Sales Challenges series, part 2
Yesterday, we opened the Sales Challenge series by looking at challenges around messaging and the solutions to mitigate them. Today, we’re going to investigate challenges around prospecting and closing sales and the ways in which you can use CRM and community solutions to resolve them.
The prospecting challenge
Prospecting is never easy but in today’s economic climate, it’s harder than ever. That means that your marketing and sales staffs have to spend their prospecting budgets wisely and work smart rather than shatter shot their efforts.
A key to smartness is to capture trends from your customer’s past purchasing history and leverage the intelligence to profile your most likely buyers. From there, your marketing team can tailor messages that will be most motivating to these audiences.
It’s not enough to simply analyze your close rate and revenues generated. You want to also analyze customer and prospect behaviors and buying velocity.
If you really want to leap-frog your data analysis, though, then capture both tangible and behavioral data about your prospects and customers. By behavioral data, I’m including information such as their website activities, including:
- What pages a prospect visits on your website,
- The frequency of visitations,
- What resources they download, and
- What community content they read or participate in.
Behavioral data will be hugely beneficial to help score leads. From this information, your sales and marketing teams will be well-armed to identify when:
- Leads still need nurturing by Marketing, and
- When leads are qualified enough to activate Sales activities.
A prime source of much of your behavioral information will be your website.
Retain a relationship focus
In the first article in the Sales Challenge series, I wrote that it’s important in today’s Web 2.0 world to focus less on sales and more on conversation with the prospect.
Containing costs may have surged forward in importance to companies in this tight economy but relationships are still important. One way to you still reach out and connect with prospects at a lower cost is through online communities.
Sales closing challenges
Sales velocity analysis
Velocity, or the time in transit needed to close a deal, is an important as the number of opportunities you close.
Think of it this way. The number of deals and their expected amount give you insight revenue potential. Sales velocity, though, gives you valuable insight into cash flow.
Additionally, velocity analytics can give you insight into blockages or what your Sales team members are doing right in the sales process.
Choreographing sales success
Most successful organizations have their high-flying sales reps. How many does your organization have? 20% of your entire sales staff? 10%? 5%?
Wouldn’t it be better to ratchet up that number to closer to 100%?
Sales analytics can give you valuable intelligence to help you push up the high-flying percentages.
The analytics can allow you to find the formula that will allow you to choreography sales success for the whole company and not just one or a few hot shot reps.
Then take the analysis a step further. On a per-rep basis, determine the attributes of their successful closes versus those opportunities that fail. From that, you can determine what blockages prevent a higher close rate for a rep and find ways to mitigate their situation. You may determine the problem is systemic, requiring a wide-spread overhaul of your sales processes, or individualized and requiring personalized coaching.
The solutions to prospecting and sale-closing challenges
Participating in the community -- by sales and marketing staffs – will deepen the relationship between the prospect and your company. I delved into community benefits yesterday and won’t repeat them here.
A CRM serve your company as the data repository for prospect activity, including behavioral activities. It’s not enough, though, just to collect data. You must convert it into actionable intelligence.
Additionally, you want to optimize your sales and marketing activities by automating the processes used for lead and opportunity management.
For example, automate lead scoring to track prospect activities on your website as their interest heats up or cools down. When leads hit the required scoring to be deemed qualified, then automate lead assignment and set triggers to alert Sales to a new lead ready for their attention.
Another automation tactic is to set triggers if a lead has sat idle or unclosed past a suitable time, as determined by your sales lifecycle benchmarks. Such triggers might alert both sales rep and manager of a potential issue needing their attention.
Additionally, as the sales process continues, new behavioral information will help Sales shape prospect discussions and presentations by alerting a rep to the products or issues of most importance to the prospect.
The data you need to analyze your sales results will come directly out of your CRM application. I blogged about actionable pipeline success in this article so I won’t repeat it all here except to list some factors to consider are:
- Quantity of leads,
- Average days to convert leads to opportunities (*)
- Average days from lead creation to opportunity close (*)
- Average age of open opportunities,
- Average days to close-lost.
- Average opportunity amount of close-lost.
- Average opportunity amount.
Here’s the thing. Foster a sales climate where your sales analytics are used as scorecards to help your sales reps heighten their performance by flagging what works for them and what doesn’t. If you take this approach, then you’ll stimulate your reps creativity.
Conversely, if you take the approach of using the analytics to chastise reps about their status of their quota attainment, or lack thereof, then you’re taking a controlling approach.
Creativity will always achieve higher results than control.
You have numerous solutions to choose from in the market to meet your community and CRM software needs. In yesterday’s article on messaging challenges, I delved into community options so I won’t repeat the information here.
In terms of CRM solutions, well, the favorite of we Intellicorers is of course Salesforce.com. It’s what we sell and implement because we know it’s the best of breed solution. However, rather than launch into a sales pitch about Salesforce, let’s keep a solution discussion more neutral.
Attributes of a good CRM solution include:
- A database capable of capturing all your data demands.
- Internal connectivity between your various databases (for example, between leads, contacts, and opportunity databases).
- Functionality to generate business intelligence.
- Functionality to automate your business processes.
- Connectivity across your organization so all employees can access CRM data.
- Integration capabilities to other solutions, including community solutions, third-party email distribution solutions, accounting applications, etc.
- Optional but good to have: The flexibility to expand your chosen CRM with custom programming.
In the first two articles of the Sales Challenge series, we looked at those challenges surrounded messaging, prospecting, and closing sales and how a CRM and community solution can mitigate them. However, we also discussed the solutions in more of a standalone vein.
In the third and final installment of the series, we’ll look at integrating the two solutions and the define of the corporate value of doing so. Stay tuned.