Last week, I joined a dozen or so sellers in a #SalesInsiders chat on “Closing more business by year-end.” I wanted to share some of the great ideas that came out of that conversation.
More business - less discounting
- Upsell the deals you were going to close anyway. If you have a great relationship and you know the deal is going to close, ask if there is any budget they need to spend by year-end. Before you ask, make sure you have a product/solution in mind for them to spend it on.
- Use your Executives to call prospect Execs to get a deeper sense of the deal and what can be done to close it by year-end. That is what your executive management team is there for. They are a resource for you - use them. (h/t to Jonathan London on these)
Last month a Sales Manager who had recently downloaded our Inside Sales research report sent me this note:
I saw in your report, that 69% of Managers aren’t hitting the target of 3-5 coaching hours per rep per month. Guilty as charged.
If you’ve read this blog for any period of time, you know my thoughts on Sales Reps using email as the primary vehicle for communicating with buyers.
Not only can too many things go wrong (as you'll see below), but in reality a sale doesn’t start until someone has a conversation.
A colleague of mine, let’s call him Nick, sent me the following:
Trish – since I’ve seen some of your posts on ‘how NOT to do a cold call’ and related sales silliness, I thought I would pass this along. Here’s an example of a horrible sales experience with me as the buyer.
I thought this story might make good fodder for a post stressing the importance of qualifying, when live conversations make sense, and how to screw up a deal with email.
Here’s the email exchange
Nick replied that it was premature to judge fit a) before he had a chance to learn about the product and b) before the Sales Rep understood his needs, budget, etc.
Where did this all go awry?
Sales Rep’s first email:
- The good: He started out well, offering a demo and suggesting a conversation to ensure fit.
- The bad: He did no pre-call planning. If he had, he may have identified his concerns earlier and perhaps offered just an initial conversation - saving the demo for later in the sales process.
Sales Rep’s second email:
We just published our 2012 Inside Sales for SaaS Metrics & Compensation Report. Just under 200 technology companies participated and we compiled 26 pages of data, insight & ideas.
For those of you who don’t have the time or energy to read the full report (and I hope you find both at some point), I thought I’d put together a few highlights.
- Marketing delivers a higher percentage of pipeline for SaaS (57%) vs. non-SaaS (38%) companies.
SaaS Marketing groups contributed 50% more pipeline than their non-SaaS counterparts. This suggests, and anecdotal evidence supports, that strong and consistent “air cover” from the marketing organization is a critical success factor in the SaaS world. (pg. 6)
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- A third of SaaS sales groups either do not assign territories or use round-robin assignment.
Combined, Round-robin and No Territories accounted for 33% of responses - not an insignificant share. We took a closer look and noticed that, almost exclusively, those particular groups have the vast majority of their pipeline sourced by Marketing. (pg. 7)
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This post from Yesware CEO Matthew Bellows had me nodding in agreement the other day - Stop Guesstimating Your Sales Forecasts. In fact, this line had me shaking my fist at the fates:
The second reason for the sales manager's pain is that when it comes to gathering data about upcoming sales possibilities, companies and CRM systems rarely measure anything real. For most kinds of business- to-business selling, your CRM database is an outdated collection of anecdotes and guesses. The fewer the deals, and the longer the sales cycle, the less your "data" matches reality.
The stuff that does get accumulated in spreadsheets and CRM systems looks like data — there are dollar signs and probabilities next to prospect names — but it's not. It's really just the opinions, guesses, estimates and suppositions of your sales team.
Now that I’m reading Nate Silver’s new book about how even the best, brightest & most confident ‘experts’ are equally terrible at forecasting, I’m ready to open up my window and belt out a good old-fashioned “I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!”
A True Story
Just last week, a client asked me to help them calibrate the probabilities of their sales stages. It sounded like fun. I mean aren’t you curious about your own ‘Stage 2 – 50%’ opportunities? Of all the opps that reach that stage, are you really closing 1 out of 2?
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you, this Inside Sales hiring market is on fire. Companies are cannibalizing each other’s Reps with top-tier candidates pretty much sitting on a Lazy Susan and waiting to be served up to the next highest bidder.
Clients are constantly asking me, “How do we compete? What can we do to recruit A-players?”
Here’s my response, “If you want the best Reps, make a strategic investment in your front-line sales managers.”
The ever-wise Tom Peters shares:
The evidence is clear: Employee satisfaction and like variables are significantly, even overwhelmingly, linked to the employee's relationship with her or his first-line manager.
If you are evaluating candidates, here are 8 Inside Sales Manager interview questions that will tell you a great deal about your candidate.
Theme A: Orientation & Approach
1) “At your current/last company, who did you sell to?”
