Category Archives: Sales

Here, we discuss our opinions on sales in telemarketing and business development services.

Putting the right sales resource in the right place

Great sales people are a scarce and valuable resource, and they need to be put in the place where they can have the most impact on your business. I was reading an article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) that really struck a chord and explains some of the mistakes done by companies when allocating their sales resources.

One of the key points made by HBR is that, while sales people can improve their results by improving the quantity of sales effort or improve the quality of sales effort by investing in coaching and training, the best way to improve sales results is to change how you allocate your sales resources.

Working out where your existing sales force can have the maximum influence is quite straightforward.  You spend a lot of time and money building the product and client knowledge that enables your team to effectively close sales. The problem arises when they spend time inappropriately because they have diverse, and sometimes conflicting demands, placed on them. The best thing you can do to affect your sales results is therefore to consider whether your sales people are focused on the areas where there skills and knowledge will add most effectively to your bottom line.

Another key area to consider is consistent lead nurturing and relationship building. A stat I talk about frequently is “80% of sales are made between the 5th and 12th contact yet, 90% of sales people make 3 contacts or less”. That often isn’t a failure in the quantity or quality of sales effort, it is more likely to be about those conflicting demands on their time.

That’s not to say that areas like lead generation and nurturing are unimportant, it’s just that there are more cost effective ways of handling them like outsourcing the operation to a specialist provider. 

Your Business Development Team’s three step sales conversion programme takes the time consuming process of generating leads, highlighting specific target markets to identify those potential clients with an interest in your business. We build on that with initial conversations to identify interest which we then nurture and pass on to your sales team when appropriate.

Allocating your valuable sales resources to the tasks that they best suit their skills and knowledge will bring the best return on investment. Placing your in-house sales team in front of the customers who have the biggest and most immediate need for you makes sense. Having Your Business Development Team working in the background to feed your sales pipeline is one efficient way in which you can achieve this. Get in touch to start identifying your growth opportunities and acting on them.

The Secrets to an effective follow up

‘You were born to win, but to be a winner you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.’ Zig Ziglar

Current market conditions make winning new business harder. With many companies choosing to defer any decisions until clarity is restored, planning a tailored approach and keeping in touch will increase your chances of winning the project later. What can you do to encourage your sales team to follow up more often?

Many sales managers and business owners conclude that their sales professionals must work harder but often they are stretched in lots of directions having to keep existing customer happy, while also prospecting for new business. In my opinion, an even bigger problem lies in the fact that many sales people are not sure how to follow up effectively.

To ensure that you and your team are following up effectively you need to consider a number of things:

Be clear on the value of following up: many people believe that if a prospect is really interested, they will come back to them. This is true in an ideal world, but it depends on your product, industry and their relationship with the competition. Whilst we want to strike the right balance, most decision makers are very busy and will need a few approaches to refresh their memory.

  • Top tip: Call it ‘Building a relationship’ instead of following up to help build the value and understanding amongst your team

Make sure you set goals: like with everything else, setting a goal each time you follow up with a prospect will ensure you ask the right questions and get a better idea of where you are. Just sticking with converting to a sale is not specific enough, a good follow up system will have a goal for each call.

  • Top tip: Understanding that what you are selling is not suitable or a priority to a prospect is a good step forward. Flogging dead horses does not take you very far

Ask good questions: these take some time and planning. Once you have a goal for the call, ensure you write down a few questions you should ask to find out more. Don’t try to find out everything at once but rather break it down to bite sized chunks. This will allow you to get to the real detail but also to build a relationship gradually.

  • Top tip: If you are not asking any questions that make you feel uncomfortable you are missing some key points

Find out more about their problems: what keeps them awake at night and takes up too much of their time? Remember the Status Quo Bias by Daniel Kahneman which predicts that unless people perceive an urgent reason to change, they will stick with the status quo. The more you find out about their pain the better your chances of selling to them, if your product is indeed relevant.

  • Top tip: Most people buy to alleviate pain and not to further their gain

At YBDT, lead nurturing is a key part of the support we offer our clients. We identified that having a clear sales process is a great way to ensure you have an effective follow up system. That said, we think that many companies fail to create an effective process that is used across the board. To support our clients and contacts, we are launching a series of quarterly seminars to cover key elements to creating a sales process and using it successfully.

