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Sales is not an easy job, let’s face it. Some people take to it like a fish out of water, while others avoid it like the plague. It takes a certain type of personality to excel at sales. Salespeople must be confident, motivated and extroverted. They can’t have a fear of rejection because that’s a major part of the role. But how do you drive sales motivation in today’s highly competitive business landscape?

A major part of motivating your sales team is to practice empathy when interacting with your reps. Sales directors and managers must be empathetic to sales reps’ needs in order to keep them motivated. That means understanding their individual needs and providing them with the type of personal nurturing they need to feel part of a larger effort and stay motivated.

But what is the meaning of sales motivation and how do you achieve it? Below we cover key tips for using empathy to drive sales motivation. Follow these tips and you will be managing a highly-motivated sales team in a flash.

Recognize sales reps’ unique characteristics

Each rep is different and excels at different things. Some may be more sensitive to critical feedback, while others may wear emotional armor and have the capability to take any feedback you throw at them in a positive way.

Because of these differences, each rep has their strengths and weaknesses. As a sales manager or director, you must identify these strengths and weaknesses so that you can nurture and support the professional development of each rep. Doing so will help reps recognize their strengths and focus on them, rather than obsessing about their weaknesses, which will decrease sales productivity. As Oprah Winfrey famously said, “What we dwell on is who we become.” There’s your motivational sales quote of the day. So, ensure your reps are focused on their strengths, not dwelling on their weaknesses.

Once you recognize each rep’s strengths, you can encourage them to leverage those. You can mentor them to use those strengths in a strategic way to close more deals. Congratulate them on deals won and encourage them to continue using their strengths to produce positive results.

If a sales rep feels that their leadership values them for the unique characteristics they bring to the table, they will feel more motivated and invested in your company’s success.

Encourage collaboration

Sales managers and directors can pair reps that excel in different areas so they can learn from one another and develop the skills and strengths they lack.

A great way to do this is to introduce gamification of sales into your sales strategy. Gamification adds an element of competition to your sales process. Plus, you can create contests that involve pairing two reps together to complete a challenge collaboratively.

This lets you pair those with different skill sets so they can collaborate and learn from one another. But first, you must be empathetic to what each rep’s strength and weaknesses are so that you can pair them correctly.

If gamification of sales is a new concept for you, check out our article that discusses innovative tips to gamify your sales strategy.

Congratulate and provide positive feedback

When you use empathy to understand what each of your rep’s weaknesses and strengths are, you can focus on giving encouraging feedback to reps when they excel in their areas of strength.

If you can see that they leveraged one of their main strengths to close a deal, congratulate them for that. Perhaps, even congratulate them in front of the whole sales team. This will increase their motivation and encourage them to leverage those strengths even more.

You would be surprised how many sales leaders never stop by to praise their reps for a job well done. A little positive feedback goes a long way and can be the difference between a successful sales effort and a struggling one.

Addresses weaknesses with empathy

When a specific sales rep is struggling in a certain area, sales leadership must address that performance issue. There are many ways to do this. You can scold your rep and use fear to try to drive better results.

Or, you can use empathy and identify the reasons why they are falling behind. Then gently address those areas and ask—in a genuine way—what you can do to help them overcome that weakness.

You can ask them questions like:

  • Why do you think you struggle in this area?
  • You excel in so many other areas, what do you think is holding you back here?
  • What are the main obstacles preventing you from developing this skill?
  • How can I help you overcome this challenge?
  • What resources or additional training do you feel you need to beat this?

Asking questions in a gentle, empathetic way like this will avoid putting your reps on the defensive. If they feel defensive, they will not be able to focus on their jobs, their motivation level will drop dramatically, and they may just mentally check out.

For example, here are some examples of questions you do not want to ask in this situation:

  • Everyone else is meeting their quotas, why aren’t you?
  • No one else struggles with this, why is it so hard for you?
  • This issue you struggle with is a basic skill of a successful salesperson. Why have you not learned this by now?

These are questions that will decrease motivation and leave your reps doubting their own abilities. That will lead to poorer performance and uninspired employees. That’s a bad place to be because employee turnover is much more costly than building the skills of your existing employees.

According to Forbes, on average it costs a company 50% of an entry-level employee’s salary to replace them, 100% of a mid-level employee’s salary, and over 200% of an executive-level employee’s salary. Consider that when you are frustrated with a sales rep’s performance and are considering firing them. If there’s a possibility that you can train them and bring them up to speed quickly, always opt for that approach.

Build morale and sales motivation in meetings

Most sales teams have regular sales meetings to check in on progress, analyze the leaderboard, and discuss forward-looking strategy. These meetings may take place weekly, monthly, or quarterly. The more often you meet, the better.

If you are a sales leader, always focus on the positive outcomes your team is producing and discuss that in the team meeting. If a certain rep is struggling in one area, your sales team meeting is not the place to address it—particularly if you’re trying to build sales motivation.

Use the team meeting to focus on positive developments, congratulate individual contributors for their efforts, and keep the vibe positive and optimistic. A motivational speech for your sales team can go a long way to increase morale.

If you need to discuss a problem area with a specific rep, do that in a private, one-on-one meeting so you don’t embarrass them in front of the whole team. That will certainly kill sales motivation quicker than a hummingbird flaps its wings.

Read our blog article to learn more about running successful sales meetings.

Sales motivation trumps focusing on metrics

It should seem obvious, but many sales leaders don’t realize this. If you only focus on quotas and how each rep is performing against them, you create a cold, impersonal environment for your team.

If a rep is underperforming, don’t come down on them for not hitting their quota. Rather, focus on increasing their morale so they genuinely want to try harder to meet their goals. If you simply browbeat them, they will lose motivation and won’t care about the results of their work. Worse yet, they will start looking for another job.

If you maintain a motivated sales team, the results will come in organically. If your sales reps feel down about their performance and start to doubt their own abilities, you can say goodbye to increased sales productivity.

Ask yourself what you could improve

If a rep is underperforming in a certain area, you should take a step back and reflect on the situation. Ask yourself what you’re doing wrong that is leading to this lack of sales motivation. Don’t automatically place blame on the rep.

It’s possible that there is a fault in your managing style that is causing low motivation levels. If you don’t self-reflect, you won’t see this.

The performance of any team is ultimately the responsibility of the team leader. So, if a rep is underperforming, it’s possibly due to something you are not doing correctly.

Empathy involves putting yourself in the shoes of another. So rather than automatically placing blame for poor performance on your reps, think about how they feel. Perhaps they aren’t receiving the guidance from you that they need. Or perhaps another problem exists. Ask yourself what you could improve, make changes accordingly, and you’ll see improved results.

Conclusion

Sales is an aggressive and high-stress job to have. Sales reps are often stressed out and feel pressured to meet their quotas.

But rather than scolding them for not succeeding, ask yourself what you could do to improve their performance.

After all, you’re a team and this is a basic part of teamwork.

Do you have any anecdotes about motivating salespeople with empathy that you can share with our readers? Please post them in the comments section below!

The post Using empathy to increase sales motivation appeared first on Agile CRM Blog.

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Sales are necessary for any business to thrive and grow. In today’s highly competitive markets, a solid sales strategy can differentiate you from the competition and help you grow faster and more sustainably.

When implementing a B2C or B2B sales strategy, you must take some important, initial steps to define various aspects of that strategy. There are many moving parts involved in developing a unique sales strategy.

Tips for building your sales strategy

A solid sales strategy can make or break the future of your business. You can’t just show a sales rep a product and tell them to sell it. You must follow some basic steps to build your sales strategy first, so they have a defined process to follow.

There are various types of sales strategies, and you should develop yours based on your specific business needs. However, to get you started, below we cover the basics to give you a head start in developing your own sales strategy.

Use the right technology

This is a given, but if you’re not using a customer relationship management (CRM) solution to automate and streamline sales tasks, now is the time to acquire one.

A solid CRM that includes robust sales features should be the foundation of your sales efforts and a core element of your sales strategy.

A CRM that automates the majority of time-consuming, manual tasks frees up loads of time for sales reps. They can then spend that time engaging prospects, forming strategy, conducting research, etc.

Some businesses are hesitant to implement a sales CRM software solution because there are various myths about sales CRMs that are simply not true. Don’t be dissuaded by these common misconceptions. Instead, check out our article in which we expose common sales CRM myths.

Know your audience: Buyer personas

To develop a super solid sales strategy, you first need to know who you are selling to. Many companies and sales managers make the mistake of believing they know exactly who their ideal buyers are. This is an ineffective approach. You can’t truly know who your ideal consumers are without doing some research and creating buyer personas.

