Most company executives know they need to jump on the big data bandwagon. They understand that having access to big data analytics can help them raise sales productivity, and so they’ve sourced a solution to take advantage of gathering and indexing their internal data. Maybe they’re even enlightened enough to look outside of their own sales data into the wild, wild Web for information on their customers.
But is the data they’re collecting really helping their employees? In an enterprise—and even within the same sales organization—it’s unlikely that employees will all benefit from the same business intelligence. A sales rep is unlikely to care about the buying activity of another account; and a VP certainly doesn’t have enough time to look at every customer and prospect in great detail (that’s why they have sales reps and account managers in the first place!).
It’s well known that if someone doesn’t find a product useful to them personally, even if it’s a great product in and of itself, they simply won’t use it—and that’s not helping sales productivity, which is the reason it was introduced in the first place. But what if they could customize the product to fit their needs exactly? The same holds true for big data: for data to be truly helpful to each and every employee, the business intelligence has to be personal.
Let’s take a deeper look at the differences between what an SVP needs to know versus what an account manager needs. According to Anthony Iannarino on SalesGravy, his number one non-personnel focus is ensuring a healthy pipeline. To do that, he is focused on:
It’s clear that the two have very different priorities, so giving them the same information is not only inefficient, they won’t use it—so it won’t be effective. By giving each of them business intelligence customized to their needs, however, allows each of them to target what’s most useful to them. The account managers can see their target accounts and geographies to help plan out their next sale, and the SVP can strategize a more informed direction of attack, raising the sales productivity of the entire organization.
Many people about how to make a good first impression, but not as much about a second impression. Why even worry about a second impression, though? No matter what situation you happen to be in, forging a professional relationship is often a multi-step process. Whether you’re coming in for a second job interview, or making a second contact with a prospect, the second impression is just as important as the first. While you may have been lucky enough to impress them the first time, you need to follow through once more (or multiple times) before totally winning them over.
As Tim Sanders puts it in an article for Oprah, the first meeting is often about gauging surface details like likability and basic skillsets. The next meeting will hone in on your competency. When gaining the trust of a potential client, you’re going to have to meet them multiple times. Learning to make a lasting second impression could be the key to improving sales productivity. Here are some tips for meeting with a business colleague or prospect for the second time:
Keep Discussion Centered on Them
Thinking about this in terms of a social call may relieve some of the pressure. When you’re going over to the neighbors’ house for dinner, you should ask them about themselves. A business situation is similar: you want them to know their industry is important to you, so you have to ask a question that demonstrates you’ve been keeping up with their progress online or in the media. Make sure you’re doing customer research between meetings so that you know of anything relevant you can bring up. While it’s tempting to fill any lull in the conversation with small talk, this is the ideal time to guide the direction in a more constructive way. According to Geoffrey James for Inc., a good question would be something along the lines of, “I saw on your blog that you were at the Worldcomp conference in Vegas this year. Did you see any innovative products that caught your eye?”
Another way to start off the conversation on the right foot is to reference your last meeting, according to Sanders. If you learned something poignant or important from your last meeting with the prospect, bring it up again. Ideally, you will have taken down notes during or after your first meeting so that you can retain this information.
Talk About Why You’re Meeting For a Second Time
Not too long into this conversation, you’re going to have to drive toward the heart of the matter. If you scheduled this meeting, it’s time to explain why. Don’t be too blunt, but don’t wait too long either. If you’ve brushed up on your customer research, it should be fairly straightforward to explain what you’d like to tackle.
Listen hard while they are talking, see if they give you something you can use to relate to the customer research you did and guide the conversation organically towards your product or their problem point. Odds are, they’ll give you an in. If not, make sure you’ve responded to their story about Worldcomp conference before diving into your pitch. Make your point quickly, and give them a chance to respond.
When you contact this person for a second meeting, try to let them know exactly how much time you expect it to take. This shows you’re respectful of their time. Once you’re on the way out the door, thank them again for taking the time to talk to you.
Lead qualification can be a point of tension between sales and marketing teams. Sales reps often claim the marketing team doesn’t give them high-quality leads, while the marketing team argues that sales simply isn’t following up on the best leads they’ve been handed. Sometimes the problem is simply that these departments’ definitions of what makes a qualified lead are misaligned. On the other hand, the problem could be a misunderstanding of what qualities can predict a lead’s likelihood to buy.
Cut Down On the Noise
Some established companies have more leads than they know what to do with. By finding a better strategy to weed out the most unlikely leads, business can significantly improve sales productivity. Imagine a world where you can easily identify the junk before you devote too much time nurturing a lead that has no chance of converting. This world is possible, but will take some time and research.
