By Tony Hughes
The passive-aggressive war between sales and marketing must end, and marketing departments must own sales targets for lower-value commodities within the portfolio. Referrals are king, but no salesperson can make their numbers on referrals alone. Nor can you exceed sales target without the assistance of others.
As a seller, you can lead the way by relinquishing the busy fool activities of selling cheap commodity offerings in highly competitive sectors. You can move to value with elevated relationships and a strong narrative and agenda. You can engineer value and own the relationship rather than merely winning a sale.
I’ve sat with salespeople and helped them do the math for their year ahead. Divide the sales target by the current average deal size, then divide that by 11 months (allow 1 month for annual vacation and public holidays). I see people go white with fear. Are there even enough hours in the day to do that many deals?
The solution is:
- proactively drive larger opportunities strategically by engaging early with senior people, based on trigger events or insights, and help them build a business case for change; and
- work with “the machine” of your own organization to feed your pipeline with opportunities that can help you transact to keep the wolf from the door.
The key elements of the sales and marketing machine
- Marketing generated leads from content publishing, websites, events, and alliances
- Sales development reps (SDRs) who are doing outbound like you but typically at a lower level in the target accounts and smaller-size prospects; they are sometimes called market development reps (MDRs) or inside sales reps (ISRs) and may seek to move leads from marketing qualified (MQL) to sales qualified (SQL)
- A formalized referral program with rewards for staff and customers
- Outsourced lead-generation and appointment-setting companies
- Your senior company executives or board members who have quality relationships and who can introduce you
- Partners and alliances who can provide you with referrals
Build a plan to leverage the machine
Create a business plan for your own success. Analyze your territory, the suitability and market fit for what you sell, the competition, the resources available to you, and then create a plan in partnership with your sales manager and marketing team.
- Work the numbers backwards, from your sales target to average deal size to number of deals required to number of selling days available. This tells you how many deals you need to do in a week or month to achieve target.
- Then calculate the number of qualified pipeline opportunities required based on your proven conversation rate. You will need somewhere between two and five times the sales target in qualified opportunities.
- Then calculate how much prospecting activity is required per available day to achieve this in terms of emails sent, phone calls made and live conversations had with real decision-makers. Now you know how much prospecting activity you must do every day. If the number does not scare you, you botched the calculations.
Make sure the SDRs or outsourced lead-generation company can actually carry the conversation for proactive outbound by sitting with them and making calls together. Help them with their own sales strategy for blends that elevate the conversation and improve response rates so they can provide better quality leads for you and others.
Know what sales success looks like
What results should your sales reps be getting? Luckily, we have some decent surveys to rely on, thanks to Trish Bertuzzi and the Bridge Group. These are the averages, blended across SaaS sales development teams, surveyed in 2016:
- Twenty-one meetings per month
- Sixty-two percent conversion rate from meeting-to-opportunity
- Thirteen opportunities per month
How many social and email outreaches plus phone calls are needed to achieve these results? Again, do the math for your own business based on your own stats, and then discuss with your SDR team to agree on what’s needed and what’s acceptable to drive the necessary results.
If they can’t hit these numbers, consider outsourcing
If your in-house SDR team cannot deliver the results, then consider outsourcing to meeting setters such as Frontline Selling. There are many others in your part of the world who will deploy software and sellers on your behalf to land qualified meetings. They are so worth it and they also bring powerful databases!
The leader in my opinion is ConnectAndSell, which operates at 1,000 dials a day and provides on-demand outbound with transparency. Every dial, conversation, and outcome is available online for inspection and listening.
Bring marketing to the party and get better results
Let marketing know what resources and support you need to be successful, what events you need to attend, and what content will best attract early-stage leads. Be the fulcrum for sales and marketing actually working well together; treasure their MQL’s, and obsessively use the CRM and marketing automation platform.
Sirius Decisions published research stating that salespeople speak with less than 9 percent of MQLs. This means that 91 percent of the marketing budget literally goes to waste. Not because the MQLs are bad but because they don’t answer the phone or email in the limited number of attempts made by salespeople. I can’t imagine giving up on trying to reach a legitimate MQL. Be the one to ferociously follow up and close the loop with marketing in the CRM.
The most fundamental marketing automation play for pipeline creation is web-to-lead programs based upon early funnel content initiatives. This is where sellers can play a role in working with their marketing teams to identify the topics that will attract the right kind of leads. The foundational element is incredibly difficult to create content publishing. You should be researching your potential buyers and customers to identify the hot issues, so create a list of content topics for marketing to work with.
Design an unforgettable customer experience
Truly appreciate those who can create high-value articles, papers, videos, and other content with which marketing teams can attract and nurture leads to keep your prospects swimming around the boat. Every business needs a platform that brings marketing, sales, service, support, and stakeholder engagement together. This is because customer experience (CX) is the single biggest point of differentiation, and it should be targeted as early in the buyer’s journey as possible.
A lead called within five minutes of requesting information is over 10 times more likely to answer and 4 times more likely to qualify. I once downloaded a state of sales report from the Salesforce website as part of my research for being a keynote speaker at one of their events. I was called within the hour, and they did it well – no hard sell. They simply asked what my interest was in the report and if there was anything else they could help me with. I am now in their sales and marketing database and being profiled for future contact as appropriate. Salesforce drinks their own champagne when it comes to sales and marketing automation.
The point here is that everything must work together: sales and marketing, insight and value, old-school content and new-school channels, humans and machines, and – dare I say it – social and the phone.
Create a “blue ocean” by asking the right questions
The most important questions that marketers must ask when seeking to create high-quality sales pipeline are:
- What trigger events occur in the customer’s world to start them on their buying journey?
- What do my buyers look for online before they know to look for me?
- Where do they go online to be educated about their problems and the opportunities?
These questions are important because they can create “blue ocean” leads, where buyers are motivated by their problems or opportunities but they are early in their journeys and you have little competition. “Red ocean” is where the competition is abundant like a dozen piranhas in a goldfish bowl. “Blue ocean” strategy requires you to identify topics for articles, papers, videos, and other content that your marketing team can create to attract leads. Reflect all of this in your own publishing within your LinkedIn profile, and be an industry thought leader. Have someone in marketing be your editor to make sure your content shines.
Guest Author: Tony Hughes is a bestselling author, award-winning blogger and the most read LinkedIn Author globally on the topic of B2B sales leadership. Tony’s first book is a business bestseller with his second book, COMBO Prospecting, is available on Amazon here. He can be found on LinkedIn and at TonyHughes.com.au and RSVPselling.com
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