A buyer persona is a detailed profile of a hypothetical key decision maker who is involved in deciding whether to purchase your product or service. Buyer personas help you define who your potential buyers are and what makes them tick. An effective buyer persona includes information such as:

  • Position in their company
  • Which department they represent
  • Their pain points and biggest challenges
  • Their goals for the future
  • Age, gender, and personality type
  • How you should speak to them
  • And ultimately, how your product can address and solve their challenges

When you create a detailed portrait of your ideal, most common type of buyer, you can market to prospects in a more relevant and personal way. You can speak directly to their pain points and challenges and illustrate to them that your product or service can solve a problem they might not know they have. Learn more about creating buyer personas.

Create solid messaging and positioning

Corporate and product messaging is an incredibly important element of an effective sales strategy. A comprehensive messaging document outlines how your employees should speak about your brand and product to the market.

Messaging should focus on your customers and their needs, so don’t build a messaging document that only speaks about how great your company is. Rather, touch on how your product can help a prospect. How will it solve their pain points? How will it improve their results?

Focus on who your customers are, the challenges they face, and how your company can steer them towards solutions to those challenges.

Target your messaging to speak directly to your customers’ and prospects’ needs. Why? Because 57% of consumers consciously and actively avoid companies that bombard them with poorly targeted marketing messages.

The message your employees convey to the market should be consistent, and a messaging document ensures this.

Here are some important elements of a messaging document:

  • Problem statement: Defining the market problem that you plan to solve
  • Solution statement: How your brand and product solve the challenges in your problem statement
  • Vision statement: Your vision for the future as it relates to your brand and offerings
  • Mission statement: How you plan to achieve your vision for the future
  • Value proposition: The unique value that your company and product bring to the market
  • Positioning statement: How your company and product or service solves unique market/consumer needs in ways that competitors do not
  • Core messages (three versions): This is the core, high-level message that you want to communicate to the market. Create three versions: a one-line elevator pitch, a one-paragraph pitch with more detail, and a full-page company and product description for more in-depth conversations.

It’s advisable that marketing and sales work together to develop your messaging document. If either team disagrees with a certain point or message, the two teams should discuss it until they gain a consensus. This will ensure sales and marketing alignment around your core message.

Set up lead lifecycle stages and a flow process

Lead lifecycle stages are the points along the customer journey that leads pass through on their way to becoming customers. Leads enter your database by identifying themselves on lead generation forms, blog or email subscription boxes, and various other ways.

As they engage more with your company, they move through to subsequent stages until they are sales-ready. Once they are, your CRM passes them to sales for outreach. This is all automated by your CRM when you use lead scoring (more on that below).

Ultimately, you must define what it takes for a lead to enter each stage, and how you will communicate to them in a way that is appropriate for a lead in that stage. How you define each stage depends on your business model and customers’ needs. To learn more about lead lifecycle stages, check out our article about building a marketing funnel to drive business growth.

Prioritize leads

As your sales funnel grows, you may find yourself in a situation in which there are so many leads to market to that your sales reps don’t know who to reach out to first.

Marketing can assist with this by creating a lead scoring model to help sales reps prioritize leads.

A lead scoring model leverages marketing automation to award points to leads for actions they take and demographic information that they provide to you.

You can award demographic points for attributes that indicate a lead’s propensity to purchase. For example, if someone identifies themselves as the CEO of a company, you might award them 10 points because they are an obvious decision maker. If someone lists their job title as administrative assistant, you might award them one point, because they will have little leverage in the final purchase decision.

Other common demographic attributes that companies award points for include:

  • Level of seniority in the company
  • Their internal role
  • Company size (number of employees)
  • Revenue
  • Industry
  • Physical location

You also award points for actions taken, and those are tracked automatically in your marketing automation solution. Those include actions such as:

  • Opening and clicking your marketing emails
  • Completing web forms on your lead generation landing pages
  • Visiting high-value pages on your website
  • Subscribing to your email list or blog
  • Downloading new content
  • Requesting a demo

After you define which actions and attributes deserve which score, you determine a qualification threshold. This is the point value that a lead must reach in order to be passed over to sales for outreach.

Lead scoring is so important to a successful sales strategy that, according to a lead scoring survey by Demand Gen Report, 41% of respondents saw improved lead conversion rates when using lead scoring.

To learn more, read our article on lead scoring.

Set achievable sales goals

Of course, every sales team needs monthly quotas and goals around various aspects of their jobs. This includes actual sales, prospect calls, new leads in the pipeline, etc.

However, these goals and expectations must be based on hard data to ensure they are realistic and achievable. The best way to ensure your sales goals are achievable is to conduct market research and gain a firm understanding of the industry standard for various sales metrics.

You should also consider the state of the industry or market you are in. If, for example, your market is predicted to decline, you would adjust your sales goals accordingly—lowering expectations based on market conditions.

Once you set your sales goals, you should always measure results to keep tabs on how you’re performing against those goals.

Measure results

As mentioned above, measuring sales metrics is an incredibly important element of your sales strategy. There are loads of sales metrics you can measure, including sales won, sales lost, calls made, revenue generated, and the list goes on.

If you use the right software to automate sales processes, measurement is a breeze. For example, if you use an all-in-one CRM that provides robust CRM reporting, you can set up custom reports that provide you with the data that you need to see most. You can also automate the delivery of those reports to your inbox at specified intervals. Plus, you can customize your dashboard to give you an at-a-glance view of any metric you must monitor closely.

Measuring sales results helps you identify weak links in the chain so that you can support underperformers in the areas they struggle with. And when you have constant insight into how your sales efforts are moving the needle, you can maintain quite accurate sales forecasting, which is also automated by your CRM.

Conclusion

If the concept of a sales strategy is new to you, this article should help move you in the right direction to get started creating one.

The above tips are intended to help you start contemplating your own sales strategy. Every business is unique and so is their sales strategy.

As you start to leverage your sales strategy, you’ll quickly see which tactics are working and which are not. However, it’s critical to complete a few preliminary steps first, as mentioned above (i.e., create buyer personas, acquire a CRM to automate sales tasks, define your lead lifecycle stages, etc.).

Once you’re set up and running, always check your sales metrics daily if possible. This will provide insight and hard numbers that will let you make data-driven decisions about how to evolve and continually improve your sales strategy. And, after all, constant improvement and growth is the ultimate goal in sales!

The post How to create the right sales strategy for your business appeared first on Agile CRM Blog.

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Sales are essential to company and revenue growth in every business. Sales teams that do not have a marketing team supporting them have a significantly harder time closing deals than those that do. Ideally, the two teams should work in tandem, which is why sales and marketing alignment is so important.

Unfortunately, in many companies, sales and marketing teams work in silos and do not collaborate enough. This has negative impacts on a company’s ability to convert new customers and grow over the long term.

Many companies struggle with identifying how to connect sales and marketing. Luckily, with a few simple tips, you can align the two teams and close more deals more effectively. Here, we provide 11 tips for improving sales and marketing alignment.

1. Implement a customer relationship management solution

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is now a necessity for nearly every business. CRM solutions make every team in a company more efficient and organized by automating manual processes, facilitating better data storage, and improving collaboration.

However, CRM software can also be the catalyst that aligns your sales and marketing teams. When a company implements a CRM, all teams work with the same data from the same system. When sales enters new data, marketing can view and work with it, and vice versa.

Automated notifications can be sent to each team by the other to ensure tasks get completed on time. Project management capabilities improve collaboration between sales and marketing by bringing accountability to each team’s processes. So, having a CRM solution in place is essential for sales and marketing alignment.

2. Integrate marketing automation with your CRM

Once you have CRM software in place, you should implement a marketing automation solution to automate marketing activities. This allows marketing to better support sales in various ways, including:

  • Automating the lead qualification process
  • Implementing a lead scoring mechanism
  • Sending automated task notifications
  • Tracking lead behaviors to provide sales with more insight into their interests and buying preferences
  • Running automated multichannel marketing campaigns to generate more leads for sales
  • And much more

It is important to integrate your marketing automation solution with your CRM software so that data from both systems lives in the same database. This lets sales and marketing view and work with the same data, which improves sales and marketing alignment.

Many companies these days are opting for all-in-one CRM systems because they include a built-in marketing automation solution. This means businesses don’t have to purchase two separate solutions and integrate them because the two systems are integrated out of the box.

3. Collaborate on messaging to improve sales and marketing alignment

When your marketing team is creating corporate or product messaging, they should include sales in the process. They should request input from sales and incorporate that into the overall messaging documents they create.

Once those messaging documents are complete, marketing should share them with sales to gain consensus on the accuracy of these core messages. If sales disagrees with a certain point or message, the two teams should discuss it until they gain a consensus. In this way, both teams are aligned around the same messaging and will be more likely to proactively leverage it because each team invested time and energy in creating it.

4. Implement lead scoring

Lead scoring is one of the major benefits that marketing automation solutions provide. It allows marketers to accurately gauge when leads are qualified and ready to be passed over to sales for outreach.