Turn on the Lights
When your teams are stumbling around in the dark, it’s impossible to coordinate marketing and sales effectively. With a customer analytics platform, these departments will have access to the same intelligence data, including market events, mergers and introduction of new technology. Once the two teams are looking at the same information, they can gain a better awareness of what qualities are good predictors of a qualified lead. B2B Lead Blog suggests doing research to determine a correlation between leads and current customers to further identify the signals that your company has a good chance of making a sale. Once these two teams have a more complete picture, they can start coming up with better definitions for sales and marketing-qualified leads.
Learn Who Your Customers Are
An article from Forbes demonstrates how big data analytics can improve the performance of marketing automation software by telling marketers not just what qualities will predict a conversion, but who the customer really is. What analytics actually enable marketers and sales reps to do is develop an understanding of a company’s attributes outside of just the numbers. By collecting intelligence from across the Web, including viral social media posts, sales reps and marketers can really construct a picture of what it’s like to work in a specific industry. Customer intelligence allows marketers and sales reps to go deeper. When marketers are able to look at their leads’ markets through their perspectives, they can create marketing campaigns that really target the right companies.
A customer intelligence platform can deliver the In-depth information marketers and sales reps need to improve their collaboration and increase sales productivity.
In the modern, data-driven environment, we have myriad contact methods to reach prospects. The variety of choices can make it difficult for sales reps to determine which medium is the right one. However, making this choice can have a surprising impact on sales productivity. To be a good sales rep, you have to be aware that at any given point in the sales funnel, the right communication strategy is going to be different. On the other hand, the medium also depends on what you have to say.
This may sound entry-level, but if you use the wrong channel to relay information, it may not be received the way you intended; being successful in sales relies on picking up on nuances in the way people communicate. Business executives are busy people, and you want to make things as easy as possible for them. Choosing between email, phone and face-to-face may sound simple, but you have to consider at least two things: first, what is the best medium for what you’re trying to say; second, how will it be perceived by the client?
Think Before Making Contact In a recent article from Fast Company, the author related her surprise that many people contacting her had little knowledge of contemporary communications etiquette. She cited an example of receiving long-winded emails outlining a problem when a quick phone call would have saved time on both ends. Needless to say, when you’re dealing with prospects, you want to do everything you can to use their time most efficiently, and also make sure they actually comprehend your messages.
A similar argument can be made for email. For quick queries or check-ins, prospects are likely to appreciate the use of email over a phone call, because email allows for valuable multi-tasking time that the telephone doesn’t. A face-to-face meeting should be reserved for the most important conversations, according to Anthony Iannarino.
Another point Iannarino makes is that the method of communication sends a message about how important you consider the discussion to be. For this reason, it’s imperative that certain meetings be in-person.
Make Sure You’re Developing the Relationship In response to the email/phone/in-person debate, B2B Lead Blog noted that the primary concern in customer relationships is about developing a relationship. Whatever medium you choose to send your communications, make sure the message helps you build a relationship. So, even if you think your pitch warrants a face-to-face meeting, remember that your prospect probably isn’t ready for that yet, and being too forceful may turn them off.
Developing the kind of trusted relationship that actually creates sales requires that reps start early. Use big data analytics to find potential leads early on in the buying process. Then using expertise gleaned from this market intelligence, begin forming a relationship and nurturing the lead until they are ready to buy—earning you in the coveted role of advisor. You can demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of their field and use this information to gain their trust over time. Being a trusted colleague also means that you understand your customer and the fact that they may need more information before committing to a sale.
However, here’s where communications comes in: bombarding prospects with sales pitches or salesy information too early can be a deterrent. Based on where the prospect is in the buyer’s journey, you should carefully consider not only what you’re saying to them, but what method you’re using to send the message. And make sure you’re aligning the content of your communications correctly with the method you send them.
In sales, these subtleties can make all the difference.
The infinite stream of information in the 21st century world has created many new possibilities for companies. Analytics that track consumers across Web pages, tweets, blogs and other content posted every minute create a wealth of resources for sales reps and marketers who need to develop a greater understanding of their customers’ movements and industries. However, all this information can be overwhelming and distracting. There’s simply too much of it to deal with. To many executives, Big Data is large and intimidating. However, if you find a way to cut through the noise, you can reduce the flood to a more manageable trickle. To do this you need the right infrastructure, tools and attitude.
