It very well could be converting, hitting quota, retention, qualifying, or any of the other 724 tasks you have to juggle each and every day. All of those are crucial, and none of them are particularly easy.
The more prospects you produce, the better able you are to hit quota and reach revenue goals. Makes sense.
But, as always, it’s easier said than done.
Prospecting used to be a numbers and phone game. You’d get a list of names and telephone numbers, call them all in order, and hope that X% would be interested in whatever it was you were selling. And it worked, for a while.
But in the age of caller ID, do-not-call lists, and voicemail, it doesn’t work any longer:
Those aren’t great numbers. And if the average rep leaves 70 voicemails per day, at an average of 1 minute each, that adds up to nearly 25 hours per month spent on something that delivers very little return.
So let’s assume you know that, and you’re already using it for sales outreach and prospecting. Kudos.
How can you make an already-stellar channel just a little bit better? Try these insider tips and tricks for email prospecting.
1. Make It A Priority
Using email for your sales prospecting is one thing. Prioritizing it is something else entirely.
To truly get the most out of it, you need to make prospecting as important as your monthly sales goals. You need to schedule it every day. You need to create a consistent block on your daily timetable. You need to set concrete, achievable prospecting goals.
Prioritize prospecting as you do sales. Incentivize prospecting as you do sales (contests, leaderboards, and so). Track, monitor, and manage prospecting as you do sales.
Because one without the other is only half as successful as you could be.
2. Build Your List
You can never have enough. As the saying goes, you’re either growing, or dying.
The digital revolution has made building your email prospecting list easier than ever before:
Use a list building tool like Dux-Soup to find potential leads based on keywords, location, job titles, and more. Identify, collect, and export automatically.
Names but no address? Try VoilaNorbert to find anyone’s email address.
Use a service like LeadFuze to discover, find, and verify qualified prospects for you.
3. Enrich Your List
Don’t fall victim to the belief that a built list is a done list. It’s not.
Names and a few other details are not enough. You need to research the companies and individuals on your list before contacting. Do it manually, or use an enrichment tool like FullContact to turn partial snapshots into complete profiles. Build your list. Enrich your list. Scrub your list.
Consumers expect a personalized customer experience in 2018 and beyond. Make sure you have the necessary details to give them one.
4. In Template We Trust
The great thing about email prospecting is the ease with which you can scale up your efforts by using a template.
Craft a powerful, engaging first-contact template with merge tags or fields to automatically personalize while reaching more prospects than you could with a manual approach. Automation does not mean impersonal.
Try out a few email formulas to find which works best with your target. Drop in personalized details collected during your research and enrichment phase. Send it out to your polished, scrubbed list.
Personalize as much as possible. No one has time for an email that is clearly a blast campaign sent out to thousands.
Personalize your opening line. Personalize a bit in your main body. But don’t over-personalize and drift into the creepy zone. 2-3 genuine and relevant personalizations are better than 5-10 superficial ones.
Moral of the story? Keep sending and you’ll keep getting replies.
Quick Email Prospecting Hacks
Want a few more quick tricks? Try these in your next prospecting session.
1. Trickle Down
Cold email is hard. They don’t know you.
Find the individual just above the decision-maker you want to target. Send him or her your carefully-crafted email, and if you’re lucky, you may end up with an email instructing you to contact Mr. or Ms. X, your intended recipient.
Now, you can include an introduction from their boss in your first message. Instant credibility.
2. Be Real
Be real, authentic, and genuine. Most of us can smell insincerity a mile away. Build relationships. That’s what people want and respond to in the 21st century.
2. Be More Persuasive
Explore the six principles of persuasion as defined by Robert Cialdini: reciprocity, commitment, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity. Use them sparingly in your messaging to maximize your powers of persuasion.
3. Keep Track
That which gets measured, gets managed. Track opens and clicks to see what’s working, what’s not, best times to send, and so on. Optimize based on those insights. Most email solutions can easily do this for you. All you have to do is take the time to look it over and consider what it’s telling you.
Prospecting need not be painful. With email, you can quickly scale up without sacrificing the personalization your prospects have come to expect.
A steady stream of prospects means a steady stream of sales. So open the floodgates.
What’s your best-kept email prospecting secret? Leave your thoughts in the comments below:
Cleanliness and a neat appearance have always been characteristics of paramount importance to sales people. Presenting yourself immaculately to a client has long been noted as a mark of respect, and good manners. Plus, well turned-out cold callers had a better chance of making a favorable first impression.
But, cleanliness of all kinds is equally important, and one form of cleanliness has become monumentally important to modern sales teams – that is, a clean sales pipeline.
Keeping a clean sales pipeline is a fundamental to keeping a business moving forward, across all stages of the sales process.
But, what is a clean sales pipeline, and why it’s so important for your present and future success? Also, let’s look at why that cleanliness can save you when the going gets tough, and why you need the benefit of a clear and concise overview that comes with a clean and well organised sales pipeline.
What is a clean sales pipeline?
A clean sales pipeline is well designed from the outset, delivering an uncluttered view of sales opportunities through all stages of the sales process. It shows opportunities which are likely to convert to deals, and those which are going nowhere. It illustrates insights into present and future predictions. And a clean sales pipeline manages all communications between clients and the sales team.
A well organised pipeline should identify any bottlenecks, and their ultimate resolution. Great pipelines may even help you through times when your competitors struggle.
For a clean pipeline it’s recommended your CRM uses no more than 5 or 6 stages; keeping the design efficient, simplistic, and ready for instant analysis.
