March 19, 2010
Recently I broke bread with good friend and CEO of Plan2Win Software, Steve Harper. As we commonly do, Steve and I discussed his New Orleans Saints, my New England Patriots, Religion, Politics, and all things Sales. On this particular day I was grinding my “Sales-Cycle-Axe”, when Steve kindly interrupted and asked; “Why do you still refer to it as a Sales Cycle?” Apparently I looked at him in amazement as he continued, “With all of the information available today to any consumer, prosumer, or B-to-B buyer, they drive the process, not you – it’s a Buying Cycle – get it?”
Steve continued to enlighten me, and for more of his wisdom I would direct you to his Blog at www.territoryplan.com. The result of that discussion lead me to produce this series of papers on Sales 2.0 Basics.
-- Tom Scontras, VP, Sales & Marketing, Glance Networks
Moving from Sales 1.0 to Sales 2.0
One of the greatest benefits of the Sales 2.0 era is the lead quality produced by social networks and related marketing programs. Yet old attitudes and inadequate processes for prospecting are keeping many sales organizations from taking advantage of this bounty.
Like a hangover from the old days, a misperception that marketing leads stink continues to linger.
These Sales professionals face prospecting with about as much enthusiasm as doing their taxes. They don’t like it. They don’t do it. Or if they have to, they do it poorly for lack of practice.
In his book, Baseline Selling, author Dave Kurlan says that 60 percent of sales pros are not prospecting consistently, and 50 percent don’t prospect at all.
This learned response needs to be unlearned because unlike the Sales 1.0 days when 500 leads from your tradeshow booth turned into 499 people simply seeking your free-pen giveaway, today’s lead gen technologies when combined with the use of sales 2.0 tools yield a high percentage of qualified conversations with prospects genuinely interested in your product.
No longer are we relegated to tchotchke seekers, nor some random name purchased from a list. Instead, today we have incredible insight into our prospects world, and vice-versa!
In fact if a lead is “inbound” there is a high likelihood that they have approved budgets, done their research, checked out your Website, and decided to evaluate your (or your competitor’s) product/service on their own.
Moreover, with the rapid growth of today’s social networks: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter; many have been educated on your solution thru their own social/business network of trusted advisors, and very possible, unbeknownst to you, your own customers.
The bottom line: buyers habits and process have evolved exponentially, hence so must your selling efforts.
Today, more than ever, first calls, inbound or out, must be treated as the most critical step in the sales cycle. And to this end, any good prospecting program should have a well-defined process, integrated tools, and of course, well-executed technique.
It is critical to understand the “sales engagement model” (i.e. timing and frequency) which naturally occurs within your given market segment. All marketing and sales programs should conform within the natural ebb and flow of the segment into which you sell.
For example, a customer who provides contact information in exchange for a free 7 day trial which cost $19.99 per month, understands that they have seven days to try the service, and along with the contact information submitted, gives permission to be hammered by sales calls and emails in that same period! If you don’t believe this to be true; then tell me why the leading downloader of consumer software is Mickey Mouse?
On the other hand, look at the Enterprise Software Segment -- if these customers self-identify in order to download a white paper reviewing Global ERP Strategy, which costs millions to deploy, their expectations are similar, they will be contacted; but not every day for the next seven days; and whatever the channel, the communication will be respectful of time, and consultative in approach.
It is critical that Marketing and Sales Organizations thoroughly understands these “engagement cultures” prior to design and execution of any prospecting, nurturing or support practice.
Although within this paper, we discuss great selling tools, all are useless if deployed into a process that does not understand how to deliver the right message, to the right people, at the right time. However, once the variables of this equation are balanced, the sky is the limit!
Make the First Call Count to Increase Probability of Success
Regardless if B2B or B2C, these days, making the first call count is critical.
The good news is that if the prospect is an inbound lead, or a trial download (like those mentioned above), there will be some existing mindshare. So it’s highly likely that he or she will be receptive to your call, but only if on the phone you engage them instantly, intelligently and efficiently.
