Though sales has become undeniably harder over the past decade, it isn’t fair to place the entire blame on increased competition and noisier marketplaces. Based on data gathered by Propeller, our practices as salespeople leave something to be desired as well:
- The average sales rep spends 25 hours per month leaving voicemail messages, yet only 2% of cold calls result in an appointment.
- 91% of customers say they'd give referrals, but only 11% of salespeople ask for referrals.
- 80% of sales require five follow-ups after the initial contact, yet 44% give up after one follow-up.
And really, I get it. In my work with sales teams, I’ve met so many salespeople who feel like they’re being squeezed on both ends - by higher quota expectations from management on one side and diminished interest from prospects on the other.
The solution isn’t necessarily adding channels or increasing volume. It may be that all it’ll take to remain competitive in today’s shifting marketplace is simply making your sales process smarter.
Use Chatbots to Handle Initial Engagement
Much has been written about the application of chatbots to customer service needs, but their potential applications in the sales process are even more powerful.
Rachel Wolfson, Venture Beat contributor, reports that Facebook Messenger bots are being used to drive sales revenue for B2C companies like Sephora, SnapTravel and Tommy Hilfiger.
But they have a role to play in longer B2B sales cycles as well. According to Samuel Koh, founder and creator of Headquarter.io and Heartzmail.com, chatbots will eventually handle the legwork of early sales engagements. In an article for Medium, he explains the benefits of having chatbots answer initial “basic knowledge” questions:
“In this case, you are augmented by a very good assistant. You have an agent who can speak on your behalf, even to a thousand people all at the same time. It’s a task better left to machines, not humans. And when a prospect is comfortable enough to seek deeper advise, the communication handle can be passed on to you.”
When engaged correctly, chatbots can essentially prequalify your leads for you, passing on only those that are ready for higher-level sales conversations.
Split Test Your Cold Sales Emails
Despite resistance to cold sales messages and the potential of automation tools like chatbots, cold sales emails are likely to remain the “bread and butter” of many sales reps for the foreseeable future. But just because something is a necessary evil doesn’t mean it can’t be optimized.
In the case of cold sales emails, that means continually split testing your messages to ensure they’re as effective as possible. Some tools - like Hubspot and AgileCRM - offer A/B testing as a built-in capability. If your program doesn’t, use the process described by Steli Efti to manually segment your cold emails based on response in order to gain the same quantitative and qualitative data offered by split testing. In any case, you shouldn’t be sending cold emails straight from your email. Use a tool like Mailshake to send mass personalized cold email and manage responses.
Use Software to Automate Your Quotes
Once you have interested prospects on the hook, don’t make them wait while you manually build a custom quote or proposal.
Capitalize on their interest immediately with a smart quote software program like Pandadoc that ties into your CRM, offers template-based functionality, enables quick e-signing and provides you with the quote analytics needed to further refine your sales process.
Nurture Leads with Marketing Automation Workflows
More MQLs generally leads to more SQLs and sales, which is why any conversation about making sales smarter has to touch on marketing’s impact. And in this case, it’s marketing automation programs that deserve recognition for their ability to nurture the right leads to the point of sales readiness.
Marketing automation programs represent “a category of technology that allows companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows, so they can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster,” according to Marketo.
In practice, CMO.com shares that “Marketing automation drives a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead.” Further data from Ehsan Jahandarpour and Brian Downard finds that “Businesses who show visitors personalized offers and content based on their past browsing and shopping history see an average increase in 20% of sales.”
Adoption of these programs is speeding up, potentially putting the sales teams of companies that aren’t using them at a disadvantage. To benefit from greater access to qualified leads, however, later adopters will need to overcome existing disconnects between sales and marketing, which are a significant barrier to adoption of marketing automation.
Use Sales Analytics Tools to Identify Funnel Gaps
Finally, if you’re ready to go all-in on making your sales process smarter, look to new sales analytics programs that offer data on all stages of your sales funnel’s operation to enhance performance.
Dozens of different solutions exist, encompassing features including:
- The ability to visualize (and, theoretically remove) bottlenecks in your sales pipeline
- The ability to predict the future performance of individual leads, based on past data
- Performance statistics for individual sales team members - as well as the team as a whole - for coaching and quota-setting purposes
InsightSquared, 6Sense and DataHug are all good places to start, but no matter which tool you choose, expect to invest significant time up front setting up your system and onboarding team members. The complexity of these systems can make initial integrations confusing and time-intensive, but their ability to make your sales process smarter is unparalleled.
What other tools, systems or processes are you using to increase the effectiveness of your sales process? Leave me a note sharing your suggestions below: