Sales Performance Improvement

Most sales performance improvement is as a result of the digital transformation in sales, which has seen sales leaders focus in on the development and enablement of their sales force.  Sales performance improvement is a process not an event, it is a continuous improvement process versus a single sales training event.

sales-performance-improvement

No business who is serious about sales growth will want to miss out on the opportunity to improve sales effectiveness and efficiency through process,tools or technology. However, sales performance improvement is a change management project which can lead to fear and uncertainty, especially if seen as interfering with current sales practices.  Sales performance improvement templates such as sales training materials, sales playbooks, tools and competency guidelines all play a central role in driving improvement. For many companies they may not have any or all of this content and then much of the content may not be available for digital consumption.

The first step in creating a sales performance improvement plan may be to choose between content that is ready but doesn’t meet the current needs, then continue to use the existing content in the old way, or invest in transforming the content and templates for digital access. In today’s digital era, we know that salespeople’s learning habits and preferences are changing. Research shows they want shorter, more engaging learning content, for example sales training video that can be consumed online as needed or accessed in their quiet time.

Begin By Documenting Areas for Improvement
Once the business has created a baseline expectation across the sales process for every sales team member, the sales manager or supervisor needs to learn how to properly document what areas require improvement for both the steps in the sales process and for each salesperson. This would then we discussed with each individual as part of a training and review plan. The important thing to remember when creating a paper trail for each sales performance improvement plan is to ensure that the information gathered is entirely objective, fact based, and specific. Needless to remark, the manager or supervisor should avoid generalities and provide detailed examples as much as possible. Once the sales performance improvement areas have been communicated, a number of templates will need to be created. This include what was expected in the sales performance plan and what was actually delivered. Other templates (as part of a sales playbook) could include consequences of veering outside the agreed process’s, action plans and reviews.

Sales Performance Makes Salespeople Goals Personal

Regardless of the sales improvement or sales enablement plan, every salespersons goals should be truly personalized. Within the general plan, take account for goals that focus on areas of personal improvement, individual to each sales team member. To future proof the business, within the sales training section of the sales performance improvement plan, give each salesperson the opportunity to enhance areas where they are already competent and improve areas where there is a skills deficit.

To reduce risk, start by introducing a smaller sales performance improvement plan with lower goals, goals that could improve a salespersons sales habit loop such as doing 10 minutes prep work ( the prep work output should be documented) prior to making a call, or using quiet time to engage in social selling to connect with existing customers or prospects (again, goals need to be set). However, just rolling out some new sales improvement plan with goals is not enough, there also needs to be consequences such as reviews and evaluations.

Let me conclude with one of my favorite sayings, “Fortune favors the brave”, and in a rapidly changing sales environment if there ever was a time to be brave, it’s now. Take time to think differently about your sales model, your sales strategy, your customers buying journey, the role you expect salespeople to execute against and how you plan to develop your sales talent so everyone can commit to doing things better. Never let the pursuit of profit get in the way of progress. Every sales performance improvement plan will face obstacles and encounter issues, so focus on how you envision your sales engine performance in 1,2 or 3 years time. Finally, encourage your sales training and development teams to put some well thought out initiatives into play as they can often be risk-averse. Then back them up, and let them know that it’s not just OK but vital to adopt new ways of getting salespeople to learn and develop, so sales performance improvement will be a constant not just an event.

 

Are Women Better Entrepreneurs

Gender issues between men and women have long been standing. For countless decades, women have struggled to rise to fulfill their roles as leaders and game changers. Even when, over time, names of women who have made huge changes in the communities they belong to have surfaced, gender-bias remains alive, breathing, and plaguing.

women-in-business

Despite the different work-related gender issues women, from anywhere around the world, face each day of their lives, the success of women leaders in the corporate world have made responding differences. In a world dominated largely by men, the tide is apparently shifting before everybody’s eyes. More and more people have come into realization how the female qualities impact and bring forth positive changes in businesses. While in the past it was nearly impossible for women to gain acceptance in business, now businesses need women beyond their nurturing skills. More are appreciating the different yet effective approach of the women in business on problem analysis and solving, creativeness and innovation, and their general drive to success.

The business landscape is still dominated by the male population, and there still are those started by women that have failed and have never been attempted to revive. However, survey suggests that in many large cities like Melbourne, women-owned businesses out survive those men-owned, from different industries. The staggering rates of success of women in the business world, with their unparalleled and unconventional approaches would make them equal to if not better entrepreneurs than men. Now how is that possible? Let’s check out why.

Open and honest marketing

Gone are the old marketing ways where consumers are blindly being led to believe whatever companies want them to believe. Today, with the changes in mass media, social media and the availability of information at the hands of consumers, dumb marketing almost never works anymore.
Consumers are much wiser and appreciate authenticity in marketing more than ever. This is where women are good at — open and honest marketing. When consumers see honesty from your business, trusting becomes so much easier on the part of the consumers. Once trust is established, getting ahead in business is not a difficult task.

Women connect better

The choice and voice of consumers these days have taken their leverage over companies on a higher level. An unresolved or poorly resolved consumer issue can bring a whole company down in a short matter of time. The women’s connection skills come in handy in before such situations even arise. This is because of the natural instinct of women to listen first before acting on the problem; while men on the other hand, immediately act first to save what is left and then only listen after.

Women are better negotiators

The less aggressive approach of women on so many ways makes them better negotiator. In negotiations they engage in, they do not bend things just to gain foothold over the situation. Women go for decisions where both or all parties gain advantages and win.

Women share the credit

Any success that women gain in the business, they do not take all the credit to themselves. They boost the confidence in their employees by making them feel that their efforts and contributions are valued. This approach makes employees strive to do better and add in an extra dose of dedication in their work because they understand the implications of their actions.

Women value relationships and well-being more than the business

This point does not instigate that men do otherwise. It is just that women have the tendency to act based on these values before the business itself. They place importance of their families and relationships outside their work, creating a sense of balance and putting off grab effects of burn-out. Also, in terms of businesses, they are able to create a personal touch in dealing with both their employees and teams, and customer. Women put in a heart in their business, which gives them an advantage in their relationships with their clients.

Overall, what really makes women better entrepreneurs is their natural ability to adapt to the changes in the business scene. Today, consumers seek connection to businesses who provide them services and products. Trust is built on these things, when they are assured that the businesses are on their side. Women’s natural abilities to connect, and nurture are very handy tools in giving businesses a human touch that consumers crave for.

This is a guest article on The Bitter Business.

Guest Author Bio:

Displaying photo-gemma-reeves.png

Gemma Reeves is a seasoned writer who enjoys creating helpful articles and interesting stories. She has worked with several clients across different industries such as advertising, online marketing, technology, healthcare, family matters, and more. She is also an aspiring entrepreneur who is engaged in assisting other aspiring entrepreneurs in finding the best office space for their business.

Check out her company here: FindMyWorkspace

Future of B2B Sales

Future of B2B Sales

Most sales leaders agree that B2B sales are on the verge of a great leap forward, with a series of changes that will redefine what it takes to succeed in the market over the coming years.

The use of data and analytics as part of a sales transformation or sales enablement program is allows sales people to forecast with increasing accuracy, their most valuable sales opportunities. In fact, forward looking companies are using data and advanced analytics to drive their sales productivity alongside revenue growth without adding to their sales teams or costs.

future-b2b-sales

Future of B2B sales

The change in the B2B buyers journey where they self-educate via content, are technically savvy plus a preference for engaging via the digital networks, is leading the charge for a new breed of sales leaders who have digital expertise plus a strategic approach to engaging customers. The change in the buyer’s journey is also transforming the composition of sales teams with a move away from customer facing sales towards a growth in inside sales and social sellers supported by analytics functions.

Add in the shift towards subscription-based models and you can see why it is critical to re-evaluate how customer engagement is managed. The sales world of recurring revenues means that deals need to be won monthly, quarterly and yearly. Customer relationship salespeople will become increasingly more important and digitally connected sales teams are aligning themselves closely to the buying journey the customer undertakes.

Science is replacing Art in B2B sales

The disruption to the traditional buyer- seller model means B2B sales is becoming more science than art. Selling, customer acquisition and target selection is now more data-driven because of the range of digital tools and advanced analytics available to sales leadership. The focus is now firmly on really understanding the “what, why, and when” of the customer buying process. Research from McKinsey shows that organisations who have embraced “the science of B2B sales” are seeing over 2X times industry average revenue growth.

An interesting statistic from the research shows it is the CEOs of the leading pack who actively lead the sales transformation. They understand that redefining their go-to-market strategy require cross functional alignment and unified execution from sales, marketing, IT, finance and HR. The future of B2B sales will require sales leadership to fundamentally transform their go-to-market strategy around three defining pillars.

Pillar 1. Engage the customer the way they want to be engaged

The debate of salespeople v social v digital is over. Driving sales growth in the future means combining all these resources. However, digital assets (social media channels, content, social selling, data, digital sales tools etc) will be the glue that holds a successful multichannel sales strategy together. To support this pillar, research shows that while 76% of B2B buyers found it helpful to interact (via social media, phone or meeting) with a salesperson when researching a new product or service, this falls to 52% for repeat purchases of products with new features, and down to only 15% who want to interact with a salesperson when repurchasing the exact same product or service.

So, sales leaders will have to plan and cater to the different preferences of first-time and repeat customers.

Companies will use the social channels and digital sales tools alongside the more traditional sales interactions when targeting new prospects who seek direct interaction with salespeople. Examples here include sharing white papers, customer case studies, webinars and interactive product demos, which help salespeople engage customers in the awareness and consideration stages of their buying journey.

For the repeat customers who prefer the online channel, companies need to deploy “socially trained” inside salespeople to keep ensure retention plus speed up the sale process. The inside sales teams will focus on engaging this customer set via social media, email, live web chat, and even live video calls.

Pillar 2. Using data and analytics to make faster strategic and tactical decisions.

Forward looking organisations and leaders will use data and analytics to action key strategic sales issues, such as which market or set of customer profiles to target, what sales opportunities are worth pursuing, resources (and engagement) needed on selected accounts, and to identify sales behaviours required to increase sales productivity. Sales leaders of the future using science in B2B sales will use analytics to build a detailed profile, account and product plan for each of their customers and ideal prospects. These plans will then be enriched with external and social data such as news, financial information, management profiles and market trends to generate a 360-degree view of every customer.

Science will replace art or gut feeling for sales management to identify the sales behaviours that drive sales productivity or how to match the right people to the right deals. Sales performance will be linked back to actual sales habits (sales planning, time management, frequency of customer interactions, conversations, nurturing, prospecting, solution proposals, win/loss ratio etc) so management will be able to identify the best salespeople.

Pillar 3. Nurturing and Growing talent for the digital era.

The socially connect and digitally influenced buyer is increasingly sophisticated and interaction savvy, so sales leaders need to adapt accordingly. Hiring and training a new generation of cross-functional and multi-channel comfortable salespeople will be vital.

Finding the right talent will only be part of the jigsaw, companies will need to invest time and resources in nurturing and growing their sales force. Most current sales training is not fit for purpose, this is why you will see lots more articles on sales transformation or sales enablement.

Some interesting facts worth noting are that adults only remember 10% of what they heard and approx. 32% of what they saw, just three months after the training has finished. But an adult will remember 65% of what they learn by doing. This insight is driving a transformation in how companies deliver sales training. They are evolving from slow instructor lead classroom training to online digital modules and “on-the-job” training where coaches help the salespeople to learn from doing.

b2b-sales-trends

B2B sales trends

Getting started with the science of B2B Sales

A few tips on getting started with the science of B2B sales include:

Understand your current position. Begin by looking at the customer and how their buying preferences will impact the business. How customers buy (will buy) should determine what investments the sales organisation needs.

Take a longer-term view. What will change look like in 12, 24, 36 months? Taking a longer-term view means that sales leadership can plan for and invest in the right sales capabilities based on customer driven road-map.

Use data to test and learn. Buyer habits are changing faster than sales are responding, so speed matters now more than ever. Use whatever data on hand to test and learn, keeping the business nimble. Break down internal silos and set up a sales war-room to launch new multi-channel campaigns and messages. Maybe implement an agile test-fail-learn-adapt model to engage more buyers and then refine the sales tactics to include social selling, social reach, digital engagement etc.

The future of B2B sales will require vision, strong leadership and focus from the CEO and the leadership team plus an investment in time and resources to win out. However, companies using the three pillars in the science of B2B sales are already racing ahead of their competitors and driving sales growth at a faster pace.

Matching Sales Training to the Buyer’s Journey

Matching sales training to the buyer’s journey is essential when designing not just your sales training courses but also as part of your digital selling strategy. Developing a deep understanding of your customer profiles and their buying journey is critical in getting a sales force to engage a company’s target audience. When done correctly, matching sales training to the buyer’s journey will improve the effectiveness of your sales strategy and dramatically increase sales growth.

sales-training

Sales Training Class

We know that social media and the digital channels provide buyers with self-education which leads to greater autonomy when making buying decisions. Which poses the question, “If most of the information they would need to make an informed decision when considering a purchase is available online, what is the role of the modern salesperson?

Sales leaders need to ask where does sales prospecting and customer acquisition tactics fit into engaging buyers in the digitally influenced sales process.

 Defining the buyer’s journey 

Defining the buyers journey is not so much about “what is it” but “HOW is it” enacted. A simple definition could be – The process a buyer goes through to become aware of, consider, evaluate, and then decide on purchasing a product or service.

In the buyer’s journey, the biggest change is in the “awareness’ and “consideration” stages. In these stages, social media now plays a bigger part than the traditional sales engagement. Is this a failure by business to address this in sales training (by providing better sales prospecting tactics) or have we just ceded a vital part of customer acquisition to the internet?

Matching sales training to the buyer’s journey

This will ensure a sales team that is skilled in using a multi-channel approach to nurturing a target set of customers throughout the buying process.  This is now essential for any business to attract buyers towards purchasing your product or service. Salespeople need to have a clear understanding of what the customer expects at each stage of the buying process. It is the responsibility of sales leadership to provide the training, coaching and guidance to help them interact with potential customers with relevant content and messaging at every stage.

There is no mystery in the digitally influenced buyers journey, the key to successfully engaging customers on their buyer’s journey is constant engagement. Digital sales transformation is being rolled out in sales training to teach salespeople how to skilfully engage with prospects throughout each stage of their journey. The goal is not just selling but to build trust and rapport between the business and the prospect. Research shows that the biggest differentiator in selling success may just be getting the prospect trust. So, if you can build credibility, usefulness and trust above your competitors in the chase to win business, it will give you the advantage when converting a prospect into a customer.

Stages in the Buyers Journey

b2b-buyers-journey

B2B Buyers journey

The buyers journey can be condensed down to a three-step process: The Awareness Stage: The buyer realises they may have a problem. Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it and then the Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution.

Awareness.

In the Awareness stage, a buyer will identify an issue, or challenge they want to address. At this stage they decide what priority this issue or challenge should be. So, does your sales training cover off:

How would the buyer describe his or her challenges?

Where and how does the buyer educate themselves on the challenges facing others or their industry?

What would be the compelling reasons when the buyer comes to deciding whether or not this should be prioritised?

Consideration 

Next is the Consideration stage, here the buyer should have moved to having clearly defined the issue or challenge plus a commitment to dealing with it. They have self-educated, read whitepapers, interacted with companies and sales people plus will have evaluated the different options available to pursue the end goal of resolving the challenge. Again, sales training needs to address:

Which categories of solutions do buyers investigate?

Where do buyers educate themselves on the various options or solutions?

How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of each solution?

How do buyers decide which option is right for them?

Decision.

The third stage is Decision. The buyer has arrived at a decision on which solution matches their need.  Some questions the sales training material should cover:

What criteria or other considerations will a buyer use to evaluate the available offerings?

When the buyers comes to researching you (yes, they will) and your company’s offering, what do they like about what they see or read compared to the competition?

What concerns will you need to cover off on your solution?

Is there a buying committee or who else needs to be involved in the decision? For each person involved, how does their perspective on the decision differ?

What is the buying process or will the buyer have expectations around sampling/trying your solution before they purchase it?

What is the true cost of acquisition, so outside of buying your solution, do buyers need to make additional plans around implementation, IT or training?

Some sales training tips 

It is important to break down each step in your sales process and then match your sales training to the buyer’s journey. Each sales training session should focus on a step in the sales process including what sales assets, content and information to use. For a salesperson, learning the next step in the sales process should be a reward for mastering the previous one.

The buyer to supplier relationship along with how buyers engage with salespeople is changing rapidly. Your sales strategy , sales process and  sales training will have to become more dynamic, multi-channel and digitally driven, just like our customers.

Sales Strategy Presentation

Information on pulling together a sales strategy presentation, a template for what to include when developing your sales strategy plan with presentation guides and insights. An effective sales strategy presentation needs to consider what are your products and where or who is your market. It also plots out how the sales effort will be directed to ensure it captures profitable growth selling to customers. A sales strategy presentation should outline market and customer coverage with detailed plans that give the best possible opportunity for the business to win more customers. In more detail, a sales strategy defines the customer segments it wants to target and the business value propositions for each segment. Then it spells out how the sales force will be structured along with a documented selling processes.

sales-strategy-presentation

So a sales strategy is a business decision on 

  1. Who are you going to sell to.
  2. What are you going to sell them.
  3. How are you going to sell to them.
  4. What is your core sales and marketing messaging.
  5. What are your sales priorities.
  6. A clear set of goals that everyone will work toward.

Effective Sales Strategies are 100 percent aligned with the overall business strategy. They outline the ideal target clients, what is your value proposition, what are your success metrics, goals, roles, processes and specific actions required to meet targets. The sales strategy presentation must be based on the business and marketing plans so they all ties in together. It needs to outline in as much detail as possible – how will the sales and marketing team will deliver on objectives and the plan to target market segments. It covers how the sales team will they support marketing activities, such as inbound leads or promotional events.

Identify the Key Aims of the Sales Strategy.

