Three Ways Sales Reps Can Be More Productive and Increase Efficiency

By | B2B Sales, Sales Productivity

It’s very true – many of the best companies are struggling with the amount of time their sales reps spend in front of prospects.

Great field sales reps are horrible admins. Don’t believe me?

Ask any marketing director in charge of providing marketing support to a sales team. Ask a VP of sales that’s charged with herding the cattle. At any tier, the response is the same.

I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of field sales reps over the years and the absolute best sales reps are coin operated.  If a task gets in the way of selling, they don’t do it.  Why should they?!

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Your Prospects Don’t Care About Your End of Whatever

By | Selling Tips

I cannot state this loudly or emphatically enough; your sales prospects don’t care about your end of the month, end of the quarter, end of the year.

You might be able to load up incentives and bake in the fat like a country grandmother sending her grandkids back to the city, but if your prospect isn’t in the buying phase of their cycle, it just won’t (colorful metaphor) matter. Read More

Effective Conference & Leads

By | B2B Sales

I’ve gone to a lot of conferences in my day. Most of the time I’m appalled by the booth management and the flurry to scan my badge without ever having any real intention of engaging with me. I’ve become surly in my old age telling the bright-eyed marketer that comes gleefully to scan my badge that, “I’m a terrible lead” or worse, “I’m going to blacklist you if you send me an email.”

Nothing dissuades them, nothing.

Then I saw the entire process turned on its head and ran ruthlessly effectively. This lead capture system was the most organized, successful, and effective conference campaign, which despite the cost, they more than covered expenses even before the packed up and left.

I was in awe. Such awe that I’m pitching my boss to do this lead capture system next year and ordering a chartered jet home to haul all the cash we will make.

It was that woefully efficient.

Here’s the story, as best I can remember it.

I’m wandering the conference floor, and I get accosted by a rep, “Hey have you sat in on our demo?”

That is so wrong on so many levels, yet it was perfect.

The rep didn’t care who I was, what I wanted out the conference, nothing about me (and I’m narcissistic, I’m all about me). All he cared for was if I sat through his demo.

“No”, I responded and made note of the company, Curata, and went on my way.

A while later I bumped into the rep, possibly on a coffee break, and again he asked, “Hey have you sat in on our demo?”.

Ok, I’ve seen this play before, this is the Green Eggs and Ham play. You know, you wear the person down until they comply, then the prospect might, just might have a change of heart and see things your way. Ug, am I going to have to deal with this guy all week?

After a few more interactions, I got dribs and drabs of more information about the product, always followed with the monotonic request to sit in their demo. No, I could not have a private demo, no I could not get a trial, I had to sit in on their demo. If I wanted more than the 60,000 ft view of the product, I’d need to sit in the demo.

To sweeten the deal, for attending the demo I’d get a Bluetooth speaker. Not the best conference swag, however, I could do far worse.

Like the character in Green Eggs and Ham, I finally relented.

The Conference Czar of Curata had a small room on the conference floor. Inside the meeting room, there were 20 chairs packed close together with just enough room for a monitor and presenter. Ward Perry stuffed 20 of us in that room then, in walked Randy Bernard, Director of Sales. He quickly introduced himself, asked a couple of questions and pitched for 15mins straight.

Captive audience.
That was amazing.

At the end, each of us got our Bluetooth speaker and sent on our way.

Not all of us, there were a few that had other questions and showed genuine interest.

What the Curata team did was cast a ridiculously wide net that guaranteed themselves at least a few qualified leads every time that net went out.

I’m pretty good at making connections at conferences. When I have a booth, I pull in a bunch of qualified leads. Nothing compared to the Curata method.

By my estimations, they ran two demos per hour, 20 people per demo, at least 5 hours a day, for three days. They managed to ram their message down the throats of at least 600 people. One person. Granted it took a team to stuff the room for every session, but they had their best pitchman pitch to 600 people over a three day period.

AMAZING.

What’s more at the end of the conference I spoke with Ward, and he already had in his hand four inked contracts from leads that were nowhere in his funnel. He wouldn’t tell me how many pre-qualified leads closed, but they pulled four brand new leads out of thin air.

Ok, those numbers aren’t great, 4 out of 600, by any rubric, those are TERRIBLE NUMBERS. However put them in context, put them in the funnel. 4 of 600 entered the top of the funnel and closed with three days.

Three days to close.

How many deals have you had that closed within three days? Now imagine what the rest of the funnel looks like? I’d guess it is bursting at the seams.