Lead scoring ranks prospective customers’ sales-readiness by using a point system that indicates the value that person (or sales target) represents to the organization.

You award points to leads for actions they take, like opening or clicking emails, visiting your website, etc. You also award points for demographic data such as their job title. Plus, you determine how many points each action or demographic attribute is worth.

Scores accumulate over time. You set a scoring threshold at which a lead is considered to be a “marketing qualified” (i.e., hot) lead. When they cross the threshold, they are passed over to sales for immediate follow up. This helps sales prioritize their outreach to the most sales-ready leads.

According to a lead scoring survey by DemandGen Report, 41% of respondents saw improved lead conversion rates when using lead scoring. This is because lead scoring forces marketing and sales to work together more closely, improving sales and marketing alignment and empowering both teams to achieve better results. Learn more about lead scoring.

5. Map out the buyer’s journey

Every company should have their buyer journey mapped out so that it’s easy for both sales and marketing to know where each lead is in the sales cycle. The exercise of mapping out the journey should be a collaborative effort undertaken by sales and marketing.

Collaborating on this effort will ensure that both teams agree on the definition of each stage of the journey (see number 6 below). This will eliminate any confusion around where each lead is and how sales should communicate with them.

6. Define lead lifecycle stages

Lifecycle stages are points along the buyer’s journey that leads pass through on their way to becoming customers. Sales and marketing should collaborate on defining these so that both teams are on the same page. These stages should be incorporated into your lead scoring model.

Anonymous leads are tracked in your marketing automation system until they identify themselves by completing a web form or providing you with their contact information in another way.

Then, as they engage with your marketing tactics and earn points, they advance through the buyer’s journey from one stage to the next, and your marketing automation solution tracks all of this.

Here is an example of a simple list of lead lifecycle stages that a company could use:

  • Anonymous lead: A lead who has been browsing your website but has not yet provided you with any contact information
  • Known lead: A lead who has provided their contact information
  • Marketing qualified lead (MQL): A lead who has passed your scoring threshold and is ready to be passed to sales for outreach
  • Sales qualified lead (SQL): An MQL that sales has communicated with and has validated their intent to purchase
  • Customer: An SQL that sales has converted into a customer
7. Leverage automated notifications

With integrated CRM and marketing automation solutions, marketing can set up automated notifications when specified actions take place. For example, when a lead crosses the MQL threshold, an automated notification can be sent to sales alerting them that there is a sales-ready lead they need to reach out to.

Marketing can set up notifications for virtually any action they want to notify sales about. Another example would be an automated notification sent to sales when a lead downloads a high-value piece of content. The possibilities are endless, which is why leveraging automated notifications is a great marketing and sales alignment strategy.

8. Collaborate on inbound content

Your content marketing team produces inbound content to support sales as they communicate with leads at each stage of the buyer’s journey. But most do not include sales in the content creation process.

To improve sales and marketing alignment, have marketing and sales collaborate on a few high-level content pieces. This will bring the two teams together and help your sales team think more in terms of pitching benefits than features.

9. Implement sales service level agreements

Service level agreements (SLAs) are essentially contracts that specify the correct process for completing a certain task and place expectations around the results of that process. For example, marketing can leverage SLAs to ensure that sales follows up with leads in a timely fashion by specifying that sales must reach out to an MQL within X number of hours after being notified.

Marketers can use SLAs for various purposes. Incorporating SLAs into your sales process helps keep sales accountable and significantly improves sales and marketing alignment.

10. Hold monthly meetings with both teams

Sales and marketing should huddle up at least once per month to ensure that everything they collaborate on is working properly. Some common questions that should be asked at these meetings to ensure tight sales and marketing alignment include:

  • Is marketing qualifying leads at the right time, too early, or too late?
  • Is marketing producing content that is effectively engaging prospects? If not, what else is needed?
  • Are all salespeople completing assigned tasks and meeting their SLAs?
  • Is the lead scoring mechanism still accurate? In other words, are you awarding leads the correct score for each action they take?
  • Are leads piling up at any stage of the lead lifecycle? If so, how can you fix that bottleneck?
  • What else does sales need from marketing that they don’t currently have?

Meeting once per month keeps both teams on the same page. Once a company fully grasps the importance of sales and marketing alignment, it will see the need for monthly meetings and implement them.

11. Measure the results of sales and marketing collaboration

Every important decision a business makes should be based on hard data, and continually fine-tuning your efforts to align marketing and sales is no exception.

Your CRM and marketing automation solutions should provide robust CRM reporting and metrics. You can leverage reporting capabilities to keep tabs on who is not meeting their SLAs, whether your lead qualification mechanism is moving leads through the pipeline at the right velocity, and much more.

As you implement the tips above, make it a priority to measure as many of your efforts as possible to ensure that you can continually improve sales and marketing alignment.

Conclusion

Companies that focus on marketing and sales alignment for improved effectiveness are the companies that will outperform their competition. Sales and marketing alignment in 2019 is more important than ever.

With so much competition saturating nearly every industry, the businesses that follow the tips above will come out on top. Those that don’t make sales and marketing alignment a priority will fade into the background.

Do you have additional tips that help you keep your sales and marketing teams aligned? Share them with us in the comments section below!

The post 11 tips to improve sales and marketing alignment appeared first on Agile CRM Blog.

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Is your  B2B Sales Funnel delivering desired results?

The B2B [Business to Business] sales funnel is a great sales and marketing tool for following up the buyer’s journey from initial visit, to converting as lead, and finally, to the point where they become a customer.

However, B2B sales has changed over the years in that what worked a decade ago is no longer viable, thanks to a big change in the persuasion/conversion game. In today’s marketplace, it’s no longer your sales team who’s in control –the buyer is! Today’s buyer prefers to do all the research with little to no interference from the sales person, leaving most B2B sellers clueless and outwitted by those who know.

A B2B sales funnel that aligns well with the buyer’s journey is critical to ensuring a smooth and successful ride in today’s marketplace.

Imagine an actual funnel through which you guide liquid into a container: Let’s say the liquid represents leads, the funnel stands for the marketing medium [e.g. email], and the container is where your customers are served.  

At the top of the funnel, a lot of liquid [leads] can go in at once –but as they progress into the funnel [aka your email series,] the funnel narrows to only take in those that are ready to buy and become your customer.

The above analogy describes the buyer’s journey into a sales funnel broken down into 3 main stages:

#1 Awareness:

At the awareness phase, most leads are generally seeking information that can either answer their most pressing questions or adequately address their pain points. So, the kind of content they’re looking for here is one that throws more light on how to find help for their specific situation [surely, this is no place to sell to them].

#2 Consideration:

At the consideration phase, leads have explored different options for getting their problems solved and are now critically evaluating the solutions at their disposal to determine the best fit [of course, from their own standpoint].

#3 Decision:

Depending on how effective the above two process is, the lead then makes a decision on whether to buy from you or not. If the decision is in your favor, they become your customer. If not, they go away without completing the sales funnel cycle.

It’s Evolution

Thanks to disruptive technology, the B2B sales funnel is million miles ahead of what it used to be [say 10 years ago]. Particularly, the B2B buyer is a lot more informed [and hence, more sophisticated] completely transforming their decision-making and buying behavior. In the past, you would invite a targeted buyer out to lunch, meet them up at a golf course, or have a sales team storm their office.

Today, according to Steven Norman [founder of Growth Acumen] B2B buyers make 70 – 80% of their buying journey virtually, without ever meeting any salesperson, face to face.

With so much information at their fingertips, a B2B buyer is able to do product research, read reviews and references, and make a decision without being influenced by a single salesperson. What all of these means is that, in today’s marketplace, buyers are a lot more in control.

This major tilt in power and control from the seller to the buyer has been dramatic to say the least. B2B sellers are finding they have to constantly up their game to stay in the B2B buyer’s radar. They have to adapt to the constantly evolving sales environment to have a firm grip on the market.

If they fail to adapt? They die and are quickly forgotten –giving way to those who know how to act quickly and stay on top of things –as far as the changing dynamics of today’s marketplace is concerned.  

One of the worst things that can happen to a B2B seller is being clueless about the current customer journey, blaming low sales and poor results on a slow market or its sales force. At first, the loss is slow. But as more quick-to-adapt competitors get right in front of the pecking order –the late or non-adopters lose out faster until they’re completely dispossessed of their market share – especially if they continue in their ignorance.

How to adapt before it’s too late

According to Richard Branson, “Every success story is a tale of constant adaptation, revision and change.” So, here are 3 top ways to adapt like a pro:

#1 Reposition your salesforce:

Granted, your B2B sales force are still critical to your sales success but you must understand the new role they play in the B2B buyer journey and position them accordingly.   

