Sales is always a difficult job. New technology and approaches solve old problems, but competition and unfortunate surprises always exist. Sales intelligence advice loves to cast sales reps as machines you can plug and play with your sales system. If you have 10 reps you should get 100 closed deals.
But, while sales will always be a numbers game, it’s not one you can brute force. Sales reps and customers are real people with unique approaches and concerns. The better your sales team is equipped, trained, and supported, the better your results will be. True sales intelligence depends on learning and adapting constantly.
The approach that worked five years ago doesn’t work now. Even the techniques from last year can be less effective as they become widespread and customers become immune. To help you finish the year strong and hit your quota at the end of the year, we’ll review the latest Dos and Don’ts for sales.
To keep you on your toes, we’ll start with the Don’ts.
1. Don’t Take a Top-Down Approach to Goals
Leadership likes to dream big. Part of their role is to push everyone past their limits. However, constantly setting unrealistic goals and quotas destroys team morale and leads to constant employee turnover.
Taking your million-dollar goal and working backward to decide how much work each sales rep should be doing doesn’t consider the realities of what your team is encountering. Everything from sales rep personality to the season impacts your success. If each rep only closes 10 deals a quarter currently, telling them they need to hit 15 isn’t going to help them succeed. Everyone will end up frustrated and disappointed.
2. Don’t Go Too Broad with Prospects
Ideally, you have a nearly unlimited number of companies you can sell to. Even if you target a single industry, you likely have thousands of prospects to consider. But, if you’re going after people simply because they could use your product instead of focusing on who resonates with you best, you’ll waste a lot of time.
By going too broad, your messaging ends up vague, and you don’t feel personalized to anyone. The benefit of sales intelligence is tailoring your message to someone’s unique needs. If you try to hit everyone at once, you’ll end up missing most of your opportunities instead.
3. Don’t Talk to Only One Decision-Maker
You get someone on the phone. They attend a demo. Everything seems like it’s going well, and you only need to push towards getting the deal signed. But, the prospect goes dark, a month passes, and when you check back in, they say they’re no longer interested.
You might have missed talking to everyone else in the decision-making process. In B2B, there’s rarely one person buying. Make sure you’re including everyone involved with the sales process. Your job isn’t done until you’ve gotten everyone bought in. Winning everyone over is more challenging, but it’s what closes the deal.
4. Don’t Expect Standard Messaging and Channels to Stand Out
Everyone in sales intelligence has their favorite email subject line that’s worked well for them in the past. But guess what? Everyone else has likely learned the same line by now.
The same goes for sales channels. Ads, social media, and inboxes have all become oversaturated with sales messaging. Email and phone calls still get the job done, but you can’t rely on the same approach. Constantly be experimenting and testing how you can stand out. Don’t accept your low response rate as unavoidable. Keep trying.
5. Don’t Assume Customers Will Stick Around
Your team can’t assume a customer is all set once they sign. If customers stop receiving attention and help as soon as they’ve paid, they won’t stick around for long. Similarly, your competition is working hard to win them over. Without a plan in place, you can’t count on customers sticking around as long as you would like.
Customer retention is a more significant concern than ever. If your revenue forecast expects most of them to still be there, then there has to be a plan in place to keep them. Keeping a customer is easier than winning a new one, but it still takes investment and work from sales.
Okay, What Should You Be Doing?
So, we’ve covered the bad news: sales is difficult and constantly takes hard work. Assuming things will work out or that you can stick in the old groove doesn’t get results.
The good news? You don’t have to treat sales like a slot machine, either. Guarantees are impossible, but with recommended approaches, you can set yourself on the best track possible
1. Realize Bad Data Should Be Minimal
Getting rid of our assumptions has upsides as well. If you’ve been in sales for a while, you’ve likely accepted that a certain percentage of data you’re given is wrong, and you’ll either have to correct it or move on. Either way, your time is wasted.
But you shouldn’t have to accept constantly working through data errors. By including a data provider in your sales intelligence stack, you should see approximately 95% data accuracy. If your data is noticeably less accurate than 95%, consider using or switching data providers. Expecting the sales team to work with inaccurate data is immediately making life harder than it has to be.
2. Learn ABX (Account-Based Experience) Style Sales
You’re likely familiar with ABM (account-based marketing). The ABX approach applies the same methodology to sales. Instead of prioritizing leads based on how much they are interacting with your brand and are engaged, you should prioritize based on how likely they are to be a successful, long-term customer.
Hopefully, your marketing team already has an ICP (ideal client profile). Sales should be working off the same profile. Your ICP describes the customers most likely to close and stick with your company based on company firmographics and technographics. With ABX, sales should always ask if a customer looks like an ideal fit before engaging with them.
ABX also includes paying close attention to each account. Talk to all the decision-makers. Set up check-ins once they’re customers. Think personal and long-term.
3. Segment Your Prospects by Priority
Your ICP prospect pool can easily be in the 100,000s depending on your industry. The next step is layering engagement data to prioritize outreach. Put prospects into top, middle, and low-priority buckets. You can think of them as being like a stoplight: green, yellow, red.
Your green prospects should fit your ICP closely and be engaged. They should always jump to the top of your sales list. Yellow prospects might not fit your ICP as well or be less engaged, but still valuable once all the green prospects have been approached. Red/low-priority prospects might not fit your ICP but still have some engagement. These are leads you should only spend time on if all your green and yellow prospects have already been handled.
Ideally, you’ll want to figure out a self-service method for red-segment prospects. Your sales team should be fed constantly with green and yellow as much as possible.
4. Integrate Intent Data into Segmentation
If you’re scoring leads based on engagement, congratulations! You’re already using one form of intent data. The trick is to use as many forms of intent data as possible to help your priority segmentation.
For example, SalesIntel offers multiple intent data sources that help track company behavior across the internet to tell how interested the company is in a topic and how likely they are to be shopping around. We also offer VisitorIntel which tells how frequently multiple people from a company are visiting your website.
Combining SalesIntel PredictiveIntent, Bombora data, News Data, VisitorIntel, and your data on engagement creates a more sophisticated segmentation system. Does someone show intent in all three areas? Then they’re red hot. Only showing intent in one area? Maybe the need more nurture before they’re ready to talk to sales.
5. Focus on Net Revenue Retention (NRR)
Remember how you can’t assume customers will stick around? A key method of addressing customer churn is making Net Revenue Retention (NRR) your guiding metric for sales. Switching how you handle your sales intelligence and approach for long-term revenue instead of immediate revenue or number deals makes your revenue more predictable.
Your ICP and best companies to target should fit the profile of your longest and best customers. Sales should be rewarded for winning three customers that stick around for years over winning eight customers that churn after the first year. Long-term company success depends on loyal customers, so sales should be focused and motivated to find them over others.
Finish the Year Strong!
As you wrap up the year, don’t take things easy. Push yourself. Be smart and rethink your approach to find the prospects that are most likely to close and most likely to be long-term customers.
Realizing that sales is a personal and long-term game is the necessary mindset for success. Best of luck!