The questions it should resolve and bring clarity to include, Is it to sell more to the same customer base? or Is it about market penetration or market development?. Also which target markets you are aiming for and the time, money and resources needed. These questions should be answered by researching when, where, how and why the existing customer base buys.

Set A Clear Market Strategy.

The sales strategy presentation needs to detail out questions in the plan such as;

Grow existing accounts?
Revenue with existing products?
Revenue from new products?
New revenue with existing products?
Up and cross-selling?
Retention plan?
Acquisition plan?
Customer mix?
Product mix?
Seasonal sales cycles?

Business growth depends on acquiring new, profitable business with different customers. Plan how you will approach every new customer. Maybe to win the business of a key customer, you may offer acquisition pricing, creating a loss-leader or maybe giving the product on a trial basis. Make sure you have a plan to move prices and margins back up to a profitable level, or else live with reduced margins from these customers.

Reaching the Customer and Target Market.

  1. Which sales channels will be most effective in selling to which customers.
  2. Do you sell direct or through channels?
  3. Map out the costs of each channel against the benefits it would bring.
  4. Implement a well-functioning funnel and opportunity planning process.

Sales Plans, Forecasting and the Annual Sales Budget.

The sales strategy presentation should include a detailed breakdown of the sales to be achieved each month, by customer and by product. The sales forecasts should be based on previous sales levels, or if a new business then the sales targets should be based on the business plan. It also takes into account information about customers’ buying habits, the sales cycle and other factors such as pricing and marketing activities.

Selling Resources Required to Meet the Plan.

The sales strategy is not just about sales, it also covers what resources are required to meet the plan. So it should document topics including – What is the Training plan. The plan to improve the customer experience. What (if any) specialist support is needed. What resources will be needed to make the sales force more productive.  What will the cost be of providing admin support so sales people spend more time on selling. Then it needs to call out all the marketing and sales assets in play and what needs to be created prior to launch the sales strategy.

Sales Strategy Presentation – Measuring Sales Performance.

Finally, the sales strategy presentation will give insight into how the sales performance will be measured against the plan. Areas to be included are;

Sales forecasting accuracy.
Cost of sale analysis.
Time and money spent on different customers.
Analysis of customer segments.
Insights into the win/loss ratio.
Salesperson productivity.
Channel productivity.
Lead to conversion ratio.
Cost per customer sale.
The return on sales costs.

In the business of selling, there are many of the factors that determine success which are outside of your control. So all the more reason you need to define your goals and tactics for meeting (and exceeding) your sales target. Writing a sales strategy presentation will help you take a more control in the fast paced world of sales.

Remember, the success of the sales strategy is the engine for the success for the whole company. It may sound simplistic but without acquiring and developing profitable customers, a business will eventually fail. Regardless of the size of a business, it’s critical to ensure your sales strategy presentation is clear, purposeful, with clear goals on what you want to achieve, and how you will serve your customers.  Learn more about Sales and Social Selling Training Strategy

This article was republished with permission of The Digital Sales Institute. Original article here:  https://www.thedigitalsalesinstitute.com/sales-strategy-presentation/

 

The Buyers Journey

the-buyers-whys

Increasingly the buyers journey is now done online. Even B2B customers have adopted consumer-like behavior. They now conduct product research online and often make purchasing decisions without a sales rep’s involvement. Those B2B customers who engage with sales agents are already 57 percent of the way through the buying process before their first contact. This fundamentally changes the type and tenor of the interactions that sellers use to engage with customers.

The most often used description of The buyer’s journey is, ” the process a buyer will go through to become aware of, consider and decide to purchase a new product or service. This journey can be condensed down to a three-step process: The Awareness Stage: The buyer realizes they may have a problem. Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it and then the Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution. 

 

buyer-journey-quote

 

 

During the Awareness stage,  a buyer will identify an issue, or challenge they want to address. At this stage they decide what priority this issue or challenge should be. So ask yourself?

How would the buyer describe his or her challenges?

Where and how does the buyer educate themselves on the challenges facing others or their industry?

What would be the impact of non action by the buyer?

In your (the sales person or marketing) business, what are the common misconceptions a buyer could have in relation to addressing the issue or challenge?

What would be the compelling reasons when the buyer comes to deciding whether or not this should be prioritized?

 

At the Consideration stage, the buyer should have moved to having clearly defined the issue or challenge plus a commitment to dealing with it. They have self educated, read whitepapers, interacted with companies and sales people plus will have evaluated the different options available to pursue the end goal of resolving the challenge. Ask yourself:

Which categories of solutions do buyers investigate?

Where do buyers educate themselves on the various options or solutions?

How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of each solution?

How do buyers decide which option is right for them?

Lastly, at the Decision stage, the buyer have arrived at a decision on which solution matches their need.  Some questions you should ask yourself to define this stage are:

What criteria or other considerations will a buyer use to evaluate the available offerings?

When buyers comes to investigating you (yes, they will) and your company’s offering, what do they like about what they see or read compared to the competition?

What concerns will you need to cover off on your solution?

Is there a buying committee or who else needs to be involved in the decision? For each person involved, how does their perspective on the decision differ?

What is the buying process or will the buyer have expectations around sampling/trying your solution before they purchase it?

What is the true cost of acquisition, so outside of buying your solution, do buyers need to make additional plans around implementation, IT or training?

The answers to these questions will provide a robust foundation for your own buyer’s journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Key Elements of Digital Sales Transformation

Digital transformation and digital sales transformation is much spoke about business strategy terms (there is even Kudos within management circles for mentioning them). But what is it and what can it do for a business is less understood. How can a business benefit from digital sales transformation strategy is a question being asked in many companies?

I think we all have to acknowledge that the sales profession is going through a major transformation. Social media, mobile, and digital information means buyers are better informed and rely less on sales people in the purchasing journey. And that same purchase process has become longer and even more complex within the consultative type selling models.

digital-sales-transformation

Digital Sales Transformation could be defined as “How sales capabilities and competences need to be developed to address the “Connected Buyer”, meeting changes in the industry facilitated by digital tools”. In a nutshell, transforming sales performance will involve a combination of better training for the new age sales person, better use of technology/data, and better customer content to drive conversations.

