Do your sales methodologies need another process or an engine to accelerate pipeline flow?
Sandler, Solution Selling, Challenger, and the growing ecosystem of available tools, applications and processes that revolve around developing standards to pipeline advancement and lead qualification are easy to discover today. However, more often than not, many organizations only evaluate the implementation of the applicable sales methodologies and don’t consider their long-tail impact on specific organizational cultures such as sales cycles, dormant leads, flight risk and even, at times, the wrong sale.
The buying journey has evolved, and for companies selling, especially in the B2B space, the new obstacles faced pose rising strains to their approach.
Furthermore, as selling evolves and market maturity increases, sales teams face an even greater challenge when it comes to replenishing their sales targets and converting leads. Even the most innovative and high-growth industries face this barrier, and it impacts every sales team aspiring to reach top performance. But reaching or maintaining their high performance and meeting company expectations is hard to balance.
Sales methodologies over the years have been the backbone for many companies to establish a baseline and standard to form common principles for their sales teams while focusing on effectiveness and growth. These methodologies are proven, and each has its specific benefits. In fact, for decades using these methodologies has been a sound approach to optimizing sales teams and maintaining a standard for qualification, sales cycles and forecasting. Those that adopted these methodologies were able to quickly realize their benefits.
Let’s first look at how the sales methodologies framework optimized sales teams and impacted sales challenges and then look at three top considerations for adding pipeline velocity to the framework.
Impact of adding automation to the framework
The enhancement to sales methodologies as a result of sales and marketing automation allowed for increased numbers particularly when it came to marketing leads.
Along with the advent of automation an increased emphasis on hunters vs. farmers also paved the way for a new need for the organization to focus on performance and the bottom line. It involved an extension of sales methodologies and a new team to differentiate between segments in the account life cycle, which led to focusing on customer success.
Impact of adding customer success teams to the framework
An increasing number of organizations adopted the strategy of developing a customer success team. Essentially, to manage customer needs, sales teams extend a services arm within the sales flow to ensure lifetime value and post-sale engagement. The goal is to solve the transition from sales and also manage the perception of satisfaction or value created.
Depending on the type of business and the selling model, a large number of organizations invested in this strategy and had a significant infrastructure cost lift.
However, companies evaluating these trends had a difficult time measuring the cost to benefit.
The revenue-generating team of a winning culture tends to have distinguishable behaviors such as relating to customers, remaining committed to them and meeting their ongoing expectations. The team also tends to be vested and loyal to their organization. Their characteristics and approach to these behaviors is authentic and usually are extremely personal and focused on continuity. Most organizations, however, invest in applications and vigorous training that simulate a one-size-fits-all solution, thus neglecting the team’s authentic and personal characteristics and behaviors.
Impact of adding agility to the framework
Today, companies find risk in rigid, large-scale solutions as it impacts their ability to retain great players. Sales and marketing folks that cannot comply with the rigidity eventually take flight.
Rigid, large-scale solutions also put in place a process that limits the organization’s ability to mobilize. Therefore, any next-generation investment creates added pressure and may not realize its potential.
Agility is usually not considered in sales and marketing automation, particularly in mid-market organizations. But when organizations integrate agility into the framework, it allows for organic adoption and a long-term plan that has milestones rather than process or standard applications.
To highlight the operational affect, a few metrics collected from Gartner, Accenture and Forrester for 2014 showcase the impact of the strategies described above.
- On average, less than 10 percent of companies report that their sales teams all leverage their methodologies and engage in opportunities the same way.
- Sales and marketing alignment is far in sight for the majority of teams, especially in mid-market to large enterprises.
- Applications, investment and significant marketing budgets are still a main requirement and their reach is not deep enough to directly influence sales velocity.
- In companies focused on growth and competitive markets, individuals spend approximately 40 percent of their time on internal applications even when they are considered sales readiness solutions.
- For most salespeople, only 10 percent of their day is actually focused with the customer.
- Success baselines across the board are 25 percent for win rates – the highest standard of sales conversion today. That typically would be seen as 4 percent of a sample set of organizations.
So how can sales culture influence pipeline velocity?
A winning culture stands behind the sales team’s challenges and strives to offer every individual an equitable chance to meet their quota. Here are three considerations to explore when evaluating progress and next-generation solutions for your revenue–centric teams.
