When it comes to generating revenue, your sales team is your company’s frontline force. Whether your main driver for lead conversion is a multi-channel campaign or cold calls to potential clients, savvy businesses understand that investing in training and professional development for their sales staff is one of the best ways to generate more leads and increase conversions.
But winning the revenue game requires more than a good sales team — by aligning your goals, policies, and processes across your entire organization, you’ll ensure that customers stick with you for the long-haul, from closing a sale through to when they come calling for tech support. In addition to being good for your short-term revenue figures, this approach also ensures the long-term health of your business. (It costs far less to sell to a repeat customer than it does to find and convert new prospects.)
To give you a leg up in this journey, we consulted a crew of expert marketers and asked them to share their thoughts and best practices for how to turn your sales team — and by extension, your business — into a lean, mean, revenue-generating machine. We’ll start by exploring some widely agreed-upon best practices from the whole team, and then drill down to their individual experiences and perspectives.
Training a successful sales team: The basics
Training a tip-top sales team requires a mix of the old (tried-and-true conversational techniques) and the new (leveraging advancements in tracking and analytics tech), as well as a firm understanding of the benefits of each approach.
1) Determine your team’s strengths (and areas for improvement)
No one is great at everything: We all have things we do well, and others that are less comfortable for us. To figure out how to make best use of your team’s strengths, as well as the areas where they’re falling short, consider using a personality test such as Meyers-Briggs, DISC, or a specialized sales aptitude test.
It sounds simple, but it’s a meaningful first step towards improving your team’s performance. By breaking down your team according to personality types, you’ll have a better understanding of the scenarios in which each member of your team is most adept, or the circumstances in which they’re the most uncomfortable.
From there, you can assign training and work with confidence that each member of your team is getting the personalized attention they need, while also contributing to the overall success of your business.
2) Assign seasoned sales reps to mentor junior reps
Really productive reps can observe and coach newer reps. Monitoring recorded or live phone calls, suggesting scripts, and sharing best practices are all tasks that senior reps can perform to help streamline the training process. And ideally, that relationship will continue beyond the training session, with both parties contributing to each other’s successes throughout their careers.
This training process should also be ongoing, rather than a one-off event. You should continuously offer training opportunities for your reps, even after they’ve been on the job a while. Not only will this ensure that your business is always able to navigate new changes and challenges, smart investments in personnel like this will also give your employees confidence in their careers.
3) Use call recording for agent training / roleplay scenarios
Start recording your sales calls with call tracking software, and then use these recordings to offer coaching opportunities to your agents. Roleplay different scenarios (“You play the customer, I’ll be the agent”) and test new sales scripts based on who the buyer is and what they say.
Additionally, you can use call recordings to run a play-by-play analysis of the sales team’s performance. You could listening to the entire series of calls that lead up to a sale to figure out what the agent did right, or you could do the same for the calls that lead up to a missed opportunity in order to identify areas of improvement.
4) Accurately measure your sales data
Start by creating a dashboard of your most important metrics, and then use that data to refine your sales process. For example: track your call response times, number of calls it takes to convert, number of social touches, where your best leads originate, design custom reports for your industry, etc.
Your marketing and sales ops will be infinitely more effective once you’re armed with data that tells you what’s working, and what’s not. This data will empower you to focus your energies on the leads that are most likely to convert, while reducing effort and marketing spend on less effective channels.
With software like call tracking, you can effectively measure which marketing channels lead to conversions, giving your sales staff a heads-up about your prospect’s path to purchase. You’ll see where your visitor has been, and which sites they visited before picking up the phone to call you for more information. That means your staff is better prepared for the call, and has a better chance of overcoming objections and closing the sale.
5) Automation (like email marketing) streamline the sales process
With automated email software like Constant Contact, you can quickly send out sales content and be alerted as soon as the recipient opens your message. This enables your sales team to make timely followups in order to answer any answer questions, while also tailoring the details of their next conversation with the customer. Advanced email marketing programs can even notify you whether your content has been forwarded to someone else who may be involved in the buying decision.
