Driving top-of-the-funnel growth is an obstacle a majority of companies face—but once they are in the funnel, then what? How do you treat leads once they have entered the funnel? What does the internal structure look like? Craig Rosenberg, author of Funnelholic Media and co-founder of TOPO, is an expert at turning ordinary companies into revenue-generating machines. Here is what he had to say:
One tip you offer salespeople looking for ways to avoid the “dark stage” (i.e. when we don’t hear any response from prospects), is to figure out the WIIFM factor while defining when prospects need to be called. What is WIIFM and how does identifying it help salespeople reduce the likelihood of entering the “dark stage” with prospects?
"WIIFM" is an acronym for “What's in it for me?” One of the biggest reasons prospects don't respond is because the salesperson does not offer any value. The perfect example is the "check-in" request when a seller tells the buyer they want to "check in." The "check-in" call is for YOU—that is, an opportunity for YOU to get an update on THEM. They don’t gain anything from coming out of the darkness and talking to you. If you are working on a deal, you first need to understand their buying process and then create a set of mutually agreed-upon next steps. The next meeting should be focused on something you both agreed to and has meaning to the buyer. That meeting should be set while you are still on the call with the prospect. If it's a longer buying process and there aren't clear next steps, approach the buyer with something meaningful to them. One organization I recently worked with leveraged a trends report to ask for a meeting. While most companies use research to generate leads, this particular company’s sales reps offered the report as an opportunity to talk about their findings. The offer is something that only benefits the buyer and allows the salesperson and organization to establish credibility as a trusted advisor.
You’ve noted that “young salespeople are building their career on the phone with inbound leads and don’t understand how to triangulate on a deal in an organization.” Help us understand what it means to triangulate on a deal and why it’s important.
Triangulating on a deal means you identify, reach out, and sell to multiple stakeholders in a particular deal—especially the decision maker. In the old days, we weren't even allowed to talk about deals in forecast meetings unless we talked to the decision maker. Granted, today’s internal influencers are much more powerful in deals. That being said, the influencer is going to have to internally sell to a committee. A good salesperson will know who the committee is, what their interests are, and then sell to the key players to win the deal.
You’ve said that in order to optimize qualified lead follow up, it’s important to pay attention to the way leads are transitioned from marketing to sales. What is the most effective and efficient way marketing teams should hand off leads to sales?
Well, first and foremost, we recommend a sales development function. Sales development is a phone-based team whose job it is to follow up, qualify, and set appointments for sales. Organizations need to agree on a qualified lead definition that states the demographic (company, role) and psychographic (business pains and drivers) requirements sales development needs to gather before passing a lead to sales. When sales development identifies that a lead is qualified, then they pass it to sales. If you send raw leads directly to sales (closers), they won't put the necessary time and effort needed to reach out and your marketing programs will fail.
You believe that in today’s market “one of the most important factors in creating a scalable, repeatable revenue machine is sales and marketing alignment”. Walk us through why this is the case.
It's pretty simple. High-growth companies have a demand generation function that generates and nurtures leads. When these leads are deemed ready to talk to someone, they are passed to sales development who qualifies them and passes them to sales. Salespeople then close qualified opportunities. All of this is trackable and as a result, optimizable. If you don't build the machine, your competitors will.
What do you predict the biggest challenge will be for salespeople in 5 years and how can we start preparing for it now?
In five years, salespeople will continue to face the problems they face today—the ability to have the right to actually talk to people to later sell to them. Our only solution is to continue to make the role of sales one of incredible value to the buyer. Salespeople who act as credible, trusted advisors to their customers are the top performers today. Tomorrow, they will become the norm. The old "book ‘em and cook 'em" rep will go by the wayside.
About Craig Rosenberg
Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic and a co-founder of TOPO. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. On his popular blog, Craig tackles topics of interest across sales and marketing including buyer personas, content marketing, demand gen, inside sales, lead qualification, marketing technology, and social selling. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter
It is not marketing automation, it is not CRM, it is the unserved gap in between the two. What closes the gap is prospecting automation.
Think of prospecting automation as the sales use case of marketing automation. We have taken the overly complex process of sales prospecting as it is today and simplified it into an intuitive and repeatable system.
It works a little like this: whenever a prospect engages with an outbound campaign, an automatic and personalized response is sent out based on that person’s actions. Those who respond with interest are then directed into the salesperson’s inbox while the rest continue to receive automated nurturing--allowing salespeople more time to do what they do best: SELL.
The right prospecting tool will also provide real-time data, seamless integration with CRM, and data provider tools.