Yes, today’s buyers don’t want a product straight out of the shelf, but they don’t want a sales person to simply tell them about the product either. Instead, they expect salespeople to help them distil the complex buying process, and then present a concise, customized solution that addresses their pain point or situation adequately.

#2 Befriend SEO and leverage disruptive digital marketing tools:

Thing is 93% of website traffic comes from search engines and 50% of prospects are more likely to click on a link if they come across it more than once. Investing in SEO gives B2B sellers the upper hand over their competition.

In the past, going ‘traditional’ with your ad campaign was way-to-go for majority of B2B sellers looking to capture the minds of buyers. But amazingly, 54% of present-day buyers say they don’t trust traditionally branded content. To win over this category, B2B sellers must embrace brand awareness, using digital tools.

#3 Harness the power of “Big Data”:

Take it or leave it – B2B sellers who replace instinct with big data are 6% more profitable. With the advent of AI and machine learning, companies who invest in it are now able to leverage big data to predict buyer behavior much more accurately, using previous buying history.

This way, they’re able to qualify leads by analyzing data and using the results to create targeted marketing messages that reduce cost, dramatically improves on efficiency, and supercharges sales –predictably and consistently.

As a B2B seller in today’s world, you cannot afford to sit on your hands and expect prospects to come to, and eventually buy from you. You must take up your ‘proactive thinking cap,’ find out the new channels prospects are on, and share content that connect, convince and convert them. You also need to work hand in hand with your marketing arm, using the data and recommendations generated to create sales tools that draw-in the prospects further down your sales funnel. Doing this activates the B2B buyer-seller ‘courtship’ that engenders trust and ensures you succeed in modern-day B2B sales.  

The post The B2B sales funnel: How it’s evolving and how to adapt to change appeared first on Agile CRM Blog.

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In today’s highly competitive business landscape, companies find it increasingly difficult to compete without the capacity to make data-driven decisions. The sales metrics and analysis provided by modern technology makes this easy.

Many businesses are moving to an all-in-one customer relationship management (CRM) solution because they provide full CRM, sales, marketing, and help desk modules all on the same platform. This means that data from every department is stored in one central database, increasing the volume and accuracy of the data and metrics at your disposal, which allows you to make more data-driven decisions.

Key sales metrics to measure and analyze

An all-in-one CRM tracks loads of sales metrics. But there are additional metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you must track in other places, such as social media sites. Below we’ll cover the top ten sales metrics and KPIs that modern sales teams should embrace and leverage to drive sales and company growth.

1. Total sales month-over-month

Tracking overall sales by rep, per month, is not a new concept. Sales teams have been doing it for decades. However, it’s still an important sales metric even in the digital age.

An all-in-one CRM provides powerful CRM reporting that lets you easily keep tabs on how each rep is performing with regards to sales. Sales managers and directors should set monthly benchmarks and measure rep performance against those.

If you find that your reps’ total monthly sales are dropping, you can dig into the data to understand why. Once you identify the cause behind the drop, you can use the data available to help that rep improve and get them back on course.

2. Opportunities lost

It’s important to track the number of opportunities lost, as well as the ratio of opportunities created to opportunities lost for each sales rep. If reps are creating loads of new opportunities but losing most of them, you need to understand the reason behind that.

This is an easy sales metric to track in an all-in-one CRM. Most of these solutions provide customizable dashboards that let sales managers and reps check in daily and get the insight they need at a glance.

Pro tip: If a rep is losing more opportunities than they are winning, sales managers can leverage the advanced telephony features in an all-in-one CRM to dig into the situation and uncover the reasons causing this. Use call recording featuresto record each sales call made by each rep so managers can listen in and identify weak points in the rep’s approach and guide them to improve in those areas.

3. Sales funnel flow

This is another tried and true sales metric, but it still applies to, and is critical to the success of modern sales teams. The great thing is that with data tracking and sales metrics capabilities in CRM solutions, this data collection and analysis takes place automatically. You simply check your dashboard, and you can easily see how many leads each rep has in the funnel.

With the insight provided by sales funnel analysis, sales managers can see which reps are moving leads through the funnel at the expected velocity. They can also identify reps who are seeing a bottleneck at one particular stage of the funnel and are having a hard time moving them past that stage.

That kind of granular detail allows managers to focus on that one stage and better understand why that bottleneck exists, as well as how to make changes to fix the issue and get leads flowing smoothly through the funnel once again.

4. Outreach activities completed

Each rep engages in prospecting outreach. This consists of cold calling, sending cold emails, etc. Logically, the more prospects they reach, the more likely they are to convert them to customers. That’s why it’s important to track the number of calls and cold prospect emails.

Reps can leverage technology to streamline their outreach. They can use sales email templates to expedite the sending of prospect emails. They can use auto dialer features to make more calls in less time. They can also leverage pre-recorded voicemail drops to save time and make more calls.

You can easily track calls made and emails sent per rep with CRM reporting. Set an outreach benchmark and measure each reps’ outreach against that to identify those who need support to improve their efforts.

5. Optimize your LinkedIn profile

With so many consumers using social media, social sites have become a key venue for reps to engage potential customers. Social media statistics inform us that by 2021, experts expect the number of global social media users to reach 3.02 billion, which amounts to one-third of the world’s population.

LinkedIn is the best social site to use for prospecting because its focus is professional relationships, not friendships. For that reason, modern sales reps need to optimize their LinkedIn profiles to generate the maximum amount of social media engagement possible.

LinkedIn even guides you on how to improve and optimize your profile. LinkedIn provides a ranking of your profile strength. If your profile needs lots of work, LinkedIn will rank your profile as “Beginner” and will provide suggestions for how to improve it, such as “Add work dates.” (see image 1 below).

As you build out and optimize your profile, your profile ranking will increase until you reach All star status (see image 2 below).

Once you have optimized your profile, you can measure how effective it is in a few ways. Track the following metrics to assess how well you’ve optimized your LinkedIn profile:

  • Number of followers and follower growth over time
  • Acceptance rate on connection requests
  • Number of inquiries and referrals you receive via LinkedIn instant messaging
  • Number of profile views and growth of views over time
6. Measure social engagement

Social selling is super popular these days because it is highly effective at building relationships with potential customers and growing your reputation as a thought leader in your space.

Here, you will go beyond LinkedIn and measure every social platform you use. To excel at social selling, don’t try to sell your product outright. Rather, provide helpful content that solves problems and provide your insight into relevant topics by commenting on others’ posts.

You can measure how effectively you are engaging prospects on social media by tracking and analyzing the following metrics:

  • Number of shares your posts receive and the ratio of posts to shares
  • Number of comments your posts receive, and the ratio of comments per post
  • Likes per post

If you’re effectively engaging prospects on social media, these metrics should constantly improve.

7. Conversion rates

Sales reps receive marketing qualified leads (MQLs) from marketing who, theoretically, have displayed a propensity to buy and are ready for sales outreach.

Once marketing passes an MQL to sales, are they converted into a customer? Or is the opportunity lost? You can measure conversion rates by taking the number of leads that you’ve converted into customers and dividing that by the total number of MQLs you received from marketing.

If the conversion rate is low, it could be because marketing is qualifying leads too early. Or it could be because the sales rep isn’t effective at closing deals. Only the data will tell you that, and you can easily do this with the sales reporting features provided by most CRMs.

8. Product and service expertise

These days sales reps must be absolute experts in the products or services they sell They also need to do their homework and understand each prospect’s needs before reaching out, so they can explain how their product or service solves for those needs.

To drive this home, consider that according to SAP, 46% of executives cite that their biggest frustration with vendors is salespeople who lack relevant knowledge/subject matter expertise about the prospect’s needs.

Salespeople need to be highly knowledgeable with the ability to answer any product question thrown at them, no matter how technical.

I recommend coordinating intensive product and service training for each sales rep. Because products evolve, and new features are constantly added, you should hold refresher courses at least once per quarter.

You can measure reps’ expertise by giving them an exam after each training course to see how well they absorb the information presented. You can take it a step further by asking them to give a mock sales pitch after each lesson, with a sales manager playing devil’s advocate and asking unexpected questions to see how their reps handle them.

9. Personalized outreach

Personalization in marketing and sales has become table stakes for any business that wants to grow. With so much data stored in CRM solutions and the ability to automate the sending of personalized emails in bulk, personalized sales outreach has never been easier.

Reps can also use that data to learn about prospects, their interests, pain points, etc. before ever reaching out. This empowers them to have more productive and personalized telephone conversations with prospects.

Plus, with sales metrics and KPI tracking in many CRMs, it’s simple to track the number of personalized emails sent vs. the number of generic ones sent.

Set a benchmark that each rep needs to meet every month. For example, each rep must make at least 50 attempts at personalized outreach each month. Then monitor that number and expect it to increase over time.

