that engages prospects with current customers
- Using big data to identify buying signals and customize the customer experience
- How real time engagement keeps customers happy and creates advocates
“Real-time marketing is now required to address the needs of buyers who are part of this new radically changed purchasing process. Companies that understand this change, and adapt how they market and sell, can grow their business faster than their competitors.” – Are you reaching your decision makers in real-time?, Lattice Engines; Twitter: @Lattice_Engines
- Schedule regular marketing-sales meetings. “In all my years of being in B2B sales for some of the most-well-known companies in the mobile technology sector, I never once had a meeting with the marketing team. In fact, most of the time we were housed in completely different buildings or areas of the country for that matter.
“Sales and marketing should meet to review the sales team funnel and list of target accounts to help develop buyer personas for each vertical and discuss ways to reach them. The marketing team should always be in the loop of the sales team’s revenue goals so that their activities can be directly attributed to the company’s revenue streams.” – John White, Here’s How To Properly Align Your Sales and Marketing Teams in 2017, Inc.com; Twitter: @juanblanco76
- Cultivate a results-based culture rather than an activity-based culture. “In your career, have you ever come across someone who worked really hard, 50-60-70 hours a week, but failed to achieve results? Sales organizations have a propensity to fall into the activity trap. If we have a culture of activity we are focused on dialing for dollars, putting more pressure on, selling customers harder, coming up with margin-crushing discounts, all in the name of activity. If we have a culture focused on results we are working smarter, focused on creating the right experiences for each customer, mutually exploring their needs and presenting them with the value our products or services can bring to the table to help them. As the great Zig Ziglar once said, ‘Stop Selling. Start Helping.’” – Mattson Newell, 3 Ways to Drive Sales by Driving Culture, Inc.com; Twitter: @MattsonNewell
- Manage by inputs rather than results. “The biggest mistake people make is seeking to manage by results rather than inputs. Jason Jordan taught me that you cannot manage revenueand he instead illuminates the path of focusing on activities that achieve objectives, that in turn create results. The only thing we truly have control of is our behaviour and actions to execute the inputs that create success. We cannot manage outcomes, results and prosperity or wealth; we can only have them as goals. We should relentlessly focus on what we do and being the person capable of executing masterfully.
“It’s not enough to project a persona, we need to actually be the authentic person worth following. Anthony Howard is a business mentor and he taught me that there is no such thing as authentic leaders, just authentic people in leadership roles. He coined the term ‘human-centered leadership’ and he is worth following. The very best motivation for leadership comes from changing the lives of people by believing in them. Service of a noble cause for the benefit of people (customers and staff) is what drives the very best leaders.” – Tony Hughes, Leadership Secrets From The Inside, Tony J. Hughes; Twitter: @rsvpselling
- Know the difference between training and coaching. “Training is imparting knowledge, and making sure your team knows what to do and how to do it. Coaching is making sure the information has landed, is understood and can be applied.
“These are two different skills to be applied at different times and coaching situations in order to improve a salesperson’s performance. This is also where the soft skills of self-awareness and reality testing are important.
“Without these emotional intelligence skills, sales managers misdiagnose performance issues. Their first instinct when seeing a salesperson not applying what they’ve learned is to re-teach the concept. Perhaps the problem isn’t lack of knowledge but instead, a buy-in issue or lack of confidence. Telling the salesperson what to do one more time won’t shift behavior or improve skills. Instead, ask good coaching questions to learn the root cause about why they’re not applying the knowledge or skills they’ve learned.” – Colleen Stanley, Avoid Two Common Sales Coaching Mistakes, Sales Leadership Development; Twitter: @EiSelling
- Internal alignment matters. “In strategic, complex sales situations, many organizations admit to having two different sales cycles: one externally with their customers and another internally within their own companies. Managing the customer relationship during the sales cycle tends to garner lots of attention, but your relationships within your organization can have a significant impact on your outcomes, and they often pose a thornier challenge. You may need support from someone in another department, for instance, but they have their own pressures, responsibilities, and deadlines. You may have to rely on someone whose motivation is his or her own short-term win, not your long-term customer relationship.
“Whatever your situation, the day will come when multiple parties in your organization need to be on the same page—and you’re the one who has to make it happen.
“Internal alignment matters, according to Steve Andersen and Dave Stein, authors of Beyond the Sales Process: 12 Proven Strategies for a Customer-Driven World, ‘because if the customer senses your internal misalignment, they will feel uncomfortable and may believe they are being put at unnecessary risk, because you and your team don’t have your act together.’” – Craig Jones, Avoiding the Pitfalls of Internal Misalignment, Beyond the Sales Process; Twitter: @davestei
- Allocate territories wisely. If necessary, revaluate and realign. “Sales must allocate territories in a way that maximizes revenue potential. That means putting high-performing reps in the most fertile territories. Relying on the wrong criteria or defaulting to ‘peanut butter spreads’ is demoralizing to sales reps.
“Your To-Do List
- Assess the potential of each account, and prioritize accordingly.
- Revisit your territory planning process—how you determine territory potential, optimal size, and goals.
- Consider how well you communicate territory decisions to the team.” – Mike Drapeau, 7 Steps to a Quota-Busting Sales Force, Sales Benchmark Index; Twitter: @MakingTheNumber
- Messaging is meaningless without proper execution. “Your sales process and all of your methodologies are part of what is supposed to be executing. Done well, your company strategy and your client acquisition strategy are all rolled up into how you sell. If you aren’t producing the results you are capable of, it might be the strategy, but it’s more likely the execution thereof.