By automating most of the prospecting steps, the first time a salesperson actually has a conversation with a potential client, it’ll be about closing a deal. Prospecting automation is a good fit for those who identify with any of the below situations:
You can’t accomplish what you need with your company’s current marketing automation tool or CRM.
You are spending hours a day manually following up with email and logging tasks and activities.
You use a variety of task driven applications to manage your day-to-day activities.
You have a hard time knowing when is the right time to reach out to prospects.
You would like to measure what type of messages are resonating with people i.e. A/B testing
Do any of these situations sound familiar? Give prospecting automation a try with this 7-day trial. Still not clear on what prospecting automation is? Sign up for a 20-minute overview for a closer look
“It’s the power of marketing automation, designed specifically for a sales rep.”
-Matt Childs, Vice President of Sales and Strategy, Vidcaster
With over 500 million users, getting past Gmail’s notorious spam filters is an obstacle most sales teams face. Gmail’s spam algorithms can be so effective at filtering that legitimate emails can sometimes find their way into the junk folder. Gmail isn’t the only one. Many traditional email clients experience the same issue, making them unreliable sales prospecting tools. Here are six other reasons why you should avoid Gmail when sales prospecting.
Lack of Reporting
Sales teams need insights into how their campaigns are performing so they can make informed and intelligent decisions about which campaigns are driving the best results. Traditional email clients just don’t provide the reporting tools that sales professionals need. We need at least these key metrics to track our success:
Multi-Touch Automation is Absent
Traditional email clients are old school. Given that a majority of salespeople are sending hundreds of emails a day, manual follow-ups can seem like a daunting task. Gmail lacks the necessary ability to send personalized email drip campaigns.
No Prospect Tracking
Sales teams need real-time activity feeds so they can monitor exactly how their prospects interact with their campaigns. By monitoring a prospect’s behavior, it is possible to know exactly when they are interacting with your campaigns. This is incredibly useful when your prospect is engaged, and they just so happen to receive a call from you at the same time.
Missing Research Intelligence
As meticulous salespeople, we invest a lot of time into researching each prospect. Most traditional email clients lack the prospecting tools needed to obtain simple information like job title, company, industry, location, employee count, or even LinkedIn profiles. A simple prospecting automation tool will automatically pull this information and save you hours of time.
No Email Delivery Window
Every sales professional has a preference of when to send emails--whether it be early on a Wednesday morning or late on a Thursday afternoon. Custom delivery is crucial when prospecting for sales. Gmail and other traditional email clients don’t provide the custom delivery options you need.
For having one of the most advanced spam filters, Gmail certainly doesn’t help their users out when it comes to sending emails. It would be immensely beneficial if there was a tool that can scan emails for common problems that lead to being dumped in the junk folder. Wait a minute--there is a tool that does just that. It is called Spam Checker.
Spam Checker is available through CoPilot, our prospecting automation tool built from the ground up. We are constantly working behind the scenes to ensure CoPilot’s emails have the best chance of landing in the prospect's inbox. Some other advantages include being assigned a pre-warmed IP address for a higher deliverability rate, having a built-in spam checker, handling unsubscribes seamlessly, and generally making sure ISPs love your content!
CoPilot is a sales professional’s best friend! It takes all of the manual work out of prospecting so you could generate more qualified leads and drive higher response rates. KISSmetrics increased their response rates from 6% to 32% with CoPilot!
Ready to start prospecting more efficiently? Get started now.
At the highest level, sales success is easy to measure - are you hitting your targets or aren’t you? Go a little deeper, however, and things get a little more complicated. With a proliferation of data and tools to help you measure every single prospecting activity in great detail, it’s easy to spend too much time looking at numbers, giving you less time to focus on your sales goals.
Don’t get bogged down by analysis paralysis. Here are three tips to help you figure out which activities are truly driving your best prospecting results in just a few minutes a day.
1. Optimize messages to your audience with smart A/B tests
Most likely, one of the first lessons you learned as a fledgling sales rep was to “know your audience.” While it may seem obvious that prospecting messages should be designed to target the issues on your customer’s mind, A/B testing can reveal unexpected revelations about pain points, triggers, and conversion behavior. A/B testing is a powerful way to hone your prospecting messages, delivering almost instantaneous results and insights. Do you get more opens with one subject line or another? Is one topic of greater interest? Does a video payoff impact click-through? How about asking for an appointment vs. a presumptive close? To learn more about how you can incorporate A/B tests into your prospecting campaigns check out this great guide. A few pointers to keep in mind: only test one thing at a time, make sure to have a large enough sample size (a few hundred contacts, at least - a few thousand is better), and decide what success looks like in advance. KissMetrics used this process with CoPilot, which increased their response rates from 6% to 32%.