If you want to learn more, sign up for our first lunch webinar: How to follow up effectively on Tuesday 23/03/21, 12:00- 13:00.

What are the key sales performance drivers?

The world has changed in so many ways in the last year and businesses have needed to adapt to the shifting situation to keep growing and thriving. Now that we are slowly making our way back to normality, it’s worth going back to basics with your sales and marketing and reviewing your approach to generating and nurturing leads as well as converting those into sales.

If you have been following the same sales path for years, then it is probably time to look at changing things up. Here are a few thoughts to start you on the road to sales success.

  • Clarify: Understanding where your business sits in the marketplace is key to this. What do you do best? Who needs what you do? How do you best approach them? How much are they willing to pay?
  • Goals: Every sales teams needs goals, both as something to strive for, and to give you, as their manager, something to measure your success against. When did you last review your sales goals? Are they fit for purpose in 2021? If they are the same ones you had in 2019 then you should certainly be looking at how your priorities have changed.
  • Results: Drilling down into your sales data will teach you how good your goals are. If your sales team are under-performing, is it about inappropriate targeting and goals setting than under achievement?  Reviewing the number of leads, conversion rates, and other KPIs will help you focus on the real problems and enable you to look for solutions.
  • Activity: Simply doing more is the best way to generate more leads. Talking to more of your existing prospects will connect them to your business more closely. Looking at the results will tell you what has worked, and what hasn’t, meaning you can start to establish a route to growing your sales pipeline.
  • Understanding: Knowing what your key prospects, and your existing customers, want and expect of you will enable you to strengthen your relationship with them. This will help establish a sales process and create workable and effective follow up routines which fit in with your overall process.

These are just the first few steps on the road, and we will look at other aspects of building your sales performance another time. The quickest way to building an effective sales pipeline is to work with a reliable established partner.  Your Business Development Team have a fifteen-year track record of generating and nurturing leads, and supporting our clients in many industries to build and refine relationships. Our “Improved Sales Conversion” process provides a clear roadmap to enhanced understanding, better follow ups and a sales pipeline that you can develop into profitable orders. To learn more about how we can help get in touch

Thinking of taking up some hard selling techniques? Think again

If you are as old as me you might remember Cameron Crowe’s 1996 film, Jerry Maguire, depicting the life a sport agent operating in a high pressure sales environment in LA. As part of their effort to get themselves into an invincible sales mindset, they use the famous words, ‘Show me the money,’ repeatedly. If you have ever worked in a high pressure sales environment yourself, you might remember other techniques used to get the team selling: a pint at lunch, take away pizzas and league tables are some of my memories.

Think what you like of these techniques, most high pressure sales environments belong to the past and were much more popular in the 80s and 90s. That does not mean that holding up a sales job has become easier but many companies have changed their approach. This is mainly due to the fact that the way businesses like to purchase has changed in the past 30 years. A few key changes to mention are:

  1. The internet allows people to shop around and research more easily. Most buyers prefer to get the information they need, download product features or run a software trial before they speak to your sales team.
  2. Centralised budgets, tendering and outsourcing of procurement to professional consultancies, has become commonplace to help quality and cost management.
  3. Many senior people hold very busy jobs and have less time to spare. They are therefore less likely to agree to meetings that do not carry clear value to their organisation.

To adjust to this, many companies have adopted a consultative approach which aims to understand and solve clients’ problems and add value to the organisation. Some of the new lead generation approaches taken up by companies include inbound marketing tactics such as:

  • Providing useful information through articles, blogs and e-books
  • Creating digital funnels based on users’ needs
  • Offering free webinars and workshops to develop interest

It is apparent that nowadays, many companies aspire to developing a helpful and knowledgeable reputation as opposed to hard-nosed sales tactics and lengthy contracts. This is all very well; I am a big fan of consultative selling and we use many of the above techniques ourselves. But what happens when the economy downturns and new sales are harder to come by? In my experience, some companies will pile pressure on their sales team to get in the revenue in any way they can. We may also see more sales professionals lose their job due to a lack of sales.