“Messaging that isn’t used doesn’t have the chance to be effective. Changing the messaging without changing the execution is like changing the tires on a car with no engine. You still aren’t going anywhere.
“Before you decide what needs changed, why it needs changed, and what you should do about it, look to make sure that you are executing what you have in place. Bouncing from change to change without the execution leaves you no better than you are now.” – Anthony Iannarino, What Mostly Prevents Better Sales Results, Anthony Iannarino; Twitter: @iannarino
- Sales force micro-segmentation is the answer to shorter sales cycles, demand for growth, and other top challenges facing today’s sales leaders. “Here’s a sample of the modest goals facing B2B sales leaders in 2017:
“Shorter sales cycles, exponential market growth, unreachable and arbitrarily-chosen revenue targets, and business scalability.
“The go-to strategy for reaching these targets?
“Sales force micro-segmentation – by role, territory, and industry vertical.
“Sales development reps, sales engineers, and market developers are the new normal; as is the role that makes all this crazy segmentation actually work: sales operations.” – James Carbary, 9 Trends Facing B2B Sales And Marketing In 2017, The Huffington Post; Twitter: @jamescarbary
- An account-based approach is crucial for B2B sales, as the number of decision-makers in companies continues to grow. “In 2011, CEB concluded that there are 5.4 decision makers in a B2B sale. Just a few years later, new studies revealed that number has jumped by 30%. There’s even research that indicates as many as 17 decision-makers in enterprise sales. That’s exactly why more and more companies are adopting account-based strategies across their Sales and Marketing teams—it just makes sense to reach out to multiple decision-makers and influencers.
“But doing it well goes beyond simple buzzwords; true success requires an orchestrated approach. Call it Account Based Everything. Call it Account-Based Revenue (as The Bridge Group does).
“Call it whatever you want – the bottom line is to execute a strategic go-to-market approach that personalizes marketing, sales, and customer success efforts to land and expand at named accounts.” – Jon Miller, What Account-Based Is (and What It Isn’t), The Bridge Group, Inc.; Twitter: @engagio
- Process is the key to excellence. “Product Development, Product Marketing, Marketing and Sales all play a role in the overall result. The closer Product Development can be to having offerings that address buyer and market needs, the easier it is for top-line revenue objectives to be achieved. I suppose it is the equivalent of the Patriots’ General Manager providing Belichick the talent pool needed to be competitive.
“Of the four organizations I mentioned, the largest headcount is often the Sales staff. A survey by Sales Benchmark Index found that having a sales process can allow organizations to:
- Increase win rates from 19% to 33%
- Increase average selling price by 10%
- Shorten sale cycles
“The four (4) prerequisites to having a sales process to allow B/C Players to emulate A Players are:
- Standard milestones for the various types of transactions sellers must achieve
- A standard skill set for salespeople
- Sales ready messaging® to position offerings specific to titles and desired business outcomes
- Defined buyer actions so that sales managers can grade opportunities without solely having to rely upon seller opinions
“In the same way Bill Belichick gets more out of his players by having them execute plays using a standard approach, so it is sales process can allow organizations to have A, B and C Players perform at higher levels. In the process they can make a superior buying experience a differentiator.” – John Holland, Sales Tips: Achieving Excellence through Process, CustomerCentric Selling; Twitter: @Official_CCS
- Create an Ideal Talent Profile to source top sales and sales development talent. “Hiring great people is everything. But simply acknowledging that fact doesn’t mean it won’t be hard to find, close or even identify top talent. This is particularly the case at the outset – when just starting the team.
“Before a half dozen or so reps are up and running, it’s hard to know exactly what ‘Good Looks Like’ specific to your organization. Every sales team is idiosyncratic. In other words, your SDRs have to be ‘just right’ for your organization.
“To find the magic formula, take a stab at creating an Ideal Talent Profile.
“Once you’ve made double-digit hires this becomes easier. You can analyze your current SDR hires and distill which attributes and skillsets drive success [or lack thereof] across the team.
“Each additional rep serves as an additional data point, so revisit and fine-tune the ITP as the team grows. Bear in mind that an SDR may beat quota and outperform peers due to reasons outside of their effort or skill. A big or warm territory can aid in over-performance. Similarly, being paired with a particularly invested AE can bolster individual SDR results. Discount for these things if possible when weighing the most sought after traits [and, generally speaking, when force-ranking an SDR team].
“If you’re building a team from scratch and don’t have SDRs/data points to reverse engineer a talent profile, borrow it from another company in a similar industry or with a similar product.” – Kyle Richless, 7 Learnings: Building Your First, Great Sales Development (SDR) Team, SaaStr; Twitter: @saastr
- Hire reps with prior industry experience. “It always takes time to onboard and train a new salesperson and if they are not familiar with your industry, it will take longer. Additionally, some products are easier to sell than others and if you happen to be in an industry with difficult sales dynamics, it really helps if the salesperson is already familiar with the industry and the tricks of the trade. We are an edtech company that sells teacher development software to school districts and universities. We deal with long sales cycles, multiple stakeholders and in many cases technology averse clients. So having a salesperson who is already familiar with these dynamics is really helpful, particularly in the ramp up phase of their employment. While lack of industry experience is not a dealbreaker, we do think our ideal sales candidate has some experience in the classroom or has some other background in education. This not only helps them to understand our industry but also gives them added credibility when they engage with potential customers. People in education are often reluctant to trust outsiders particularly when those outsiders are selling the next ‘app’ that promises to ‘disrupt’ their way of life. So, although I could teach a strong salesperson the ins and outs of our industry… I’m generally better off finding someone who has already been in it.” – Courtney Williams, Sales Is Not Easy – And Neither Is Finding Good Salespeople, Forbes; Twitter: @TORSCHO
- Help your sales reps prioritize to reduce decision complexity. “Decision complexity is a big issue in B2B sales. People forget that the B2B sales team is doing so much more than bringing in new customers. They are dealing with existing customers to increase sales volume and prevent defections. This is a juggling act that can quickly make decisions complex and difficult to make.