Clickthrough statistics for the links in your emails will show you which parts of your content attracted the most attention from your audience, showing you what is most relevant to your audience and how your agents can guide the conversation in a meaningful direction.
That’s just one example of how automation can save you countless work-hours while bringing a serious boost to your bottom line. For your next operational review, take a top-level, holistic look to see where automation can bring the most benefits to your business.
Top marketing professionals share their lead conversion tips
All of these awesome technological advancements come with a flipside: They’ve prompted some dramatic changes to the sales and marketing professions in the past decade-plus. In other words, your tried-and-true best practices may not be quite as effective as they used to be.
In the past, sales agents and marketers could be confident that by the time a prospect enters the sales funnel, there’s a reasonably high chance they’ll convert. But things are different in the age of digital marketing: You should anticipate that your prospects will research multiple businesses or vendors before they make a purchase. And with the path to purchase that much longer — and that much more complicated — your sales team needs to be able to make a compelling case about why your business is the best fit.
Indeed, today’s digital marketers face a host of challenges when it comes to attracting (and converting) an audience:
- Qualifying leads according to their quality and likelihood of a conversion
- Building instant trust and rapport when speaking to a prospect for the first time
- Understanding each customer’s pain points so you can tailor your conversation to address their unique needs
- Understanding your products or services well enough to know which one suits a prospect best, and knowing how to demonstrate or explain its benefits (This last challenge impacts all sales and customer service teams, not just the salespeople handling the inbound phone lines)
It’s a lot to keep track of, and these can be difficult problems to solve for newer businesses, or for smaller operations. In order to cut through the confusion, we spoke with five of the top experts in marketing and e-commerce to learn what advice they have for improving the inbound sales process, whether you’re an enterprise business with a headcount of thousands or a two-person mom-and-pop shop.
We asked each of them the following question:
“What top 3 inbound sales tips for closing phone leads would you give to promising salespeople?”
The answers may surprise you, but we think you’ll definitely find them informative and illuminating.
Kyle Porter, CEO at SalesLoft
Kyle Porter has been an entrepreneur and sales professional for over a decade. He founded Sports Bar Digital in 2009, became VP of marketing at NanoLumens in 2010, co-founded B2BCamp in 2012, and is now co-founder at SalesLoft. Here are his 3 inbound sales tips:
- Connect with the authority. Understand their business objectives in your area of focus.”Hey, Mr. VP. What are your Q3 goals for [insert what you help with here]?”
- Tie your solution to their objectives (AKA their needs) through questioning.
- Create a burning sense of urgency (“You said you needed to hit X metric by end of Q3, and you agree you aren’t going to do it with the status quo. We’ve established that our solution can help you get there. Are you ready to act?”
Matt Heinz, President at Heinz Marketing
Matt Heinz has more than 15 years of experience in marketing, business development, and sales. He started Heinz Marketing in 2007, where he helps clients scale revenue and customer growth. He recommends the following:
- Know the prospect group well enough in advance that you can ask very specific questions tied to the pain and need they have, if in fact they’re qualified to benefit from your solution.
- Tailor your questions and discussions to their specific role (IT, finance, engineering, etc.) vs. using generic statements or questions related to your products or their overall business.
- Be specific about next steps, including when you’ll connect again, about what, and what’s to be done between now and then on both sides to keep the deal moving forward.
Sean Alpert, SVP of Marketing & Strategy at Salesforce
Since 2010, Sean Alpert has devoted his considerable branding skills to driving customer engagement at Salesforce — first as a Director of Product Marketing, and now as the company’s SVP of Marketing & Strategy. Sean is such a marketing pro, he couldn’t stop at just 3 tips:
- Be upfront with the prospect about your role and what your part in the sales process will be. If you set proper expectations, prospects are more willing to open up and share key information that can be helpful to close the deal. Which means you should act as their consultant, not sales rep. “If we validate that we can help you achieve your goal, are you comfortable coming to a yes/no decision at the end of our call? Yes? Great, let’s get started. No? Help me understand what you need to get to that comfort level.” In other words: Seek first to understand.