If you are a business owner or a senior manager looking at this situation and feeling unsure of the best next step, I would recommend that you stick to your guns and keep going with your plan and approach. That does not mean that you do not make any changes or respond to feedback but essentially, try to avoid making decisions out of panic and fear. Here are a few things to consider:

  • If prospects are not making a decision, there is a reason for it. Rather than getting frustrated with your sales people or ditching them, try to get to the bottom of it and see how you can adapt your approach to support this.
  • Jumping from one product to the other, or stopping and starting lead generation campaigns will only set you back. Marketing communication needs time to take hold, out bound lead generation needs a build up to be successful so be patient.
  • Silver bullets are for Westerns. To get the best value out of your sales and marketing, you should listen to the feedback from the market, make small changes and make the most out of every lead you uncover.
  • Having a clear sales process which is adopted across the team is essential to ensure that you keep up quality and conversion. Take our conversion test here to see how good your current process is and make changes if you need to.

In summary, remember that patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude whilst waiting. At YBDT we can help you build a pipeline and then ensure you convert a higher percentage of it. Click here for more information.

Why selling takes time and effort?

On a cold February morning in the middle of another lockdown planning how to improve your sales can seem like all too much effort. If you are thinking “well this worked when we did it before”, and before was 2019 then it likely will be wasted effort.

Doing more of “the same old same old” in 2021 is not very practical. Walking into your customer’s office with a smile and a firm handshake just isn’t happening. Unimaginative selling had been slowly dying long before the Pandemic, but now we all need to think more clearly about how we sell, and most importantly what our customer thinks of our interactions with them.

“How you sell matters. What your process is matters. But how your customers feel when they engage with you matters more.” – Tiffani Bova

Innovation in your lead generation and nurturing is important. Now more than ever. With the world now firmly online, there is the temptation to rely on a few social media posts to do your lead generation for you. Your competitors probably think the same, but my experience shows that contacting customers directly raises you above the background noise of the Internet. Going offline to engage with your potential customers can positively influence their view of your company. One of my team was sent a drinks coaster by a supplier, a simple gesture but it showed that when so many companies have gone quiet and are just hoping for it all to be over soon, his supplier is still there ready and able to do business.

So, why does selling take time and effort? Because your customers are worth it. Taking the time to build a relationship with a new contact, understanding their business and what they need from you is a key piece in building the jigsaw puzzle of a sale. When much of their contact comes from instant sales pitches on LinkedIn, or they haven’t heard from a supplier in months, being contacted by a company that is interested and actively seeking to work with them will encourage them to look seriously at your offer and ultimately to buy from you.

A stat I have used on our website comes from Wanda Allan; “80% of sales are made between the 5th and 12th contact yet, 90% of sales people make 3 contacts or less”. Your Business Development Team offer dedicated support to your sales team. Lead generation can be time consuming and your skilled salespeople’s time is usually best spent on the later stages of the sales process where their knowledge of your products and services matters most. That leaves the crucial area in the middle, nurturing those leads to the point that they are ready to buy. Remember Wanda’s stat. It isn’t your sales team’s fault that they only have time to make three calls rather than five or twelve. They are doubtless stretched in lots of directions having to keep existing customer happy, while also prospecting for new business. Your Business Development Team can fill in that gap between the lead and the sale.

For more information how Your Business Development Team will work with you to generate and nurture the leads that are vital to your business’s recovery visit our Lead Nurturing page, and get in touch to talk amore about our service.

Top 5 tips for business growth in 2021

Whilst 2020 has not been what we planned for, for many, 2021 needs to be a year of significant growth if we are to return to where we were pre-pandemic. This time of year, is traditionally a time to gather your plans for new campaigns launched in the new year. This week, we wanted to offer you our top tips for business growth:

Tip #1CHOOSE THE RIGHT MARKETING TOOLS TO SUPPORT YOUR MESSAGE

A successful campaign needs a specific approach and message which are relevant to the issues that you wish to solve. As part of this process, you will decide which will be your target markets and then choose the appropriate tools.