“You need to figure out a workflow that will ensure decision complexity is reduced. For example, you may tell your sales team to prioritize defections. The urgency of defections depends on the industry, but in general it may be anywhere from 20% to 40% of existing customers who are thinking of defecting to a competitor.
“By providing some direction, you can make your B2B sales team that much more efficient. This will allow you to ensure they are concentrating on the things that really matter.” – AJ Agrawal, 3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your B2B Sales Team, Inc.com; Twitter: @ajagrawal24
- Your sales people are your competitive differentiator, and it’s up to you to help them learn agility. “Those who constantly bring fresh ideas, insights and information to their prospects and clients will win the business. That means they need to be knowledgeable on so many more things.
“But most aren’t ready for this. They’re not good at learning.
“As a sales leader, you need to lead your team through this transition. It’s your ticket to success. While some of your reps may need a kick in the butt, most are operating on cruise control – which is really quite normal.” – Jill Konrath, How to Get Your Sales Team to Consistently Overachieve, Jill Konrath; Twitter: @jillkonrath
- Incentivize sales staff appropriately to focus on quality, not just quantity. “Incentives for sales staff should focus on the quality of customers, not just the quantity. When your goal is to have sales selling to the best-fit customers, consider aligning sales commissions with customer LTV and churn rates.
“A few years ago, when HubSpot’s VP of Sales created a goal of increasing the company’s run rate from $300K to $3MM in less than a year, there were some interesting results.
Customer count and ARR increased. Churn skyrocketed.
“Initially, customer success was blamed, but after a closer analysis it was determined that the actual problem was sales. ‘In an effort to ramp from $300K to $3MM, the team had gone after prospects that were unlikely to have success with their product,’ writes Sonja Jacob.” – Kate Harvey, Selling To The Wrong Customers Can Cripple SaaS Growth, Chargify; Twitter: @Chargify
- Sell business outcomes, not features and benefits. “Businesses aren’t interested in your product or service. They’re interested in the results and outcomes you can help them achieve.
“In the past, salespeople could close B2B sales by pitching the benefits and features of their products. Not anymore. Today, you need to focus on selling tangible, bottom-line business results if you want to dominate your competition in B2B sales.” – Marc Wayshak, 8 Insider Tips for Closing More B2B Sales, HubSpot; Twitter: @MarcWayshak
- Compensate for poor qualifying skills with better prospecting. “I’ve written extensively on the importance of qualifying hard (as well as all the good things that will happen when you do) – but in practice, many sellers are still falling short of the mark. How else should we explain the fact that 50% of all proposals are lost, and 25% are lost to doing nothing?
“The reason many sellers don’t qualify hard enough is they don’t have enough opportunities entering their pipeline. Qualification and prospecting are two sides of the same coin. If you find your team is not qualifying hard enough, don’t spend time teaching them how to qualify. Spend time teaching them how to prospect better.” – Ago Cluytens, 11 Sales Tips You’ll Need To Succeed, AgoCluytens; Twitter: @Acluytens
- Sales messaging sets the stage for the entire customer lifecycle. “Issues affecting sales and marketing effectiveness and financial performance challenges are not solved with the latest social selling (or any sales) training. It will not be solved with the purchase of another piece of technology to force fit into an already burgeoning sales stack. Pipeline and revenue problems are caused by internal systemic issues on a broader scale related to people, process, systems, and accountability.
“In the area of sales messaging, whether you deliver that message through phone calls or emails, a transformation is needed in a big way. Time and again, I see sales and marketing teams focusing on something low level that may temporarily relieve some of their sales performance pain points, but makes no real positive gains over time. That includes one-off training to improve prospecting and lead generation efforts. Maybe it is a class on how to improve how your salespeople “pitch.” Alternatively, perhaps it is hiring a trainer to teach you the latest email hacks designed to improve those email open rates. Guess what. Those things are not working! You might write the best email subject line ever that gets the email opened, and, if in the body of the email, you fall back to the vendor centric pitch, does it even matter that your email was opened? You will still be ignored.
- Focus on educating, not selling. “I’m constantly hearing senior decision makers say they are looking for sales people to educate them, bring new ideas to the table and challenge the status quo. Although I firmly believe that the role of the sales person remains critical in the world of b2b sales, I’d be the first to admit that it has changed significantly in recent years. Prospective customers aren’t looking for human brochures, parroting marketing messages and regurgitating sales scripts. They want to hear what else is happening in their industry, they want to be educated about new initiatives and challenged on their assumptions. The really great sales people are the ones who act like sponges for useful information and then take the time to add value at every step of the sales journey.” – Cian Mcloughlin, 7 Simple Secrets of Sales Winners, Trinity Perspectives; Twitter: @TrinityPerspect
- Use an inbound coaching strategy. “Generally when people think about coaching, they automatically assume a one-way process of a coach observing the ‘coachee.’ It’s a process which purely relies on the coach spending time identifying weaknesses and remedying deficiencies. This is largely true of course. Part of being a great coach is having a careful eye for picking up on these skill/behavioral gaps and making the rep more self-aware of things they wouldn’t necessarily pick up on themselves.