The more personalized the outreach, the higher the chances a rep has of converting a prospect into a customer. So, monitor this sales metric and work to increase the volume of personalized outreach your team engages in.

10. Clients lost

Let’s face it, salespeople work off commission, and each sale they make puts more money in their pockets. Logically, their primary focus is to close more deals—as many as possible.

Because of that common salesperson mindset, many reps will overpromise when trying to close a deal. They may claim the product has features and benefits that it actually does not. When that happens, the rep closes a deal, makes their commission, but leaves a new customer with unrealistic expectations about the product or service they’re paying for.

When the new customer realized this, they are very likely to leave you for a competitor. That’s why measuring lost clients is an important sales metric. If a rep is closing loads of deals and those new customers are leaving within the first year, it’s time to investigate and understand what that rep is saying to win so many deals that end up failing in a year.

It’s much better for reps to be genuine, sincere, and honest when pitching a product. Millennials (now the largest consumer demographic in the US) appreciate sincerity and can see through misleading product pitches.

Although it sounds alluring to overpromise and win a new deal, doing so will come back to haunt the rep who does that when they lose their job and find themselves searching for a new one.

Conclusion

Modern sales teams that thrive and help grow their businesses are the ones that use data to make informed and strategic decisions. That can only be done by constantly measuring sales metrics and KPIs.

Some key sales metrics are not new, but are tried and true methods for gauging effectiveness. Others, like measuring social media engagement and the strength of your social profiles, are newer metrics.

You need to measure them all and fix problems when and where they appear. Doing so will help your sales team improve their results. It will also help sales managers and directors to make informed decisions with data in front of them to validate those decisions.

So, don’t just fly by the seat of your pants. Implement a formal system for tracking, measuring, and analyzing sales metrics and KPIs, and you’ll see more deals won, an increase in productivity, and faster business and revenue growth.

Are you tracking any sales metrics we didn’t cover here? Share them with us in the comments section below!

The post Top 10 sales metrics and KPIs for modern sales teams appeared first on Agile CRM Blog.

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Traditional (outside) sales tactics that involve sales reps traveling and meeting prospects in person are giving way to a new approach to selling. It’s called inside sales, and it offers many benefits that outside sales does not. This is why more businesses are incorporating it into their overall sales strategy.

But what exactly is inside sales and how do you excel at it? Below we’ll explain the concept in detail, then cover some of the most effective inside sales techniques and strategies to grow your business.

Inside vs. outside sales

If you’re aware of inside sales, you’re already moving in the right direction. If not, we’ll provide some context through which to understand the concept and why it’s growing in popularity. The easiest way to convey this information is by comparing traditional, outside sales with inside sales.

What is outside sales?

Outside sales reps target prospects and travel to meet with them in person. They make the trip, make the pitch, and in the process form a rapport with prospects through face-to-face interaction. Most businesses still leverage outside sales and will continue to do so. Inside sales won’t fully replace outside sales, but rather can be used to complement outside sales in a way that produces a highly versatile sales presence.

What is inside sales?

Inside sales reps conduct their prospecting, outreach, and selling remotely. Rather than traveling to meet prospects in person, they form connections with prospects through the use of technology. By leveraging email, advanced telephony, social media, and customer relationship management (CRM) software, they aim to form a rapport with prospects without ever meeting them in person.

The emergence of all-in-one CRM solutions that include built-in sales enablement tools has empowered inside sales teams to close more deals remotely. These all-in-one solutions also provide deep insight into each prospect’s needs, interests, and challenges, which inside reps can easily access through 360-degree contact views.

With these tools and the insight they provide, inside reps can use a more personal approach to prospecting and outreach. In this way, they can more easily form a rapport with prospects without the need to travel for face-to-face meetings.

To drive home the importance of using technology to drive inside sales, consider this: LinkedIn found that 33% of inside sales reps who use CRM and sales intelligence tools spend around three to five hours a week using those tools to uncover insights about leads and prospects. These insights are critical to the success of any inside sales team and are very difficult to maintain without the help of technology.

Inside and outside sales by the numbers

As mentioned above, businesses are increasingly incorporating inside sales into their sales strategy. We’ve seen a rapid increase in the number of inside reps working in sales.

According to InsideSales.com, census data from 2017 indicated that there were 5.7 million sales professionals in the United States. Of those, 47% are inside reps, while outside reps make up 53%. We’re looking at a near 50/50 split between the two.

We expect to see the percentage of inside reps continue to rise in the future. Mary Shea and Forrester Research report that inside sales jobs are growing 15 times faster than outside sales jobs. Simply put, inside sales is the way of the future.

Why? Many reasons support the incorporation of inside sales tactics into a company’s overall sales strategy. Key among them is that inside reps can make sales at a fraction of the cost incurred by outside sales reps. That’s because they don’t have to spend resources on travel, accommodation, etc., but rather can conduct their entire sales process remotely.

Inside sales techniques and strategies for success

There are many tactics and best practices that successful inside sales reps use to improve results and close more deals. Below we’ll cover the most important tactics you should include in your inside sales strategy.

Use the right technology

Although we mentioned this above, the use of technology to drive inside sales is so important that it deserves mentioning again.

CRM technology provides deep insights into prospects’ interests, challenges, needs, demographics, etc. Inside sales reps can use that information to personalize their outreach and more easily form a rapport from a distance.

Inside sales reps that use an all-in-one CRM can take advantage of a host of additional capabilities that increase productivity and streamline the inside selling process.

For example, advanced telephony features like an auto dialer allow inside reps to filter a target group of prospects and then the system dials each one of them in sequence, without the rep having to dial each number manually.

They can also use automated voicemail drops to leave pre-recorded voicemails when they call a prospect, and no one answers the call. These features drastically improve efficiency and allow inside reps to make more calls in less time.

Become an expert in your company’s offerings

Any successful inside sales rep worth their salt should know their company’s products and services inside and out. They should receive advanced training and be able to answer any question a prospect asks, regardless of whether it’s a technical question or a feature/benefit-related query.

When an inside sales rep gets someone on the phone and engages in conversation, they have already completed the most difficult aspect of inside sales: gaining a prospect’s interest and attention.

But, if a prospect asks a question during that conversation that the inside sales rep can’t answer, the prospect will lose interest quickly. This means the inside rep will have wasted valuable time obtaining the prospect’s attention and interest.

Create buyer personas

It’s important to know who your target audience is and what their interests, needs, pain points, challenges, and goals are. You can do this by creating detailed buyer personas—hypothetical profiles of your ideal customers.

Buyer personas help inside sales reps identify and approach the right prospects—those with the highest propensity to purchase.

Research prospects to form a rapport over the phone

With the insight gained from the data stored in a CRM solution, inside sales reps can develop a deep understanding of individual prospects.

However, sometimes that insight is not enough. Inside sales reps often need to conduct additional research into each prospect to gain a fuller picture of who they are, what they need, and how best to engage them.

One effective tactic is to review your prospects’ social media profiles—particularly LinkedIn—to fill information gaps and gain additional insights that a CRM prospect profile does not provide.

With all that insight, inside sales reps can identify common ground with prospects and prepare for a sales call in a way that allows them to touch on those common interests. Doing so helps reps conduct a more personalized conversation and more quickly form a rapport with potential customers.  

Listen to your prospects’ needs

One key, defining characteristic of inside sales is that it revolves around the prospect’s needs, not the sales rep’s needs. Rather than focusing on their need to close deals, inside sales reps produce better results when they listen attentively to a prospect’s needs and cater to them.

Forming a rapport with prospects over the phone is much easier if an inside sales rep uses empathy and truly attempts to understand the prospect’s needs from their point of view.

Inside reps should focus on gaining a very deep understanding of a prospect’s needs, use case, etc. Then display to the prospect that they can relate to their situation and offer personalized suggestions and solutions to their problems.

Taking this type of empathetic approach allows reps to deliver a better prospect and customer experience, builds trust, and sends the message that their company is customer-centric, with the primary goal of empowering their customers.

Align sales and marketing

Marketers, especially those that engage in inbound marketing, generate interest and demand for your product or service. Once a lead displays interest and a propensity to buy, inside sales reps take the baton and reach out in hopes of closing a deal and acquiring a new customer.

For this hand-off from marketing to sales to work properly, the two teams’ efforts must be closely aligned.

With the use of marketing automation—now built into many all-in-one CRMs—marketers can set up a lead scoring mechanism to score leads based on actions they take and demographic data they provide. They can also create prospect lifecycle stages that indicate where each prospect is in the buyer’s journey. Key among these stages is “marketing qualified,” which indicates that the prospect has shown enough interest and generated a high enough lead score to be considered sales-ready.

