I spoke with a CSO who works for a large software developer last week about possible reasons why his sales team was underperforming. While we were reviewing his teams sales results he made a statement that really took me by surprise; he said, Selling is like riding a bike, once you learn how you never forget.
I asked him what kind of bike he had when he was a kid, he said his first bike was a single speed Huffy with fat tires. (Probably from Western Auto). Next, I asked him if he thought he could get on a modern road bike and ride it without help or instruction, he responded, Of course not, those new bikes are way too complicated.
My response back was that selling is far more complicated today than it was even ten years ago and if you are selling the same way you sold ten year ago its not surprising that your performance is declining. In days past, having a good Rolodex and decent cold calling skills was enough to keep you at the top end of the sales performance charts, but the internet has changed that forever!
Prospects dont need a sales person to provide them information on new products and industry best practices. All the information about you, your competitors, and industry best practices is simply a few keystrokes away from decision makers and influencers. Expecting that your sales team stay in the race riding their old bike is a recipe for disaster. Putting new wheels under your sales team takes time and investment; consider these possible steps as you plan for 2013.
Preparing Your Sales Team for Success
Take a critical look at your website and compare it to those of your top 3 competitors, how does the look and feel of your site stack up? Is your site uncluttered and easy to navigate? When was the last time you did any keyword analysis to ensure your firm is easily found when prospects are doing research? If you have a hard time answering these questions you are probably a candidate for some outside help. There are lots of companies that specialize in website development and keyword analysis and the investment for these improvements has very fast ROIs.
Sales teams run on qualified leads, how is your team getting theirs? If your answer is that each rep is responsible for lead generation you are using a very costly resource that is likely very poor at lead generation. Another issue with sale reps self-selecting their targets are that many of the deals they are chasing are not fully qualified. Going after unqualified opportunities puts a large burden on your pricing and proposal teams and results in lower closing rates. Take the time to develop a prospect sweet spot matrix to ensure you are attacking best-fit targets.
Also, nurturing prospects via a lead management system is no longer a nice to have its a must have. By engaging with prospects on an ongoing basis you can nurture them along until they become fully qualified and promoted to sales for final qualification. Lead management systems dont have to be fancy to be effective, take a few minutes to understand the value and power they can bring to your selling teams. One caution though, lead management system will not cure all your pipeline problems. Many of the platforms have similar features but the key to success is having the right processes driving the tools.
As you get ready for 2013 it will pay to look for ways to increase selling efficiency through improved sales and marketing processes. If you have any question on how your sales team can ride better or faster drop us a note!