We are not suggesting that you have to choose one marketing tool only; you can run a number of campaigns using different tools and tactics. In many ways, the tools and tactics you use are all relevant as long as they appeal to your target markets and convey your message correctly.

Tip #2: HAVE A CLEAR SALES PROCESS:

How many times have you been told that selling is not rocket science? Whilst we agree that you should keep things reasonably simple, don’t be too simplistic.  A clear process that everyone works to, can help streamline your process and increase productivity and success. Some things to consider are:

  • Speed of response to enquiry
  • Accuracy in identifying needs
  • Demonstrating your capabilities
  • Packages and standardisation of products
  • Your CRM and automation tools
  • Relationship building

Tip # 3: FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP

One of our favourite quotes demonstrating this is from Wanda Alan, who wrote Follow Up Sales Strategies. She said that 80% of sales are made between the 5th and 12th contact, yet most salespeople only make three follow up calls or less. The number of contacts are irrelevant; what matters is that you make as many as it takes to get a definitive answer.

Against popular belief, prospects normally appreciate your follow up as long as it is done in a polite and appropriate manner. Timelines will depend on your product and sales cycle, but we have been known to keep in touch with people for several years before they eventually became clients. Don’t give up: believe in your product and remember that you are talking to people who expressed an interest in your company.

Tip # 4: UNDERSTAND YOUR PROSPECTS

When we get frustrated with following up, we take a deep breath and remember some research undertaken by DISC which identified that only around 35% of the population make decisions quickly.  The remainder still like to take their time but, importantly, do make buying decisions eventually. To help you use this in practice, consider your prospects’ buying persona, of which there are four:

  1. The Decisive: These buyers have a clear picture in their mind of which results they want. They value rapid action so will typically make quick decisions if they feel your solution is right.
  2. The Interactive: These buyers want to shape events and enjoy “getting their way” when it comes to negotiations or buying something. They typically make quick buying decisions, particularly when they feel a sense of connection with you.
  3. The Stabiliser. These buyers are more passive and introverted and interested in the how and why of a solution. Their primary interests are in maintaining stability, so they prefer to “take their time” and weigh up all options and outcomes before making a decision.
  4. The Conscientious: These buyers are also more passive and introverted. They too take a much more detailed and accuracy-based approach to their buying habits. Without sufficient data to prove any statements made to them, you will fail to achieve their buy-in.

Tip # 5: TEST AND MEASURE

Once you are clear on your message and campaign tools, start experimenting to see how you get your message across best. This will ensure that you get a better return from your campaign. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Try a number of platforms to promote your message
  2. Segment your data and send smaller campaigns to see which get better engagement
  3. Try to use new tactics you have not used before

All of the above are great ways to test, but the key thing is to measure your results carefully to ensure you understand what works best at the moment. One more thing to remember is to be realistic and give it time and some repetition to ensure you are being heard.

We hope you have found this useful. Should you want more, we have created a small series of targetted eBooks, designed to help you put together a successful sales process from lead generation to conversion. Click here to download them from our website.

Planning in the age of uncertainty

Here is a wonderful quote from J.R.R. Tolkien which is particularly apt for the current environment: ‘It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.’

Planning is recommended by experts in all walks of life as a way to support business growth but what happens if planning becomes very difficult due to uncertainty, as we are experiencing at the moment? Do you abandon it all together? I believe that you should always have a plan in place, covering short and long term, whilst not forgetting the dragons nearby. Here are five tips I have collected for you to consider:

  1. A tip from Oxbridge Academy Blog:

Focus on what you can control: You have to accept that some things are completely out of your control. For example, you cannot control most of the effects that the coronavirus has had on your everyday life. While accepting the things that you cannot control, you should focus on controlling the things that you can. This can include maintaining a positive attitude, controlling your spending habits, or deciding to learn something new. In the face of a difficult situation, you may need more determination than ever before to work on yourself and get through the tough times. 

  • A tip from Life Lanes:

Have “go-to” people who can help you every step of the way. Having people you can reach to in times of change can get you through even the most uncertain of times. You do not need to know everything. You just need to know people and organizations you can trust to fill in the gaps for what you do not know.