It is not just another business buzzword to be bandied about at management meetings. The buyers journey is changing fast (wait till Millennials make up the majority of buyers!!) so it’s important to focus on real business and customer challenges and changes now.  Now it the time to have a clear approach, prioritise action and involve the entire marketing and sales force in any digital transformation process. Where to focus in terms of market arenas (capture more business in the short term), what is the right offering (product to market fit) and value proposition for these markets, and how to manage customer relationships and sales to win in the digitally influenced market, are some of the questions to be answered.

The digital tools I mentioned above as part of the definition of sales transformation are invading the business ecosystem, bringing with them major changes in the way we work, communicate, and sell but most importantly the change in how customers buy. As with most things in like, this has brought both opportunities and challenges, and has triggered the Digital Transformation within companies for all aspects of customer touch points.

Sales enablement needs to focus on “value messaging”, “social selling” and “consultative selling” skills training.

The starting point is focused on improving the business awareness of the sales teams because the old sales methodology of selling product features to increasingly more sophisticated buyers will not cut the mustard.  Sales professionals must be able to map the buyer’s journey, understand “Ideal Customer Profiles”, deliver compelling insights (using a variety of content) to differentiate themselves (Why me!!)  And communicate this value to close more business without being dragged into the pricing discount race. So sales enablement leaders are looking to “value messaging”, “social selling” and “consultative selling” skills training using social networks to help the sales force communicate and influence buyer perceptions of value.

The development of these new sales or marketing competencies revolves around the capacities for sales people to be more agile, buyer-centred, innovative, connected, aligned and effective with present and future changes in mind. The digital sales transformation will have many connected goals, but in the end striving towards optimisation across sales processes, support divisions and the business ecosystem of the always-connected customer where building the right bridges with the right people at the right time during the buyers journey is the key to success.

A reminder of the buyer’s journey: Today’s buyers, from consumers looking for a new car to company buying committees purchasing software, can easily research and compare products thanks to the visibility offered up from a host of social networks.

digital-selling-impact

The positive news is that with re-tuning for this digital era, sales teams have significant capabilities to impact the buyer’s journey to become a valuable influencer, aided by big data, digital selling tools, and organisational changes to the buyers’ growing level of self education.

The major themes of Digital Sales Transformation:

  • Find growth in arenas before your competitors arrive
  • Sell the way customers want to buy
  • Optimise sales operations and digital tools
  • Sales and marketing as a unified team who challenge the status quo and manage revenue performance
  • Empowering sales enablement to make change happen

Look Ahead

The whole purpose of sales transformation is to drive profitable growth within companies. It is about using insights, social signals and data to anticipate buyer interests and map out where untapped potential lies. They focus on being useful and valuable to buyers in order to lock in new customers first (and out manoeuvre their competitors).

Find growth in Social Data

The use of social data as part of the sales engagement plan can open up amazing sales opportunities. Companies from all sectors, B2C and B2B can build insights from a wide array of internal and external sources and create tailored selling propositions based on prospect personalisation. However to maximise the benefits of social data, social selling needs to be at the very heart of the sales culture.

Selling that matches the Buyer’s Journey

Generation connected customers have discarded their participation in traditional sales models. They want self-determined, more seamless, and rewarding buying experiences; they want more of the right information at the right time, more value from sales interactions and they want on channels of their choosing. For sales leaders, getting their heads around this is hard enough but transforming sales models in mature or emerging markets is a major challenge. But leading sales organisations are finding ways to improve digital channels, the availability of content plus maximising direct and indirect channels. Using social data and social selling they are cracking the code of how to integrate them all. No company can win today using old sales methodologies, so the smart ones are using transformation to manage a multi-channel approach to ensure consistency, maintaining close contact with customers and raising the sales bar. The best sales leaders are transforming inside sales and field sales, integrating online with inbound with social selling, orchestrating direct and indirect sales and marketing teams and using data to drive activity.

The best test and tweak constantly to bring value to the buyer’s journey and turn conversations into sales conversions. They embrace social networks, mobile and understand the benefits of building deeper customer relationships across all platforms with quality content. Finally, they recognise that digital is an additive process, so they work hard at seamless integration with every other sales channel to win.

Mapping the Customer Decision Journey

“12% of all B2B sales in the US will take place online by 2020 – Forrester”

 digital-transformation

75% of purchases now start with an online search by the buyer. 90% of decision makers say that they never respond to cold outreach – (Harvard Business Review).  More than half the sales process has disappeared. B2B buyers are 57% of the way through their purchasing decision before they ever engage a sales person. In fact, a B2B customer will regularly use different interaction channels throughout the purchase process. The mapping of Ideal Customer Profiles and the Customer Decision Journey  around which marketing and sales collaborate has become standard practise in many progressive sales organisations. They also know that this journey is different by customer segment/profile, with varying needs and expectations at each point in the journey.

It is about ensuring the sales teams reaches the right people at the right time with the right offer.

Innovate Inside Sales

Cold calling is dying fast and some companies are still flogging dead horses. Sales transformation success can pivot on changing the inside sales approach. The leaders of the successful inside sales forces have recognised this. They use social selling to nurture customers early, long before any sales pitch. They seek to bring value and be a trusted source of information to unlock growth in key accounts which is the prerequisite for the consultative sale. Regardless of size or industry, there are always new ways for business development people to engage new customers.

 Blend your Sales and Marketing Engine

In transforming the sales engine, business leaders must ensure that marketing and sales teams work together to extract the full value of every piece of data or customer touch point. Despite their co-dependency, it can seem like marketing and sales are marching to a different tune. Successful sales leaders work with marketing (and vice-versa), benefiting from the market insight skills it brings and feeding these insights to the sales engine to maximise every campaign or lead. Research has shown that when the two teams collaborate to drive sales and revenue, companies enjoy higher sales growth.

Use Technology as an Advantage in Sales

The use of digital sales tools must evolve to keep pace with customer preferences.  Part of the role of sales enablement is to ensure the investment enables success instead being viewed as another big brother information tool. Appoint an owner whose focus is on acquiring and implementing the right tools to deliver the returns on productivity or performance the business expects.