Executives Want More Information For the most part, executives are on board with using data, even if they don’t know how to approach it. A CSO Insights survey cited by Business News Daily found 89 percent of executives believe that sales reps missed out on sales opportunities because they weren’t up to date on what was going on with customers and prospects. In addition, the survey found that salespeople often need to look at as many as 15 different sources to find usable information about prospects. The time spent looking through the CRM, social media accounts and doing Google searches all adds up. And after you’ve finished looking through all these sources, your data may not be organized.
Not All Data is the Right Data According to a recent article from Forbes, many businesses hear about big data analytics and try to jump on board without really thinking it through. As the magazine explains, you need to consider carefully which data will help you achieve your goals and what will just add more noise. You need the right tools to navigate the flood, otherwise it will remain unmanageable. For example, if your goal is to use market intelligence to gain a better understanding of your customer’s industry, you need to find a way to hone in on the details that matter.
How Companies Can Gain From the Right Intelligence When businesses have access to a platform that streamlines the Niagara-level flood of data into a navigable canal, sales reps and marketers suddenly have insight that can help improve revenue productivity. Your sales reps can plug into the client’s world and see trigger events they can use to create more targeted sales pitches. They can see events on the horizon that will change the market, like the introduction of new products, activity of competitors, or changing management. They will have the ability to answer questions their potential clients haven’t figured out how to ask yet. In short, while big data may seem unwieldy, you can harness it to improve sales productivity.
Getting Customer Intelligence in the C-Suite Businesses tend to perform better when they have high-level executives dedicated to successfully implementing big data initiatives. According to Mckinsey, different companies need to assess how management can best approach introducing analytics into the business sphere. Often, chief marketing officers may take the reigns on these initiatives. On the other hand, depending on the individual needs of your company, it could be an idea to create a whole new role to manage the implementation of customer intelligence and make sure it is successful from upper management down to the sales teams that use the knowledge to craft better pitches. By choosing the right solution, your company can figure out how to use Big Data successfully to make a difference in your sales and marketing strategies.
Much of the time, your first contact with a prospect will be through email. However, sending out shoddy messages that appear mass-produced and untailored to the specific business can wreak havoc on your sales productivity. You have to treat each email like it’s a conversation, because that’s how your prospect will be thinking about it. Sending out a generic template just won’t cut it.
For instance, a typical email may tout the company, talk about your services and end with a call-to-action. This could literally be sent out to anyone, and probably is. Instead, you need to do a better job of targeting it.
Sympathize With Your Prospect
In Inc., sales expert Geoffrey James notes that if you think about how your emails look from the customer’s perspective, it may start to make more sense as to why leads aren’t biting. Most likely, they’re asking, “what does this have to do with me?” They may be wondering why you are reaching out to them at all, and they may even be truly annoyed that you wasted their time with spam. In each case, you’ve all but lost your prospect before you’ve begun.
Prioritize Customer Research
It may seem like a no-brainer, but you need to do some work figuring out who your prospect is before shooting off an email. Once again, a cursory look at their homepage probably won’t be enough. You want is to exceed their expectations, not barely meet them—so you need to dig deeper. Customer intelligence analytics allow you to not only see what your customer has been doing, but what’s going on in their marketplace.
How to Use Sales Insights to Write Messages
Generally, prospects are more likely to respond when a message is relevant to their interests. This means it’s best to contact someone who has been looking around your site. You should not only mention their presence on your page, but exactly what they looked at. However, intelligence gives you the details that can make a cold email work. For instance, it enables you to see trigger events that create new product needs. According to HubSpot, events like this can be an excellent way to open an email.
Now that you have a better idea of their industry, and what it takes to excel in this environment, you will have a much easier time getting into the client’s perspective and understanding what will compel them to respond to your email. Keep things simple. James suggests that you give examples, not just of businesses you’ve worked with, but what you’ve done for them. Even better, align this small pitch to their specific market niche.
Another tip HubSpot offers is that with the first email, you’re really looking for a response, not a sale. Try to establish yourself as a trustworthy source who cares about the outcome of their company rather than going after the pitch right away.
When you take the time to understand your customers, you can write messages that they really respond to.
Humans respond to narratives, and we are more likely to retain information when it comes packaged in a story; so, storytelling is one of the greatest tools in the sales and marketing toolbox to engage your customers.
In a video from Marketo called “Lead Generation Tips from 6 Really Really Smart Human Beings,” Lee Odden, founder of TopRank Online Marketing said, “Facts tell. Stories sell.” This is the kind of catchphrase you should write down on a post-it-note and stick on your computer monitor—it’s that important. You can use statistics about your product as a selling point, but your prospect’s eyes may glaze over. However, tie these numbers up in a compelling tale about how your product completely turned a business around in its time of need, and you are much more likely to grab their full attention. Numbers make people nod, but stories make them care—and people are more likely to invest in something they care about.
