When was the last time you scrutinized your sales process? Even if it’s not elaborate or formally documented in a flowchart, your company has some kind of sales process. If you’re not generating enough sales revenue, the process isn’t working. To find out why, you must break it down step by step to find the place(s) where things get stuck.
In our experience, there are three main reasons sales struggles:
1. Sales and marketing teams are not aligned
You might assume sales and marketing are aligned simply because both departments are working toward the same goal: bringing in more customers. After all, you’re focused on the same industry and the same products or services, so you must be aligned.
The reality is many sales and marketing teams are uncoordinated or even at odds. According to a study cited by Martechadvisors, when “asked whether their marketing team understood customers, only 50% of sales teams thought that they did; only 52% [of marketers] thought that their sales team were effective at qualifying sales opportunities.” And Salesforce notes that up to “1/3 of a sales professional’s time is spent looking for or creating content to share with prospects” and that "58 percent of leads that get stuck in the pipeline are there because reps are unable to add value [with helpful, timely content].”
So, what does alignment look like in practice? There are many ways to work together, such as holding regular meetings between departments, creating shared definitions of key concepts (e.g. leads, segments, nurturing leads, procedural documents), developing engaging content that incorporates a consistent marketing message and feedback from sales reps, and centrally locating content/collateral so it’s easy for reps to access at the point of need. You can also review metrics together to track interactions, set call-back triggers in your databases to follow up on information or sample requests, and implement procedures to enter sales notes in online software. All of these give both teams input on each other’s work with the same base of prospects.
Aligning departments can be disruptive, especially if reps are used to working independently or if your company has a culture of working in silos, but it’s worth the effort. Aligned sales and marketing teams have 38 percent higher sales win rates, says MarketingProfs.
2. You’re not using automation, or not using it correctly
Many companies use customer relationship management (CRM) software or other tools to keep tabs on leads and track KPIs. Of course, the more features and functions a tool has, the more time you must spend on initial training and reinforcing it’s use. But that front-end investment pays off if it helps you use a CRM to its full potential. For example, learning to use features for automating workflows and sending batch emails goes a long way toward keeping up with routine tasks and making sure nothing falls through the cracks.
If you have a CRM or are considering adding one, realize that you need an in-house coordinator to champion it. “Companies buy technology with a false belief they can deploy it without IT or a sales leader to effectively drive adoption and integration into the workflow. What ends up happening is companies do minimal deployments and don’t end up using the technology effectively,” says Forbes.
In other words, your sales technology is only as good as the training you provide, data you input, and how accountable the team is to the processes. This applies to users in marketing and sales and shows up in things like the accuracy of reports, typos in email templates, accidentally sending the wrong email to the wrong batch of contacts, incorrectly marking call status after a follow up call, or not updating your opt-out and no-call lists.
A CRM is dynamic, which means more than one person is likely to add or change information at any time. Here is where shared definitions of terms and following your developed rules for data entry pay off. Accurate entries ensure that metrics always reflect the same information, reports and dashboards are up to date, and everyone understands next actions. Easy off-site and mobile phone access are also important to keep outside sales in the loop and so they can add new data on the fly.
But if you want your CRM to hold its value, you must commit to regular maintenance. Even if you’re careful to enter data correctly, cleaning and validating it periodically is critical to accuracy. This includes removing duplicate records, spelling checks, developing clear naming conventions for files and reports, agreeing on category names and rules for assigning them, and periodically conducting call campaigns to verify contact information.
3. Your team hasn’t evolved to keep up with changing buyer behavior
Thanks to websites, email, and social media, customers now have direct access to a wealth of product and company information, often with little direct sales contact. And as Generation Xers and especially Millennials continue to replace Baby Boomers in the workplace, buying behaviors and preferences are changing too. Your options are to throw in the towel or adapt your tactics.
Today’s B2B buyers are likely to be working as part of a team making purchasing decisions collectively. This means more personalities to interact with, additional perspectives to address, and a bigger range of potential questions to answer. And because buyers usually look at a great deal of product information on their own, they’re much more informed by the time they do speak with a sales rep. As a result, they tend to have more specific and unique questions. The challenge to marketing and sales teams is to provide meaningful answers that resonate with this new type of empowered buyer.
The first step is creating relevant and detailed content for potential customers to find online. Learn as much as possible about who might want your product. Do this with market surveys and research, studying your competitors, and incorporating sales’ experience with past and current customers. This insight should inform your emails, blog posts, social media posts, ebooks, and whitepapers. Another excellent content strategy is creating material with high odds of being found by search engines, known as Search Engine Optimization or SEO. According to research cited in Forbes, “B2B buyers conduct an average of 12 searches before engaging with a brand,” so it’s in your company’s interest to work toward appearing in those search results.
The next step is to not disappoint when buyers do eventually reach out. Remember that many buyers will have a pretty good understanding of your product or service by this point, so sales must be able to expand that knowledge and provide new, high-value information. Here is where alignment of marketing and sales comes into play. For example, did a buyer receive a marketing email offer for 10% off routine maintenance with an equipment purchase? The sales team had better know about the terms and conditions (and that the offer exists!) or risk looking confused or clueless.
If any of these reasons resonates, it might be time to review your sales process. The only way to fix it is to take a step back and look at the whole buying journey from the moment person finds your site through search (or you cold call them) to the moment you sign them as a customer. Zooming out lets you see workflow problems, misunderstandings between departments, and patterns of missed opportunities. Only then can you make the changes and hold people accountable! And yes, you will probably have to do this more than once. It’s not a small task, but all of these things taken together can truly enable your sales team to engage prospects and get sales revenue moving in the right direction. Contact us today to see how we can help with the process.