Everyone wants to increase their sales, right? Right.
Then why do most firms and sales teams spend so much time and money sourcing rather than actually selling their product or service?
More often than not, the ‘intelligence’ they’re gathering only serves as a distraction from the main goal. They end up knowing more about their prospects than they do about their own sales numbers.
Sound familiar? If so, it’s time to get back to the basics. I’m going break down this phenomenon and show you a better way of organizing your sales team so that you can experience a boost in your bottom line this year.
Intelligence is important… but it’s NOT the goal.
Intel, you have to have it. Artificial intelligence (AI), for instance, can help you to dramatically optimize the sales process.
Using AI and machine learning, you can gather information about your target company, its products, competitors, market challenges, and maybe some history.
Then you’ve got sales tools like ZoomInfo or SalesForce that put a whole world of intelligence at your fingertips.
Now, it’s tempting to sit around all day pretending you’re a sales investigator, digging up clues, just waiting for the next big break so that you can crack the case and make the sale.
I see it all the time. Prior to the sales meeting, the eager inside sales guy thinks he has to know everything to speak the language of his prospect.
He spends countless hours investigating where his prospect went to school, where he likes to vacation, what are his pain points, why this and why that… and on and on.
There’s a seemingly infinite amount information and data out there, and every data point leads to another. And so it’s all-too-easy to jump from one fact or metric to another related one, and before you know it you’re lost in a labyrinth of mostly useless information.
The truth is, you do not need MOST of the intel you think you need to convert one meeting into the next, and finally close the deal. You just don’t.
So the question remains: how much information do you really need to increase your sales numbers?
How much is too much?
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re selling software — like an ERP system for planning and managing day to day operations and resources.
You’re a software sales executive and you’re going to have a meeting with a COO. The target company is in the consumer products industry, and they have thousands of SKUs. So, you read up on them and latch on to one specific need of theirs: they want to reduce their accessory SKUs. You researched it, you studied it, and you filed it away as your ‘secret weapon’.
You know that your software can help your prospect with his SKU problem, and so you completely change your pitch to highlight this. You prepare a stellar presentation all about how your software can help him forecast inventory, reduce the shelf life of products, and provide data to help them reduce SKUs that don’t sell well.
Your mind switched from the overarching reason for the sales call to delivering a specific result for that one problem you ‘discovered’, and now you’re going to bamboozle them with your knowledge, solve all of their problems, and make the sale. Right?
The moment you enter his office and mention the word ‘SKU’, Mr. prospect kindly lets you know that this was a problem NINE months ago, and it’s already been solved. You fumble for tidbits of other ‘intel’ you’ve dredged up on the company, but it’s too late. You lost the sale. And you lost face. Ouch.
I’ve also seen sales guys stalk the social accounts of their prospects. You know, to find out his likes and dislikes, hobbies, etc.
But seriously, how relevant is it to say to a C-Level exec: “Hey I saw you were skiing in Vermont and stayed at Incline Lodge… how was it?” They’re going to look at you funny and think you’re being pretty intrusive. (And anyway, that took you 22 minutes to research! In that time you should’ve been on calls and setting appointments.)
Don’t worry, there’s a solution…
The solution is simple. Stop allowing your sales execs to go down these rabbit holes of gathering intel. You want them to walk into sales meetings able to speak with value, ask the right questions, listen, and show… not tell and sell.
So when you ask your sales team about a certain prospect, and they go on talking your head off about peripheral ‘intel’, tell him or her that’s NOT what’s most important.
What is most important is getting decision makers on the phone and converting them from prospects to qualified sales opportunities. So ask your team. Did you accomplish this today? If so, how many? THAT’S your barometer for success.
Inside and outside sales teams, take note…
You want to understand at a high level the industry, the executives, and what their responsibilities are. Then think what your product or service can do for them. What is the value you bring? Do not get stuck in the weeds. You simply need to articulate the value, show them you understand their industry, and demonstrate to them how you can help their company and/or their stock performance to grow.
And same goes for the outside sales team. You want to come across that you’ve done your research… but you cannot show up like you know exactly what the prospect needs, or how, why, and when they need it.
Instead, you want to become a ‘trusted adviser.’ And let them know you can and will become a positive force for them.
Discover and Design
You are to approach the sales meeting first to discover, and only then to design. The ‘discover’ stage can only happen in real-time, by asking insightful questions. Look, you already know your product/service and its capabilities, so your questions should elicit responses to help you pinpoint exactly where you can stand in the gap and deliver serious value.
For example, say you’re meeting with a startup company that makes widgets. The founders have sold 100,000 widgets and have just hired an SDR and two salespeople to ramp up and scale.
You ask them how they track sales data, and they tell you it has just been done on a spreadsheet. You know that your software can track sales by day and company, and also tell them which channels their sales came in (social media, link from a newsletter, cold call etc.), all while breaking it down by geography, date, etc. Now you’ve got another hot selling point.
Next, you might ask them how they organize the information about each of their clients across different departments. They might tell you each client has its own folder or folders (primitive, I know, but some businesses still use this method). Or, they might have it on a combination of electronic documents. Boom! Your product/service can solve this problem, too.
And you continue down this Q&A path, with each question serving as an opportunity to gain insight into their needs, but also to build a case for your solution.
And then you simply design a course of action, and communicate how your product or service has helped executives just like them.
Last thing. Don’t expect to prepare the ‘perfect’ sales pitch. There is no such thing. There are too many variables that come into play, many of which you have no control over.
Remember… less is often more.
Keep in mind Pareto’s Principle, which basically states that the top 20 percent of your efforts yields 80 percent of your results. So, if you pick the wrong 20 percent of activity to concentrate on, your productivity and sales will suffer greatly.
So, ask yourself, where are you and your sales team spending your valuable time?
At our company, we have a Business Identification Role. This position is part of a team of researchers and analysis professionals who prepare (important!) information for our salespeople and sales executives. This is the smart way to handle sourcing.
These professionals are experts at gathering and analyzing data, compiling it, and presenting in a way that is useful to our sales force. It frees up our sales team members to do what they do best – close more deals.
Maybe consider hiring a Business Identifier to help your team by weeding through all the information and data and getting it to you in a format you can easily digest, organize, and then make the call.
Until next time…