By Matt Heinz (@heinzmarketing)
We spend a considerable amount of time working with clients on their sales processes here at Heinz Marketing. Across both inside and field sales teams, this has been more recently defined as the discipline of “Sales Enablement” and is something we believe every company should have a competency around.
We feel so strongly about it in fact that we partnered with SAVO Group recently to produce the Definitive Buyer’s Guide to Sales Enablement (get your free copy here!).
How you identify, engage, and convert new customers is fundamental to business operations and there are so many ways to do it poorly that end up frustrating prospects, strategic accounts, employees and sales leaders.
To avoid the frustration and to get maximum return out of your sales enablement efforts, we have developed the following seven essential building blocks for high performance sales enablement:
1. Target Market
It should go without saying that the more targeted you are in your sales efforts, the more effective they will be. An arbitrary list of target accounts won’t help you much. Merely having lists of email addresses and phone numbers that you want to engage is not enough.
Step back and think about the actual accounts that match your optimal customer profile. Understand the specific qualification criteria you will use to identify those optimal targets and conduct detailed analysis on the personas who influence and make the buying decision. Once those steps are complete, the list building activity will be of higher quality and increased relevance. You’ll also notice a significant increase in coordination and efficiency between your inside and field sales teams.
2. Sales Cycle
Rather than focus on how you want to sell and the steps you are taking, consider how your prospect buys and map the sales cycle from the buyer’s point of view. You can certainly influence and impact the cycle but if decisions are made by several people or even by committee, then understand those steps and what is required to win each of those “micro-decisions” along the way.
Are you in a smaller dollar amount, higher transaction volume business or are you in a higher dollar amount, lower transaction volume one? Are buying decisions made on a seasonal or annual basis? It is important to know the answer to these questions and apply a discipline to your sales efforts that incorporates them.
Sales development is not just the role and act of prospecting, nor is it confined to purely your inside or lead qualification teams. Taken as a whole, as a critical part of the sales process, it is the process around finding, engaging, and converting customers. Often this requires different roles and skills on the team than you may have transactionally today.
Understand how prospecting leads to qualification, to opportunity creation and to converted customer – and specify who across your sales organization is involved in that process. Where are the hand-offs and what information is required from step to step? What are the responsibilities of the sales development representative, the account executive, and the account manager – even field marketing and operations? Are these three separate roles or blended into one or two?
Have a very clear set of job descriptions, competency maps, and daily time allocation to maximize active selling time by the sales team overall. These items provide a clear reference for performance reviews as well as a career/professional development path for the team.
Now that you have the targets identified, understand how the buying process works, and have your team in place, it’s time to focus on having something relevant and compelling to say. All too often the initial message focuses on getting a meeting or demo scheduled when there has been no credibility established or any compelling reason to agree to either a meeting or a demo. Even further into the sales process, too often field sales or account executives fall back on product messaging instead of “core need” value propositions.
It is critical to “give” throughout the sales process and your message must be built around this. What can you offer a prospect – at every stage of the buying journey – that will help them do their job better or deliver insight into their industry, competition, or customer even if they never respond? Yes, read that again. Even if they never respond. Deliver value in the interaction because it will benefit you in the long run.
Here is where having a defined point of view on the problem you solve is important. It can feed the message and content you share anchored by a demonstrated understanding of the need your prospects have and the outcomes they seek. There will be a time to describe your product or service in detail, but it is not in the early stages of the sales process. Focus on subject matter expertise and trust validation – highlight how other customers have benefited from working with you to solve the problem.
Understand that not everyone will be interested or ready to engage with you but in your now defined target market you have a list of all the accounts that should be your customers. Keep in mind that this is not a “one and done” process, and needs to be repeated throughout the sales process to be effective.
And even if some of those prospects go to nurture and out of the active sales process, you will revisit all these targets again so how they remember you from the last time is important. Make sure you make it a positive memory.
Before you start thinking that prospecting and target account early engagement is all about picking up the phone and cold calling, step back (again) and consider where and how your target prospects gather information, get referrals, and discover new products and services. Your goal is to get into the information consumption pattern of the target personas at your target accounts.
Your odds of calling a phone number, getting connected, nailing the pitch, and getting a commitment for a deeper discussion are low so do yourself a favor and think more holistically about engagement. Yes, email and phone are important but what is the outreach flow and how often are you attempting contact? This is where your message goes operational. Make it count.
Is it possible to leverage social media to “surround” your prospect with all that great knowledge you created and want to share or are your targets not even on social media? In every industry there are a handful of associations, events, and newsletters that are effective ways to reach your target audience.
Mostly, craft your outreach efforts with a dose of patience and while the number of calls and meetings scheduled are important so too is the tone you take and impression that you make while doing it.
And remember, just because you had a prospect’s attention doesn’t mean you automatically get to keep it moving forward. Throughout the sales process, seek to constantly earn and re-earn your prospect’s attention through compelling content and insights that focus more attention on the problem (and quantify the value of the solution).
6. Enabling Technology
Always start with the correct sales approach and process, then find the technology that enables that process delivering scale, insight, and efficiency. You will need a system to manage contact details, outreach activities, deal tracking, and sales pipeline. Spreadsheets don’t scale but can provide a nice sketch pad of what you really need.
Use tools like Google Sheets or Smartsheet for spreadsheet-oriented deal tracking. Step up to a customer relationship management system like Salesforce.com or Base or use one like PipelineDeals, Insightly, Clari or Nutshell to deliver the basics of deal tracking and relationship management. Your organization, staffing, and reporting needs will dictate requirements here.
To help automate and scale direct outreach efforts, look to products like SalesLoft, Outreach.io, Toutapp, LiveHive or PersistIQ. These are ways to increase one-to-one outreach for the inside and field sales teams, helping you coordinate and streamline communication and reporting.
7. Metrics of Success
Apply the right metrics and measurements to track progress and identify areas needing improvement. Regardless of your business, you can track the number of contacts created and engaged, the number of qualified leads generated, opportunities created, connect rates, conversion rates, and revenue contribution.
Have a target number of target prospect engagements per week per rep – be those first touch commitments to learn more for a sales development rep or meetings completed by an Account Executive. Track new sales pipeline created weekly ($) and force a discipline around probability of close that includes “stretch” accounts so that all opportunities are visible in pipeline reporting.
Mostly, be aware of what you are tracking because this will drive behavior. If you are tracking the number of meetings scheduled, then that is what all efforts will be directed at scheduling. Stay vigilant about what you are closing to and challenge assumptions like is a delivered demo required to move a prospect through the buying process. Stay focused on removing friction from the sales process and use metrics and measures to identify and isolate where that friction is present.
Interested in learning more about high performance sales development or how we can help you implement it at your company? Download a copy of the Heinz/SAVO Sales Enablement Buyer’s Guide!
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