The ideal clean sales CRM pipeline should be:
Well designed – employing no less than two and no more than six stages
Effective – managing all sales opportunities and their information once captured
Intuitive – alerting you to deals which have remained stationery in the pipeline for too long
Easy to analyse – offering information on the optimum time frame deals should remain in a stage, and whether deals have been lost or won
Communicative – neatly organising all communication history from both individuals and companies
Editable – allowing you to change the status of deals, contact details and communications instantly and easily
Analytical – offering you the possibility to really learn from each stage of the sales process and use this knowledge to your advantage in the future
How to keep a clean sales pipeline
Meticulous stage management is the key to a clean and healthy CRM sales pipeline, but what is stage management and how is it performed?
1. Limit your pipeline stages
– Each stage of your pipeline should have been well considered, and be designed accordingly. The stages should be designed to solve problems – such as the optimum length of time opportunities remain in any stage. Stages should offer sales goals and success probabilities, they should offer insights into communications history, and reminders of actions to be taken. Real answers to real problems. Have no more stages than absolutely necessary. Most experts recommend that your pipeline should have between 3 and 6 stages.
2. Unblock the blockages
– The most likely cause of blockages in your sales pipeline are leads which are going nowhere. These stagnant leads waste your sales team’s time, and your money. Set time scales and stick to them; cull all leads which look like they are dormant and without any realistic possibilities. Regularly inspect your sales management CRM to allow you to identify bottlenecks before they become a problem.
3. Manage your communications
– Regularly instruct your sales team on the importance of updating information in the CRM software. The information they gather is key to their, and your success. Careful management of all communications within the pipeline stages – emails, phone calls, meetings, shared files, and notes – will ensure access to all vital information where and when it’s needed.
4. Clean by design
– Be 100% certain that your CRM sales pipeline stages have been designed with your specific needs and individual requirements in mind. Furthermore, the stages need to solve problems. Even before implementing a sales CRM, awareness of the desired outcomes is the core to designing a smooth and maintenance-free pipeline. For example; if in the past communications management has been a problem, leading to lost opportunities, addressing this problem in the stages of your pipeline offers you solutions from the outset. A smart CRM will allow single, or shared ownership of leads, with all communications being shared among all concerned.
Keep the pipeline clean and moving
Use your CRM software to keep the process moving at all costs, through all stages: lead sourcing; smart communication management; deal positioning; and by utilising all facets of the CRMs intuitive analytical abilities.
A sales CRM with a clean sales pipeline will ensure that your valuable sales team are working smarter, stronger, and more productively, which ultimately leads to more sales in less time. Now that can’t be bad.
Entry-level sales reps are bright, driven and full of raw potential. By channeling that enthusiasm through a streamlined onboarding program, you can give new hires the momentum they need to be successful. The alternative isn’t pretty, as a poor onboarding experience can turn even the most promising talent into burnouts.
Since most entry-level representatives who come to you are new to sales, it’s a great opportunity to mold them into effective salespeople. However, you need to provide comprehensive training for them to feel comfortable in their new roles.
You should at least cover these modules when onboarding entry-level sales reps:
1) General sales skills
Entry-level sales reps may be high in enthusiasm, but most won’t have much formal experience with selling. Start by helping them to master the basics. Go over best practices for these critical skills:
Building a good rapport with a prospect on a phone call (or through email)
Actively listening to prospects’ needs
Communicating ideas clearly and concisely
Demonstrating a product demo that’s engaging
Preventing and handling objections
Closing the deal
This is a lot to learn for even the most talented young sales representatives. So give them lots of opportunities to practice and observe these skills in action. Encourage young representatives to provide feedback to each other, as well.
Work on developing new reps’ general sales skills that aren’t necessarily related to your product. Starting off by giving a sales demo for a water bottle or razor blade is a great way to hone sales skills.
2) Industry and market
New representatives probably didn’t learn all of the ins and outs of your industry in college, so you’ll need to introduce them to industry basics. Fill them in how the industry works, the latest trends, and important decision-makers. If possible, bring in an industry expert to provide an insiders’ perspective.
Most industries are too complex to master in a few weeks. Instead of trying to cover everything, point new reps towards resources that can help them further their industry education. Teach them how to stay on top of industry news so they can knowledgeably enter conversations with prospects.
3) Customers and territories
Immerse new representatives into your customers’ world. Go over buyer personas in detail, bringing in videos and case studies that make your customers come to life.
While you might not have time to go over every territory and vertical in detail, reps should develop a general understanding of the different markets they serve. More specialized training for their role may be necessary.
Map out the buyers’ journey with new representatives in detail. They should know the reason buyers seek your product, who the key decision-makers are, and what potential stumbling blocks may impede a deal. Do exercises and role-plays that encourage reps to develop empathy for customers. For example, you might ask representatives to role-play a decision-maker discussing a potential purchase with co-workers.
Your sales reps need to understand your product. Bring in product development and customer success team members to introduce them to the product, with an emphasis on how and why customers use it. Let them try it out for themselves.
The product may be too technical for sales reps to become truly fluent users, but they should be able to talk about its benefits—and your USP—with authority. Don’t back away from talking about your competitors’ products. Sales representatives need to articulate why your product is a better option.
The onboarding process is a good opportunity for new representatives to develop relationships with product development. Even if they won’t be working together closely on a day-to-day basis, understanding product development will only help representatives sell the product.
5) Sales process and methodology
Once your representatives have a decent grasp on the basics, you’ll want to delve into how the sales process works at your company. What are the stages in the process, and how does a rep successfully take a customer through to a sale? This part of the curriculum includes everything about prospecting, qualification, demos, closing deals, etc.
The good news about new reps is that they don’t have to be un-trained out of habits picked up elsewhere. But since they’re new to sales, you will have to go into a little more detail than for more senior hires.
Train sales representatives in how to effectively use your major tools, including the CRM and other pieces of your sales stack. Training sessions should be hands-on so the reps can really get a feel for the software.
Many software providers offer training videos and other materials. Take advantage of these resources, but make sure your training is individualized to the sales processes on your team. If you have team members with a knack for explaining the software effectively, bring them in for a tutorial.