Even if with pure cold calling, having a process supported by key sales 2.0 tools will greatly increase your first call win rate.
The prospecting process has never begun with dialing the digits; and today its borderline insane to call anyone without gathering customer intelligence first. In fact, never before have sales professionals been able to assemble so much information about a client in so little time. But it can be both a blessing and curse.
By combining Sales 2.0 tools such as HubSpot for lead gen with InsideView for sales intelligence, not only are sales professionals served up quality leads, but an abundance of details about those leads. Leveraging these technologies greatly increases the probability of success on first calls.
In the “old days”, prospecting was a two-step process. First, get a connection. Second, get the “appointment”. More likely than not, that appointment would end up delayed for weeks, or canceled. Now, using Sales 2.0 call engagement tools like Connect and Sell, and Glance, that two-step process can be converged into one, and weeks of sales “hang time” compressed into less than an hour.
However, given the typical “shiny-object” personas of aggressive callers, Sales Reps can easily succumb to spending too much time researching at the expense of getting through their daily phone list and accomplishing a clear and simple goal.
Therefore it’s essential that clear parameters are established for this reconnaissance step. Requirements should be designed with your first call objective in mind. In other words, develop a process that gathers just enough customer intelligence without sacrificing focus, productivity and results.
Develop the Right Skills
Even the best prospecting process and most advanced Sales 2.0 technologies won’t actually make the phone calls for you. So it’s imperative that you have clear scripts, a common sales methodology, and right skills to make a big impact.
To make the first call count, you need to be knowledgeable about the prospect, and be well prepared. It’s critical to create and practice scripts for each outbound and inbound call in your process.
Don’t let the scripts turn you into a robo-caller. Instead, they should provide an outline that guides you toward an end objective, such as scheduling a deeper dive, or introduction to key influencers or decision makers. Rather than pepper the prospect with questions or feature dump on products, scripts should foster value-based conservations which deliver on the old customer adage “what’s in it for me” (WIFM).
Sales organizations should also adopt a specific sales methodology (Spin, Sandler Sales, Solution Selling, Miller-Heiman, etc.) in order to become most effective with skill development across the entire sales cycle.
These training programs are often overlooked by know-it-all sales managers who believe that they already have all of the skills necessary to deliver a win for the company.
Top producers however see the value of training via these proven systems, and always make it a point to implement them.
Much like you would imagine that Lance Armstrong, 7 time Tour de France winner, wouldn’t need a program (how hard can it be to ride a bike, right?) Yet, not only does he have a program, he has a personal trainer, and a coach!
Which brings me to my final point: Hire an outside consultant to deliver this training (like Steve Harper at Plan2Win, or Trish Bertuzzi at The Bridge Group). Sure, there’s no doubt you know your organization and solution best; but they know how to advance the skills of your team.
A top consultant is well versed in managing “Sales Excuse Makers” and getting to real issues. They carry neither emotional involvement nor personal relationship within your business, hence you can empower them to make clear assessments and give direction without pre-existing conditions getting in the way.
But most importantly they bring a perspective from working with hundreds of Sales Organizations who have faced the same challenges, built solutions, and delivered results time and time again.
Gone are the days of long sales cycles, supported by hundreds of outside sales reps. Today, the cycles are shorter and the focus is on inside sales teams working with extremely educated, and well qualified, prospects. That’s why it’s all the more important that your prospecting process incorporates these three key items: a well-defined prospecting process, the right blend of systems, and skilled techniques.
With this, you can greatly improve your prospecting effectiveness and efficiency, resulting in increased conversion rates and significant cost reductions.
About Glance Networks
Glance is a simple, quick-connecting screen-sharing tool designed to help sales pros maximize every conversation within all steps of the sales cycle; prospect, demo, close and support. The Arlington, Mass.-based Company’s technology is used by thousands of companies worldwide. For more information, or to sign up for a free, 7-day trial, visit www.glance.net or call 1-888-945-2623.