Sure some folks will fall out of the funnel.
Sure some folks will get educated and move to a competitor.

Now just think about how much you spend for a conference and how many leads, qualified leads you leave with, that know your message.

Dollars to donuts when a Curata sales rep follows up with those leads, they will remember the Curata experience, and if they engage with the sales rep, the rep should get ready to bang that gong.

Call a Timeout

By | Sales Productivity

Guest Post by Mark Shalinsky – Business Development Manager at The New Office.  Mark is a veteran sales guy that loves the hunt and metrics.  He taught me some great techniques over the years including “whale hunting” at conferences, one of my go to strategies. In this article, Mark shares how to to become a communication catalyst, pulling in a collaborator to make everyone a winner.

I ran into a rough situation the other day.

My boss and I are in the boardroom. Across from us are sitting the client champion (I’ll call her “Darcy”), one of her colleagues, and two outside consultants. We had several short conversations with Darcy prior to finagling a sit. Usually, I go on these alone, or with a pre-sales engineer, not typically with my boss, the CEO of the company. I like to hold him in reserve so we can play good cop / bad cop during negotiations. For whatever reason, my boss decided he wanted to be in the thick of the action.

I’ve worked for a bunch of tech companies and up until now all the founders were tech people. Mostly extroverted, so they’d stare at my shoes not their own. My current boss is the consummate, old school sales guy. He loves filleting the pain, negotiating, and closing. He’s the encyclopedia of sales plays and effective meeting strategies, so I know I’ll always learn something when he comes along.

So we get started. I boot up our demo and immediately our champion, Darcy pulls out her Gatling gun and starts peppering me with questions. Right out of the gate she’s on fire. We’d barely finished the pleasantries, and she started to unload. And unload hard she did. You know those deep cutting questions that go to the core of your product and your value proposition.

While I was able to easily and deftly field these questions, it put me on the defensive track. Defensive is terrible. Defense deflects the ball. Defense does not control the conversation. The worst part, I could not get on the offense. Remember what I said about my boss being the quintessential sales guy? Well, he was able to grab the ball and called a timeout.

Wait. Can you call a timeout on a sit? Why did nobody ever tell me? How come I never knew? Regardless, my boss slammed his hand on the big red button and said, “Darcy, we’ve had a couple of conversations, why are you the only one talking?” Then he laid on the big William Shatner pregnant pause. Darcy mentioned something squirrely tried to go on offense again, but my boss wouldn’t let her. “Darcy, we’ve got two of your colleagues, I have an idea what they do from our intro, and are you are paying a handsome sum to these two implementation consultants to sit here and listen to Mark’s answers?”

Then he dropped the mic, put the ball right back in the middle of the table and went back to the edge. It was at that moment that something amazing happened. With little prompting, those two statements got five people starting to talk. Those two groups had not outlined the problems that they wanted to solve individually, as a group, nor had they had the opportunity to hash out their issues.

It became abundantly clear that the entire reason we were called in was to act as a conversation catalyst. Darcy needed to have the conversation with her colleagues and the consultants that my boss had created, however she did not know how to get that conversation started. Then when she found herself in a room with three different groups that, in her mind, all had set objectives, she believed she needed to dominate the conversation to get her way. Wrong.

Had the sit gone the way Darcy initiated the result would have been an impasse at best, a failed implementation that would have made my product look bad, the consultants overcharging their client, and Darcy pulling defeat from the jaws of victory that may cost her her job.

The better way, start from zero. If we are all not on the same page from the outset, start again. Yes, we did go around the table make introductions with roles and responsibilities. However, I failed because I let Darcy grab the ball and run with it. She ran to her end-zone. The problem, her end-zone was not my end-zone, her colleague’s end-zone or the consultants end-zone.

Step 1 is to identify the players.

Step 2 have each player define what success looks like.

Step 3 paint the complete picture where everyone comes out a winner.

If you can’t provide the complete solution, be honest and offer what you can. Gain credibility with effective meeting strategies like offering to pull in a collaborator that can help you make everyone at the table a winner.

 

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAaTAAAAJGRkOGJlNWVjLTliYTYtNDgyZS05M2MxLTZhMmI2MmYyOGQ0OAAbout the author

Following an academic career, Mark moved into business development and has been the critical early sales hire at start-ups that have grown to become global brands in scientific publishing and IT security. Currently, Mark leverages academic skills and sales experiences in the tech sector identifying market sweet spots and cultivating sales reps into power-players, closing bigger deals faster.

