This post on the sales process was originally published on Aug 28, 2017 and updated on Aug 7, 2019.
Here’s a question you need to ask yourself about your sales process: If I could get in front of more qualified prospects, how much more could I sell?
In all of my training sessions and sales activity over the years, here’s something I’ve noticed:
Most companies are product and service heavy, but sales process poor. If you look at the typical training programs a company puts its people through, you’ll see a lot of attention given to product and service education, product positioning, etc. A lot less attention will be given to the actual sales process, which involves organization skills, communication skills, and prospecting techniques, to name a few.
Compounding the problem in the B2B sales process is the fact that the whole process has become heavy with contact information.
For example, I once trained two different groups of Senior Account Executives back to back. The first was at the San Francisco 49ers. The second was at the Sacramento Kings. In both instances, we performed an audit to discover where these groups struggled to meet their sales objectives.
Based on their responses, these reps were suffering from what I call “paralysis by analysis“. Six out of seven, or a whopping 86%, felt overwhelmed by the amount of information available on their high value contacts.
2 Pertinent Questions from Sales People about the Start of the Sales Process
As we investigated further, the question I heard most from sales reps was about determining what information is most important. Their second biggest question dealt with finding the best tactic for an initial introduction. Members of both sales teams estimated they were spending about 35% of their time sorting through information on prospective accounts. That’s one third of their working day not selling.
In other words, Google and Linkedin had become an information trap for these reps!
The success of a salesperson stems from how they use their time. Now, our 35% estimate is a conservative estimate. And these are senior level account executives we’re talking about. This means we’re looking at a generation of sales people that build their confidence through acquiring more information. They’re looking for an information based “magic bullet” that will give them a competitive advantage. They continue to research prospects because they feel it’s a critical element of their success.
Now don’t get me wrong. Sales research is vital and you’ll hear me talk about doing your homework on your prospects and industry to give you the foundation for a strong opening. In fact, most sales managers recognize that sales research is not busy work.
But at what point does this research stop adding value?
Remember, we hire sales people for profitable action. We acknowledge the hard work, but we worship sales execution.
Identifying Important Information
Let’s take a look at those two questions asked by the two sales teams. The first deals with identifying important information.
Here are some sobering facts:
- According to Hubspot, B2B data decays at a rate of 2.1% per month, an annualized rate of 22.5% (Hubspot, Data Decay)
- According to Hubspot’s latest inbound report, 57% of sales reps spend up to an hour a day on data entry (Hubspot’s State of Inbound).
So from this, we see sales reps have essentially solved the data decay problem by spending more time updating it!
However, the key to your sales success is efficient use of your time. This means you need to determine the minimum amount of pre-approach information needed for a new opportunity. Then you use that information to create your initial introduction.
Creating The Initial Introduction in Your Sales Process
The second question deals with creating the initial introduction.
The following observations are what we’ve found based on our experience in contacting high level decision makers when we operated a call center.
Based on roughly 1,500 to 2,000 outbound dials a day made by our call center team:
- When monitored, we found our team members lost momentum at 2 different times during calls to high value contacts:
- In the first 7 seconds, when they failed to win the prospect’s attention.
- At the 20 second mark, when they didn’t win the prospect’s interest.
- When they were on the phone between 45 and 65 seconds with a contact, their success rate was about 40%.
- On average, they made about 112 dials to win a meeting for a client’s project.
- During a contact campaign, they made about 8 “touches” to a specific contact to get a meeting. These touches involved several media types including:
- Social Media
- Phone calls
- Instant messaging
- In a B2B sales environment, they also focused on multiple contacts in each account:
- Our team discovered 2 to 3 important “influencers” in each potential account.
- Typically the sales rep identifies the decision maker during the sales process.
Opportunities for Improving the Sales Process
Here’s my observation. The initial stage of the sales process has become cumbersome and labor intensive. In our call center work and in our training sessions, we have identified three areas of improvement during the initial phase of the sales process:
- Identifying relevant data
- Streamlining the sales process
- Developing our sales talent
Now, as I said before, obtaining the right data is important. However, I think sales teams and sales managers are focusing too much on collecting the right data. Now, sales leaders need to give more attention to creating an effective process and developing the right talent.
Remember, technology can be our greatest ally or our worst enemy. It has made data prolific, and finding relevant data a problem. It has provided us with numerous communication channels to use, while creating disorganization and numerous distractions. Technology is a great tool for getting insights out of data and communicating at an unprecedented level. However, we can’t use technology at the expense of the sales process or to replace the skills and abilities of our sales team. We have to use it wisely
Over the next few posts, we’ll focus our attention on what it takes to make the sales opening more engaging and effective.
Should be an exciting ride.
Until then, good selling!
Oh, and one more thing. You can find additional ideas on opening the sales call in Selling is an Away Game, available online at Amazon, fine bookstores, and many Hudson News locations. Get your copy today.