Do you believe in miracles?

Does your sales team rely on skill or hope to transform high quality leads into opportunity? If the honest answer is “hope” then you are not alone. Many sales teams continue to approach the sales qualification process as something that just happens… or doesn’t. But, as you may have guessed, there is a better, much more scientific way of ensuring success than relying on miracles to happen in the qualification process.

Last week CSO Insights released the results of their 20th annual Sales Performance Optimization (SPO) Study, which surveyed more than 1,200 firms worldwide regarding the top objectives for 2014 as well as some of the significant challenges their sales teams face today.  One of the fundamental findings of this research was that while revenue goals are being raised in companies worldwide, sales teams are experiencing a decrease in quota attainment. See “4 key insights from new CSO Insights sales performance study.” As you might have guessed, these missed sales expectations in part can be attributed to poor qualification processes.

More specifically, CSO Insights research (Sales Performance Optimization – Find More Analysis) found that many sales leaders are not able to articulate the best practice processes of their top sales reps (beyond good luck or a miracle). In fact, in a recent CSO Insights training session, with a group of sales and marketing leaders in the room, the facilitator asked the group to explain how leads become opportunities, and after a period of silence, one of the attendees shouted: “A miracle occurs!”

Miracles Occur

While the group all had a laugh at the time, visibility into the sales steps that turn a lead into an opportunity is a real problem at many sales organizations. In fact, it’s not uncommon for sales leaders to leave lead follow-up approach to the discretion of the individual sales rep, with little consistency in process applied across the organization.

Of course we may believe in miracles, however, a “miracle strategy” is a hard to sell to upper management or the board.

The good news, however, is that your top sales reps may hold the key to what the rest of the sales team should be doing. Learning from your best sales reps is a great way to train your “average” employees to attain better revenue results and move the middle.

Miracles 2

Best practices also exist for lead response and follow-up – approaches that are proven to convert leads to opportunities at much higher than average rates.

To institute best practices across your sales organization (sans the miracle strategy).  Here are a few tips:

  1. Document your sales process – The road to predictable revenue starts by understanding the lead to opportunity journey, observing and documenting the behaviors of your best sales reps. How many call attempts do they make and when, how many emails do they send, how do they determine which lead to work first? What are industry best practices? Once you have a clear understanding of best practice processes, standardize that process across the sales organization to optimize all opportunities.
  2. Optimize your resources – Many top sales teams today are becoming more specialized to ensure buyers at particular stages or interested in specific products are being worked by the most appropriate sales representatives. Consider building out more specialization across your sales team – common ways teams are specialized is by stage of the sales process; product/service types, and geography or industry.
  3. Remove inefficiencies – it is also critical to drive selling discipline within each stage of the sales cycle. This means removing inefficiencies that often exist, including time spent on trying to figure out which lead to call next.
  4. Analyze the data and take action – I heard a story the other day from a sales VP, who, in analyzing the performance of a group of 20 reps decided to conduct an experiment. He found consistent contact rate across the board but drastic inconsistency in qualification rate. He dug into the data, listened in on call recordings and determined the script the two top sales reps were using was the difference. What was his course of action? Divide his sales team into two groups for an impromptu training (led by his top reps) on talk track techniques that turn more contacted leads into a qualified leads.

Yesterday, Jim Dickie of CSO Insights revealed more findings from the new CSO Insights Sales Optimization study. If you’re interested in more insights on how to optimize sales process, increase your conversion rate and drive predictable revenue you can download the webinar here.

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