Read more of Mark’s articles here and follow him on Twitter.

 

Quotas are for losers. Presumptive Closing and Squishy Pricing. [Mark Shalinsky]

By | Mobile Productivity Tools

Note from Rusty – Introducing Mark Shalinsky – Rant from a proven closer. I asked Mark one question about how he consistently crushed quota and got this super useful answer.  It was kinda like drinking from the fire hose. Sometimes you just gotta shut up and listen, dawg. Edited for clarity.

Enter Mark Shalinsky…

Last week at Marketo Summit in Vegas, I bumped into an old colleague who runs his own sales team now. Nice!

Over drinks I got to talking to one of my buddy’s more junior sales reps, and she asked me point blank,” What is the single most important lesson you can teach me about sales.”

I said, “Listen.” 

Then an awkward silence rained down. Reps hate that, but they know it’s true.

She comes back, “Look, I know listening is great and, I do that, but what is next? Whenever I ask veterans like you what the second most important lesson in sales I get all sorts of answers”.

In my scientific mind there are two starting characteristics of people who make a career in sales; the qualitative salesperson and the quantitative salesperson.

The qualitative salesperson is the one who walks into the room and instantly begin connecting with clients. They commands the room, break the ice, are affable beyond belief, and people just love them.

People LOVE them, really really LOVE them.

By stark contrast, there is the quantitative salesperson.

By the books, by the numbers, by sales quotas, an unsympathetic process is driven. All the boxes are checked at one stage before they move to the next.

All sales are based on relationships, so the quantitative salesperson builds relationships on credibility and accountability. It takes time, but once that train is moving, nobody is getting off.

One of my Judo Sensei’s told me I have no natural affinity with people. Between that and being a trained scientist (PhD in neurophysiology), you can guess what persona I started out in sales with.

Yep, quantitative.

We all start with the persona in our nature and, if you make it early in sales, it helps you succeed.

Later, you learn how to become the other persona. So my hypothesis is, the truly successful sales person is an even balance between quantitative and qualitative.

Mark’s Sales System

So here’s my “closing a sale process” that’s been refined over the past 11 or so years.

Listen  > Question > Listen  > Repeat > Price > Paint  > Confirm > Close

The listening is the easy part, and you’ve heard it a million times. Listen to the pain, the problems, and the goals.

Only through attentive listening can you understand how you will define a solution.

Questioning is the only way you get you can get the prospect to tell you all the pains and problems they have. Even when the prospect seems adamant in their desires, you need to ask them a question.

When a prospect asks, “Does this shirt come in pink?” You need to understand why they are asking the question.

Never assume they question something out of motive, sometimes they don’t even know why they asked the question. Your role as a salesperson is to determine WHY they are asking specific questions.

The proper answer to the question, “Does this shirt come in pink?”, is, “would you like this shirt in pink?”

When they answer your question to their question, then you can go back to listening.

Listen  > Question > Listen  > Repeat > Price > Paint  > Confirm > Close

When working on closing a sale, repeating is critical. Prospects inherently don’t trust sales people because sales people are incentivized by sales quotas and commission. Commission only comes from converting prospects to customers. So, they have biases and preconceived ideas about what sales is trying “pull over” on them.

A prospect will never trust you if the prospect doesn’t believe you understand their problem.

The only way you can start building that trust is by connecting with clients and repeating the pain. It isn’t that hard. My go-to line is, “Ok, so you said that the problem is A, B, C and you were thinking about solving it X,Y, Z ways. Is that a correct statement?”

If the answer does not come back as an emphatic YES, go back to listening and questioning.

Again, process driven sales means never moving forward unless 100% of the boxes have been checked in the previous step.

So when the answer finally comes back as a resounding, “Hallelujah, he gets it!” we move to the next step.

Thoughts on Pricing

Pricing is usually the sticky point for sales reps.

Everyone believes that the main reason people don’t buy is due to price. That is not true. Price is only one reason you will lose a deal. The other two? Time and information. More on that topic at another time.

I bring up the price here for several reasons. First and foremost, if they are price conscious and have limited means and budget, I want them (colorful metaphor) off my pipeline. I don’t have time to deal with miserly buyers that will never see the value of my offering.

The second very important reason is that I plant the pricing seed at the point where I’ve started to build the most trust. I have gone through the exercise of fully understanding their pains and problems and got them to agree that I understand what they are going through. They are starting to see me as being part of the solution team, their team.