Sales Transformation is about having the right Talent to Execute

Think “New Age Sellers”. Sales leaders can have all the social data, all the social selling training or all the digital tools available, but without having the talent who embrace this new progression, they will achieve little. Hard questions like do we have the right talent for our future sales plans or how many of our existing sales force can make the transformation we require have to be asked and answered.

 Make Digital Selling Part of your Sales DNA

Sales transformation is not about achieving some short term wins but embedding it in to the genes of the organisation for the long term. The companies who will win out in selling to the always connected buyer will create a culture that embraces social channels. They will prioritise sales training and throw the spotlight onto people who are playing a starring role as agents of change, and they focus on social collaboration between sales, marketing and support that goes way beyond the individuals skills to create sales capabilities embedded into the DNA of the entire organisation

Growth will be driven from the Top

Every sales leader has to step forward and be at the forefront of change. Because without strong leadership any transformation initiative will hit the rocks sooner than you think! Strong leaders will be given the platform to challenge the status quo or “the way it’s always been done “thinking. They will galvanise their team, they plan and map change while demanding results from the sales force who has been equipped to win. Senior sponsorship and stakeholder alignment is critical as well as a clear vision of where to prioritise the transformation effort.

A final thought

Undertaking sales transformation may sound brave but the insights to future buyer preferences remove it as optional. The rise of social channels and data brings enormous opportunities for value creation and sales growth, but there are many challenges along the way. Any companies planning to be in business five years from now should already be preparing for a major overhaul of how they sell, no business and no industry is immune.

 

 

How to create an ideal customer profile (and stop selling to the wrong customers)

If I were to ask you who your ideal customer is, what would you say?

When I ask most new founders this question, I usually get an answer like, “Any technology company between 2-200 employees.”

I appreciate the optimism, but I have some bad news: When you try and sell to everyone, you end up selling to no one. New businesses especially need a more focused, specific market than “any technology company.” The problem is, they don’t know how to accurately define their ideal customers, so they just guess.

But guessing doesn’t cut it. Selling to the right customers is too important to gamble on. So let’s take some time today to create a realistic ideal customer profile.

If you already have one, read on anyway. Maybe yours could use some improvement.

ideal-customer-profile

What is an ideal customer profile, and what does it do?

An ideal customer profile describes the fictitious individual or organisation that gets the most value out of your product, and provides the most value back to you. We’ll go into what that means shortly.

This profile helps you find qualified prospects and protects you from selling to the wrong customers.

For outbound prospecting, your profile will give you a clear target to aim for, resulting in highly qualified leads. For inbound prospecting, you can compare incoming leads to your profile. If they don’t match the criteria, you’ll know to move on.

Simply put, an ideal customer profile helps you identify and sell to the type of customers that will most benefit your business.

Creating your ideal customer profile in 3 steps

Although ideal customer profiles describe a fictitious organisation, they need to be based in reality. The following steps assume your business has at least 10 customers. Without those customers, you won’t have enough data to create an accurate profile.

If you’re not at that stage yet, check out this guide to getting the first 10 customers for your startup.

1. List your 10 best customers

Your “best” customers are the customers who are the most successful with your product, not necessarily the ones who are the most happy with it.Happy customers like your product. Successful customers receive real, tangible value from your product, and offer that value back to you.

happy-vs-successful-SaaS-customers

Successful customers should be able to easily quantify the value they receive from your product, and it should always be substantially higher than what they pay for it.

Once you have your 10 customers, move on to step two.

2. List their defining attributes

Create a simplified profile for each of these 10 customers that outlines their defining characteristics. For example, how large are they? What industry are they in? Where are they located?

The goal of this step is to create a clear picture of your customer’s business from all angles. It can be as long or short as you’d like, but here are the 10 fields I recommend including in each:

  1. Industry
  2. Location
  3. Annual revenue
  4. Total customers
  5. Total employees
  6. Years in business
  7. Why they need our product
  8. How they use our product
  9. How they found our product
  10. Primary pain points

Add any industry-specific fields you see fit, such as social media presence or brand awareness, then move on to step three.

3. Identify commonalities

Take a look at your 10 customer profiles side-by-side. What traits do they have in common? In almost all cases, there will be a handful of key elements that most (if not all) of your top customers share.

For example, are they all:

  • In the same industry?
  • Generating the same annual revenue?
  • Using your to product solve the same challenge?

If you’re having trouble finding commonalities, it might mean you didn’t create a thorough-enough profile for each of the customers in step two.

Consider going back and taking a closer look. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find a handful of key elements they all share.

Compile all of those commonalities into a single profile, and you’re done! You’ve created your ideal customer profile.

Update your profile often

Your business is going to grow and evolve over time. As it does, make sure to update your ideal customer profile.

At least once a year, run through the three steps above. Update your list of high-value customers, identify their defining characteristics, and create a new profile.

You might be surprised how much your profile changes over the course of a year.

Sample profiles

You can organise your ideal customer profile however you see fit. But if you need some inspiration, here are three examples.

Example one: Short, sweet, and to the point

The shorter your profile, the easier it is for your reps to remember on the fly. By limiting your profile to a handful of information-dense sentences, you make it easy to learn and utilise.

Our ideal customer is a bootstrapped FinTech startup between two and five employees. This startup averages $1M in annual revenue and uses our product to better manage their growing list of prospects and customers.

Example two: The list

The list is an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand approach to the ideal customer profile. This lays out the most pertinent information in a format that is easy to review on an as-needed basis.

Industry: Technology

Department: Sales

Business type: FinTech startup

Funding: Bootstrapped

Annual revenue: ~$500,000

Number of customers: 100-500

Type of customers: VC-funded startups

Number of employees: 2-5

Years in business: 1-3 years

Biggest challenge: Managing a growing list of prospective and current customers

Our solution: Our software compiles their prospects and customers into one easy-to-use interface that allows salespeople to easily track data, follow up on accounts, and close more deals.

Buying cycle length: One month

Competitors used: None

Online presence: Established following on Facebook, weekly blog

Geographical location: Bay area

Product awareness stage: They are aware of our product because of our online presence, but have never been a customer and have not yet signed up for our free trial.

