Gluing Together the Sales Process

Today, there’s a tool for everything. Technology is helping us find deals faster, and expediting necessary steps of the sales process so they close quicker. Most of them integrate into your CRM where you can access the information. Even still, you may need to be a Salesforce guru in order to piece it all together and there is no way everyone feels 100% confident that all the technology ties together seamlessly.

Sales Stack GlueStack process

The Awesome Sales Meeting

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Three tips to turn your sales meeting from a painful status update extraction to a session that advances deals through the pipeline quicker.

The traditional sales meeting usually has the following scenario –  the sales manager holds court and goes around the horn, rep by rep for deal status updates.  This is a painful, time-consuming process.  The goal for the meeting is to jockey for the first update by giving the excuse of “I’ve got a demo conflicting with this time”.

When I was a sales rep – I hated that guy that always got to go first and get his update over with – because he had a “demo” that cut into the sales meeting.  The rest of us had to wait our turn for the weekly extraction of information from our sales manager about our best deals and forecast – while listening to the same questions that provided mostly the same responses over and over.

Below are three tips to turn the sales meeting into a value added process without the same old updates, and as a bonus, the meeting will be completed much quicker with everyone feeling progress was made.

1. Update the CRM (as things happen) instead of just having the verbal conversation at the meeting

As significant events occur in an opportunity, update the CRM as they happen – instead of waiting for the sales status meeting to have the conversation with management.  That way, top deals can be reviewed prior to the meeting.  No one will have to listen to these details – and everyone can just focus on next steps.
As a bonus, all the important information is now captured about a deal related to competition, market, and price points, in addition to deal status.  This all will provide for valuable analytics on deal performance.  Do timely updates to the CRM seem easier said than done?  Keep reading – the answer is forthcoming.

2. Focus on the best opportunities that can close first

For every sales rep, focus on the deals that are furthest along and the closest to plan, starting with next steps.  Look at deals that have a lot of activity (an appointment or call every week), deals that are in the proper segment of your market based on size, industry, and contacts and also focus on deals that can happen in the sales period.

Do the above suggestions seem obvious?  Yes, they are – but read on to see how this can be done without a lot of effort.

3. Set up a separate time for one-on-one sessions

Separate from the sales meeting, set up one on one sessions with the sales reps to discuss deals falling out of the pipeline.  Look for deals that have no activity, that are going dark, or have competitive pressures.  Then discuss plays out of the playbook for next steps – clear out any clutter in your pipeline on these deals so you are only working real qualified opportunities – deals in your wheelhouse and that have Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline (BANT).

When your sales process is working correctly – you are getting updates constantly and you can strategize more effectively at a constant rate.  The sales meeting becomes more of a strategy session related to account plans – and less of a painful update process.

So, if a lot of what I mentioned in this blog seems obvious, yet hard to organize and effectively do, then click on the link below to see how to make this happen.

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Driving Productivity Within Your Sales Force

The evolution of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems has had a major impact on sales forces across the world.  It’s given companies a place to store knowledge, which in turn gives them the opportunity to deepen customer understanding, grow revenue and improve internal communications.  These are the benefits of CRM.

The challenge with CRM systems is the amount of time necessary to manually enter data.  This burden typically falls onto the sales reps.   A particular limitation is the simple communication of next steps.  As we forecast, assurance that reps have scheduled the right next-steps within the forecast period is crucial.  The magnitude of this challenge has become even more apparent with the transition to mobile.  Our expectations have been set as consumers, with elegantly designed apps, that interactions are immediate and intuitive. We grow impatient with something that feels overly-cumbersome like an extended login.  Let’s consider some of the challenges that sales managers and their teams are currently facing in regards to CRM.

With mobile devices now, we expect everything to be ready from the first swipe.  (Any vendor that has not developed a native app is writing off the mobile user). While user ID/PW combo is expected, a remember-me preference would go a long way.  Next is the painful verification code sent via SMS to your phone for logging into the system.  If this were a one-time requirement on a new device, it would be acceptable, but as a daily requirement, it introduces significant  user-experience friction. Coupled with basic convenience frustrations is the fact that layouts are not design-optimized for mobile devices.  Navigation then becomes a headache, and eventually (or quickly) the user will exit altogether.  Low mobile user-engagement amongst a sales team results in a separate sales management challenge: delay in data upload and lag in information accuracy.  Inaccurate data inevitably leads to a less effective CRM.  Data must be entered at a constant rate in order to gain meaningful visibility into the deals that have high probability rates of closing.

Data serves a vital function in sales execution, however data input tasks are the least productive hours in the week for a sales team.  As a result, most sales representatives develop their own process to measure the health of a given cycle.  It’s great to have reps that are tuned-in with their clients.  However, when their intuition becomes the guiding point for their sales activity, and there is no report that management can reference to gauge traction (or lack thereof), you wind up with more questions than answers at the end of the quarter.  Said another way, if the sales rep has a finger on the pulse of the deal, but management is not current on the status, the result is a flurry of counter-productive calls between VPs, Managers and Sales Reps.  Not to mention the lack of trust you can place in the viability of individual reps’ forecasting due to various personalities (pure optimists, sandbaggers, etc.).

So how do you go about remedying these inherent problems?  Well to start off, prioritize sales productivity above all else. Your company depends on sales reps to respond quickly to leads, to represent the product in a clear and persuasive way, and to capture the product-market-fit feedback.  They’re on the front lines, and they improve, perhaps exponentially, as you invest in their productivity.  You can do this by reducing their administrative work to the essentials.  Be clear and forthright about the information that matters and ensure they are gathering that from every meeting.  Next, be transparent in how you are reporting.  Show your sales teams performance versus goal.  Empower your reps to be winners; winners are motivated, they set goals and measure results.  Then hold them accountable.  Set structured formats, strict timelines and clear expectations.  This type of management will help enforce consistent reporting and more accurate forecasting.

The best reps I know are masterful at retaining and organizing pertinent account information.  They stay on track to achieve goals.  They tend to need minimal prompting to drive next-steps.  Simple, clear expectations with a premium invested in sales rep productivity will increase CRM data input and user-engagement frequency.  These are cornerstones for management visibility and CRM adaptation.

Recipe for an Accelerated Sales Pipeline (Part 3 of a 3 Part Series)

Overview

In the previous two blogs of this three part series, we talked about the importance of aligning the objectives and roles of sales management, sales representatives and sales operations in order to meet the aggressive sales targets set by the Board of Directors and CEO.  The third and final part of this blog series talks about sales operations’ role and the solution they need to implement for ensuring an efficient and effective sales process.