Strategy fuels a successful sales team.
Sourcing leads and developing opportunities takes time. Sales professionals are learning to be more strategic so that efforts yield more results.
Sales productivity requires focusing on the accounts activities, and resources that are most effective in advancing the sale. This drive toward efficiency has led many sales professionals to adopt increasingly sophisticated analytics tools. The global CRM market continues to show signs of growth thanks to this trend. While today’s CRM systems offer a host of capabilities, sales organizations still strive to balance process orientation with meaningful customer interaction that not only “checks the box,” but also wins the sale.
The answer to this challenge is to become strategic about using information that’s readily available. Here, we look at how sales professionals can make their efforts more impactful.
Build upon previous wins
Research shows that it is anywhere from 5-25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Moreover, increasing customer retention by just five percent increases profits by 25 to 95 percent, according to the same body of research. These findings illustrate the value of identifying the white space within an existing account. In doing so, sales professionals create opportunities by positioning solutions that align with the customer’s goals, challenges and initiatives.
Powerful CRM systems provide the numbers behind sales opportunities but not the needs. By expanding existing relationships, sales professionals have more immediate access to evolving customer needs. Early insight is critical to boosting win rates because 63 percent of COOs and operational executives in one survey cited that understanding customer needs is a significant challenge.
Developing existing accounts gives the sales professional early access when the customer’s needs and challenges are unfolding. As a result, acquisition costs fall. Deals move through the pipeline faster because the process begins with a clear understanding of the stakeholders and the customer’s decision-making process. These insights are a map. With a clear route, there are fewer wrong turns that delay the process and escalate costs.
Develop skills that accelerate results
Productivity comes from applying the right effort in the right areas. A sales professional has a limited amount of time to devote to various accounts, each with their own probability for success. Therefore, sales leaders need to equip their teams with the skills to accurately identify high-value accounts. The investment is worth the cost. Consider research from McKinsey, which found that nearly half of fast-growth sales organizations spent “significant time and money on sales-force training.”
The value of this training, according to researchers, is that it balances the “what to do” with the “how to do it.” Organizations support sales productivity by helping sales professionals with the tools and assets they need to quickly engage and persuade customers. They remove seller barriers.
Building support for a training initiative, however, is challenging. This challenge stems from both explicit and implied costs of training. Explicit costs are the most obvious. These costs include the expense of training design, development and delivery. Implied costs arise from the burden of taking quota-bearing sales professionals out of the field for training. Measuring the full implied cost means accounting for contribution per sales professional, per day. Implied costs often run at three times or more of explicit costs. While these combined costs can be daunting, the results justify the outlay. The same body of research from McKinsey found that the fast-growth organizations that engaged in training experienced a 25 percent increase in sales productivity across all regions in just 18 months.
Become strategic about prospecting
Like a jet on a runway, a new seller has only so much time before they need to be “wheels up.” Time to productivity measures the length of this runway. When new sales professionals require more time to contribute to the bottom line, the productivity and profitability of the entire sales team diminishes. Reducing time to productivity requires smart, strategic prospecting.
Sourcing viable leads is time consuming and expensive. With a strategic approach, sales professionals can reduce churning and connect with better leads in a shorter amount of time. Doing so means adopting a customer-centric perspective. The key is to have meaningful conversations, not just more conversations. Sales professionals can do so by articulating the relevancy of their solution. This approach starts with a discussion of previous successes within the same industry, demonstrating transferable results.
Be direct. Sales professionals need to be specific when explaining how their capabilities connect with the customer’s business. Forming a meaningful connection with the first contact is critical because sales professionals will likely need to uptier. Uptiering requires the sales professional to reach senior-level stakeholders and build credibility within an expanded group. Why is uptiering necessary? Because increasingly, buying decision comes from groups, not individuals.
Putting it all together
There are limitless tools available to sales professionals but not limitless hours. Sales professionals have greater access to information than ever before. The key to driving productivity is knowing how to overlay a repeatable strategy so the right data is used in the right way. Doing so means:
- Capitalizing on previous wins by expanding existing relationships and growing into the customer’s white space
- Investing in training that illustrates what sales professionals need to do and how to do it
- Engineering better outcomes with a focus on starting better in the prospecting phase
With strategy comes engagement. With engagement comes results. As Gallup found, engagement “is strongly connected to business outcomes essential to an organization's financial success, including productivity, profitability, and customer engagement.”