“Observing weaknesses in a large or remote sales team can be time consuming, however. Consider therefore moving to a more ‘inbound coaching strategy’. Encourage reps to come to you on a weekly basis with a scenario they have been involved in the previous week. This could be an objection they failed to overcome in their last meeting, a cold call they made which hit a dead end, or an opportunity stubbornly stuck in the pipeline. Technology makes it easy to playback key moments of recorded sales interactions so that you are instantly taken to the coaching opportunities rather than finding them yourself. Think of these as inbound sales leads. You don’t need to spend time researching, prospecting, and finding them yourself. They are brought directly to you.” – Richard Smith, So Many Deals, So Little (Coaching) Time, Sales Hacker; Twitter: @SalesHacker
- Measure the outcomes of sales activities to refine your sales approach for the biggest impact. “It’s easy to assume that telling a rep to send more emails will result in more conversions. However, you know what they say happens when you assume… Maybe email just isn’t the right channel to reach your desired target. Or perhaps that particular rep needs some additional guidance on how to create a solid email template. In either of those scenarios, just sending more emails won’t get the results that both of you want.
“The most effective way to drive productivity within your sales team is to measure the outcomes of their activities. This enables you to prioritize those with the most impact and provide reps with instructions as to the exact behaviors they can change to make a difference. According to a recent study by Nijmeh & Cernel, sales managers who use data-driven coaching techniques like this have seen their salespeople’s quota attainment and top-line revenue increase by as much as 7% and 20%, respectively.
“For example, consider an Email Outcomes Report, which shows the total number of emails sent per rep/team, as well as whether these emails were opened, clicked, replied to, etc. Taking this information and comparing it with quota attainment can reveal insights like whether reps that send more emails achieve a higher quota than those who send fewer, or whether certain reps are unsuccessful despite their efforts and need more direction. It can even help you identify the ideal number of emails required to hit quota, so you can guide reps toward hitting this exact number, rather than simply telling them that you need ‘more.’” – Jeremy Boudinet, How to Coach Your Way to a More Productive Sales Team, Ambition; Twitter: @AmbitionSales
- Keep your sales playbook simple. “Some coaches (marketing and sales VPs) get drawn in to creating huge playbooks to try and accommodate every situation and audience. The efforts become far too complex and unproductive and parts of the team lose focus and ground. Start with a few core plays and build upon their success once the team has mastered them.” – Kelly Waffle, Account-Based Everything: What it Takes to Win the Big Game, Engagio; Twitter: @engagio
- Help your sales reps set written goals. “Our experience with sales teams is that less than 20% of all salespeople set written goals of any kind. We estimate that the income of this elite minority of salespeople is predictably and consistently greater than the 80-plus percent who don’t set written goals — combined!
“You can help each of the members of your team join the ranks of the top performers… by helping them to craft strong written goals.” – Dave Mattson, Six Questions That Will Help Your Salespeople Set and Follow Through on the Right Goals, Sandler Training; Twitter: @SandlerTraining
- Create data-driven accountability. “The devil is always in the detail, and numbers are indisputable – no one can question them.
“Poor metrics pose a huge hindrance to accountability, because people don’t have the same understanding or interpretation of results. You need to create a common understanding of what the core metrics for your sales team are, because they will drive every conversation you have throughout the business.
“It’s not just about management. Not just about tech. And not just about marketing. Everyone needs to have a clear understanding of what those metrics are and how they can individually influence them. This enables you to guide your team members and improve their performance. You can help them create the career path they want, and help them own their sales flow accountability.
“But when you’re looking at the data you don’t want to get paralysis by analysis. Don’t measure EVERYTHING. Instead, just focus on measuring the core metrics that matter.
“What matters is going to be different depending on the audience of the metric. For example, what your sales executive will want to see is going to be different to what your sales rep needs.
“So make sure you understand the implications of what you’re measuring, understand why you’re measuring it, and make sure you can do something with the outcome. If you can’t do anything, if there is no implication to your sales decision-making process, then there’s no point in measuring it.” – Andy Farquharson, How to Build and Grow a High-Performing Sales Team, LinkedIn; Twitter: @Andy_farq
- Leverage sales and marketing intelligence as your foundational tool rather than an add-on. “Today, the sales and marketing intelligence space is undergoing another wholesale transformation with the rise of Account-Based Everything (ABE) strategies. In fact, partly due to the rise in ABE, the perception of the sales tech stack structure has flipped. Sales and marketing intelligence is often leveraged as the foundational tool (not the add-on!) needed to dramatically accelerate growth by executing ABE at scale. Why?
“As silos between sales and marketing break down, sales and marketing strategies are more frequently centered on identifying best fit prospects, expanding and deepening understanding and insight into those best fit prospects, and engaging directly with them through multiple sales and marketing channels. That’s precisely what sales and marketing intelligence tools are designed to do. When that intelligence is accurate, actionable, and integrated, sales and marketing teams are able to easily pull it into ALL of their automation tools and align around engaging with the key decision-makers at top prospect accounts that are most likely to buy at any given point in time.” – Katie Bullard, Sales and Marketing Intelligence: From an “Add-On” to “The Foundation,” Smart Selling Tools; Twitter: @Katie_E_Bullard
- Gain buy-in from your reps by demonstrating that your sales tool stack will work for them. “A high-growth sales dev team will have an average of 5 tools in its sales stack; Salesforce reports that high performing sales teams are 3.5X more likely to be leveraging analytics. And they’re using, on average, 3X more sales tech too.
