As a group, salespeople typically aren’t shy about providing feedback and sharing their opinions. Oftentimes, you don’t even have to ask them. They’ll volunteer their unsolicited points of view about what works and what doesn’t work with your organization’s sales and marketing strategy. Sometimes, the best first step to take toward improving sales performance is to stop and listen to what your sales team has to say.
I spend a lot of time listening to salespeople. Below is a synopsis of the most common complaints I hear.
1. “I spend all day making cold calls and I’m getting very little to show for my efforts. Getting that first appointment is harder than ever. If I could just get my foot in the door.”
It’s true. Traditional approaches to prospecting (like cold calling) has become more challenging over the years. Decision-makers just don’t answer calls like they used to, but that’s not an excuse to stop prospecting. However, it probably makes sense to not make your sales team’s prospecting efforts your primary source of new leads. Instead, supplement their activities with leads generated from an inbound marketing strategy. Inbound marketing is a methodology used to get your prospects to “raise their hands” and self-identify. It uses content creation that positions you and your business as thought leaders; it allows you to answer questions before they’re asked and provide information to your prospects before they're ready to talk to a salesperson.
2. “Let me do what I do best . . . sell. I waste too much time on administrative tasks like data entry, preparing pipeline reports, crafting content, and writing emails.”
There are still organizations that rely on spreadsheets and activity reports to monitor the performance of the sales team. Many have graduated to using a CRM tool to facilitate these tasks. Unfortunately, many CRM tools are designed with the manager in mind and not the salesperson. They are great for producing reports, but the salesperson still gets bogged down with data entry and maneuvering through multiple screens to accomplish simple tasks. A good CRM should do both: produce the reports that management needs and improve sales productivity. In fact, the best CRM tools are ones that are easy to learn and easy to use.
Another way to free up your sales team to spend more time selling is to provide a centralized content library with the sales collateral and email templates that are designed to support their sales efforts. Salespeople can waste a lot of time looking for the right content to send a prospect or, worse yet, trying to create content themselves. Determine what they need. Create it for them and then make it easy to share.
3. “My sale cycle is being stretched. Oftentimes it’s because I’m not sure how to respond to a prospect’s objection or what the next step should be.”
Sometimes the best tactics to deploy in a challenging sales scenario are learned by listening to the war stories the veteran sales pros tell around the water cooler. Formalize this learning process by building a Sales Playbook. Your playbook should outline the steps of an ideal sales process. Map out the appropriate next steps to move a prospect through the process. Anticipate all of the potential pitfalls and objections and map out a strategy (a play) to deal with each. Each “sales play” should include talk tracks, email templates, and content that can be used to support the interaction with the prospect.
4. “We have more competitors than ever before. How can I rise above the noise level and differentiate from the crowd?”
Your prospects are looking for answers. They want to get the answers from experts. Stop being just another salesperson and start positioning yourself as a thought leader and subject matter expert. The best way to do this is to start writing and publishing content on the topics that will resonate with your prospects. What are they interested in learning about? What do you know that they don’t? Once you start sharing your unique experience and point of view, you will become a trusted and valued resource to your prospects. When they are ready to solve their problem (and when they are ready to buy), they will turn to you.
5. “The leads I spoke to last week aren’t ready to buy and they want me to follow up in 6 months. I need a system to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks, a system that keeps our brand top-of-mind.”
Too many organizations waste money generating new leads every month. They follow up and close the “hot” leads, and all the rest seem to fall into a black hole. Sometimes your best leads are the ones you generated last month or even last quarter. They weren’t ready to buy then, but they are now. You can improve your odds of getting back in front of them at the right time with a marketing automation tool. Marketing automation will help you: build a database of prospects; build workflows to stay in touch with them and nurture their interest; and provide triggers for following up with them at the right time.
You may never eliminate all of your sales team’s complaints, but you can address the ones that matter: the ones that impact your sales performance and revenue growth.