One of the major differences between high-performing sales companies and those that aren't doing so well is the sales strategy. Trust us; it's easy to start a company. As long as you have the desire and little startup funds, you can get the “show” on the road. However, the real work is making profits, growing, and remaining profitable in the company’s field of work.
According to a Harvard business review survey, a structured sales operation is one of the common strategies among top-performing organizations. What’s more, companies that prioritize improving their sales operations and adopt automated CRM tools suited to their field, are among the most successful ones. The question is, how do these high-performing companies effectively optimize the sales process within their operations to close many deals?
Well, you probably won't get many tips from them. That’s like feeding your competitor with your trade secrets. So, it's a good thing you are here. Whether you are a sales manager, data optimization expert, or the head of a sales organization, this article will help you with a few tips on optimizing the company’s sales operation. Perhaps, you don’t even have one? Not to worry. Allow us to assist you. At the end of this article, you’ll know what to do.
Why Optimize Your Sales Process?
There’s a saying that if the use for a thing or process is not known, abuse is almost inevitable. Therefore, before jumping into optimization , let’s look at why any organization should optimize its sales process.
For starters, a sales process is a step-by-step repeatable series of actions that sales reps or teams use to "guide" a prospect from just being a lead to closing the deal. You can also look at it as a deal-closing map that guides your salespeople through the journey of converting leads to satisfied customers.
Once a deal is closed (i.e., the prospect becomes one of the company’s customers or clients), you can then capture their data and the sales cycle begins all over with another prospect.
A “walk in the park,” right? Still, you’d be surprised when we say closing some B2B sales cycles can take between three to six months, to say the least. However, if you can get your sales strategy right, whilst using the right CRM tools , the reward will significantly boost your profits. Check out the following reasons you need to document and optimize your sales process.
1. Higher conversion rates
As we mentioned earlier, your sales process is like a map guiding your sales team to closing a deal. If the map isn’t in the picture or unclear, virtually all your sales reps will learn how to close deals from their colleagues or friends. The downside of this learning approach is that such an operation is non-standardized. Your sales team members may carry out their daily jobs as they see fit. Trust us; it’s a recipe for plummeting revenues in the long run. Therefore, a structured sales path will not only offer a standardized approach but will also lead to higher conversion rates. Look at it this way- with a standard, detailed sales path, the team becomes equally knowledgeable and more efficient. Think about it this way, how fast do you drive at night with your headlights off? Not very. But with them on, you can see where you are going and you can travel faster. Your sales process serves as the headlights for your sales team driving at night!
2. Increased revenue
An increase in revenue becomes inevitable once your conversion rate has increased. Here’s another Harvard business review study. Here we see that B2B sales organizations with structured sales operations recorded nearly a 30% increase in revenue when compared to organizations that don’t engage in optimization or lack an efficient sales path altogether.
3. High-quality prospect
With both a structured and efficient CRM and sales operation in place, you’ll develop a fantastic sales team with improved prospecting skills. Apart from knowing the ins and outs of a sales cycle, working with marketing, targeting high-quality customers, and nurturing them won't be a problem. Altogether, it will translate to a boost in revenue for your organization.
4. Shorter sales cycle
From prospecting to closing, the average sales cycle can be relatively long. As you will see in this article, the sales path has an aspect that helps sales reps quickly identify a "fit" prospect; this will help save time and promote focusing on deals with higher chances of closing.
When Is The Right Time To Optimize the Sales Cycle?
It's understandable if you are having a hard time deciding if now is the right time to optimize. Perhaps, you are making some profits, and you feel complacent with where your revenue sits. Don't let your competitors to outwit you.
There’s no point losing revenue that could conveniently be yours. Therefore, assess your sales team and the current way to close deals. If you notice any of the following, it might be best to start optimizing things.
- You do not like your revenue position.
- Your CRM tools are not leading to desired conversion rates.
- You are turning down potential business because you can't offer personalized services.
- You notice leaks in your sales strategy(e.g., losing closed clients, not converting leads, etc.)