I don’t give them a hard figure, it is squishy, and I let them know as much, granted I’ll likely bake in some fat if I think they want to haggle.

I leave the price with the caveat, another go to statement, “I’ve demonstrated that I understand your issues, correct?” Pause for a positive response, continue, “my promise to you is that if you agree that my solution will help you, I will work with my team to ensure that we can get this deal to work so from here on out, this is not a waste of time for either of us.”

Boom.

I’ve anchored my price.

I’ve solidified my stance that I’m on their side yet again.

I’ve rounded second and the ball still high in the air and moving fast towards the wall.

Now I’m ready to go into sales mode.

What the heck is painting?

Paint the picture. You know don’t paint seagulls in their picture.

You need to be able to define how your solutions will work, why it will work, and what it will take to work. Break it down into easy to understand pieces. Once you’ve had a chance to paint the picture, the prospect needs to acknowledge that your solution will indeed help them.

Confirming that your solution will work for them is the only way you can get the prospect’s acknowledgment.

Again this is another point where once I’ve completed painting the picture I have my go-to line,” Providing that I can do everything that I say I can do would you be happy with this solution?”

And again, if the answer does not come back as an emphatic YES, inquire where there are gaps in the image, repaint, and go for confirmation again.

Remember, there is no point in moving on until he answer comes back as a resounding, “that is exactly what I’m looking for.”

At this point, there is one thing left to do.

Closing is complicated, closing is hard. Closing requires paperwork.
The power of selling by a process is that by the time you get to closing the deal, you have built credibility, trust, and importantly, assuaged liability concerns.

Taken together, the presumptive close is very much a reality.

3 Growth Hacks for Sales Teams that Struggle to Get in Person Demos

By | Sales Productivity

Guest Post by Mark Shalinsky – Business Development Manager at The New Office.  Mark is a veteran sales guy that loves the hunt and metrics.  He taught me some great techniques over the years including “whale hunting” at conferences, one of my go to strategies. In this article, Mark shares 3 growth hacks for sales involving long sales cycles and in person sales demos.

Enter Mark.

I had a call today with a sales leader of a small regional company looking to expand his sales footprint. While they have done a lot of great things in the past, have recurring revenue, an active inbound lead funnel, there is a lot that they can be doing to accelerate their growth using a few growth hacking techniques for sales.

About the company

The company, including the sales leader, has a three person sales team. The sales reps do everything; prospect, demo, close, and book renewals. Currently they are using an entry level CRM marginally better than spreadsheets, but they are committed to growth and have bought a license to the big boy CRM, Salesforce.com. The commitment is firm as they are using a consulting service to set it up for them.

The are not looking at a stepping up digital marketing right, the need to tune their sales reps first. For this reason, I will not discuss anything on marketing at this time.

About the solution being provided

This company has a powerful disruptive technology with a 95% win rate when they get to the demo. The problem is getting to the demo. The decision maker for their product is either the CEO or CFO and the demo requires a 30 – 60minute in person hands on demo.

Pretty time and labour intensive for a C-level executive. This seems like a lot, but with a 95% win rate, the demo is pretty much cash in the bag.

As well, the sales leader says he has a >90% renewal rate, so they can count on a very stable recurring revenue. Also this data was built on several years of successful sales so there is a nice annual recurring revenue (ARR) buffer that will help fuel this growth phase.

The Question: How can they accelerate growth?

Sales is hard.

Anyone who is in sales understands this. The reason there is the 80/20 rule is because while sales is hard, it is a catch all career, and many people don’t have what it takes and linger.

The first question I asked this sales leader, is the first thing I ask any sales hunter, “What is your funnel equation?”

The funnel equation

V # Calls gives

W # Conversations which leads to

X # Demos that convert to

Y# Commitments resulting in

Z $ earned.

Once you understand your funnel equation you can start working the dials and increase conversion rates.

Over a longer period (thing week or month) your funnel number should be relatively stable. My funnel is a bit more involved than most people’s but I like to know how many raw dials I do because some days I strike out completely. However, like a slot machine, I know that the more dials I put in greater chance of a conversation, and it cascades from there.

Full disclosure, I have no idea how slot machines work.

I know logging calls is tedious, however there are a lot of softwares out there that can link and log your calls in your CRM, once in your CRM you can easily measure and report and on them. At that point you can have your funnel numbers. Put it on a dashboard, have it motivate you to crush those numbers.