“The challenge isn’t to get sales managers or sales ops to believe that sales tools work. They already know they do. The challenge is to get reps to believe that using these tools works…for them.
“Too often, sales reps experience another tool as another layer of management: another way for managers to keep tabs on them, or another way for marketing to gather data. To get reps to like sales tools enough to actually use them, we have to get them to believe in their value: we have to sell tools to reps.” – Richard Bayston, Sales Tool Adoption: How to Sell Your Sales Stack To Your Own Reps, Datanyze; Twitter: @datanyze
- Don’t use metrics as an excuse to not engage with your sales reps. “Too often, we sales managers can fall into the trap of equating ‘monitoring metrics’ with ‘actively managing.’ We get trapped in an illusion that we can solve performance problems when a rep’s “score” goes south. In the worst cases, looking at activity metrics becomes an excuse to not be doing more to engage with our salespeople in meaningful ways every day.” – 4 Pitfalls of Sales Performance Management that Depress Team Results, Top Line Leadership; Twitter: @toplineleader
- Monitor your growth accounts monthly, at minimum. “How often do you track your growth accounts?
“In order to be successful with your growth clients, you should be tracking them on a regular basis. More specifically, you should update yourself on their progress on a monthly basis.
“This may seem counterintuitive, especially because I recommend tracking key accounts on a quarterly basis.” – Colleen Francis, Are You Tracking Your Growth Clients?, The Sales Leader; Twitter: @EngageColleen
- Artificial intelligence (AI) can amplify sales. “Artificial intelligence (AI) is growing increasingly capable of handling many sales transactions. In reality, most transactions don’t even require AI, but my point is that technology is advancing quickly and a growing numbers of transactions will require no human involvement.
“If you don’t believe me, Forrester says that ‘85% of tasks performed by sales professionals are ‘automatable.’’
“AI is destined to be the perfect tool to fuel organizations’ sales efforts and power sales teams with genuinely intelligent tools to more effectively organize their work and sell more. It will not displace the sales person, but instead amplify and accelerate the sales person’s ability to understand and employ data — not just to improve productivity and boost performance, but to improve the customer experience.” – Jill Rowley, #AI Will Reinvent Sales… and Sales Professionals, LinkedIn; Twitter: @jill_rowley
- While technology can accelerate sales, it’s not a replacement for a personal connection and relationship. “Buyers don’t care how your technology works until they know what it can do for their businesses. All the best sales techniques you’ve ever learned won’t work until you personalize your pitch and make a personal connection.
“Don’t be duped into thinking technology can do your job. While technology is great for storing, aggregating, and—to some degree—interpreting information, it can’t have conversations, ask insightful questions, or draw wisdom from experience. There are hundreds of sales techniques and technology tools that help us work more efficiently—including CRM, marketing automation, and social selling. But closing deals is still our job. We will never replace real human engagement with tweets and status updates.” – Joanne Black, Why the Best Sales Techniques Won’t Win You Clients (Here’s What Will), No More Cold Calling; Twitter: @ReferralSales
- Sales enablement automation solutions are taking the sales world by storm. Consider your content management needs as well as how your sales reps prefer to engage with customers and prospects to make smart technology decisions. “While there are many functions that are consistent across the solutions, such as CRM integration (mostly Salesforce) and various levels of back-end content management, there are clear differences as well. The solutions tended to be either/or:
- Synchronous solutions that focus on the live presenting and meeting experience, whether face-to-face or virtual.
- Asynchronous solutions that target engagement with content via email.
“Although this difference will disappear in the medium term as the vendors invest in the functional areas where they are weaker, you should carefully consider not just your content management needs but also exactly how your sellers prefer to engage with your customers and prospects.” – Steven Wright, Sales Enablement Automation Systems Are Ready To Help B2B Marketers Support The Seller Of Today And Tomorrow, Steven Wright’s Blog on Forrester; Twitter: @forrester
- Ditch the ride-alongs and utilize call recording technology. “Unfortunately, outside sales reps are a dying breed. Who still goes on customers site sales calls anymore? Therefore ridealongs are a dying methodology. (Yeah, yeah, I know some of you still do, but it’s becoming an increasingly smaller number every year).
“What’s a sales manager or sales leader to do? How do we get visibility into what our salespeople are doing or saying if the ride-along is no longer an option? How do we know how they give a demo? How do we know how they overcome objections? How do we know how they position the value proposition? How do we know how they do a discovery call? How do we know how they position us against the competition? How do we know how they negotiate on price? How do we know how they do anything they do, now that drive-a-longs are a thing of the past?
“Call recording that’s how. I don’t mean call recording like we get when we call customer service line, I mean coaching based call recording.
“We’ve seen an explosion of new sales tools, methodologies, structures, strategies and more over the past 20 years. However, I’m going on record as saying, coaching and call recording will have the biggest impact on sales organizations revenue for the next 10 years.” – Jim Keenan, The One Thing Sales Organizations Should Do To Increase Revenue In 2017, Forbes; Twitter: @keenan
- Leverage data for driving and forecasting sales. “There is no doubt that big data and digitalisation can help you deeply understand your customers. The role of data in sales and decision-making is not going anywhere. In fact, in 2017, we expect the role of data in driving and forecasting sales to become more significant than ever before.
“The next generation of sellers will move from merely knowing their clients’ buying behaviour to developing a complete view of their customer’s journey.
“This begins with their first interaction, followed by continually building on the data gained with each touchpoint. Indeed, the blurred line between sales and marketing is increasing. Now more than ever, it is evident that sales and marketing need to be aligned.