They need to be able to tell you, very specifically, what their ideal customer profile looks like. It’s a red flag if they respond with “Fortune 500” or “we’re a horizontal play.” Good sounds like “B2B software companies with between $25-250M in revenues and our primary buyers include the COO, VP of IT and the VP of Sales Operations.”
The more specific, the better. Rifles, people - not shotguns.
Now that football season is upon us, I was thinking back to 3 days in April: the 2012 NFL Draft.
My husband is a huge football fan, former player and current fantasy team ‘owner.’ As you can imagine, the NFL draft is an event that is revered (by him) and dreaded (by me).
I'm no huge fan of football, but I do love the game of sales. So I thought I'd have a little fun by drawing some parallels.
The Scouting Combine
This is like a job fair on steroids. Team execs, coaches & medical staff evaluate and assess top prospects. When you think about it, it closely mirrors the hiring process.
Players present their athletic & medical history (think resumes), then participate in physical, psychological & IQ tests (think role plays, behavioral & skill assessments), then interview with the teams and complete a medical exam (think background check).
The best teams have a collaborative, rigorous, numbers-backed process for finding their ideal players. These organizations believe you get back what you put in to this process. Can you say the same about hiring at your organization?
I'm always excited to speak with senior B2B execs that really get both sides of the revenue coin (meaning sales & marketing). From time to time, I’ll interview such an Executive and bring you their perspective.
Today, I am with Keith Nealon, Chief Revenue Officer of M5 Networks, a provider of cloud-based business phone systems.
I’ve known Keith for a number of years as he has built, led and scaled winning B2B organizations.
Trish: Keith, you’ve mentioned that the integration of sales and marketing is critically important now more than ever. What makes you say that?
Keith: Three main reasons. First, buying has changed. It used to be marketing’s job was really about creating awareness and sales would create opportunities. That has been changing. Since buyers do more online before talking to sales, if they ever do, marketing plays more of a lead gen and intelligence gathering role in partnership with sales. Sales also needs marketing’s help deeper in the funnel to differentiate their solutions and manage their volume of opportunities.
Second, it’s easier than ever to measure literally everything across the customer buying cycle. That data needs to be shared and reacted to in real-time, bi-directionally across both groups.
Finally, market conditions change rapidly with most industries being up-ended by disruptive technology, or the barrier to entry being low by the use of SaaS technologies, so we need the factors and the people that drive our revenue funnels to respond faster to these dynamic conditions.
Trish: What are some challenges you’ve seen in the past from having sales and marketing separated?
Keith: There is often misalignment over what constitutes a lead or there might be no standardization on how to process and distribute leads. Essentially, the efforts of both departments are not oriented to a single goal and set of metrics.
We recently published our 2012 LeadGen Metrics & Compensation Report. Just under 200 technology companies participated and we compiled 20 pages of data, insight & ideas.
For those of you who don’t have the time or energy to read the full report (and I hope you find both at some point), I thought I’d assemble a few snippets for you.
- Did you know that 70% of LeadGen groups now report to sales? Major swing in that direction!
But those groups heavily focused on inbound qualification are more likely to report to Marketing. (pg. 5) Tweet this stat –or- Share on LinkedIn
- The percentage of Companies hiring LeadGen reps with less than 1 yr of experience has doubled from '10 to '12. Good news recent grads!
The hiring landscape has certainly changed. Hiring for experience in lead gen roles is no easy feat and average experience at hire has dropped from 2.5 to 2 years. (pg. 8) Tweet this stat –or- Share on LinkedIn
- It takes an average of 3.1 months for a LeadGen rep to ramp to full productivity. Sales-led groups ramp faster.
Counter intuitively, we found that inbound-focused reps have a longer average ramp than outbound reps – 4 months vs. 2.9. (pg. 8) Tweet this stat –or- Share on LinkedIn
It's official! Our 2012 Inside Sales Metrics & Compensation Report is now available. This report is focused on the inside sales (closing business) model.
Our fourth report since 2007, this year we tried something a little different. We asked survey participants:
How has managing inside sales changed in recent years?
Below, I've shared a few responses that really resonated with me.
A Shift In Management / Measurement
- Inside Sales has changed from purely results driven, to metrics/efficiency driven, to a best blend of the two.
- Managers have less and less time to work with their reps on managing their pipeline as they are overwhelmed with internal meetings and paperwork.
Buyers Have Changed
- Customers are more informed and there is much more competition. More time than ever before has to be allocated to training reps on how to quickly and effectively demonstrate differentiation.
- There’s less focus on "dialing for dollars" and more focus on "making the right calls". While cold calling/prospecting is necessary to succeed, it’s also important to know why you're calling.
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