Automated notifications are sent by your CRM to inside sales reps when one of their prospects become marketing qualified. This lets reps reach out when the prospect is “hot,” meaning reps can focus only on the most sales-ready leads and leave cold leads with marketing for further nurturing.

Leverage social selling

Social selling is the practice of cultivating one-on-one relationships with prospects and customers. One of the easiest ways that inside sales reps can do this is by connecting with prospects on social media.

Reps can share valuable content directly with prospects, answer individual questions that prospects pose, and form closer, informal relationships with potential customers.

The end goal is for inside sales reps to position themselves as a thought leaders so that interested prospects come to them for advice and guidance. LinkedIn Pulse is a great tool for effective social selling, as it allows reps to publish their own thought leadership articles then share them with prospects when needed.

Once inside reps position themselves as thought leaders and form closer relationships with potential customers, those prospects will come to them. This approach is much easier and more effective than cold outreach and every company should include it in its inside sales strategy.

Conclusion

Inside sales is increasingly more effective with the constant introduction of new technology to aid in the sales process. With the right technology in place, they can reach more leads, identify the most sales-ready prospects, and focus their time and energy on those that are the most likely to make a purchase.

Follow the tips above, and you’ll see great results from your inside sales efforts. Remember, inside sales should not replace outside sales. Rather, the two should work in unison to form a highly-versatile sales presence that closes more deals and increases company and revenue growth.

Are you using inside sales tactics to drive growth and acquire more new customers? Which tactics are most effective for you and your business? Let us know in the comments section below!

The post What is inside sales? Learn how to master it! appeared first on Agile CRM Blog.

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You’ve probably heard the terms inbound and outbound sales tossed around recently. They are two distinct approaches that sales reps take to engage leads and close deals. But how do we differentiate inbound vs. outbound sales? How do you know which one is right for your organization?

Below we’ll dig into both approaches, discuss some inbound vs. outbound sales strategies, and explain how each of the two can benefit you. We’ll begin with the basics.

Inbound vs. outbound sales: The basics What is inbound sales?

Inbound sales should be the goal of your inbound marketing strategy. Inbound marketing involves pushing out valuable content to the market to build trust and brand awareness. The more helpful the content is, the more leads will come to you.

The idea is simple. Rather than reps spending their time cold calling leads and trying to get appointments, they rely on your marketing team to produce engaging content that brings leads to you. Inbound content often takes the form of blogs, social media posts, videos, etc. If the content solves common problems that leads face, demand for your brand will grow, and you’ll see leads coming your way.

Inbound sales generates higher quality leads so that reps can focus their attention on those that are the best fit for your product or service. This frees up their time and lets them focus more closely on each lead’s needs, challenges, pain points, etc. When they don’t have to weed through hundreds of cold leads, they can deliver a better, more personal experience to the leads they receive.

Here are a few tactics that increase the effectiveness of inbound sales:

Lead scoring

Lead scoring consists of creating a scoring model that awards leads points for behaviors and demographic data. You can award points for actions taken, such as opening an email, downloading content, visiting high-value web pages, and more.

You can also award points for the demographic/personal data leads provide you through web forms. For example, if someone completes a lead form and lists their job title as CEO, you may award them five points because it’s an indication they are a decision maker. If someone enters their title as assistant, you may award them one point as they’ll likely not be involved in the decision-making process to buy your product.

You set a lead scoring qualification threshold. Once a lead earns enough points to pass that threshold, they are considered to have displayed enough interest in your product for a sales rep to reach out.

All of this can be done automatically using lead scoring and automation features in your customer relationship management (CRM) solution.

Social selling

Social selling consists of making connections via social media by sharing helpful content, replying to your customers’ posts, engaging prospects in dialogue, following your prospects, and social listening. Social listening involves using social CRM software to receive alerts anytime someone mentions you or your brand on social media.

Reps make a name for themselves simply by being helpful to their audience. This builds trust and results in leads reaching out to reps with questions, thus starting a dialogue and a potential relationship.

The importance of social selling as an inbound sales tactic has never been so great. With so many people using social media multiple times daily, it’s an easy and nonintrusive way to reach your audience and show them that you truly care about and are inspired by the industry you work in.

To drive this point home, consider this: a whopping 64% of sales teams that incorporate social selling into their inbound sales strategy hit their sales quotas, while 49% of sales teams that don’t leverage social selling do not meet their quotas.

What is outbound sales?

As you might have guessed by now, outbound sales refers to more traditional forms of sales such as cold calling. As opposed to presenting your brand as a thought leader that leads look to for information so that they come knocking on your door, outbound sales goes out and does the knocking.

This is an important and marked difference to keep in mind when thinking of inbound vs. outbound sales. Reps often receive a list of cold leads and must go through them one by one, making cold calls in hopes that someone bites.

As painful as many see it, cold calling is still an important part of any sales strategy. And outbound sales isn’t limited to cold calling. It involves any tactic in which a rep reaches out to a cold lead to make first contact.

Here are three primary examples of outbound sales techniques:

Email outreach

Sending emails to cold leads isn’t as tedious as it sounds. With the use of a marketing automation (MA) solution, sales reps can automate the sending of hundreds of emails in one batch without having to send each one individually. And with personalization capabilities, you can personalize each email, so it doesn’t seem like you sent a blanket email blast to hundreds of people.

Plus, if you use an all-in-one CRM—such as Agile CRM—you get built-in marketing automation in your CRM, which means you can use to keep tabs on everyone who opens or clicks your outbound sales emails.

There are a variety of approaches reps can take with sending emails to cold leads. Here are a few sales email templates to provide you with ideas and help guide you through the process.

Cold calling

If you use an all-in-one CRM, you can integrate telephony apps with your core system to streamline and automate the cold calling process. You can use features like an auto dialer to make ten times as many calls in the same amount of time. You filter out a list of leads to call, and the auto dialer calls each one in sequence, without you having to dial each number manually.

You can also use pre-recorded voicemail drops to leave a pre-recorded voicemail with a single click of the mouse. When you get sent to voicemail, you click the recording you want to leave, and it is automatically left in the individual’s inbox while the auto dialer moves you on the to the next call.

Social media

You may not have immediately thought of social media as an outbound sales tactic, but it can be highly effective. If a rep identifies someone as being a good fit for their product, they can research their LinkedIn profile to learn more about them, their interests, etc.

Agile CRM even provides sales teams with a LinkedIn integration that allows them to pull leads and their contact data directly from LinkedIn into their CRM database. Having all that insight about each lead before reaching out dramatically increases rep’s ability to more quickly form a rapport with their lead and increases the chances of closing a deal.

Plus, because social media is fairly informal—with LinkedIn being the most formal social platform—you can even send direct messages to leads. Let them know you came across their profile, are impressed by what you saw, and would love to set up a call to learn more about what they are doing regarding X, Y, or Z. It’s a friendly, noninvasive to get your foot in the door and get that first appointment scheduled.

Inbound vs. outbound sales: Which is right for you?

The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Inbound sales is increasing in popularity, but you would be hard pressed to rely on inbound alone. There may be dead periods where no one is engaging with you. However, you still need to meet your quota. Plus, outbound sales and marketing remain effective approaches to converting prospects into customers.

The right approach is to combine a mix of inbound and outbound sales strategies and measure the results of each. Measuring results is easy with powerful CRM reporting. Identify tactics that are working well and those that are not producing results. You’ll quickly gain insight into the right mix for your business.

What works best for you and your organization will depend on the products you sell, the market you’re in, and your unique customer base’s needs.

Experiment with various balances of inbound and outbound sales tactic, and you’ll be able to zero in on the mix that works best for you and produces maximum results.

Conclusion

As mentioned above, you can’t rely on just inbound sales strategies to meet and exceed your sales quotas. Similarly, you can’t rely on just outbound sales these days as consumers are getting savvier and less patient when it comes to receiving cold emails and cold calls.

I suggest that you put in the time and effort needed to develop a robust inbound marketing program that feeds leads to your reps so they can apply their inbound sales strategies. Inbound marketing and sales will be the preferred sales methods in the future—in some industries they already are.

But don’t forget to mix in some outbound sales tactics in the process to help keep the boat afloat. Inbound and outbound sales need to be used in tandem, so they can complement each other. Over time, you’ll find the right formula for your unique business model and settle into a rhythm that produces the best results and maximum revenue growth for your business.

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Sales operations (sales ops) refers to a key function of any sales team. Its purpose is to streamline sales processes and increase efficiency by being the main link between your sales strategy and your sales reps.

Many companies have a team dedicated solely to sales operations, while smaller and growing companies may roll sales ops into another position. But there is often some confusion around what the function of sales ops actually is, how to leverage it, and what the benefits are.

Below we’ll clear up any confusion and dive into some core benefits and best practices around sales ops.

What are sales operations?

At the core, sales operations teams exist to empower sales reps with the tools, insights, and other resources needed to help them close more deals in less time.