2. Look for trends across your entire funnel
It’s common practice these days to look at email opens and clicks on individual emails, or connect rates on phone calls. However, you should beware of developing tunnel vision. You need to look at the performance of your prospecting efforts as a whole and over a period of time, to get a holistic view of how effectively you are driving target buyers down the funnel to a close. This will help you spot patterns and optimize your entire prospecting process. For example, you may notice that, while your second email achieved acceptable open/or click-through rates on it’s own, it didn’t perform quite as well as other emails within the same campaign. Or, you may find that your third email to a prospect gets significantly higher response rates when you leave a voicemail first.
Measuring across the funnel gives you the power to discover patterns and trends, so you can make that extra phone call a permanent part of your prospecting process. If you’re only looking at individual emails and calls, however, this insight could easily get lost in the woodwork.
3. Watch your connect-to-conversion ratio
If there’s one metric that can help you move the needle and hit your sales targets, it’s this: your overall connect-to-conversion ratio. You probably already know about how many phone calls and emails it takes you to create a viable opportunity. If it takes you 10 phone calls to create one opportunity, for example, you might be tempted to make as many phone calls as possible. This is a good tactic, but it will only scale so far.
In addition to focusing on the quantity of touches you make, think about ways you can reduce the number of touches it takes to create an opportunity. One way to do this is by looking at the opportunities that closed with a lower level of effort (LOE) vs. those that took a greater investment, evaluating the return. What do they have in common? What sets them apart? You may find that in one case, you sent out a supporting customer success story earlier in the process, keeping the target’s attention by providing them relevant and compelling content about how you solved a problem for a similar customer. In another case, you may discover that you held off on delivering evidence until you could have a qualification conversation with the prospect, lengthening the sales process significantly. The objective is to find the insights that will allow you to create more opportunities with the same number of hours in a day. Protip: Setting up smart A/B tests can help a lot with this.
If all this data talk sounds intimidating or unfamiliar, remember that it’s okay to start small. Pick just one outcome you’d like to improve, and build from there.
What metrics do you use to measure your prospecting success?
Social selling is hot right now. So hot, in fact, that there’s an awful lot of noise out there, and it’s getting hard to sort through. We caught up with Barbara Giamanco, a globally recognized thought leader who literally wrote the book on social selling, to get beyond the rhetoric and talk about what social selling is, what it isn’t, and why we might actually want to get rid of the term altogether.
Here’s what she had to say.
As you mentioned in a recent blog post, there's a lot of rhetoric around social selling, yet very little real change in the way we sell. What's getting lost in the noise?
The plethora of pundits would have you believe that a few social selling tactics are all you need for sales success. I wish! Social selling does not stand apart from your sales process. Social selling tactics are meant to be integrated into a sound selling process that merges strategic offline and online activities. What also gets lost is that social selling is more than connecting with a lot a people, sharing content or sending a few LinkedIn InMails. If that were all it took, we would have all retired our quota by the end of January.
Frankly, we might need to stop calling it social selling and just talk about the strategies that lead to sales success. You might be able to set up more meetings from LinkedIn or Twitter conversations, but if your sales, communication, listening and presenting skills are off, “social selling” did you no good.
Marketers use social media to engage with fans and customers. Salespeople use it to drive sales. Keeping these goals in mind, how does social selling differ from social media marketing?
Great question. People do indeed confuse the two, which I’ve written about for years. I understand why this happens. Not a day goes by that I don’t see an “expert” or a company selling social media training proclaiming that as a social selling expert, they can help your business or sales team increase revenue. But when you look more closely, it’s clear that their focus in on creating a social media marketing campaign or plan. What really annoys me is how many social selling experts don’t even have sales experience. Seriously? If you’ve never sold, what exactly do you know about helping anyone drive pipeline and revenue? Bottom line - marketing and sales are different disciplines, and how you apply social media to each of those disciplines is also different!
While sales and marketing should have the same goal of generating sales, revenue and profit, the two departments approach the goal in very different ways. As a salesperson, I’m the one who meets with prospects, crafts an actual solution to their business problem and negotiates and closes deals. Marketing doesn’t do any of that. Their efforts to build brand awareness and educate are largely campaign driven. While their role is vitally important to the process of generating revenue, they are not actually selling anything.
Social media can be applied to the sales process on the front-end of the sales cycle to network, build referrals, prospect for new opportunities, conduct research that reveals key business initiatives (and potential buying triggers) for your prospects, and more. In other words, using social media to drive sales opportunities is not marketing to build broad awareness, it is being used specifically by sellers to get to the right person at the right time.