Introduce new representatives to the people who are responsible for maintaining the CRM and other tools and point them towards resources for ongoing learning. Some things are best learned on the job, but you want to make sure they can learn efficiently.
Best practices for training and onboarding
With so much to cover, figuring out an effective method for training entry-level sales representatives can be tricky. Here are our top recommendations for a great training program:
Break down your curriculum into manageable chunks that are easy for new reps to digest. Learning about the sales process is daunting, but a unit on qualifying prospects is very manageable
Include plenty of interactive activities in your curriculum to engage representatives. Your new reps just graduated college—they don’t need more lectures
Provide low-pressure opportunities throughout the training process to assess how well your representatives are picking up key skills
Encourage collaboration during the training process. This helps build team bonds early
Offer ongoing training throughout the onboarding process. Even the most capable new hires can’t learn everything at once
Ask for feedback on how to improve the onboarding process
By following these best practices and monitoring the effectiveness of your onboarding process, you can set your new sales representatives up for success.
SMB sales organizations, that are growing their product and average contract value as a basis to go upmarket, inevitably face the talent challenge of needing reps who are capable of running a strategic selling process. Often, due to budget constraints and many other factors, many organizations can’t afford to bring in experienced strategic sales people (ie. enterprise) so they have to hire inexperienced talent who have the potential, or train their existing SMB reps to move upmarket.
In my prior sales leadership roles at places such as IntraLinks, Undertone and Trustpilot, I’ve found that while it is challenging to train a sales person to do strategic selling in-house, if you find new or existing people with potential, great things can happen around their development, even if originally they were hired to do SMB sales.
We’ll go over what I look for in the interview process when considering these profiles, with a focus on raw skills as opposed to experience and then what I do in training to help them become successful.
What I Look For
I look for a clear vision of where they want to go in their career. I don’t care if they just want to increase earnings through quota achievement or if they want to move into management down the road, I just care that ambition is demonstrated as a basis for achievement.
I look for high level of passion and willingness to run through walls to be successful. While its difficult to screen for, I am essentially looking for a person who will optimize every opportunity and push every individual sales conversation to the end level. Passion and willingness to do the extreme is typically seen in someone who is a life-long learner and wants to constantly improve.
3) Attitude of Hating to Lose
Ignoring the age-old debate between “Loves to Win” vs. “Hate to Lose” for a minute, I’ve found that someone who has a strong feeling on winning or avoiding losing is equally important, more importantly, in how the feeling drives them. I care to see that they have reflected on their mistakes and losses and they learned something from those instances. I typically have them talk about specific examples as a way to screen for humility, and how they incorporate new learning and feedback into their craft.
How I Assess Candidates
Ability to operate both strategically and tactically.
I’m actually okay if they don’t have a fully developed strategic mind, but I’d like to see how strong they are, tactically, to offset that development area.
Strategy: I define their strategic thinking as their ability to create a repeatable plan to learn about an enterprise, analyze a market, and work with a variety of departments in order to get a deal done.
Tactics: I look for their tactical understanding of sales, on how activity, sales process cadence, and deal-level conversations can help them move a deal forward.
Ability to build champions externally and internally.
I believe that in complex sales cycles, a great seller can be in the driver seat of success by building champions externally, but also critically, internally. Particularly in early and mid stage startups, I’ve found it key to hire someone who can marshall internal resources (ex. marketing, ops, product, legal) to help them close deals. Many people are competing for the same corporate resources to get things done, successful reps know how to get everyone working for them.
Depth and clarity of their sales process.
I typically ask reps to walk me through their sales process and then dig in with a lot of follow up questions. I’m trying to understand how deep they can go in explaining their sales framework, how they troubleshoot deals, and their general organization routine. Ultimately, I’m trying to ascertain whether their success was random or a byproduct of great work habits, strong understanding of their industry and a mastery of basic sales fundamentals.
How I Train Enterprise Sellers
Training a seller to pursue a 9- month sales cycle is very different than the one call closes and monthly sales cycles they may be used to. Broadly speaking, transactional selling is more activity based and metrics driven because sales stages are short, so success is more measurable and linear.
Enterprise sales is generally harder because it requires understanding a broader set of inputs of an organization, navigating a diverse set buyer personas, overcoming more hurdles, how value/ROI is interpreted, working a timetable, and needing to address direct competition to get a deal done. And of course, even when a deal is done, there are still downstream execution logistics which requires an understanding of how to navigate legal and procurement to get the contract signed, not to mention actually integrating the solution into the customer’s enterprise infrastructure.
One of the primary ways I build a basis to train sellers to operate within a structured, enterprise sales framework is using Account Plans. An Account Plan is a document that encompasses the research, thinking, and planning of an individual seller against a targeted prospect or customer.
Building a great Account Plan is itself great training for a new enterprise seller and I’ve even found it a useful for transactional sellers who have longer sales cycles. It requires them to conduct a huge amount of research on the company including: key people in the organization, revenue dynamics, strategic priorities, and how the company fits into the broader industry landscape. The enterprise seller will then need to tie all these learnings back into a selling strategy they can break down into tactical steps.
I’ve used great Account Plans that are simple, single page word documents and sometimes I’ve seen 10 tabs of a complex excel spreadsheet detailing all the permutations of contact strategy and various buyer personas. One thing I’ve noticed is that great enterprise sellers can create a custom Account Plan autonomously, writing down the scientific method in which they would approach a prospect or customer without a lot of supervision.
I’ve seen both individuals and companies think about moving to enterprise as a right of passage. It can become a weird obsession that does not play to the strengths of the sales rep or company.