Your company sets its sales strategies, objectives, and goals. Those should align with the company’s overall strategies and objectives. Once strategies and goals are defined, sales reps need to meet sales quotas and perform at a certain level to meet those goals. That is where sales ops come into the picture.

Sales ops teams act as the administrators of sales data and the technology used to store and manage that data. This is normally done through a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. They also manage the sales pipeline and analyze key metrics to gain additional insight into your sales team’s performance.

They manage giant data sets to provide sales reps with the information they need to convert prospects into customers. Sales ops is a multifaceted role, with team members wearing a variety of hats. Their responsibilities range from the tactical to the analytical, all with the end goal of ensuring that reps adhere to formal sales processes and have the insight they need to hit their quotas.

Benefits of sales operations

Sales ops teams not only benefit you by empowering reps to work smarter and more efficiently. They also provide various additional benefits. These include:

Accurate revenue forecasting

Managing the sales pipeline enables companies to forecast future revenue and stay on course to meet their goals. Without sales ops in place to manage the pipeline and analyze the data coming from it, companies struggle to forecast future revenue and devote resources where they are needed most.

Sales ops manage and analyze the data coming from your sales pipeline, allowing you to better plan for the future with an accurate revenue forecast.

Faster company and revenue growth

Consider this: companies that spend at least three hours monthly analyzing each sales rep’s individual pipeline see growth rates 11% higher than those that spend less than three hours per month on this. Since pipeline management is a key responsibility of sales ops, it’s hard to reap this benefit without a sales operations team in place.

More formal sales processes and increased accountability

Sales ops teams help your reps follow a formal sales process. They check to ensure that reps are populating required data fields and are following up with newly qualified leads in a timely manner.

Ultimately, they increase the accountability of your reps by presenting detailed reporting and metrics to sales managers and ensuring sales reps follow all parts of the sales process correctly.

Data-driven decision making

As discussed above, sales operations teams help predict future revenue, so sales leaders can devote resources where they are needed most. The data analyzed by sales ops goes beyond revenue predictions and include metrics on all aspects of the sales team, the sales funnel, and the results of individual reps. This allows leadership to make an array of decisions based on actionable data, which is a greater challenge without sales ops in place.

Easier scalability

As your company grows, it must adapt processes and shift staff to accommodate that growth. Sales operations make it easy to scale your sales team because they help ensure reps follow a formal sales process.

Plus, because they help define and manage sales territories, they are incredibly helpful in adjusting territory mapping to accommodate a growing customer base and the addition of new reps to handle increased demand.

They also administer the systems used to manage sales data, ensuring that as your company grows, your data stays healthy and automated processes remain viable and firmly in place.

Cultivation of new talent

Sales ops teams are involved in and must understand every role that sales plays in the overall customer journey. This arms them with insight into your entire sales process; they essentially become experts in your sales process and the moving pieces involved.

This comes in handy when hiring and training new talent. Sales ops teams are often called upon to vet applicants for open roles, onboard and train new hires on your company’s sales processes, and educate them on your specific market.

Sales operations best practices

You probably captured a few sales ops best practices from the benefits listed above. Here, we’ll dig a little deeper into some core best practices involved in maintaining a high-performing sales ops team.

Hire data-centric candidates

Because there is so much data analysis involved in sales operations, it’s important to hire staffers for that team that understand data and how to analyze it critically. If your team members get stuck in data analysis, it’s a good indication that you have hired the wrong people.

Planning and strategy

Sales ops should be involved in all stages of sales strategy planning. They will be the ones managing efforts to ensure your team stays on track to hit its goals, so keeping them in the loop and asking for their feedback during planning and strategy development efforts is crucial. Plus, they need that insight to nurture and train new hires and to do their jobs effectively in general.

Use the right technology

A sales ops team is many times more effective if you provide them with the right technology tools to automate processes and give them easy access to sales data.

These days, many businesses are opting for an all-in-one CRM to empower sales ops. That’s because these solutions provide traditional CRM capabilities, as well as built-in sales, marketing, and help desk automation modules, all on one platform.

An all-in-one CRM not only allows sales ops to automate processes and access better data but also provides additional sales enablement features that make their job easier and increase their productivity.

Plus, with all the company’s data from various departments housed in the same database, sales ops can analyze even more data and provide analysis that facilitates even better data-driven decision making.

Ongoing professional development

As you’ve surely seen by now, sales ops play a major role in the success of your sales team. They can be the difference between an average team and an outstanding one. Considering that, it makes sense to invest in ongoing professional development for those on your sales ops team.

Continue to educate them on the industry you sell in, emerging trends in sales, the technology used to facilitate success, etc. Doing so will ensure that your sales team is supported by a group of individuals with a powerful ability to provide the tools and data needed at just the right time.

Pay them well

Because sales ops play such a critical role in the success of your sales team, it’s essential that you compensate them appropriately. This is not a role that you want to fill with new hires straight out of school. Rather, you want experienced, highly-skilled people in charge.

As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” This couldn’t be truer in the world of sales ops. Reduce turnover by compensating your sales ops team well, and ensure they stick around for a long time. Turnover in this position is costlier than most, due to the number of hats team members must wear, and the diversity of skills required to do the job. Compensating them well will ensure your team is solid over the long haul.

Conclusion

The key takeaways here should be pretty clear at this point. Sales ops teams help elevate the impact of your sales efforts exponentially. They play a critical role as those that empower your reps with the tools and information they need to convert more prospects to customers.

At the same time, they enable you to grow and scale with ease by lending accountability to your sales team’s efforts as well as ensuring sales reps adhere to a formal sales process.

With a powerful sales operations team in place, you will make informed decisions based on actionable data and have metrics that provide insight into the health of your efforts. Ultimately, more than anything else, they drive revenue growth.

If you’re not leveraging sales ops in your sales process, now is the time to look into doing so. By hiring at least one dedicated sales ops rep, the return on your investment—in the form of increased revenue—will be far more than the cost of hiring someone to fill the role.

Do you have any anecdotes or advice around sales ops that you’d like to share with us and our readers? Let us know in the comments section below!

The post Introduction to sales operations: Benefits and best practices appeared first on Agile CRM Blog.

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I remember the good old days of the early 2000s. It was the era before customer relationship management (CRM) software and automation were the main drivers of business growth. Everything was manual and more time-consuming. For example, I’d have a telephone meeting, be frantically taking notes, and then have to complete lots of after call work to create a record of the call and manually complete any follow-up tasks.

This after call work included organizing the notes I frantically jotted down, saving them, sending follow-up emails, marking my calendar with any follow-up meetings, etc. The time involved was a huge drain on my productivity. Forbes confirms this by stating: “Online systems save time, energy, resources and headaches for busy call center representatives, allowing them to reach higher levels of productivity and efficiency.”

Then new technology started to emerge that could automate much of that after call work. Those software solutions continued to evolve, and today we have access to tools that can automate nearly every task involved in post call administration. Now, I’m more productive than ever because I use post call automation tools to do all the tedious, manual work for me.

Are you leveraging post call automation to streamline your after call work? If not, you should start today. Whether or not you are using post call automation, this article will educate you on how to generate the most value out of those tools. Let’s dig in.

What is post call automation?

Odds are you are using a CRM solution to streamline business activities. Many companies are moving to an all-in-one CRM—such as Agile CRM. That’s because in addition to providing traditional CRM capabilities, they also include built-in marketing, sales, and help desk automation modules.

That means you get loads of extra features and don’t need to invest in multiple systems to complete various business functions. And included in that vastly expanded feature set are post call automation features that streamline your after call work.

First, you must integrate a telephony app—such as Twilio—with your all-in-one solution, which lets you make calls from your CRM. Once integrated, you can automate loads of post call tasks.

How does this help automate your after call work?

Automating your after call work saves loads of time and greatly increases productivity.

NOTE: The capabilities described below apply to those using Agile CRM, as the majority of CRM solutions do not provide post call automation features.

Here are a few of the things you can do with post call automation tools:

Track call histories

When you call someone using an integrated CRM – telephony application, you simply navigate to a person’s contact record and click “Call.” The system then automatically dials that number. After the call ends, it is automatically attached to the call history for that contact.

Whenever you want to check the last time you spoke to that person, just navigate to their contact record and click “Call History.” A complete list of all the calls ever made to that person will appear in a list. Each call record will also include details like the date, time, and duration of the call.

Log call notes

Because you are working in your CRM, you can take notes on the screen while you’re speaking. This could include tasks that you need to complete, requests for information, frustrations your customer is experiencing, important needs of prospects, etc.

When you complete the call, all of those notes are automatically attached to the call record in that contact’s call history. You can easily reference that call record to remind yourself of the important takeaways you noted during the conversation. This way you never forget or misplace any important information from the call.