Do Background Research
In the same video from Marketo, Nick Westergaard, chief brand strategist and founder of Driven Digital, said, “Questions are currency.” In other words, what marketers really need to do is identify what their potential client’s questions are and provide an answer before the prospect even thinks to ask. But how do you do that? You do a whole lot of customer research: determine what’s going on in their markets and use big data analytics to get a sense of their industry climate. When you know your audience, you’ll understand what kinds of stories make them tick.
Where Do You Tell Your Stories?
If you haven’t noticed, narratives are pervasive in our culture. That’s because they work well, no matter what medium you use to tell them, be it podcast, text or video. Using them in sales pitches can be extremely effective too. When it comes to digital marketing, video is a pretty safe bet. Internet video is a huge part of marketing and unlikely to go away anytime soon. When it comes to sending a succinct, effective message, video is a medium unlike any other. Make a video to use on a landing page or share on social media.
How Do You Tell Your Stories?
Once you choose a vehicle for your brand story, it’s all about creating a narrative that will sell. The important thing is that it contains all the right elements to engage with the audience. According to Forbes, it’s important to create characters that your clients will root for. After all, a story without a protagonist isn’t much of a story at all. Make sure it’s someone with issues that will resonate with your audience. Remember in grade school when you learned that a story has a beginning, middle and an end? That’s still true. Don’t forget to craft a story arc. In the beginning, present a stable situation, which then gets upset by the introduction of a problem that your product will solve for them.
When we talk about stories in marketing, we’re not talking about fiction. Your stories should be rooted in real encounters. This may sound less interesting than writing the great American novel, but using real events actually makes the whole process easier. You probably have an entire file full of client success stories. Think about one of these sales from the company’s perspective. Rather than just being a percentage point in a sales record, this situation is a story waiting to be told.
Whether you are making a pitch, creating a video or e-book, basing your marketing and sales efforts in stories is the way to go.
When it comes to landing a sale, there’s just one concept that sales reps need to know. Make it easy for your prospects to say yes. Henry David Thoreau got it right when he famously wrote these three words: “simplify, simplify, simplify.” Although that’s technically only one word, and if Thoreau was really following his own advice, he wouldn’t have repeated it three times.
According to Executive Board, making the decision process easier for customers makes them far more likely to buy. Brands that simplified the undertaking were 86 percent more likely to close a deal, and more than 100 percent more likely to be recommended. All because these brands removed any elements that distracted clients from their main goal: determining if the product would solve their problem. How is This Achieved?
Essentially, being a resource for this information reduces the amount of thinking your potential customer is forced to do. It makes it easy for them to say yes. And, of course, you’re doing this through completely honest means, and not trying to dupe them into buying your product when it is not, in fact, the best choice for them.
Use these tips to make the sales process more straightforward and increase sales:
If you’re truly making the sales funnel easier to navigate, you are going to have to do a lot of research on behalf of your potential customers. Research customer markets using sales intelligence software and get a better idea of what’s going on in their industries. Use this information to empathize with your customers. Why are they seeking your services? What problem are you going to help them solve?
As Michael Boyette puts it on Salesforce Blog, simplifying things for your prospects does not mean being condescending. Buyers are usually very smart people, and highly intelligent individuals tend to get bogged down in details, which can be overwhelming. One way to reduce the noise for potential customers to get rid of jargony language. Don’t speak with it and don’t include it on any materials. This may be a good exercise for salespeople, as well. How many words does your sales pitch take? Are all of these words truly necessary to get your point across? Do any of them have more than four syllables? Try to use layman’s terms that are comprehensible across different fields.
Streamline Your Online Materials
Prevent sensory overload by having an easily navigable website with an obvious call to action. According to Ellie Mirman on Hubspot, this could mean actually getting rid of a few calls to action. They don’t need to jump out on every page. With your website, you should provide a clear pathway to the information users need. Once again, a little customer research goes a long way here. Use customer intelligence analytics to understand your customer. Rather than telling your potential buyers what you want them to know, try reversing the equation. If you were a decision-maker seeking your services, what information would you be looking for. Reorganize the website based on this perspective and you will have made the research process easier for prospective customers as well.
Be an Open Book
Pricing information shouldn’t be a secret. This is a key piece of information for people looking to buy a product. As has already been noted, you’re dealing with smart people here. If they can’t find the answer to this question, they will probably assume the number isn’t obvious because it’s unattractive.
Unclutter the sales journey, and you may be pleasantly surprised by the results