Many sales reps are better suited for high velocity, transactional sales because they enjoy fast stimulus and the ability to get predictable results from pure effort and activity. In those cases, I always recommend the person to think hard about why they want to move to Enterprise sales in the first place, and whether they will truly be happy once they get there.
Similarly, for many companies, pre-maturely selling their product into the enterprise can deplete and stretch their engineering and marketing resources as they are forced to compete against a broader set of features and products. If they don’t navigate upmarket with a thoughtful product and sales talent strategy, it can actually be a huge detriment to the organization.
The best sales people aren’t simply satisfied with being above average. They are always striving to do better and improve their skills. This drive to constantly improve their craft separates top performers from the mediocre ones.
Here are 8 actionable tips for get better at your job:
1. Become a self-learner.
No matter how many deals you close, there’s always more to learn about sales. Especially as technology and markets change, salespeople need to keep up and adapt. Take advantage of the many resources available to you to learn about new tactics and strategies.
When you learn new things, try putting what you learn into practice as soon as you can. So if you read a blog entry about communicating with prospects effectively, try to keep those tips in mind during your next sales call. You may find that some advice just doesn’t work for you, even if it’s from a well-respected sales expert. That’s okay. In the process of exposing yourself to new perspectives and giving it a try, you’ve still learned something about sales and what works for you as a seller.
2. Become an industry expert.
Your initial training probably wasn’t enough to help you master a complex industry. Make a point to continue your industry education. Set up Google Alerts to keep you informed on major industry developments. Find out who the major influencers are in your industry and follow them on social media.
To make sure that your industry education doesn’t slip on your to-do list, set aside time every week for it. Your prospects will notice your knowledge.
3. Practice your empathetic listening abilities.
Selling is oftentimes more about listening than it is about talking. Developing this skill should be at the top of any salesperson’s priority list.
To help yourself remember to display empathetic listening while talking with a prospect, devise a note-taking system that emphasizes your prospects’ needs. If you walk into a meeting prepared to focus on their needs (rather than cramming in all of your talking points), you’ll be primed to listen better.
Your non-professional life is also life with opportunities to practice empathetic listening, so take advantage of them. When you chat with your barista every morning, that’s a chance to practice a critical sales skill. Once you get used to activating the “listening” part of your brain, it will stay active in all your interactions.
4. Ask for feedback on your performance.
Getting performance feedback isn’t always fun, but it is necessary for growth. The best salespeople don’t wait for their quarterly or annual performance reviews to seek feedback. It’s helpful to ask for feedback in informal settings as well. You also don’t need to limit yourself to your direct supervisor; other colleagues may be able to offer useful insight into your performance.
Get used to asking questions like “How could I have handled that situation better?” When you receive criticism, don’t react defensively. Thank the person for their time. You don’t have to agree with all feedback, but you should spend some time mulling it over. If something resonates, come up with a game plan for how to do better.
5. Find a mentor.
Your manager is hopefully providing you with helpful guidance on your performance, but it never hurts to seek additional mentorship. If you don’t already have a mentor, try to find one either inside or outside of your organization. Many successful salespeople seek multiple mentors for different purposes.
Select someone who is a successful seller, has a personality compatible with your own, and is willing to provide long-term guidance. Once this person has agreed to offer mentorship, try to meet with them on a regular basis. They can help you with your long-term career development.
Express gratitude towards your mentor for their time and make sure that you are offering them something in return. Cultivating a good mentorship relationship is another good opportunity to exercise essential sales skills.
6. Set goals for yourself, targeting progressive improvement.
Every quarter, set a goal to improve on a specific skill. If you can, select a measurable goal. For example, you might decide that you need to do a better job putting yourself out in front of new prospects. Then your goal would be to show a 15% improvement in the number of cold calls you make per quarter.
While there’s no need to be obsessive about monitoring your progress, it is helpful to check in on how you’re doing every once in a while. That helps keep you on track.
You may choose to select a goal that’s a little more subjective, like improving your listening skills with clients. That’s fine, but you still want to implement a system for tracking progress. Maybe in that instance you can rate how well you displayed listening skills after every customer meeting. That allows you to track your progress over time and remain conscious of your goal.
7. Develop time management skills.
If you’re not performing as well as you’d like, the problem might actually be your time management skills. Even if you think you have good time management abilities, spend a few days tracking everything you’re doing on the job. This process can help you to identify inefficiencies in your processes.
Seek help from productivity tools as necessary. Even something as simple as alerts on your phone can help you to stay on schedule. More advanced productivity software can also be helpful. Ask your most organized coworkers what they do.
8. Learn from your mistakes.
Every sales representative will make mistakes. There will be a deal that didn’t go through or a meeting that just didn’t go as planned.
Instead of wallowing in your misery, be analytical about your mistakes. Ask what you’d do differently if you got the chance at a redo. How will you change your process from here on out as a result of what you’ve learned?
Mistakes happen. The ability to learn from them distinguishes great salespeople from everyone else.
As a sales leader, you want to on-board new hires quickly so they hit their quotas ASAP. The speed at which you do that is your sales ramp rate. What happens when that rate is poor? It’s a huge drain on resources that can prevent you from hitting annual targets. Conversely, a great sales ramp rate sets you up for success and lets your sales team soar.
New hires present two unavoidable challenges.
For several months after they’re hired, they drain your sales team’s time and deplete your company’s capital.
1. Time: The right new hires are learning machines, bringing tons of questions to the table. And while it’s necessary to invest time and energy into their effective sales onboarding, it eats up resources your sales reps and managers could spend on leads. It can’t go on indefinitely.
2. Money: Those new hires will also take a bite out of your capital. You’ll pour money into their salaries and training for months before they ramp up and put that money back in your coffres (assuming they eventually hit their quotas).
If you don’t manage these two challenges well, it’ll be tough to bring on the hires you need to reach your annual targets. Your sales team will be stretched too thin (burnout ahead!) and you won’t have the cash flow to stay afloat until your new hires pay off.
