Unlocking opportunities in your sales pipeline so you can ensure not only the future of your company but the survival of your business in an uncertain economic climate is all CEOs and Sales Leaders are thinking about right now. We’ve all got to be on top of our game, especially when it comes to sales.
With the margin for error in our business processes narrowing, especially for early stage startups or SMBs, it’s now become essential to find the best sales channels, the best salespeople and the best sales strategies for your business and your market as soon as possible.
Once you’ve found your formula for success, you’ll want to sustain momentum over the coming months and years so your business comes out of all of the current economic uncertainty as healthy, intact and with a strong foundation for growth.
For many, the answer to where to focus and how to win lies in their best salespeople. By learning from them what customers want, and deeply understanding the value they bring to the table to make them so great, it’s possible to find out exactly what will guide your company into a bright future, no matter what happens. Because as long as your customer is recognising value in your sales process, you have every chance of success.
So how do you get everyone in your sales organisation selling like your best salesperson?
Different times call for different strategies, and depending on the twists and turns of the market, you could find yourself focused on building leads, developing your product, organising your internal systems or simply selling like crazy in order to build the foundation of your business for growth and sustainability.
Every action in your business has an equal and opposite reaction. The physics of a sales organisation are as predictable as any other system, it’s just difficult to see the interactions and effects without the right processes and methodologies in place to help you monitor, measure, track and act upon the activities, data and knowledge of your very best sales people.
What we’ve seen over the past 5 months has shown us that nothing is certain in this market, and that some businesses are able to thrive in the chaos while others are struggling to make sense of the changes.
HubSpot is the platform thousands of businesses around the world use to run their sales, marketing and services. With the helicopter view of a cloud platform, HubSpot can provide insights into the best approach for any business in any industry to survive, adapt and thrive.
What HubSpot has discovered is that despite the downturn in the economy in many countries and the uncertainty facing most businesses, some are thriving.
Sales Performance generally is increasing from early levels at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. However, sales performance varies wildly according to industry. Manufacturing and Software are doing relatively very well. Travel is doing terribly, as you’d expect.
HubSpot is helping different businesses survive, adapt and thrive by offering help to pivot or redirect companies into stronger markets, while providing a solid backbone to those businesses who are ready to move forward into a stronger position for the long term. By building on your current customer base and expanding through account based marketing and customer advocacy you can sustain and increase your revenue with upselling and word of mouth opportunities. It is possible to orchestrate the bottom end of your funnel (or your flywheel) so that the interactions between your salespeople, your customer success team and your customers become your greatest asset.
What should Sales Leaders and CEOs do first to increase sales performance today?
There's a really pressing problem you have to solve first that’s affecting your sales targets right now. It’s to do with a very boring but vital component in your sales process: Sales Organisational Efficiency.
As an example, imagine this scenario: Your best salesperson has been working on an amazing proposal all weekend, but unfortunately the deal doesn’t close and you lose the deal. What happens to all the work they’ve just done? What happens to all the insights, valuable ideas and complex synthesis of value this great salesperson has pulled together to give them the best chances of success on this one deal?
It’s very likely that proposal goes into a reference folder somewhere, never to be seen or heard of again. Everything in that proposal was great. A smart salesperson might find that proposal and copy bits and pieces from it on their next proposal if they’re clever. But generally speaking those old proposals tend to sit in a big reference folder, particularly in B2B (Business to Business) sales organisations. This is especially true when you're doing inbound selling or consultative selling with a longer sales cycle and more complex proposals and documentation.
When you’re putting together complex, tailored solutions for each prospect every time you submit a proposal, your salespeople will argue that it’s simpler and more efficient to start from scratch.
Repetition and duplication is wasted opportunity for iterative improvements
B2B sales, because they're complex, involve lots of people on both sides of the deal. Often in B2B sales in a lot of businesses, the people involved in a deal each contribute separately to planning and submitting a proposal. Lots of versions and documents being sent back and forth, spreadsheets, powerpoints and detailed diagrams changing hands late into the night until the proposal is done. There are often lots of variations and changes on your proposals before (and after) they’re submitted to a prospect.
Salespeople are creatures of habit - the truth is they all have their winning proposals; the best are the ones they use as reference to help them win their deals. They have their standard quotes, their favourite email templates - each has their own special sauce to sweeten deals and help them to close. And some are better than others.