What are some potential pitfalls of social selling? Can it be abused?
The biggest abuse is using social channels to send sales spam. Broadcasting random, untargeted sales pitches will do you more harm than good. This spray and pray mentality does not generate significant results. People will likely remember you, but not in a good way. The old adage that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression holds true. If sellers do not present the right message to the right buyer at the right time, they have wasted precious selling time.
Another pitfall is false expectations. Unless you sell a pack of gum, you aren’t going to make a sale the first time you meet someone at an in-person networking event. Why would you think it is any different when you connect with someone on LinkedIn, as an example? Social selling is not a quick fix for quota challenges. Sharing a few bits of content or connecting with a lot of people won’t necessarily lead to immediate sales results. Great selling has always been about nurturing relationships and adopting what I like to call a “go-giver” mindset, which is based on Bob Burg’s book The Go-Giver. Using social media, you can foster the relationships that lead to sales opportunities over time. Have a plan and put in the time persistently. Results will happen.
Is social selling different than simply providing great service to the potential buyer?
I don’t see a difference. If you are doing it well, social selling is serving buyers and customers by adding value in advance of getting something. You are simply using a new medium to reach your target buyer. By integrating social channels into your sales mix, you can increase visibility, demonstrate credibility and develop trust by nurturing relationships. When the buyer has a need, you want them to think of you.
Given that buyers don’t return calls or emails 90% of the time when they come from strangers, you need other ways to stand out. Like the rest of your sales process, the channels you use both offline and online will determine what is important to your target buyer, how they like to consume information or what industry you serve.
Finally, where can beginners go to learn more about social selling?
Well, they can follow my blog at www.barbaragiamanco.com or connect with me on LinkedIn. Or follow the Twitter #socialselling hashtag, but be careful, not all of the folks participating there are truly experts in sales. There is also a social selling community on Top Sales World where a team of us share content related to social selling just about every day. By the way, you’ll also find other communities related to sales there also. Learn about Management, Inside Sales, Customer Focus, Consultative Sales and more.
About Barbara Giamanco
Barbara Giamanco is a globally recognized thought leader in Social Selling, Social Media Marketing and Social Business. She’s the co-author of The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media and CEO of Social Centered Selling. Barb is consistently a Top 25 Influential Leader in Sales, a Top 25 Sales Influencer on Twitter and one of Top Sales World’s Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencers. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Social Centered Selling offers Social Media and Social Selling Consulting, Advisory and Programs to sales and marketing teams interested in driving sales results. Visit: www.scs-connect.com
As salespeople, we know how frustrating it is when our emails end up in spam folders instead of our prospects’ inboxes.
Here are 4 quick ways to minimize the chances of getting your emails flagged as spam:
1. Don’t use ALL CAPS text
When text is in all caps, the reader’s speed of reading is reduced by 10% and they are put off by the appearance of shouting. For these reasons, spam filters dislike all caps and may not let your email through.
2. Don’t over use punctuation
It’s well known that readers prefer receiving conversational content versus stiff sales pitch messages. Many of us, in our personal and professional writing, use punctuation to inject some personality into our copy; but be careful—we advise you to use punctuation sparingly. The overuse of exclamation and question marks could lead your email to the prospect’s spam folder instead of their inbox.
3. Don’t say “Dear”
We’re all familiar with words that trigger spam filters like: “risk free,” “no hidden costs” or “get it now;” but there are a couple of words you may consider safe that aren’t. Spam filters dislike the word “dear,” so we recommend using a more casual greeting like “hello.” As always, adding a personal touch with the recipient’s name is better.
4. Don’t “100% guarantee” anything
It’s tempting to add emphatic phrases in your emails to generate excitement, but in order to reduce the chances of your emails getting flagged as spam, it’s best to steer away from statements like “we 100% guarantee satisfaction!” Unfortunately, spammers have over used such phrases and ruined it for the rest of us well-intentioned email marketers. The good news is that there are other creative tactics that you can use to capture the reader’s attention, for example: provide quotes from customer testimonials to showcase their excitement.
Even if you follow all the tips to avoid spam, there’s always the chance of getting flagged. To minimize that, CoPilot created Spam Checker.
CoPilot’s Spam Checker scans your emails for common mistakes that could set off any spam filters, before you hit the ‘send’ button. This allows you to make any minor adjustments just in time, helping you reach more of your prospects—which is, as we all know really well, the key to closing more sales. Keep in mind, Spam Checker does not take your email reputation in consideration.