So how do you align your new hires with your capital to help you achieve annual targets?
Focus on your ramp rate.
You need to find the perfect balance between getting those hires up to speed as quickly as possible and not overloading them.
What’s your sales ramp rate?
Your sales ramp rate is the speed at which new hires onboard and hit their quota. It’s their ramp-up period. There are a few simple ways to calculate it, so pick one that makes sense in your company’s context.
1. Reaching 100% quota
How long does it take your reps to hit 100% of their quota? If you don’t have a standardized sales cycle, this may be a better way to gauge your standing re: a sales ramp rate.
It doesn’t take luck (good or bad) into consideration, and may not reflect your new rep’s abilities. For example, did you give them long-standing accounts to hold onto, or were they asked to bring in new clients from scratch?
2. Sales cycle + 90 days
Add 90 days to the length of your average sales cycle and you’re done. It’s not a precise formula, but it works if you need a quick view of where you stand. If you have more specific numbers, the third option in this list might be your best bet.
3. Training + sales cycle + experience
Add your training time to your average sales cycle, and add or subtract days or weeks based on how much experience your new hire has. Be consistent with the second half of that formula, adding or docking a certain number of days for every year of experience. What’s half a decade worth to you? Be consistent across your reps.
Now that you have a baseline, think about factors that influence your sales ramp period. How are you going to make improvements?
Fix your sales ramp rate
If your sales ramp rate is broken, you need to fix it. It costs your company time and money that it could put toward new hires and increased sales. This is low-hanging fruit. Use these best practices in sales onboarding:
1. Set clear objectives
New hires are particularly keen to please. Let them know exactly what’s expected so they can chase a goal. Be clear about two things: their training objectives and the quotas they’ll have to hit once they’re trained.
The team at ThoughtSpot has a great take on this one. Demos are a huge marker for a new hire, so ThoughtSpot gives new hires 30 days to get demo certified. Sure, the company made that certification up, but it works. New hires don’t often miss the mark because it’s a dramatic and clear deadline that creates a sense of urgency to learn quickly.
What’s the outcome of a clear goal like this?
Reps who have a sense of urgency have a shorter sales ramp period.
2. Provide exceptional training
Once you’ve set clear training and quota targets, follow up with outstanding training. The best thing you can do for new hires is immerse them as deeply as possible, quickly. Don’t let them wander around casually picking up tidbits here and there, hoping they’ll get a sense of your company on the fly. Give new hires tasks that help them achieve clear goals. Here’s how you do that in three steps.
A. Show them what good looks like
New hires want to know what works at your company. They want to know how the top sales reps hit their numbers. Show them what works. Give them everything they need to understand what “good” looks like in your world. Here’s a great suggestion from the VP of Sales Strategy at Intelex.
Create a library of your team’s best call recordings. Include each type of call and situation your new hires need to master:
The day before a new hire has their first discovery call, have them listen to the discovery calls. The day before their first demo, have them listen to the demo calls. You can even automate this process with the help of LevelJump, a just-in-time sales enablement learning platform.
B. Make learning available on demand
Lots of sales leaders think call shadowing comes next. While it’s a good guess, there’s too much time between calls when you’re trying to boost a sales ramp rate (think about live call no-shows, rescheduled calls, etc.).
If you want to create an effective sales onboarding process to accelerate a new hire’s ramp time, let them learn on demand. You don’t need a live Webex for your best rep to put on a show. You can build a call recording library or use conversation intelligence platforms to record the calls you need.
C. Let them demo sooner
Does the prospect of new reps demoing early make you nervous? Are you worried they’ll lose a good lead?
Here’s the truth: A first demo on day 30 will be as bad one on day 10. But the rep who demos on day 10 will ramp to their full quota faster than the rep who demos on day 30.
Hands-on practice is by far the best learning method out there. Don’t keep your reps in the wings or they’ll forget most of what they’ve learned before they ever try it out.
3. Coach. Watch the Numbers. Coach more.
Offer new hires clear instructions, watch their metrics, and coach them on problem areas. Then repeat.
Start with exact instructions that allow your hires to execute processes with clarity. For example, don’t say “Talk about pricing at the right time.” Instead, tell them to talk about pricing when they’re three-quarters of the way into a one-hour call. It’s a specific instruction you can track and coach on.
Ongoing call coaching is the most effective way to run this iterative process. It lets you record calls, review them with your rep, score them, and suggest new approaches.
With this process, you’ll see consistent improvements and keep your sales ramp rate as high as possible.
New hires are absolutely crucial to hitting your sales targets. With the right sales onboarding, you can shorten your ramp period and hit the perfect sales ramp rate. That’s going to let your sales team function smoothly as new people come on board, so you can hire as many people as possible and hit your sales targets. It’s the best of both worlds.
Google showcased Duplex at its I/O 2018 Keynote just a few days ago. Duplex is a new technology that allows Google Assistant to make phone calls on your behalf. CEO Sundar Pichai played a clip of Duplex calling a real hair salon and making an appointment.
The dialogue was flawless and the hair salon seemed to have no idea they were speaking to a bot.
Google Duplex: A.I. Assistant Calls Local Businesses To Make Appointments - YouTube
While no one has said it yet explicitly, one can connect the dots and imagine how this can be a game changer for the sales profession.
While we can debate when AI-based sales conversations will actually arrive and its limitations, it’s hard to ignore the reality that big changes are likely coming. For now, Duplex is core technology for Google and unlikely to be made available for open-sourced projects and pesky startups building sales acceleration tools. And it’s hard to imagine this changing anytime soon given the investment Google has made in building Duplex.
But it’s only a matter of time before others will build similar or even better versions of Duplex and find ways to apply it in our daily lives.