- Your sales reps are having challenges moving prospects through the funnel.
- You notice you are not achieving your sales goals.
How to Map Your Sales Process & Get More Leads
Ideally, an effective sales path should help sales and data professionals capture data and close deals consistently. Meaning, ‘great’ results shouldn’t be a fluke or a “once in a blue moon” occurrence. You can look at it as a deal-closing map that directs your salespeople through the journey of converting leads to satisfied customers. So, the framework should produce results when your sales reps follow the process's design.
Before we jump into the mapping of your sales strategy, you might need to know a few things. The first step is making sure the process is easy to understand (i.e., not too long or easy to forget along the way). Yes, the sales path in different organizations won’t be the same. Some can be collapsed into four steps, while others will be more.
So, it’s okay to adopt whatever works for your organization, bearing in mind the simplicity, effectiveness, repeatability, and ease of understanding. Furthermore, a sales path is combined with using CRM and data management tools, remote selling, and an activity-based selling strategy.
Furthermore, there's a need to train all sales reps on how each step works. This way, each sales rep knows it won't be a good idea to skip a couple of steps whenever they feel like speeding up the process.
Now that you have a good picture of what a sales path is and a rough idea of how to make it effective let's jump right into the map of a typical sales path.
- Prospecting: The first stage is sourcing or prospecting. It involves finding new leads that your sales rep will convert to happy customers. It is the first step in the process and it’s one of the most important. Your sales team needs to make research and prospecting a regular task. Sites like LinkedIn are a good place to source prospects. On LinkedIn, people's profiles and data are clearly visible. So, chances are, you can easily decipher what type of product and service will interest a prospective customer. For example, if you are selling an online work manager software (useful to work-from-home teams), a LinkedIn user with the head of software development profile may be a good prospect as many tech professionals work remotely. Such software may likely be helpful to them in task assigning and organization. Furthermore, you can seek new leads by asking current customers or clients for referrals.
- Connecting or qualifying: After identifying a prospect, the next step is to initiate prospect research . to help decide whether the customer is a good fit or not. This is called qualifying. The second part involves asking making contact and asking qualifying questions that’ll help your sales reps know if a lead is worth pursuing or backing out of. The qualifying step can be done via a telephone call or email. Examples of qualifying questions include:
- What’s your role within your company’s management?
- How large is your sales and marketing team?
- In what capacity do you function daily?
- What are the problems you solve or try to solve in your company?
- What are the corporate priorities?
- Are you looking at other solutions?
- Researching: Once a prospect qualifies for further movement in the sales path, you need to carry out more research and gather data about the company’s management. The importance of this step is to help your sales team know what service or product to offer leads. It might be great to collaborate with other departments (like marketing), at this point. This way, the chances of closing the deal get higher. The data you’ll gain here will help in understanding the prospect’s needs and determine solutions that’ll suit them, including personalizing the experience.
- Pitching: This step is time-consuming and crucial. It’s a point in the sales cycle where you can lose the prospect. Therefore, you don’t want to allow less-experienced sales reps to handle it, especially when the pitch involves management team members from the prospect’s company. Depending on the prospect’s caliber or management preference, a pitch can be done on-site or via video conference. One of the crucial notes here is to tailor the pitch or presentation to meet the prospect’s needs. Meaning, you should avoid running a general “script” on them. At this point, you don’t need us to tell you the importance of the research data you gathered in the previous stages.
- Objection handling: Data about the prospect can help your team anticipate any likely objections. While there might be no objections from a prospect after pitching your company’s solutions, you want to make sure your sales teams are ready; hence why objections handling should be part of your sales process. Once again, don’t allow junior sales persons to handle this part.
- Closing: Closing a deal is the dream of every sales rep, and many times, it isn’t just one single process. It includes negotiating, quote delivery, proposal, and counter-proposal. The sales rep aims to ensure mutual benefit as the closing becomes almost within reach. This way, the new customer or client has a feeling that he or she isn't just another number.
