Boost Opening Your Sales Process with Technology
Updated: May 30
This post on the sales process was originally published on Aug 28, 2017 and updated on Aug 7, 2019.
Here’s a question you need to ask yourself about your sales process: If my salespeople could get in front of more qualified buyers, how much more could they sell?
In all of my training sessions and sales activity over the years, here’s something I’ve noticed:
When it comes to training their salespeople, most companies are product and service heavy, but sales process poor. If you look at the typical training programs a company puts its people through, you’ll see a lot of attention given to product and service education, product positioning, etc. A lot less attention is given to the actual sales process, which involves organization skills, communication skills, and prospecting techniques, to name a few.
Compounding the problem in B2B sales is the fact that the whole sales process has become heavy with contact information.
For example, I once trained two different groups of Senior Account Executives back to back. The first was at the San Francisco 49ers. The second was at the Sacramento Kings. In both instances, we performed an audit to discover where these groups struggled to meet their sales objectives.
Based on their responses, these reps were suffering from what I call "paralysis by analysis". Six out of seven, or a whopping 86%, felt overwhelmed by the amount of information available on their high value contacts.
2 Questions Salespeople Ask the Most About the Start of the Sales Process
As we investigated further, the question I heard most from sales reps had to do with determining what information is most important. Their second biggest question dealt with finding the best tactic for an initial introduction. Members of both sales teams estimated they were spending about 35% of their time sorting through information on prospective accounts. That’s one third of their working day not selling.
In other words, Google and Linkedin had become an information trap for these reps!
The success of your salespeople stems from how they use their time. Now, our 35% estimate is a conservative estimate. And the salespeople in my unscientific survey are senior level account executives. This means we’re looking at a generation of salespeople that build their confidence through acquiring more information. They're looking for an information based "magic bullet" that will give them a competitive advantage. They continue to research prospects because they feel it’s a critical element of their success.
Now don’t get me wrong. Sales research is vital and you’ll hear me talk consistently about salespeople needing to do their homework on their prospects and their prospect's industries to give them the foundation for a strong opening. In fact, most sales managers I talk with recognize that sales research is not busy work.
But at what point does this research stop adding value?
Remember, we hire sales people for profitable action. We acknowledge the hard work, but we worship sales execution.
Identifying Important Information
Let's take a look at those two questions asked by the two sales teams. The first deals with identifying important information.
Here are some sobering facts:
According to Hubspot, B2B data decays at a rate of 2.1% per month, an annualized rate of 22.5% (Hubspot, Data Decay)
According to Hubspot’s latest inbound report, 57% of sales reps spend up to an hour a day on data entry (Hubspot’s State of Inbound).
So from this, we see our salespeople have solved the data decay problem by spending more time updating it!
However, the key to their sales success is efficient use of their time. This means they need to determine the minimum amount of pre-approach information needed for a new opportunity. Then, they can use that information to create their initial introduction.
Creating The Initial Introduction in Your Sales Process
The second question deals with creating the initial introduction.
The following observations are what we found from our experience in contacting high level decision makers during our time running a call center.
Based on roughly 2,000 outbound dials a day made by our call center team:
We found our team members lost momentum at 2 different times during calls to high value contacts:
In the first 7 seconds. This was when they needed to win the prospect’s attention and failed to do so.
At the 20 second mark. This was when they should have had the prospect's interest and they lost it.
When they were on the phone between 45 and 65 seconds with a contact, their success rate was about 40%.
On average, they made about 112 dials to win a meeting for a client’s project.
During a contact campaign, they made about 8 “touches” to a specific contact to get a meeting. These touches involved several media types including (in no specific order):
In a B2B sales environment, they also focused on multiple contacts in each account:
The inside salesperson typically identified the decision maker during the sales call.
Opportunities for Improving the Sales Process
Here are my observation. The initial stage of the sales process has become cumbersome and labor intensive. In our call center work and in our training sessions, we have identified three areas of improvement during the initial phase of the sales process:
Identifying relevant data
Streamlining the sales process
Now, as I said before, obtaining the right data is important. However, I think all of us, sales managers included, are focusing too much on collecting the "right data." As sales leaders, we need to give more attention to creating an effective sales process and developing the right sales talent.
Remember, technology can be our greatest ally or our worst enemy. It has made data prolific, and finding relevant data a problem. It has provided us with numerous communication channels to use, while creating disorganization and numerous distractions. Technology is a great tool for getting insights out of data and communicating at an unprecedented level. However, we can’t rely solely on technology at the expense of the sales process or to replace the skills and abilities of our sales team. We have to use our tech wisely and enhance our people and processes.
Over the next few posts, we’ll focus our attention on what it takes to make the sales opening more engaging and effective.
Should be an exciting ride.
Until then, good selling!
Oh, and one more thing. You can find additional ideas on opening the sales call in Selling is an Away Game, available online at Amazon, fine bookstores, and many Hudson News locations. Get your copy today.