“The key is to gain real-time data about how your client engages online and offline. This can be captured with sales and marketing automation software, and other related technology. This enables you to respond promptly, with tailored information directed specifically to each individual prospect.
“This approach captures more qualified leads. Also, it identifies gaps between the intended and actual customer’s experience.” – Claudia Ivanka, 3 B2B Sales Trends That Cannot Be Ignored, Align.me; Twitter: @alignmeb2b
- Use data to target the right customers with account-based everything. “Here’s why using data to fuel your Account Based Everything (ABE) rocket can be the difference between your sales lifting off or crashing down.
“Having the right data points gives you the ability to scientifically choose the right accounts with the highest likelihood to write checks…much larger checks. And don’t forget about land-and-expand opportunities. Studies show that better data leads to better account selection, which results in a 35-40% higher average contract value (ACV) for each account that closed.
“The two big types of data you’ll need to draw better company-level insights are firmographics (what company characteristics best predict a successful sales process?) and Technographics (what technologies do they currently use or are looking to invest in?). Start there.” – Brandon Redlinger, How Data Can Improve ABM Account Selection, Datanyze; Twitter: @datanyze
- Choose and optimize the right market intelligence. “Once you’ve created an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), choose a specialized vendor to enhance your data to match it. In a September 2016 report titled Brief: Find The Right Sales Efficiency-Effectiveness Balance, Forrester Research describes market intelligence technologies as tools that “transform raw data about individuals, companies, and markets into meaningful information that sales reps can use to drive tactical and strategic sales activities.”
“Quality data is the bedrock of ABM. A solid program requires accurate, consistent, complete information – not always easy to come by. MarketingSherpa reports that B2B contact data decays at a rate of 22.5 percent annually.
“A top-notch provider will develop an account universe to match your ideal customer profile (ICP)to help you identify and connect with target accounts and potential buyers. Besides your total addressable market (TAM), you need comprehensive contact profiles (e.g., with email addresses and direct phone numbers), along with prospecting insights about buyer personas (think academic and employment history, industry honors, professional certifications, and media coverage).
“Choose market intelligence solutions that integrate with other elements of your sales and marketing technology stack, including CRM, marketing automation software, and sales automation tools.” – Hila Nir, 4 Steps to a Sales-Boosting Account-Based Marketing Program, Sales & Marketing Management; Twitter: @ZoomInfo
- Embrace the value of technology to reduce dead time. “Whether we choose to adopt it or choose to resist it, technology reveals just how much dead time occupies our work flow.
“Consider the experience of a hard-working seller I know who works for a large medical-device company that chooses to not invest in technology for their sales team. She spends some eight hours a day on the road daily to complete a minimum of seven face-to-face meetings. That’s up 10% from last year. And her targets just went up by 20%! No CRM or contracts authorizations, on the road, pricing authorizations are done by an unreliable VPN connection. All paperwork is in hard copy, requiring manual signatures.
“Without technology, each transaction is riddled with speedbumps—dead time—where she’s unable to add anything to her sales velocity. The risks are huge: high staff turnover, low morale and a questionable level of loyalty from customers who eventually discover they can get a better experience from tech-enabled competitors.
“Do not underestimate the influence that technology is already having on sales. It has passed the threshold of being an essential component of how business is done. It’s not an option anymore. The important part of technology’s influence on this profession is a story is still being written. It’s transforming expectations and our opportunities, creating more alive time and diminishing dead time. These are changes that we must welcome, embrace and foster everywhere. Welcome to the future of sales.” – Colleen Francis, The role of tech in the future of sales? It’s even bigger than you think…, Engage Selling; Twitter: @EngageColleen
- Data empowers sales to reallocate sales efforts, avoiding wasting valuable selling time on prospects unlikely to convert. “Smart sales teams use data to find predictable, high-impact patterns for sales success. To do this, they dive deep into their analytics. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. ‘While many teams have basic metrics to determine rep performance, most aren’t tapping into data to determine which prospects they should spend time on, or how to enhance existing customer relationships,’ business journalist Lauren Horwitzhas written.
“Indeed, some salespeople fall into the trap of treating all leads equally. This occurs even when there is clear data indicating that the majority of their time is being wasted on contacts that may never convert.
“A 2014 survey from Implisit found that leads from customer and employee referrals converted 3.63 percent of the time for the study sample, compared to website leads, which had a 1.55 percent conversion rate. Webinar leads, meanwhile, converted at a meager 0.44 percent rate. In this instance, the data showed that sales organizations should allocate more time toward sourcing, engaging and nurturing referrals from customers and employees.” – Danny Wong, The Hidden Advantages Data-Driven Sales Teams Have, Entreprenuer; Twitter: @dannywong1190
- A win-loss analysis is a valuable source of data. “Another good source of data is win/loss sales analyses. Look through your database to find customers you recently lost and prospects who either decided not to buy or defected to the competition. Also, find some deals you’ve just landed. Interview them to discover why they came aboard or chose another direction.
“Don’t cut corners and rely on salespeople for this information. When they’re focused on winning a sale, it’s easy for them to lose sight of potential flaws in the sales process. You need to understand what blocked a sale and the ingredients that moved another across the finish line.
“To gain such insights, you need an external researcher to interview your customers and prospects. They’re more likely to put your customers at ease than a professional they dealt with in the buying process. Also, because they don’t have an emotional investment in the sale, they’re more inclined to ask the right questions and extract the real story.” – Sabrina Ferraioli, Customer Centric Selling: The #1 B2B Sales and Marketing Trend in 2017, 3D2B; Twitter: @3D2B
- Calculate your customer loss index to find out how much losing a customer really costs the business. “The cost of losing a customer differs wildly between businesses so you need to calculate your own ‘customer loss index’. Here’s how.