Example three: The novel

Sometimes there just isn’t a substitute for details. When you’re going after a specific niche, you might find it useful to start with a long-form profile like this, and then create a shortened version for reps to memorise.

Our ideal customer is a 1-3-year-old bootstrapped FinTech startup earning about $500,000 in annual revenue. This customer will have completed a startup incubator program within the last year. Although they service a handful of markets, the majority of their most successful customers are VC-funded startups who are struggling to meet projected sales goals

They employ between two and five people full-time, one of whom is a dedicated salesperson. The majority of their leads will be inbound, and need to consider branching out into outbound lead generation to meet sales projections.

Their sales team has been managing their accounts through an Excel spreadsheet and, although it worked for them in the beginning, the system has not been sustainable as they’ve grown. They are beginning to let accounts slip through the cracks and spend more time trying to manage current accounts than on-board new ones.

They need our software because…

You get the idea. This approach outlines every potentially valuable detail about the ideal customer to make it easy to spot them from a mile away.

Limit yourself, grow your business

If you feel like your profile is limiting your leads, that’s not a bad thing.

New businesses especially need a hyper-specific customer profile. If only 15 companies fit the specifications in your ideal customer profile, then go out and close those deals.

But until you’ve locked down your ideal customers, don’t step outside them. 15 high-value customers are worth more to your business than 30 low-value customers (that’ll probably end up churning anyway).

If you’re on the fence, I challenge you to give it a try. Set aside an hour or two this week with your team and create your ideal customer profile. Then use that profile to track down and close deals.

If you don’t notice a difference, forget about it. Shred the profile and keep doing things the way you were.

But when you do notice a difference, I want you to come back to here and share your experience, and your profile, in the comments below.

I can’t wait to hear your success stories. Until then, get back out there and crush it.

About the article

This is a guest post, courtesy of Close.io. The Bitter Business has no business relationship with Close.io other than enjoying the quality of their insights into sales and how to sell better.

About the author

Steli Headshot

Steli Efti is the co-founder & CEO of Close.io, an inside sales CRM that allows users to make & receive calls with one click, automatically tracks all your emails, and minimises manual data-entry.

 

How to Use Social Media To Promote Your Business

The use of social media is now the most effective way when you need to promote or launch a business or new product. The free access to social networks for prospect identification and the ability to reach a large audience of buyers via content means every marketing or sales leader has to use these channels as part of a go-to-market strategy. When launching a new product or service,   social media provides a rich media platform that with some planning can make it easy for people to share around your message.

grow-business-using-social-media

It doesn’t seem like so long ago that promoting, marketing and launching a product whether nationally or global required a massive budget and was one of the barriers to entry the traditional multi-nationals relied upon. But the digital switch by buyers to self-educate on the social networks has re-written both the sales and marketing rules.

The following approach or any part of it can be used by anyone with the right discipline and time.

Use Facebook

Action:

Create a Facebook fan page specifically for your brand or product, then share and network with the Facebook community as it is the largest single social networking site on the web. Remember it is about engagement and then sharing. To build up your fan and advocacy base to give you that critical mass to share your stories/messages, why not offer an incentive to “like” your page, maybe by giving some merchandise or prize.

Suggested Primary Goal:

Create an incentive for people to “like” your page by providing via a free product giveaway in order to grow your fan base.

Use LinkedIn

Action:

With over 400 million business users, one of your first actions should be to create a company page, followed by joining interest groups related to what you are selling. Don’t forget to pimp up your profile with a photo and fill out as much detail in your profile as possible. Learn about “social selling” and how to use content from your blog (see below) along with other content to engage connections. You can also search and tag prospects, influencers and potential partners.

Suggested Primary Goal:

To identify potential buyers and partners for your brand or products.

Website and Blog

Action:

Thanks to WordPress, Weebly, Medium, Blogger etc it has never been easier or cheaper to create your own branded web presence and attract potential buyers (with some SEO and promotional activity). For less than €100 you can have your own domain and less than €500 can give you a fully branded website. Learn to target keywords, read up on SEO and how to share your website URL’s on sites like Plurk, Scoop.it, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest to name but a few, will start to give you a trickle of traffic to build upon.

Learn to write 1000 plus word blogs with titles like Tips, How to, A guide to or Top 10 so you can further use social media to attract potential buyers and improve your search engine results. Try to write a blog weekly but monthly at a minimum. Don’t forget to share and post your blog articles around the web.

Suggested Primary Goal

To make it easier for potential buyers to engage with you while finding out more about your business.

promoting-business-on-social-media

Product Reviews by Social Influencers

Action:

If possible, prior to formal launch try to get some external product reviews, even recommendations. As the trust between buyer and suppliers is at an all time low, peer recommendations instead of marketing blurb can give your business a much needed injection of interest. Maybe offer your product free in return for publishable references.  Apart from using LinkedIn there is a whole host of social tools (lots are free) that you can use to identify social influencers or connectors. Also do not forget journalists and online magazines, approaching them can be as simple as crafting an introduction letter with an invitation to review or sample your offerings. Ensure you put a unique slant on your business, what problem is it solving and why would people be interested in your personal story.

Suggest Primary Goal:

To gather independent and verifiable 3rd party authority as social proof, which you will then share with potential customers.

Have a Contest

Action:

Who doesn’t love a good ole a contest and they work well on Social media especially in the B2C space. Using your social media channels, offer up some real goodies (if not your actual product then something related to it). Keep it simple, you are not trying to snare emails, you chasing “share ability”

Suggest Primary Goal

Note: Get a fan base engaged before you officially launch your business or product so that when you do launch you have a fan base that could be ready to buy and spread your message for you whether that is on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The combination of your regularly updated blog, website and your social media community activity can be a powerful platform for getting in revenue faster.

Try a Quiz

Action:

It is also easy to create and publish a quiz on your website and social channels. Just do a Google search for “create a quiz”. There are some free and paid options. People like to test their knowledge and if you can relate or match the quiz to your product even better.

There doesn’t have to be a prize but you could combine it with a contest as above.