The Inbound Seller
It used to be that the ABC Alpha Salesman was the guy to have on your sales team if you wanted to ‘Always Be Closing’. We all know the archetype - Alec Baldwin played him in Glengarry Glen Ross. We know his style from the following attributes:
- Their need to be aggressive
- Being a Lone Wolf Salesman
- The false belief that only Males excel in Sales
- The idea that you've got to 'Always Be Closing' (The ABC Salesman Archetype)
- The idea that you've got to work harder (not smarter) than anyone else to succeed
- The false idea that you can’t teach sales – that you’re somehow born that way
- A false belief that more calls = more sales (this simply isn't statistically true, especially in 2020/2021)
Well here’s the good news. That doesn’t work any more. That guy is out! Just ask Dan Tyre, Director and Sales Guru at HubSpot, as he outlines in his article ‘20 Stupid Sales Tactics to Abandon in 2020 (And What to Do Instead).
Others think hiring junior salespeople and just pummelling the phones with sales activity is the way to go. I once worked on a sales floor where interns like me worked for free to ‘gain experience in sales’ as we cold-called hundreds of people as fake busy office sounds played over the tannoy to give the impression that there were lots of deals to be made. It was horrible, and the approach only favoured the short term aspirations of the business. Nowadays, that level of churn and turnover in your salespeople doesn’t make any sense if you want to build knowledge and value into your sales process. Customers won’t stand for it any more, and even if you work the numbers, the economics don’t work out like they used to - people demand more in sales.
The kind of salespeople you want to have on your team are good at understanding, have a high emotional intelligence, and can listen attentively to your customers challenges before recommending a solution. I call them the ‘Inbound Seller’.
If you can identify the people who most represent your values and the ideals as they serve customers, chances are you’ll be looking at the Inbound Sellers in your business. These are the people you’ll want to learn from and build your sales system around, since they’re the future of your business.
The good salespeople know how to present value and win the deal.
What value does your customer desire most?
Once you understand your customer’s point of view as well as your very best salespeople, you’ll understand how to present value throughout your sales process so everyone is equally equipped to offer it.
When you have created a system that offers the value most important to customers at each step of their journey with you, right at the moment they need it, you can then improve everything else.
This includes what goes into the communications from your business such as your proposals and your quotes, and then everything else that you send and sell to your customer.
You can also track and support the things that work best for your salespeople, so that you can collaborate on the stuff that works and improve it and then add that stuff to your proposals. So you can just progressively get better and better.
How do I know if my Sales Performance can improve?
Most businesses recognise sales inefficiencies and sales performance problems first in the Finance Department. If your CFO is questioning your pipeline and wondering why sales projections are off, this means revenue and sales projections are inaccurate and difficult to predict and measure. Without a decent sales system you can rely and depend upon, this leads to a problem in planning and setting a course for the future of your business.
Make your best Salespeople the key to your success
Even in the age of a ubiquitous and user friendly CRM like HubSpot (and it’s free!), B2B sales organisations still keep invisible documents like proposals, quotes and pricing tables that exist at the end of the sales cycle.
Proposals, quotes, email follow ups, negotiation notes and ultimately contracts contain vital data and agreements that can expose your business to risks like misinformation, scope bleed on projects, unexpected products and services being added to a deal that can cost you to deliver them, delays in your billing cycles, contractual delays, missing signatures, forgotten decision makers who could have stopped the deal.... There’s so much risk at the tail end of your sales process, yet it’s the most opaque and poorly orchestrated part of many businesses.
This is where your greatest opportunity lies.
By equipping your best salespeople with the means to share, collaborate and grow the value of your business together, you provide everyone with the platform you need to grow your business in the future.
Now is the time to surface what your customers value most and to build it into the processes, frameworks and sales enablement resources your salespeople need to find, engage and delight new customers so they become advocates for your business.
The fastest route to revenue in the short term, and the highest potential area for growth in most B2B sales organisations today lies at the Bottom of the Funnel, not at the Top.
While everyone else is focused on getting leads, you can unlock revenue opportunities and get cashflow stabilised by putting in systems and supports for the areas of your sales process most in need of automation.
If you need help to build sales systems that use learnings from your very best salespeople to reduce friction and increase momentum in sales, using a reliable platform like HubSpot and third party integrations like Pandadoc, Aircall and Dear Lucy, get in touch with Andrew to have a free consultative call where we can talk about what you’re doing today, where there might be quick wins for you tomorrow and how to plan for the future.
Dublin HubSpot User Group for more on improving your sales:
We'll be talking about this and more at the next Dublin HubSpot User Group, where there will be tips and tricks as well as breakout sessions with experts so you can implement a more organised sales system and make your best salespeople the template for the rest of your team to follow. Join us by clicking below!