“First, interrogate your sales data to identify customers who have broken their usual spending pattern, either by stopping spending altogether or by significantly reducing spend.
“The next step is to invite these customers to a short survey which asks them why they’ve stopped spending or have been spending less. There could be many reasons. Perhaps demand for their products has decreased, maybe innovations in their business mean that they now need less of what you sell, or it could be that they’ve started buying elsewhere. Only the latter category – those who have defected to a competitor – are of interest as they represent lost sales.
“Now go back to your sales data, pull out those customers who identified themselves as ‘defectors’ and look at how much their spend as a group has decreased over the relevant period (the length of this depends on your sales cycle). Then divide the value of lost spend by the number of defectors to calculate the average lost spend per customer.
“To complete the picture, the cost of acquiring a replacement customer needs to be added to this. This can be calculated by adding up all of your acquisition costs (sales and marketing spend) and dividing this by the number of new customers acquired during the relevant period.
- AI won’t displace sales reps; it often creates a need for new hires to handle the increase in lead volume. “There are many tools available to help sales teams be more effective. But AI doesn’t compete with other sales tools — it competes with the status quo, because lead generation, lead engagement, and sales have been done the same way for decades. Sometimes organizations don’t understand that better ways of doing things exist, and some fear that AI can create job displacement. Yet ironically, early adopters of AI in sales have found the contrary, often having to actually increase the number of sales-related hires in order to handle the increased flow of qualified leads.
“Soon, using AI to manage inbound leads will be commonplace and have much broader business implications. The Harvard Business Review quotes Gartner’s prediction that, by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human at all. The most important advice for any organization not already planning to deploy AI is to do something. Sales is usually the best place to start, given the 5.6M non-retail salespeople in the U.S. and the poor lead follow-up in many organizations today. The result will be greater sales and marketing effectiveness and efficiency and, ultimately, greater sales.” – Carl Landers, What AI is revealing about the sales process, VentureBeat; Twitter: @lead2rev
- Automation reduces time-consuming paperwork, increasing your sales team’s productivity. “Too much paperwork and administrative tasks cut down on sales productivity. Find ways to automate or delegate such work so you don’t waste time on $15-per-hour tasks or end up chained to your desk by overwork. Check out time-saving text-replacement utilities like shortkeys.com to help you type faster, roboform.com to help you remember passwords, upwork.com to help you outsource low-value administrative duties, and the Google Voice app to type text quickly into your phone.” – Laura Stack, Stop Wasting Time with These Sales Productivity Killers, Salesforce, Quotable; Twitter: @Quotable
- Do leverage data analytics, but take care not to fall into the analysis-paralysis trap. “Second only to perhaps a company’s intranet, nothing has the potential to become work-shopped, unwieldy and never-ending than an organization’s quest to gain a better understanding of their audiences. The first research project is usually the hardest, as everyone seems to come out of the woodwork with ‘one more question’ or data point they’d like to capture. Don’t try to boil the ocean. It’s important to focus on a core set of key insights that everyone can make use of. After the first one’s in the can and everyone has seen the value, you can iterate and go deeper with future research. And do everything you can to avoid splinter or duplicate research by other teams unless there’s a very, very good reason.” – Rob Manne, Five Considerations for B2B Research Success, Edelman; Twitter: @EdelmanPR
- Don’t be the sales leader that fears social selling will disrupt the traditional sales process. “Miles Austin always says that new tools don’t change old rules.
“There isn’t a better statement than this.
“Social infused into your sales process isn’t going to change your current process.
“Think about this real quick. You own a truck you really like. It’s driving like crap. You find out you need new tires. You get new tires on the truck and it’s back to running like it did when you bought it. Did you have to buy a new truck? NO! All you did was add four tires. Same truck… New tires.
“Same concept here. Social Selling is going to complement your current process. You open up new channels, new buyers, more conversations, more opportunities, and even the little things equate to more revenue!” – Jack Kosakowski, 5 Reasons It’s Time Sales Leadership Took Social Selling Seriously, The Creation Agency; Twitter: @JackKosakowski
- Get your sales team in on social media selling. “When most companies think of social media, they think of big brands posting pictures and information on their brand’s Facebook page or other network. But that’s not really what social selling is all about. Social selling is about individuals communicating online, so it makes sense that the things your company is sharing come from individuals, right?
“Creating a place where your sales team can find social media updates ready to post – like Oktopost’s employee advocacy board – will make sure the right messages are getting to the right people from the right people. The Board allows you to feature posts that your social media team has curated and optimized for your audience. Then your sales reps can connect their individual Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook profiles and choose the posts they want to share to their network with a single click.
“By tracking the success of your employee’s individual posts you can identify top contributing employees and help improve sales for your entire organization. Integrating this information with your analytics and CRM platforms is another important step into discovering the complete ROI of your sales and marketing efforts.” – Ben Green, B2B Social Media: 6 Tips for Social Selling Strategy, Oktopost; Twitter: @Oktopost
- Appoint enthusiastic early adopters to champion social selling initiatives. “The reality is that by embracing social selling, you’re challenging traditional sales methods. And that always surfaces some resistance, particularly from those who don’t understand social media—let alone the concept of using social media for sales through LinkedIn. So step back and develop a clear internal plan to get everyone on board.