Suggested Primary Goal: To engage customers and also create more buzz.

Create Infographics or Video

Action:

The rise in popularity of infographics and video content in social media cannot be ignored. Sites like Canva, Visualize, Piktochart and Easel.ly make it easy for anyone with some patience to create stunning graphic stories. You can even create video content online but there is a higher price to be paid here, if your product is very visual then maybe a 20-30 second video for YouTube or Vimeo maybe a must.

Suggested Primary Goal: To provide some wow media formats that could go ‘viral’.

sales motivation

SlideShare

Action:

You can create a PowerPoint presentation that could not serve as a key note presentation but would also publish on Slideshare to spread your message while reinforcing your professional image.

Suggested Primary Goal: Publish on the Slideshare platform to make it easy for people to

These few tips on using social media when launching a business or product are by no mean exhaustive, what else have you tried? The purpose of the article is that with a limited budget and the learning of new skills (social selling, social media marketing, creating infographics, writing blogs, running contests etc) most of us can achieve results beyond our expectations. Oh yeah, did I mention lots of hard work but no pain no gain.

The What and How of Sales Enablement

Sales enablement is linchpin that a business uses to bridge the gap between their sales strategy and how they execute this on social media, the phone or face to face. In a fast moving digital world, common sales challenges (buyer interactions, longer sales cycles, declining win rates, slowing customer acquisition and shrinking deal sizes ) can be mapped back to the same source — the conversations between sales people and buyers.

The challenge for sales leadership is to equip the entire sales team(s) with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation either online or offline with the right set of customers at each stage of the buyer’s journey to optimise the results of the selling system.

The goal of sales enablement is to ensure that every sales person has the knowledge, sales skills and behaviours to maximise every interaction with buyers.” In other words, how can sales leaders create the environment to “get all your ducks in a row to give the salespeople the best chance of closing a deal?”

sales-enablement

A sales enablement framework for the digitally connected buyers should include:

Targeting the Right Prospects

Reports show that only 3% of buyers are in a purchasing cycle when contacted by sales. This blunt sales effort can be extremely for all stakeholders when lead nurturing is directed at the wrong buyers, who are not ready to buy, or worse just are not interested in what you have to offer.

Sales productivity is impacted due to sales people’s efforts not being focused on buyers who are middle of the funnel or already in the “I may have a problem” mindset. A better use of social selling and social data combined with sales intelligence as part of a sales enablement program will go a long way to helping this challenge.

Aligning the Sales and Marketing Teams

Sales enablement cannot be correctly implemented without aligning marketing and sales. Both departments need to work together to arm the sales teams with the right assets to have the right conversations with the right buyer profiles at the right time and in the right channels.

The reality today is that sales people need to be engaging and holding conversations with buyers throughout the whole journey, even while the buyer is in status quo mode (not yet aware that they may have a business issue that needs solving). It is about bringing a level of consistency to the whole sales process as both marketing and sales work together to interact with customers across the entire buying journey.

A consistent approach from sales and marketing will help assess the sales cycle, identify problem areas, fix them, and achieve the sales goals.

Understand where content fits In

This involves developing relevant content to specific buyers during a specific stage of the buying process. Content is a “must-have” asset in successful sales enablement roll-outs. This includes blog posts, white papers, infographics, eBooks, videos and reports which are deployed to engage customers and potential buyers. During the sales process, the sales team need to understand when to use each type of content and how to position it with their buyers and prospects

Ask and answer questions like:

What are the online personas each prospect will display?

How do we create content that aligns with that persona?

How do we deliver content to the sales people?

Who will produce and supply this content to the sales team?

How will all sales people be trained to use content effectively?

Which is the right combination of company-created, curated and shared content?

How to match the content to the stage the buyer is in?

sales-enablement-graph

The role of social selling

For a whole host of reasons (which you can read in other articles on this blog), social selling is crucial for a sales enablement initiative in the sales 2.0 world. Once the content strategy has been mapped into the sales process, sales people can use these assets as 2nd click content to qualify prospects through the funnel. They can leverage the content to share with and engage buyers, showing that your company is already aware of their concerns and is ready to answer their questions.

A successful social selling program takes time to listen, share, post, nurture, engage and convert. Sales and marketing should work together to form concise messaging and offers that targets issues that buyers may be addressing now.

Measure your Results with KPI’s

If you can’t manage it, you can’t measure it, still holds true even if large parts of the sales conversations has moved online. Rather than try to measure too much, it may be more beneficial to focus on a small set of key performance indicators.

A tip is to separate the sales enablement metrics into two parts:

Performance metrics: How did we do?
How many new connections did we make last month or how much content did the sales teams share last week? How much reach, interest or engagement did we ignite?

Diagnostic metrics: Which is working/not working?

Which activities are working? What needs to be improved? What types of content are the salespeople sharing and with who? What content is not performing or which set of prospects are not responding?

These metrics will help all stakeholders make the right decisions; decisions which help the buyers engage and drive revenue.

Always prioritise the prospects

Too many times, businesses are thinking about “Me” and not “Them”. The focus can be solely on the company, the product, the messaging, the key differentiators, etc. They hone in on themselves and relegate their target audience and the audience’s needs. This internal focus impacts on true sales enablement.  So rather than helping the sales teams understand the buyers, the focus can be entirely on helping the sales team understand the products. Helping buyers through the buyer’s journey should the core of all sales enablement programs, from awareness to decision.

A quick summary

Sales enablement is critical as the business world in which we function has fundamentally changed. Out with the explaining the companies’ products and why buy messaging.  In is assisting prospects evaluate alternatives, helping and educating buyers. The focus becomes truly enabling the sales team to engage throughout the whole buyer’s journey, on their grounds and in the channels they choose.

The modern buying process means that different criteria have to be introduced. Using sales enablement as the guiding principle, sales organisations everywhere can set themselves up for success. The end result will be empowered and productive sales people, skilled in helping prospects across the buyer’s journey and bringing in more revenue, faster than ever.

Sales Strategy – Inbound Sales – Digital Sales Transformation – Social Selling – Sales Training

Sales training and digital sales transformation including social selling strategy training in Ireland.