So a few immediate questions and possible implications of how Google Duplex could impact sales:
What will happen to phone sales?
If you believe the keynote example was not a contrived example (as they assured us) but the norm of what Duplex can do, it’s scary how close we are to seeing high-velocity, script-based inside sales jobs being completely displaced.
Enterprise sellers may be safe for the time being (if you rule out a Westworld scenario anytime soon) but top of the funnel, enterprise SDRs may also be displaced in its current form.
With the hiring constraints of inside sales reps removed, I could see sales organizations cranking up call volumes and frustrating prospects. And that will in turn probably lead to new regulations and tools to protect the consumer and business owners.
It’s unclear whether buyers will even care that they are buying over the phone from an indistinguishable bot versus a real salesperson but if the conversation is good, they won’t even know. If the adoption of AI-powered sales isn’t good, customers could get so fed up that they stop answering the phones. We may have to resort back to sending brochures and doing more field sales. Either way, corporations should see some productivity gains (at least short term) through lower costs of making cold calls or better conversions because let’s face it, it’s really hard training great sales reps.
Will our Account Executives all be replaced by Sales Trainers?
The Google Duplex system is capable of carrying out sophisticated conversations and it completes the majority of its tasks fully autonomously, without human involvement. The system has a self-monitoring capability, which allows it to recognize the tasks it cannot complete autonomously (e.g., scheduling an unusually complex appointment). In these cases, it signals to a human operator, who can complete the task.
The current implementation of Duplex uses supervised training and will still require a human sales trainer (that’s of course until we build unsupervised learning models of sales conversations).
So the ceiling for AI-powered sales conversations still require a sales trainer to handle corner cases on calls and continuously “coach” the algorithm to sell better.
As training data grows, I wonder if we get actually better sales conversations as the algorithm learns from vast amounts of sales calls and various buyer personas.
How do sales professionals keep up?
The implications for inside sales professionals are very real. I’ll throw out a few suggestions for career development:
Go upmarket if you’re in SMB sales.
Even without Duplex, much of high activity-based selling is already getting displaced with modern sales tools. Acquire the skills for enterprise selling and become an expert in something (anything!) because if you can’t navigate an enterprise and add insight to the conversation, your job could be gone in a few years.
Learn math and technology.
If the future of sales teams is leaner and more technology-enabled, you’ll have to get good at adapting to the new tools. Just like how the archetype of the Wall Street trader has over the past decade evolved towards quants and PhDs, inside sales of the future may be run by sales operations gurus and data scientists.
Prioritize your digital reputation.
Online communities like Linkedin is accelerating the need towards reputation management and social selling. If phone sales become commoditized, we will need to fall back on our personal brands and offline relationships. This means that you need to make sure you don’t have any skeletons in your professional closet and you are doing good by your prospects and customers. Ethics and authenticity in sales has never been more important then today.
Just for fun
A few predictions outside of sales:
Identity theft accelerates and proof-of-voice may need to be a thing for voice calling.
The battle of “AI bots” may create hilarious virtuous loops. Even funnier than this.
Voice commands and systems will finally get a makeover. Celebrity voices anyone?
If you want to appreciate the rigor and thoughtfulness of Duplex, read the Google AI Blog for a layman’s explanation of how they were able to achieve such a natural sounding voice. It’s exciting to see this demo as a technologist but it also gives me shivers thinking about how this will impact modern sales.
For modern customers, there’s almost always more than one option when it comes to making a purchase. That makes it even harder for sales teams to close deals. But when customers are inundated by countless messages everyday, personalization can help.
Buyers don’t want to feel like they are part of the herd. They want to feel special and taken care of. Working to fulfill that need can help your team stand out. There are a variety of ways to personalize pitches and approaches. Be sure to keep these methods in mind when empowering your team.
1. Start with research
There’s no one-size-fits-all sales pitch that will work with every prospect. Before you actually meet with a client, research them heavily on social media and by visiting their website. Pay particular attention to LinkedIn and Twitter; LinkedIn will help you understand what they or the company they work for does, while Twitter will give you a sense of how they communicate.
This information will come in handy as you craft your sales pitch. You’ll want to use wording tailored to their background and demographic. Just be wary not to fall into the trap of appealing to stereotypes. You’ll need to engage with them directly to see the big picture.
2. Listen to your clients’ stories
Research can only take you so far. To truly understand what a client wants, you’ll need to talk to them directly. When you speak with a prospect for the first time, don’t try to sell them anything. The goal is to keep the meeting as casual as possible and the focus on them. This will allow you to get to know them so you can tailor a sales presentation to fit their needs and desires.
Be particularly vigilant in identifying a prospect’s pain points. If clients can immediately see how a product or service will make their lives easier, they will be more likely to make a purchase.
Make the meeting a conversation; ask open-ended questions to get them talking. Try telling stories about problems your own clients have faced to find out if there’s any common ground.
If you meet in person, consider some personalized promotional materials to leave behind. People like free stuff, and this could help them open up to you. You don’t need to invest in anything overly expensive; something personal and practical (such as wearable items like T-shirts or hats) work fine.
3. Tailor your emails
Automated emails can save a lot of time, but nobody likes to feel they’re being talked to by a faceless robot with no interest in what they do. This is why having personalized email templates is so important—you can keep your sales process efficient while still appealing to prospects on an individual level.
Include as many different variables as possible—for instance, mention a recent piece of content that the prospect published or a connection that you share on social media. Avoid simply stating the obvious; point out a connection between the personal detail you’re mentioning and what your own brand has to offer.
As always, focus on the value and benefits that your product or service can provide—don’t just list off a bunch of features.
4. Send handwritten letters
Don’t limit your communications with potential clients to only electronic mediums. Not only can your message get lost in a sea of emails, it can often come across as cold and impersonal.