Schedule meetings, tasks and automated reminders

Once you finish your call, a screen will appear with options you can select from. These options will determine what gets automated for that particular call. Let’s say you are speaking to a prospect or customer and agree to a follow-up meeting. You can enter the time and date of that meeting, and your system automatically adds it to your CRM calendar.

You can do the same with tasks that you need to enter into your calendar. Simply enter the task details, the time and date, and the task will automatically appear on your calendar.

You can also select the option to schedule an automatic reminder alert that will be sent to you at a specified time before the meeting. Additionally, you can opt to send an automated confirmation email to the other party involved. This email can include a calendar file, so your prospect or customer can add it to their calendar. Plus, you can choose to send an automated reminder email to the other party before the meeting. This can be sent a day before the meeting, an hour before, or any time you want.

Plus, if you integrate your Agile CRM calendar with your Google Calendar, you’ll have double assurance that you won’t miss meetings because you’ll get reminders from both calendars. Learn more about Agile CRM and Google Calendar integration.

Attach call recordings

Another useful feature included in an advanced telephony suite—which is included in your all-in-one CRM—is automated call recording. When you start a call, click “Record call,” and your CRM will record the entire conversation. This is particularly helpful for referencing key points of the conversation that you may have missed or forgotten.

If you record your calls, which is advisable, the recordings are automatically attached to the call record in your call history list. This proves extremely helpful as it allows you to confidently reference what was said in future calls.

It also helps to reduce any conflicts that arise between you and a customer. Let’s say a customer verbally agrees to upgrade their subscription to your service to a higher pricing tier. Then, they receive their monthly invoice and are surprised that the balance due is higher than normal. They call to complain. But you’ve got a recording of the call saved in your CRM. You can share that with them, which will calm them down.

If they decide they don’t want the higher pricing tier package, you can calmly tell them that you will make the appropriate changes and drop them back down to the package they previously had. But at least they will realize it was their mistake and not become unsatisfied customers. Nor will they go on social media to blast your company for being dishonest and raising their price without asking them.

Conclusion

There are many tasks involved in the administration of after call work. Completing them all manually eats up loads of your time, which you can spend on higher-value tasks.

The days of manually completing those tasks are over. These days, smart business owners and department managers realize that the more processes they can automate, the higher their productivity level will be.

Integrating a telephony app with your CRM to automate the calling process and after call work can boost efficiency and productivity more than most think. I recently spoke to one Agile CRM client who increased productivity by 100% by leveraging that integration.

If you’re still using traditional, manual methods to manage your after call work, I recommend you look into implementing a system with built-in post call automation. There are affordable solutions available, and the increased productivity and resulting revenue growth will be worth far more than the cost of the system.

Do you have any tips or strategies that you use to increase productivity with post call automation? Let us know in the comments section below!

The post Automating your after call work to increase productivity appeared first on Agile CRM Blog.

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Online appointment scheduling is pretty much what it sounds like. It is a way for customers and prospects to schedule appointments or meetings with you online. This happens through the use of a cloud-based web scheduler app, which automates the process.

The use of online web scheduler apps is growing in popularity. And the rise in popularity shows no signs of slowing down. In 2017, the global market size for online appointment scheduling software was $160 million and is expected to reach $480 million by the end of 2025.

Below we provide tips and best practices around using Agile CRM’s web scheduler to automate work meetings and save time to focus on higher-value tasks.

Setting up your web scheduler

The first thing you must do to take advantage of online appointment scheduling is to set up your web scheduler in Agile CRM. Here are the steps involved in doing so:

  1. Open an account with Agile CRM. You can start with a free account—check out our pricing tiers.
  2. Navigate to your Agile CRM dashboard and in the Sales section click “Online Calendar.”

  1. This will show you the unique link to your online calendar.

  1. Select the options you want by clicking the various tabs. You can select the time slots you want to display as available, define meeting types, and more.
  2. Then, send your calendar link to anyone who wants to schedule a meeting with you. You can also include it in your email signature, your social media profile, etc. so that anyone can easily find it.
  3. Leads and customers select the time slot they want and book at their convenience.
  4. The meeting then automatically appears on your Agile CRM calendar.
  5. You can set up a workflow that sends you an alert when someone books a new meeting.
  6. You can also send an automated confirmation email to the person who booked using your web scheduler.
  7. Finally, you can set automated reminders for yourself, so you don’t miss the meeting, as well as an automated reminder email to the person who booked with you, so they don’t forget to attend.
3 tips for streamlining your web scheduler app process

Now that we’ve covered how to set up your web scheduler calendar, we’ll dig into some tips and best practices for maximizing the benefits you receive from using it.

Always include a time buffer

You can’t have back-to-back meetings all day. It’s just not feasible. You need some time in between meetings to wrap up any notes from the previous one and prepare for the next.

When selecting the time slots when you are available, make sure not to leave the entire calendar wide open. Perhaps you block off 15 minutes every hour, or 30 minutes every hour and a half.

This will help you be more prepared for your appointments, which will result in better meeting outcomes and ultimately drive revenue growth and increase customer satisfaction.

Offer meetings of different lengths and for different reasons

You will have meetings for different reasons. You can determine how long the open time slots on your online calendar are and add a label that specifies what the purpose of that particular time slot is.

If you are in sales, you may offer 30-minute time slots for prospects who want to discuss your offering. Or, you may offer 15-minute time slots for customer check-ins.

You determine what those slots are for and how long they are. This prevents someone from booking an hour with you, only to take 15 minutes of your time.

It also gives you more control over your own time when you specify the purpose of the meeting with a label. Moreover, giving customers and prospects clearly defined choices in this way makes the process easier on them, as they can quickly identify which type of meeting they need, and book accordingly.

Don’t forget to block off time for yourself

Give yourself an entire day each week dedicated to the administration of your role. During this time, you never take meetings—it’s “you time.”

Or, you could decide that from 10:00 to 11:00 am every day you are not available for meetings. Your job entails more than taking meetings, and it’s important to have a dedicated block of time to focus on other tasks.

If you’re working on a project but must stop every half hour to take a meeting, you lose your train of thought and become less efficient at other tasks.

Take care of yourself in this way, and you’ll be able to better serve your customers. You will also maintain a more effective presence in the workplace if you can sit down for a dedicated block of time and work through pending tasks. And your online web scheduler app can help you do that.

Send automated confirmations to those who book with you

You should always set up a workflow in Agile CRM to send automated confirmation emails to people who book meetings through your online web scheduler.

Here is a list of the things that your confirmation emails can include:

  • Meeting type
  • Day of the week and date
  • Time (including time zone, which should be done automatically by your solution)
  • Duration of the meeting requested
  • A calendar file so the requester can save it to their calendar
  • A standardized agenda if applicable
  • A link to cancel the meeting if need be
  • The notes that the requester entered for their own reference
  • A personalized note thanking them and telling them you look forward to meeting
3 major benefits of using an online web scheduler

We touched on some benefits of using an online web scheduler above. But here we will dive deeper into some of the major benefits involved.

Higher levels of customer satisfaction

Most new businesses fail in the first year because they can’t maintain satisfied customers.

An online web scheduler app helps to solve for this. Customers enjoy feeling a sense of control in their relationship with you. After all, in their minds, you work for them.

Give customers the option to access your calendar online and book meetings at their convenience. Doing so sends the message that you value their time and want them to have the ability to book an appointment when they need to, not when it’s convenient for you. Do this, and customer satisfaction grows.

Increased productivity and efficiency

Traditional appointment scheduling often involves a seemingly endless back and forth exchange of emails to find a time that fits everyone’s schedule.

A web scheduler app removes this obstacle. The customer or prospect can see when you are available and when you are not. Then they click to reserve that time slot, and that’s it: meeting scheduled!

Imagine what you could do with all of that extra time when everything is automated in this way. Spend it developing your strategy or devoting more one-on-one time to nurturing your customer and prospect relationships and closing more deals.

Staying on top of emerging trends

As mentioned above, the online appointment scheduling market is going to continue growing. You’ll see web scheduler apps used more and more. Adopting the technology now will ensure that you are ahead of the curve and as competitive as possible moving forward.

Plus, millennials prefer to do things online, having grown up in the digital era. They are quickly becoming the largest consumer demographic.

Moving to online scheduling will ensure that you are prepared for that to happen and can provide the right kind of customer experience to millennials.

Conclusion

Online appointment scheduling is on the rise. Now is the time to get on board, if you are not already.

The process is simple, affordable, and provides a host of benefits that will help you grow your business and increase revenue.

With the best practices discussed above, and a better understanding of how it all works, you should now be fully prepared to maximize the ROI on your online web scheduler app.

The post How to automate work meetings with Agile CRM’s web scheduler appeared first on Agile CRM Blog.

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