  • A tip from Management Centre:

Use scenario planning instead of traditional goal setting: Scenario planning can get you outside the normal strategic planning box by encouraging you to think about multiple futures and how these futures would impact on what you would need to deliver your mission. They may even, if profound enough, encourage you to change or adapt your mission.

  • A tip from Great Performance:

Prepare yourself for various possibilities: The most challenging part of being uncertain is the inability to feel in control. Being human, we want to know how things will go so as to be comfortable. Uncertainty takes this from us. Things change too fast for us to experience this. Therefore, instead of expecting specific outcomes from life, it makes more sense to simply prepare yourself for various possibilities. For example, you can make lists of the activities that you will perform in case things go one way or another. One of the characteristics of an uncertain future is luck. This is when things go exactly as you desired. It is important to know that luck happens when preparation and opportunity meet.

  • A tip from Your Business Development team:

Always be selling: Planning for growth is one of the key things that will make a difference to your future as a business. Creating new business and improving your sales conversion are born from a structured process which you can set up and follow in any environment. This process takes time so use the downtime to plan and start conversations with people in your target market. This means that when things move forward you will be first in line for consideration.

I hope you have found some inspiration in our Blog today. If you are looking to create a sales process or strategy, we might be able to help you. Click here to find out more or get in touch to discuss your specific circumstances.

What are the key obstacles to selling well?

‘Learn from the mistake of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.’ Eleanor Roosevelt

This quote emphasizes the opportunity to learn from others and use it as leverage to improve your skills. Is this applicable to sales though?

Sales skills are often referred to in a negative manner, from the ‘gift of the gab,’ to free lunches and going home early on Friday; salespeople are not always portrayed in the best of lights in many organisations. This attitude is also used as a reason for many people to avoid developing their own sales skills, even if it can make a big difference to their business or organisation.

This question is particularly important in current market conditions when new business and additional revenue become even more important. This is precisely the time when marketing and sales departments are scrutinised, and the pressure to achieve tangible results is on. So, the key question is not, can you sell? More importantly it is, can you sell well?

To explain what I mean by learning to sell well, I thought it would be useful to review the key obstacles that get in the way. These are generally divided into three areas:

  1. Understanding your prospect: How much do you actually know about your prospects and their company? Consider questions like:
  • Who are the key decision makers?
  • What are the main issues?
  • What are their key preferences?
  • What is their budget?
  • Who else are they talking to?

The list goes on and it can be easy to forget to ask these questions in the initial process of conversation.  Getting better clarification will help you build your knowledge and discover the best way to approach the prospect and close the sale.

2. Having a clear sales process: How many times have you been told that selling is not rocket science? Whilst I agree that you should keep things reasonably simple, a clear process that everyone works to can help streamline your process and increase productivity and success. Some things to consider are:

  • Speed of response to enquiry
  • Accuracy in identifying needs
  • Demonstrating your capabilities
  • Packages and standardisation of products
  • Your CRM and automation tools
  • Relationship building

3.Setting up a review process: Without testing and measuring, you will never find out if the changes you implemented have made any difference. The review process needs to cover all of the aspects of your sales from lead numbers through sales conversion and individual’s sales targets. Having KPI’s in place will allow you to set a standard and define what success looks like thus helping your team to aim higher and develop.

Selling is one of these occupations that you can keep improving upon; you can always find another way, learn a new skill, or rebuild a relationship. The point of our Blog this week is to remind you of the basics because if you get them right, you can free time to evolve your process and identify new opportunities.

If I have helped you identify some elements that need attention, why not take a look at our new sales conversion support service to see if we can help you shake things up in any way. Get in touch if you want to discuss your specific circumstances further.

Our lead generation funnel

What is sales conversion support and why is it helpful?

When working on business development strategy with clients, we often come across companies who struggle to define their conversion rate. Three years ago, I wrote a blog about this which I think is still spot on. The key argument I was making is that getting both lead generation and lead conversion right, is the key to the success of any lead generation strategy. There is little point in generating leads if you cannot convert them and this can often result in wasted budgets.