A handwritten note goes a long way towards letting prospects know that you’re friendly and approachable. It’s important to still keep it professional, so consider stationery with envelopes printed to match your team’s brand. This will help potential clients to remember your brand.
Most sales letters should be no longer than one page. Reference some things you talked about at your last meeting to let them know you were listening. This also signals to them that this isn’t a simple form letter they send to everyone; you’re paying specific attention to them.
5. Make personalized recommendations
Throughout your conversations with the prospect, consider recommending other products and services that could help your prospect, outside of the pain-point your own product solves. This should come up naturally, but it shows that you’re trying to provide value and not just selling your product.
Stick to the products or services that are most relevant based on what you’ve discussed. Clients will appreciate the fact that you didn’t waste their time on things for which they would have no use. You can make recommendations for other purchases, but be sure to explain how they solve your client’s unique problems.
You could even try partnering with a sales team from a different company to recommend their goods or services. Recommendations you receive from a cross promoting partnership could also provide additional sales leads.
6. Use technology to assist you
The landscape of sales has changed, and some of the most powerful tools in your toolbox can be found on your own phone or tablet. Sales engagement apps provide sales team members with a ton of helpful tools, content and information right at their fingertips—and they also make personalization much more convenient.
Apps such as Seismic, for instance, allow you to produce documents and multimedia presentations on the fly from a drag-and-drop interface. Many AI-driven apps can actually handle the personalization process for you, automatically recommending applications for you to use during a presentation based on elements of a client’s history.
7. Thoughtful follow ups
Your relationship doesn’t end after the sale. Continue to send notes and cards periodically to remind clients you are available. If you sell a product or service that needs to be refilled or done on an annual basis, send them reminders that this is coming up. Be sure to include notes from your meetings to show that you’re paying close attention.
Don’t bog them down with correspondence, but it’s ok to send a holiday card or another note related to a special occasion. You can even send them something celebrating the anniversary of your first meeting or sale with them. Clients will appreciate the extra time and attention to detail you are giving them even after the sale—and they’ll remember that when someone asks for a recommendation. You can even include a referral discount code in your correspondence to entice them into giving you additional sales leads.
8. Update your process regularly
Personalization isn’t something you just do once and then never touch again. To keep your process effective, you have to review it periodically and make changes as needed. Keep track of your analytics and identify the elements that are or aren’t working.
Also, make sure you stay up-to-date on new developments in personalization technology. The right piece of software could increase your sales productivity tenfold, so you don’t want to be out of the loop.
Do you have any other sales personalization strategies? Leave them in the comments below.
Sales managers have been searching for the magic formula for sales motivation for decades. Many companies offer incentives such as cash bonuses or trips, but these are generally won by the few superstar salespeople in the organization, leaving the middle- and lower-performers out of the loop and unmotivated.
The truth is that sales professionals are all different and are motivated in different ways. What helps you keep your star performers happy may be reducing motivation in middling performers who need more encouragement. To build a high performing sales team, managers need to customize sales motivation and compensation plans for each member of the team.
According to Thomas Steenburgh and Michael Ahearne for Harvard Business Review. “A few progressive companies have been able to coax better performance from their teams by treating their sales force like a portfolio of investments that require different levels and kinds of attention… (and) some salespeople have greater ability and internal drive than others, and a growing body of research suggests that stars, laggards, and core performers are motivated by different facets of comp plans.”
Luckily, there are a few things you and your team can do to improve motivation in every aspect of your sales process.
1. Effective Sales Motivation Means First Collecting Individual Metrics
Most sales organizations measure individual metrics around number of calls made, emails sent, opportunities opened and volume of deals closed. But a one-size-fits-all approach to evaluating sales metrics is limiting. A lower-level performer may improve his stats dramatically from one quarter to the next, but since his numbers still aren’t as high as those of the stars, he may come in at the bottom of the pack. It doesn’t mean his achievement shouldn’t be rewarded. Garden-variety sales metrics don’t allow managers to see the kind of metrics that provide a real picture of the performance of individual salespeople.
“Measuring sales exclusively on results and the underlying cost structure is certainly a clean approach, but forces sales leaders to rely on intuition as to how to improve sales performance,” explains analyst group SiriusDecisions.
Unfortunately, you’re not going to find an “intuition” report in your CRM solution. Hence, the importance of measuring the less obvious, “fuzzier” metrics that directly drive performance.
Here are a few individual dimensions that sales managers can measure to paint a better picture of their team’s mood:
lead and pipeline quality
CRM or marketing tools can help you find some of these metrics. By simply surveying your team at regular intervals, you can obtain these, too. Once obtained, you should be in a better position to see what motivates each sales person on your team.
2. Use Your Metrics to Determine What Motivates Each Salesperson
Once you’ve got your customized metrics, it’s time to evaluate each salesperson’s motivators. This is particularly important if you’ve got a multi-generational workforce. Monetary compensation may drive some people. Others will put more value in a better work-life balance ( ex. an opportunity to work from home now and then). Motivation by pressure from sales managers may work for others or, by a more hands-off approach.
Here a four dimensions of a sales machine that can have a big impact on motivation:
the attractiveness of your compensation plan and system
the quality of the sales tools and marketing content
the competitiveness of your products features and price points
the depth and frequency of your training and coaching programs
Sales productivity apps like Cien help companies make connections between performance and these less tangible aspects of sales motivation by applying machine learning and sentiment analysis to a sales person’s activities and individual mood. With these compelling connections in hand, sales managers are able to motivate their team and build a better sales playbook.
Track your sales team’s sentiment on your sales process to identify opportunities for improvement
3. Implement a Customized Motivation Plan
With individual metrics and the intelligence they yield in hand, sales managers can now design a motivation and compensation plan that will translate in greater performance and retention. The key to effective motivation is finding the right time, channel and frequency of feedback for each member. While superstars seldom need a lot of guidance, moderate and lower performers will need more intermittent goals and regular feedback from managers.
