Sales teams know the importance of sales and marketing alignment, catching the attention of prospects with engaging content, and creating a frictionless experience during each stage of the buyer journey. But are they to deploy strategies that enable closing more sales?
In this piece, we’ll dive into:
The state of sales systems and processes
Common bottlenecks and pain points
Real life strategies to close more sales
The Current Sales System
When it comes to sales pipeline and sales performance management, the overwhelming emphasis on the final or ‘closing’ stage often creates blind spots for full-cycle optimization. It’s vital to closely analyze each moment in the buyer journey to identify where people are falling off, where people are converting, and any other successes/failures. By identifying these moments in your sales process, you can break down hurdles and optimize successful strategies.
There are hundreds of tools that claim to help with your sales; from deal tracking software to digital document tools, it can be easy to think these things are crucial for your sales process. But are these tools actually making us better at sales?
The Miller Heiman Group reported that “while sales technology investments are going up, sales results continue to decline.” Their 2017 World-Class Practice Study also found that from 2012 - 2016, quota attainment had dropped from 63% to 53%.
Far from helping your sales process, investment in new tools and technology may actually be hurting it.
Looking specifically at B2B sales operations, customers have more power today than ever before. According to Gartner, “today's customers spend around two-thirds of any B2B buying journey gathering, processing and de-conflicting information” and the majority of this learning happens without any sales rep involvement. This puts an emphasis on case studies, white papers, ROI reports and any other educational collateral that the customer is able to spend time with on their own.
So if your team isn’t optimizing the full pipeline, sales technology doesn’t work, and customers are spending more decision time on their own - what can you do to move the needle in the right direction?
First, pay attention to these common bottlenecks when building out your pipeline and start developing creative strategies that fit with your current sales processes.
Bottlenecks & Pain Points:
Not recognizing pitfalls in earlier stages of the buyer journey (are you consistently failing to schedule that coveted second call?)
Implementing sales enablement tools that aren’t a good fit
Failing to utilize interactive or interesting content in proposals
Losing your fire, professionalism, or dedication towards the end of a sale
Strategies & Tools for More Consistent Wins
Before the Sales Process:
1. Diligent Training. This is one of the most important stages when building out or reworking your sales process. Have a fleshed out, documented onboarding process ready for new team members. This will help encourage consistency, understanding, and uniformity across sales representatives.
Although there should be an emphasis on early training, make sure individual team members also have access to performance improvement resources. A quick analysis of team members may reveal that an individual is using outdated collateral because of personal preference. Upfront and ongoing training for your sales team will help identify and eliminate these issues.
The Miller Heiman Group also points out that struggles implementing new sales tech may have more to do with training and implementation. “While sales operations teams are responsible for determining which technologies to implement, they often work closely with sales enablement to roll out these technologies in the field and ensure their adoption. Training should be a primary element of any rollout plan.”
2. Accurate Numbers & Benchmarks Do you know what your current sales close rate is? This is obviously a crucial benchmark to keep handy and maintain constant visibility of. Allow your team insight into sales growth or decline and regularly schedule meetings to discuss areas of difficulty or uncertainty. The Houston Chronicle laid out this simple, 3-step process to help sales team calculate that figure:
Count your number of sales leads within a specific time period.
Next, add up the number of successfully closed deals within the same specified time period.
Lastly, take the number of successfully closed deals and divide them by the number of sales leads. Then, multiply that figure by 100 and you’ll have your sales close rate in percentage.
EX: 10 Closed Deals / 50 Sales Leads = .20 x 100 = 20% Sales Close Rate. So your team roughly closes 20% of its sales traffic.
It is also beneficial to see how your sales close rate compares to other companies in the same industry. Check out HubSpot’s Comparison Tool and easily plug in your sales close rate to compare with other stats in the same industry.
3. Business Intelligence Dashboards. A Business Intelligence Dashboard (BID) is an efficient way to maintain a deep understanding of your current sales program. These management tools are is used to track metrics and key data points relevant to various components of your business. Having insights into these key data points will help your sales team more easily identify the pitfalls in your sales pipeline, but also highlight successes or met goals.
Read more about Business Intelligence Dashboards (BIDs) here.
During the Sales Process:
1. Shared & Updated CRM. We’ve all been there - a salesman you’ve already said no to sends you another automated message or you get contacted by a different point of contact at the same company. These annoyances are actually signs of a bigger issue within that company’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform.
If your CRM isn’t constantly and consistently updated, then these situations will negatively affect potential customer relationships. Make sure every interaction is accurately documented within your shared tracking platform to avoid confusion, lost leads, and double outreach.
2. Interactive Content. By making digital content more engaging, you increase the odds of closing a deal. Since your proposal is the final piece of collateral that a lead gets to see before deciding to work with you - why wouldn’t you want to make it beautiful, interesting, and interactive? According to Brian Koehn, Director of Sales at ClientPoint, a deal often goes dark after sending a proposal off. But his organization found "using interactive elements within sales proposals can lead to a ~30% increase in close rates."
Don’t limit yourself to that final step in the buyer’s journey, though - whitepapers, case studies, and any other collateral you use are an opportunity to deploy something interesting, engaging, and impactful as well.
Psstttt... check out Salted Stone and Ceros’ Guide to Interactive Content and learn how to implement interactive content into every stage of the buyer journey.
3. Immediate Value Add Opportunities. You don’t have to waste any time in your sales process to present value. Offer to run a sample report for your prospect, or suggest optimization tips for a landing page. Give them an extended demo to your platform as early as the first call. Why wait to present some of your most important differentiators?
Prepare a templated email for follow ups that include some of your stronger portfolio pieces, case studies, or a services/capabilities deck. This reduces wait time between communications and demonstrates your prowess early in the process. Salted Stone’s Business Development Manager, Adam Zabinsky, also suggests that your team “run audits depending on what their needs are - whether it’s a website redesign, tech support, or social media management, take stock of those channels and provide the client with insights they didn’t have before.”
Full Pipeline Optimization
All of these tactics and strategies ultimately help teams identify and evaluate their end-to-end sales process - finding pitfalls, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.
The sales process can be long and grueling, but you have to stay consistent throughout, optimize for the entire sales pipeline, and incorporate creative strategies into the closing stage. Remember to diligently train team members, vet new sales enablement tools, and present value to potential customers upfront.
Download our Guide to Interactive Content and discover a simple, easy-to-implement approach to moving leads down the pipeline and increase sales close rates.