As well, I’ve previously written another article about my call logging methodology. In short, to save you from reading another one of my articles, every call can be noted in 140 characters or less and prefixed with one of a handful of annotations such that;

GVM: got voice mail

LVM: left voice mail

Call: spoke to intended person

Demo: ran demo

Close: closed business

Email: sent email and email logged (Yesware, Cirrus Insights,& Sidekick do this automatically and nicely)

Solutions to accelerating growth

Now that I’ve learned about the company, the solution, the process, I am ready to recommend some ideas to help them accelerate growth.

Sales Growth Hack 1: Hack the reps

As mentioned above being a sales rep is hard. The caveat is most of us got into sales to make some money and most sales reps are coin operated. The brutal part of this company’s equation is being able to reach the decision, so we need motivate the reps to reach the decision makers, and reach them more often.

The first of the growth hacking techniques is to make sure that the reps are making their dials, emails, and initial contacts in sufficient numbers. How do you do that? Incentivize the different stages of the funnel equation.

What better way than to make it a cash based competition?

For this to be effective and ensure that nobody is gaming system (within reason), two competitions should occur simultaneously; most dials in the week and most booked sales demos in the week. This way there is an incentive to making a lot of dials, more dials equals more chances of sales demos.

As well, the prize for most demos should be larger than the prize for most dials. In this way if a rep decides to game the system for most dials and wins, their win will pale in comparison to someone who did the work, did the dials and consequently booked the most sales demos.

The second rep hack is giving the rep the tools they need to book the demo. This is done by being different, being affable, and being spectacular.

How can you be spectacular?

Everyone loves an unanticipated gift.

First determine the customer acquisition cost (CAC), from that how much can you spend on an introduction gift for 60 leads (20 leads per rep) per month. The rest is easy. The target demographic are mostly homogenous, CEOs and CFOs of companies that span many industries. Each rep is given a budget to spend on 20 leads and select some special gifts to send out to them. I’d guess the top reps would research their leads and find something very personal to buy their way to the demo.

Sales Growth Hack 2: Hack the client

One key advantage this company has is several years of sales and a very low churn rate. The best and easiest way to find new customers, is to request referrals. A better way to get referrals, and considering that the signatory on the renewal check is both the champion and someone with a keen eye on the budget, is to incentivize that referral.

I’d run my referral program in two different ways. The first way would be straight up incentivize the renewal. You are up for renewal, any email where you e-troduce me to a qualified lead gives you a free month of service. E-troduce me to twelve of your friends, get a year’s worth of service. The caveat here is to set a maximum. However if someone can offer forty leads with a 75% conversion rate, I’d let him ride and ask for more. Something to think about.

The second way would be to incentivize them on referrals and testimonials. This could come in the form of 6 months of free service for a few referrals and a testimonial. Have the testimonials come from leaders in the area, either in target geographically or target verticals, something that even without referrals the sales reps can use to gain an entrance to a company and book the demo.

Sales Growth Hack 3: Hack the company

The final acceleration growth hacking technique I would apply would be separate the sales reps responsibilities. If not completely then temporally. Based on the tenants of “Predictable Revenue” and the latest book from The Bridge Group, each part of the sales unit needs to function and be incentivized differently. Obviously for a small company with limited sales staff, doing so may be hard as initially gains will be slow with one rep is booking demos, one focused on closing, while the third is working existing clients for referrals.

The hack here is to take all the reps and have them all work on the same aspect of the sales cycle for a period, then they all move to the next stage.

For example, it is the start of the new fiscal quarter, everyone’s in on a call scrum working only on attempting to book sales demos. During this week the sales leader would run the most dials and most sales demos booked competition.

The next week everyone works the referral program, the next two weeks the whole team should all be out on the road running sales demos. When the new month starts, like groundhog day, everyone is back in the office for a week of booking demos call scrums.

Conclusion
This company is in a good place. They have a great product, they have existing clientele, they have cash to experiment with and they have trained sales reps. What the company needs do is start looking at their funnel metrics, understand their numbers and start testing processes that will adjust those numbers.

 

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAaTAAAAJGRkOGJlNWVjLTliYTYtNDgyZS05M2MxLTZhMmI2MmYyOGQ0OAAbout the author

Following an academic career, Mark moved into business development and has been the critical early sales hire at start-ups that have grown to become global brands in scientific publishing and IT security. Currently, Mark leverages academic skills and sales experiences in the tech sector identifying market sweet spots and cultivating sales reps into power-players, closing bigger deals faster.

Read more of Mark’s articles here and follow him on Twitter.