Sales leaders can effectively implement a sales motivation plan by:
When it comes to compensation, some companies have had success with allowing team members to choose their incentives and rewards as well as their frequency, within reason. This may include options for prizes, or days off and perks instead of cash bonuses.
4. Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Motivation and coaching are based on communication, so the best sales playbook in the world won’t work if everyone operates in a silo. The tone of communications they need will also vary from person to person, just as salespeople are motivated by different compensation plans. Some people might respond well to inspiring messages. Others may benefit from a more educational tone or a virtual kick in the pants. Repeated reminders may be annoying to some salespeople yet others may welcome them to keep them on track. Everybody benefits from regular updates on activities and opportunities on their smartphones.
Motivating a sales team to rise to the challenge of your sales playbook can’t be generic and automated. Salespeople are humans, and humans are all different. When managers can provide individually customized plans for sales motivation, they can get the best performance possible out of each person in the team
You’re recruiting people who will be at the forefront of your sales efforts -or those of your clients- and will lead the charge in attracting new customers. They will be the first person in the company to get in touch with a prospect so while it may be an entry level job for a lot of people, it doesn’t mean that you should hire anyone for it.
But what exactly are you looking for? That’s what I’m going to help you determine.
Essential Qualities of an SDR
A perfect blend of hard and soft skills, and the right mindset.
The daily lot of a typical Sales Development Representative (SDR) generally contains quite a few rejections. You want an SDR with a tough character, who’s not going to be afraid to get knocked down, and who will get back up every time and move on.
A good salesperson, needs to be tough but they need to be able to listen and empathize with their prospect if they want a chance to build rapport and get the relationship moving further. Prospects don’t care about products and feature; they want to be heard about their problem.
Being tough and strong doesn’t exclude being humble. The SDR works at the top of the funnel, which is absolutely crucial for the company. For this reason, it’s paramount that SDR’s are able to take criticism, reevaluate themselves and act as part of the team.
Some people are just naturals. They will sell anything to anyone. Most people, however, need to work hard to get good at something, which is why they need to be able to continuously improve themselves, whether they’re trained for it or not.
Some of the skills in this list must be acquired before allowing the SDR to get in touch with a customer, but some of them can be learned or taught. A good SDR is someone who you can train and who will train themselves to get better at what they do!
Empathy is important but so is confidence. Certain subjects need to be talked about frankly and approached firmly. If your potential SDR isn’t comfortable asking for a wage that they feel is fair, chances are they won’t be keen on asking a prospect to take an action or -when it comes to it- on naming a price and standing by it.
Sales confidence is not necessarily innate, but it can be acquired, even for introverts!
6. Process Oriented
Most salespeople are obsessed about results and will be tempted to change the way they work as soon as they’re afraid they’re not going to hit target. Which leads to poor practices such as becoming more aggressive or discounting. You want someone who’s going to trust the process and refine it, not someone who’s going to throw it all away when the going gets tough.
You can only start getting better when you take responsibility for your actions and you’re ready to clean up your own mess. Someone who’s accountable will not blame the other SDR’s or departments for their failures and will work harder to be responsible for their own success, and that of the company.
8. Communicative & Team Player
Sales is hardly a solo job. SDR’s may be competitive people who want to get the prize but they need to be in sync with the marketing team who’s going to provide prospects and content to reach them, and they need to be in sync with their Account Executives who are going to close the sale.
In a more general way, they need to understand how the company communicates so they can fit right in. Heather Morgan realized that a major problem some of her clients had was that the tone of the company’s’ salespeople didn’t match the tone of the company’s global communication, which was disturbing for prospects when trying to have a quality conversation with them.
Since it’s a tough job, you want to hire an SDR who will stay the course. And for that, being mentally strong is not enough, you need people who know what they want and where they’re going. If they have ambition and a plan for themselves, you’ll find them to be much more willing to put in the hours and the smarts to get the job done.
10. Tech Savvy (somewhat)
You’re not looking for a developer/tech person here, but for someone who isn’t afraid to use technology in order to boost productivity. Someone who can build themself a sales stack and make it as automated as possible so they can spend time on high value-added activities, and not on manual tasks.
Structure and discipline are paramount if an SDR wants to crush quota and rise through the ranks. You need someone who can set a schedule, stick to it and reevaluate it on a regular basis. The key is to block off time and shut out distractions to execute high value activities.
Top candidates and where to find them
Let’s be clear, finding great SDR’s is hard. But it doesn’t mean you can’t find them and bring them in. Don’t wait for them to come for an interview, start looking in the right places!
1. Social networking
LinkedIn is all the rage these days and for good reason: it gives a chance to people to connect on a personal level through exchange of value, with a social kick!
Get involved in conversations, write content and share content from others; that’s how you’ll start appearing as a valuable member of the community.
2. Offline networking
Sometimes it’s good to step out of the office. If you want to meet hungry and motivated people, attend conferences and sales meetups in your city.
3. In-person meetings
Feel free to ask people out on coffee meetings, even if you’re not planning on hiring them -or not right away. It builds great connections and you become top of mind for these people.
What about culture?
Skills are often easy to assess through tests but it’s way more complicated to evaluate whether someone will fit right into company culture, which, for us at Prospect.io, is as important as the job we’re doing.
This is where communication is important and where you need to be open about where you stand, even if it means that it might not be a match with your new potential recruit, because you don’t want to compromise company culture for revenue. It might be positive on the short term but you might regret this over time.
You don’t just need a great SDR, you need a great SDR for the right company.
Keep your ear to the ground.
Stay alert on all channels and keep an eye out for good candidates, feel free to make the first move and to meet people even if there’s no agenda – especially if there’s no agenda!