What Else to Consider for Optimization — Territory, Marketing & More
Optimizing your sales may mean scaling up your sales team too; you might need to hire new sales professionals. Let's look at how and who you should hire.
Consider the location: If you want to break into a new territory, you might need to hire sales teams based on the location of your target audience. Perhaps, your leads or prospects are other local businesses, the need for people that know the region might be beneficial. More marketing will help on that front.
Adopt a quality hiring and marketing strategy: You also want to look at a process that’ll help you hire excellent sales reps. Recruitment can be expensive. You don’t want to hire today and fire tomorrow because of underperformance. Therefore, your process should attract sales professionals that can deliver.
Who to hire:
- You’ll likely require an experienced sales leader or an optimization expert. A leader should motivate their team, monitor KPIs, and drive productivity.
- You also require marketing experts to complement your sales effort.
- An on-site or outsourced customer service team.
- You don’t want to forget social media. Your organization will need rich content on its social platforms, etc. This will require a qualified social media manager or web content manager.
Who Are Qualified Leads or Customers?
As mentioned earlier in this article, one of the reasons you need to optimize your sales process is to speed up the qualification processes. Therefore, weeding out prospects that’ll waste your sales team’s time is crucial. We looked at some qualifying questions earlier. Now, let's further dive into the characteristics your team should look out for when it's time to source and qualify a prospect.
- Is your prospect listening?
If you need to move forward with a prospect, it'll be evident in the level of the prospect’s openness. Even though prospecting may start online, you can easily tell if a prospect wants to do business.. If they are interested, it’s time to move to other leads.
- Product need
If you have a prospect on your ‘radar,’ one of the first characteristics to look out for is whether the person or the company’s management needs the solutions you have. It could likely be a waste of precious time if the prospect doesn’t even know they need your solutions. A prospect that’s already aware of a problem he or she needs to solve will likely entertain your proposition.
- Purchasing power
Now, we know this already sounds like money. Yes, it is. However, it doesn't end there. While it's essential for your team to quickly assess if a prospect can buy a product, it's also important that the prospect is one of those that can make the deal happen. This is especially important for B2B sales. If the prospect can make the buying decision without consulting others in management, that’ll save time and increase the chances of closing the deal.
- Detect urgency
Sometimes, you’ll need to identify a prospect who needs your solutions urgently. Experienced sales teams will know this and avoid playing the waiting game, which can lead to losing the prospect. Even if the person is a decision-maker in his or her company, there may be other management members who have similar ideas.
- Establish trust
No doubt, many people see salespeople as annoying professionals on the hunt for their next bonus. Yes, we are all a potential customer, so we’ve all been at the receiving end of a salesperson’s “charm.” That's why a salesperson must prioritize on building trust when selling.
Using a Service to Help You Scale.
Sometimes, the pressure can be difficult to handle internally. Perhaps, the business is booming, but you are finding it hard keeping up with the demands of customers while new leads are rolling in amidst launching new product lines.
It’s not a bad idea to allow the use of services from sales optimization experts like Mansfield Sales Partners to help your sales process. These external teams won't just come in to give advice and leave. They’ll continuously work with you and implement good CRM tools, marketing strategies, and solutions for better customer retention. This way, you'll save time and eliminate the risks that come with scaling or self-optimization. Below are some services to consider:
This first function is like a diagnosis of your company and processes. It involves knowing your company’s goals, performance, the capacity your sales team is currently functioning, and the challenges you may be going through. Once the assessment of your operation is complete, professional solutions will be submitted.
This step could involve hiring, employing new CRM tools and setting up new KPIs to measure team performance. This step will also come with optimization and test-running implementations and solutions to see how well it works with your organization. What’s more, data collection will also be part of this stage, which will provide a detailed record of everything.
After building up or revamping your sales teams, process, and operations, the next and final phase is the delivery of implemented strategies. However, the external team will work with you every step to ensure your new operation is productive and sustainable.