- Ask the right discovery questions. Discovery questions should focus not only on what the problem or ideal solution is, but also around impacts they are having or will have on the business, to understand how and if the problem/solution can negatively/positively impact your prospect on a personal level (promotion, raise, etc.).
- With adequate discovery you can feel comfortable positioning your solution in a relevant manner. Or, you can be honest and upfront if this isn’t an area you can help. For the former, always use your prospects’ words. You took their time asking questions, so speak in their language, not yours. (This is huge, since most prospects don’t understand internal jargon and the myriad of features and functions you may provide.) Be specific in how what you do aligns with what’s important to your prospect, and use customer examples when you have them. From there, validate what you started with and ask for the business, or identify additional contingencies.
- Bonus tip: Most consumers/businesses don’t know all that a deal cycle entails, so it’s up to the rep to educate them. If the rep handles the call with the expectation that they can lead the prospect to close on one call, they will have more success moving the deal along.
Andrea Sittig-Rolf, CEO at BlitzMaster
Andrea Sittig-Rolf is a sales trainer, public speaker, and president and founder of BlitzMasters. She has authored four business books, is a frequent media guest and a high-demand speaker. Andrea offered these extended, in-depth thoughts on the best practices for closing inbound leads (no wonder why she’s in demand as a speaker):
“You can improve your numbers and success ratios by improving your skills around prospecting phone calls. The most important skill you can learn is how to handle the objections you’ll hear when asking for the first appointment with a new prospect. I’ve developed what I call the AHA formula:
- Anticipate the objection: Anticipate that you’ll hear an objection so that you’re prepared to handle it.
- Handle the objection: Now handle the objection. For example, “that’s what ABC Company thought too, until they realized we could decrease their IT spending by 25%.”
- Ask for the appointment: Immediately following your response to the objection, ask for the appointment by saying something like “how is Thursday at 10:15?” Be specific when you ask to set up a time. Adding options make it more difficult for your prospect.
The key to success in building the value of your products and services lies in asking the right questions at the beginning of the sales process. This allows you to gather the information that points to the decision-making criteria of your customers. Ask open-ended questions such as “tell me about,” “help me understand,” or “please describe” to allow your prospect to do the talking and tell you what their pains are.
At the end of your call, if the prospect says something like “it’s too expensive,” you can refer back to one of the pains they mentioned earlier. Build the value of your company by sharing positive stories of the experiences current customers have had with your company. You’ll show them that your company can take away the pain of a bad experience by dealing with difficult situations in a positive manner. Then price might no longer be an issue.
Before you try to make a sale, you need to establish your credibility as an expert in the field. You need to communicate with your prospects that you’re the best sales person they can work with and can offer the best solution to meet their needs. To do that, you need to write, speak, and help others.
You should already be writing and publishing your expertise on a blog or other industry-related websites. Gather a list of the articles you’ve written and turn them into speeches. Offer your speeches to industry-relevant publications.
You should also be helping others to enhance or establish your credibility. Make an effort to learn about what your colleagues, associates, networking partners, prospects, and customers want and do what you can to help them get it.Your reputation and credibility will build trust in your prospects and make closing sales easier.”
Aaron Ross, Co-CEO at Predictable Revenue, Inc.
Aaron Ross is the Co-CEO of Predictable Revenue, Inc. and author of the best-selling book Predictable Revenue, which is based on the outbound process and sales team that he built for Salesforce while he was their director of corporate sales and senior director of corporate development & acquisitions. Here are his tips for inbound sales:
- Make sure your inbound sales team is specializing in only inbound calls. One of the biggest productivity killers in sales is giving a sales rep more than one core sales responsibility, such as giving an inbound lead to an outbound sales team member. A highly productive team requires a specialization of roles.
- Focus on becoming an expert in your area: At inbound sales qualification, closing sales, prospecting leads, or farming. But choose only one, because generalized sales people create inefficiencies and cost money.
- Most businesses rely on sales people to multi-task, which is an issue. Many believe specialization should only occur in larger business, but that’s the problem: As soon as you have two people in sales in a business-to-business company, it’s essential to start specializing, or to begin planning to specialize.
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