To understand the problems better, take a look at the info graphic above. If you are using a lead generation agency to support your sales, you will find that most of them will support stages 1-2 of the funnel above leaving you and your team to complete stage 3. This often results in reduced return on your investment due to lack of conversion. which is why so many companies initiate lead generation campaigns which never get concluded leaving them feeling disappointed and frustrated.

As with other problems, explaining it can be easier than solving it because the solution needs to be specific and complex. We believe that you need to consider three key questions here:

  1. How much do you know about your prospect and their issues? Knowledge is power and really helps converting sales because it highlights where the opportunity lies as well as builds a good relationship. People are very keen to talk about themselves and their needs yet so many times we forget to ask the questions or dig a bit deeper to make sure we understand. Sometimes the answer is to pick up the phone and ask more questions or book a time to do so.
  • How detailed is your follow up process? Many people find follow up difficult because they are worried they will annoy the prospect or appear desperate. If you changed the word ‘follow up’ to ‘relationship development’ that might help you understand how important it is. The key to doing it well is to break it down to small goals and outcomes and then practice a lot. Still, this can be easier said than done and sometimes, another pair of eyes is required to make this work.
  • Does your CRM support this activity well? Most companies use a CRM system to record their business development work but getting this process right is difficult and time consuming. A big part of the follow up process is about booking the next conversation and documenting your new knowledge which makes the CRM work very important. To make it work you need to ensure the CRM process mirrors your sales process and that the team is clear on what needs to be done.

Like I said, it is easier to describe why conversion is difficult to affect than improve it. But fear not, at YBDT we approach things differently because we understand that new leads are often very initial and require a structured nurturing process to yield a sale. We offer our clients a more strategic approach that supports them throughout the sales process. You can read more about it here.

First impressions matter but they are only the start…

I am currently reading a great marketing book by Richard Shotton called The Choice Factory. In it, he talks about research into first impressions and how important they are to get right. Through examining behaviour research, Shotton develops the well-known phrase, “First impressions matter,” to explain that Brands are often associated with one characteristic which colours the rest of the beliefs consumers hold about them. The reason first impressions are so important, is because they often form the initial belief which then affects our relationship with the Brand forever.

The way I see it is, if we create a bad impression, we can put a prospect off our company for life but if we create a good impression, it is only the start of the relationship. As a Sales Director, you need to ensure that:

  • You and your team always create a good impression when you speak with a new prospect
  • Once you have had an initial conversation you need to follow it up in an appropriate way

The first action above is important to all businesses across all industries and requires planning, processes and training. The second action, however, is particularly important to companies who sell high value services and products. This is because the length and complexity of the sales process have a direct correlation to the cost and complexity of the product you sell.

If you are looking to grow your business in an effective manner, you need to develop a funnelling process which includes the following steps:

  1. Creating an initial interest = identifying leads
  2. Identifying interest and clarifying time scales= identifying prospects
  3. Following up and nurturing the prospects= converting to customers

Having worked with many clients to create leads and build a pipeline of prospects, we find that most companies struggle with the third stage and this is because the follow up process is difficult to define, control and manage. To improve this, we recommend that you consider the following elements:

  • Identify what you still need to find out about your prospect and take steps to close this gap. This can be done through looking at their website and LinkedIn profile or by speaking to the prospect directly using prepared questions.
  • Understand the prospect’s personality type and work out how to best communicate with them. You can read more about buying profiles in our previous Blog, here.
  • Agree a timeline for further communication and a point of purchase or review which you are aiming towards.
  • Break the process down into small goals that you plan for each communication point. Things like, finding out where the project is and understanding who else is involved; other ways in which you might be able to help can be useful steps in building a relationship.
  • Ensure that you are always checking if your contact is welcome and appropriate.
  • Push for a definitive answer where possible so you are not pursuing a false opportunity and inaccurately inflating your pipeline.

We hope this is helpful in supporting improved lead conversion and increased overall sales revenue. Having said that, creating the correct follow up process is not easy and most companies I come across get it wrong in some way.

As follow up is a big part of what we do, we have developed some good insights which we will be happy to share with you. Get in touch to discuss your specific requirements.