1. Consider the process, infrastructure and future milestones
Ask: “Considering the facts, do we need a process to change that?”
An approach to consider is implementing a progress scorecard that also predicts key enhancements required to improve the existing processes and augment intelligence by tapping into engines with “data logic” and “data assets.” What this really means is focusing less on standardizing behavior and the sales flow and more on empowering individuals with information that influences their priorities and maximizes their time to engage with their customers with intent and mutual priority.
This consideration will not discount current efforts. It allows a deeper lens into progress, not revamping or adding on new applications that may overwhelm any member of the organization and, not to mention, create significant delays to achieving progress.
Progress and its success criteria can be initially evaluated from metrics such as sales effectiveness, cost of acquisition and – the key driver – conversion from each stage across sales and marketing.
Opportunities are what you wait for in sales. The best sales deals come down to being in the right place, at the right time, with the right knowledge. For some, that is serendipity; but others can truly leverage their knowledge so that they can identify the windows of opportunity (WOO) for each of their prospects, allowing them to maximize their work and effort. Increase success paths by bridging the knowledge gap and find less risk by leaving “right time” simply to chance.
2. Consider the continuity your teams extend to customers
Wouldn’t you like to WOO your customers?
Continuity is not commonly discussed when evaluating optimization techniques; it is discussed, however, when communicating with the top performers. The approach to continuity is to maintain a frequent dialogue, maintain focus on customer needs at all times and relate to them.
Established trust made by continuity empowers the top 5 percent of salespeople to establish velocity with or without sales methodologies. They all do what they say to their customers; and rather than focus on their own personal schedule, they plan those conversations on their customers’ schedule. It inevitably is the window of opportunity – that is, the WOO.
The WOO isn’t another process but is something you can tap into and inherently improve over time, boosting your existing methods and sales gates. Measure your progressive effort towards high-performance. You want to find your best ROI and determine milestones that work in order to scale. Data analysis and triggers can be left to a powerful engine (applications with data decisions as core capabilities are realSociable). Customer conversations are left on you!
3. Consider the sales cycles and competitive landscape
Preparedness to engage is not always based on the value proposition or solution fit for a buying decision. Many times competitive incumbents or other organizational factors impact the climate or potential to advance, leaving a sales methodology no flexibility to facilitate the agility and needed context to drive a personal change.
Consider a CIO who may be three months away from retirement, and the company has not identified his successor. No matter what value your team presents, the CIO may not have the authority, by choice, to advance with the sale or inform you that there is a timing gap because no named successor.
Progress within your sales gates requires a behavior that can be agile and personal. Here are three actions to take to convert the above considerations into positive outcomes.
- Instill verifiable outcomes or sales stages that have windows of opportunities easily identifiable and have the right notifications/escalation mechanisms in place. We, at realSociable, view this as the ability to WOO customers. It is finding those brief windows of opportunity where both the sales team and the customer have common priorities.
- Predict the key inflection points from past wins and past losses and seek these as triggers to rank and prioritize conversations. They may advance sales cycles within methodologies if certain triggers are noted earlier. This is where intent is further revealed, which can transform your sales conversation from qualifying to truly understanding potential next steps.
- Relating with a customer on the first touch point is key, no matter what methodology you are applying, even if facilitated through automation. Be mindful of the individual you engage with as a person rather than decision making capabilities; this may accelerate your position to identify those factors early on the conversation.
In summary, incorporating agility in the best practices of your organization’s sales methodologies can propel the top sales members to success. This improved sales culture can also evaluate progress and encourage the role of personal values. In addition to sales velocity, hard measurements such as enhanced gross sales and marketing alignment propel the next generation of sales methodologies that fill a gap that will yield a winning culture.
Dalia Asterbadi is vice president of relationship management at realSociable, an award-winning social prospecting platform that helps companies improve sales and marketing effectiveness. Named one of the top 10 young entrepreneurs by Deloitte, Dalia has been described as a pioneer in technology-driven growth strategy and social analytics and has worked with leading companies in industries of consumer applications, marketing automation, billing, membership management and document and process management. For deeper trends and analysis of sales methodologies and the augmented intelligence that fuels their success, connect with realSociable directly or contact the author at dalia@realSociable.com.