“First, recruit an Executive Sponsor to drive your program forward. Ideally this will be a Senior Executive at the VP level. After all, the initial communication about implementing the program will carry more weight if it comes from the top. Second, make sure that everyone impacted by your social media program understands why social selling is being adopted.” – The Sales Manager’s Guide to Driving Adoption and Revenue, LinkedIn; Twitter: @linkedinselling
- B2B decision makers are using social media during the workday, and so should you. “Gone are the days when companies don’t allow social media during work hours. Today, decision-makers are on social networks all the time. 84% of B2B C-level/Vice Presidents use them to make purchasing decisions. If you’re part of this group and still yet not on social, here are two super-easy ways to get started.
“Number one, be on LinkedIn. You yourselves have to be online and have to have some decent level of social activity. This means that every executive on your team needs to have a proper, spruced-up, modern, buyer-centric LinkedIn profile.
“Number two, be on Twitter. Many people are saying Twitter is dying. I somewhat disagree. Twitter a great medium to share and gain insights with a hyper-connected network of like-minded people.
“These two social networking platforms should be the bare minimum of B2B operation.
“You need to have all executives on your team, and I would argue on your board, active on LinkedIn and Twitter, sharing content regularly. Why? Because content sparks conversations.” – Amar Sheth, 13 Clear-Cut KPIs for #TeamRevenue to Measure Social Activity, SalesforLife; Twitter: @MySales4Life
- You need a social selling methodology. “Social selling is not a mythical creature. Social selling is not just a buzzword. Leveraging social media as a sales professional is ultimately going to make the difference in your career. Either you’re in an industry like Tech where social networks are already being used heavily or you are in a more traditional industry where social networks have not caught up yet. Either way you either have to be involved with some type of a social selling methodology because it’s the norm or you have an opportunity to get ahead of the competition by diving in now.
- In social selling, content + context + challenge = engagement. “OK, so if you thought you were done with complex math equations when you decided to start a career in sales you may have to break out your old 7th grade math book.
- Content: this is what the prospect has either written or shared in LinkedIn/Twitter. It could come in the form of an article, a video, an infographic, or an image. People who post their own content in social channels are just dying for people to engage with that content (this coming from someone who posts a lot in social). And people who share or comment on content in social are just waiting for people to say, “I agree” or better yet, “I disagree”.
- Context: This is where you really earn your stripes in a social interaction. Providing context proves that you actually read and thought about the content the prospect posted. For example— “This is a great post, Mary. I especially liked the part where you discussed …”. Boom—actual proof you have an interest that goes beyond starting a sales cycle with your prospect.
- Challenge: Now, the most difficult and most effective part of this kind of social selling is what we call ‘the challenge’. It goes something like this—‘Based on your post, have you ever considered …’ Some people will argue this kills the whole interaction, but I disagree. Being baited and switched never feels good. I’m not recommending that. If your prospect chooses to engage with you because she thinks she is going to have a spirited discussion about a specific subject matter and you start talking about a demo, that’s no good. However, if your prospect finds your challenge interesting, you’ve just created a relationship and most importantly, a sales cycle. The ITSMA, found that 75% of executives were willing to respond to unsolicited outreach if that outreach contained ideas that helped them progress their business—so try it.” – Matt Amundson, The Social Selling Strategy That’s Generating 2X Connection Rates That You Haven’t Heard of Yet, LinkedIn; Twitter: @mattya56
- Social selling can be powerful, but it’s best when paired with predictive data intelligence. “Equally important to social selling is the ability to measure it, to quantify the value of your social selling. When discussing measuring, Paul Albright, CEO & Co-Founder, Captora explained that ‘sales feedback should be continuous – daily activity, sales pipeline development results, opportunity to-bookings conversion rate, sales cycle for each deal, and average sales cycle across sales’ deals.’ It’s all well and good to have a robust network of contacts, but if the network itself isn’t working for you by providing fruitful insights into whom to contact, then your network is lying fallow. It’s not producing the kinds of information from sales metrics that you need. That’s where solutions can help by using predictive data intelligence to score and prioritize your leads.
“With the advent of social selling came powerful new measuring and predicting engines, which help social selling to take root in the world of B2B sales. Digital communication strengthened one-on-one relationships by enabling more frequent and meaningful communication. This is in addition to predictive lead scoring and analytical insights provided by companies who have elevated predictive sales analytics to a science.” – Senraj Soundar, Social Selling and Predictive Analytics for Sales, Business 2 Community; Twitter: @ConnectLeader
- Find “customer watering holes.” “This is the first (and arguably, the most important) thing you need to do. Colleen Francis, a sales guru and president of Engage Sellingsays, ‘Social media is a smart selling tool only if your clients and prospects are using social media. It’s a huge waste of your time if your clients are spending their time elsewhere.’ The message is loud and clear – be where your prospects are most likely to be.
Now comes the big question – how can your sales people find the watering holes in the first place? You need to consider two major aspects when you search.
- Your buyer personas
- Nature of your products
“Your target buyer personas are a great way to find where your prospective buyers are likely to spend their time on the Internet. For instance, if your target customer is a chemical engineer, there is a good chance that you will find him in groups such as IChemE (Institution of Chemical Engineers).
“Coming to the nature of the product, Francis believes that LinkedIn is the ideal platform to connect with potential customers of B2B products and services, while Facebook and Instagram can be very useful in finding B2C buyers.” – RK Prasad, Selling to a Highly Informed Customer? Here’s what you can do…, CustomerThink; Twitter: @customerthink
Targeting and Selling to Your Ideal Customer
Refining Your B2B Sales Strategy
Strategic B2B Sales Leadership
Setting Sales and Sales Development Up for Success
Sales Data, Technology, and Automation
Social Selling Strategy