We often think of sales as a numbers game. The more prospects, the more leads, the more eventual deals closed. And when we consider our success as directly correlating with the amount of ongoing conversations with sales leads, we can become obsessed with holding onto them.
We all know the old drill to have as many leads in the pipeline as possible, but let’s not forget that the drill can be changed! This is especially true now in a digital world that has experienced a global pandemic. It’s more important than ever to be strategic about which prospects we pursue — and how.
Since the Coronavirus pandemic placed its mitts on the economy, companies have to change the way they do business: New accounts make up a lower percentage of closed deals compared with renewal accounts; B2B and B2C interactions are more often carried out online rather than person-to-person; and, with less money to move around, win rates are all around lower. So during this unique period, how do we avoid wasting time on dead-end opportunities and close more deals faster?
Conduct pre-funnel research
Sure, you could contact anyone with any vague potential to be a buyer, but why would you want to? Instead, a great first step in a responsible sales process is thoroughly researching prospects and competitors. Visit their websites, take a look at social media and blog posts, and look for news not only by them, but about them. Learn more about the industry as well as what competitors are doing.
This is particularly relevant nowadays as you may be able to discern companies that are, for instance, having financial trouble or changing management since the COVID crisis began. There may also be evidence that consumers, both businesses and individuals, have altered buying habits regarding a product depending on how Coronavirus has affected each industry. SaaS and pajamas are just a couple of commodities to be aware of that have become more popular.
Remember to also confer with your marketing department, which probably already has done a good deal of research! All of this information will not only help you disqualify prospects early on but will also allow for better discourse with those that you do end up contacting. Ultimately, you will be able to close more deals later on.
Wring the most out of the first call
An olympic swimmer makes a long, shallow dive to get as much distance as he can before he has to start swimming. An efficient first call (or first contact) accomplishes the same thing for a salesperson. The goal is to find out in this first meeting if the prospect’s need, timeline, and price point are a good fit for your product by asking the right questions. If your customer’s dilemma is thick, messy hair and you’re in the business of selling scrunchies, you can check off the first box for a qualified lead.
Equally important is the prospect’s purchasing timeline. They might sound fascinated by what you’re offering, but if they already have a contract with another business that doesn’t end until June 2023, you’re at a standstill. You might make a note for yourself about a future possibility, but they can’t be reasonably funneled into your sales pipeline to be counted towards your expected quota. Instead, perhaps their timeline has a compelling event: “We’re opening up five new stores in two months and we need a system to manage our inventory by then.” This is promising information that will let you prioritize a lead.
Very often a prospect wants to talk about pricing right away. Ask them their budget, and then don’t hesitate to provide a price range. After all, this helps you, too. Making sure that your product is within their budget keeps you from wasting any time going down a dead-end.
If you can figure out what a potential customer needs in this first meeting, and your product could be a match for them, it’s a well-qualified lead to pursue. If not, you can disqualify them early on, letting you devote more time to the deals you can close.
Develop effective communication methods
With the coronavirus forcing us to remain socially distant, more interactions are happening online or on the phone. At the same time, both the buyer and the seller side crave the intimacy of a face-to-face meeting. Consequently, a direct result of COVID-19 is that more conversations are taking place by phone, social media, and SMS this year than they did in 2019.
Know the best medium to stay in touch with your leads so that you don’t spend time writing emails that they might not read!
Establish a transparent agenda
You’ve asked all of the right questions, your product fits the client’s need, timeline, and budget, and you’re ready to get into more detail. This is the point at which you want to get a transparent agenda on the table.
Say Judy’s going to buy a car. She’s got a new job in Nashville starting August 1st and she needs to pack up and drive with her belongings by late July. That means she needs a car by next week. The car salesman should offer to let her test drive the car this week, check whether her stuff will fit in the vehicle, and ask her what else she needs before she can make the decision to buy. Hashing out all of these details with a potential client creates a tangible plan towards a deal and weeds out remaining issues that might disqualify a lead.
It’s crucial to confirm everything the lead has said. The parties may have been conversing for a while at this point, and no detail should be missed. During this process Judy might correct the car salesman, “No, no, my job starts next August.” This could, of course, vastly affect the timeline of the sale.
When selling to businesses, the process is comparable; get your lead to confirm the steps needed from senior management and legal, financial, and HR departments to get the deal on the table, and offer a trial. Regardless of industry, establishing a transparent agenda sets in motion a small mental promise from the client and will ultimately help you close more deals.
Focus on existing customers
80 percent of your future profit will come from 20 percent of your existing customers. Allocating energy towards current clients’ satisfaction will save you a lot of time in the long run. This is truer today than ever before: In the fourth quarter of 2019, renewal accounts made up 78% of opportunities available to sales teams. That’s up from 64% in 2018.
You’ve already put the work into these accounts. If you can successfully renew their contracts, you’ll close more deals in a fraction of the time it would take to pursue a new lead.
The big picture
Every little moment spent communicating with prospects and tracking their data adds up. Eventually, a salesman could find himself losing hours – or even days! – each week working on a lead that, well, just won’t lead anywhere. Disqualifying fruitless leads early on and laying out a plan with the promising ones allows you to focus on those more likely to close. Staying in tune with today’s evolving sales environment is critical, too.
If saving time is your goal, Revenue Guide is the solution. Guided selling will help you automate your playbooks for a streamlined, consistent sales process. Revenue Guide’s automated reminders and complete snapshots of your sales pipeline will shave those hours right off of your sales process, allowing you to close more deals faster and drive revenue through the roof. It can be used together with the automated email integration tool Revenue Inbox for maximum efficacy.