At North Star, we have one vision – to Redefine Marketing. We are focused on making marketing work for sales; to help each individual sales person meet or exceed their quotas. One of the ways we do that is by being in constant communication with sales folks. Our most recent conversations happened at the beginning of June with a group of innovative sales leaders across Rhode Island. We invited everyone to a local brew pub, called Brutopia, via an invitation with an empty beer growler and enticed them to come get it filled to share what they are seeing, challenges in sales today and what is working for them. This blog is a recap of those great conversations.
- Information and communication flow – It is important to sales that they have some say in what is communicated to their prospects and especially their clients. They are closest to the customer and appreciate when marketing invites them into discussions of what will be shared and when it will be shared with their contacts.
- Managing the database – This was one of the hot buttons of the night. There is an understanding by sales of the need for clean data and a strong resistance to the amount of time they are expected to put into keeping the CRM updated, taking them away from selling.
- Building trust and respect – Sales people get grouped together, and felt they can be classified as “pushy” when many are actually working hard to be partners that bring value to prospects or clients as they have complex decisions to make. The challenge is there are not enough hours in the day and being a partner takes time. So, when they have this partner mindset, prospecting for new conversations can suffer due to lack of time in the day.
- Getting prospects to make a buying decision – This was an interesting conversation that really spoke to the challenges of complex sales when they require a culture shift at a company. The company can know that what you are selling is what they need but they dread what, to them, feels like an uphill battle to get the prospect through the necessary changes.
- Prioritizing opportunities – Sales wishes they had a way to know who they should prioritize to call on a given day as opposed to just starting at the top of their cold calling list.
- Lists – Speaking of lists, this was a big conversation where everyone admitted this is a key challenge. The dialogue covered whether to buy or not buy a list? Who are good list vendors? Why sales people don’t put their best leads in the database and therefore, never get those leads on marketing’s lists. Lists are key to any successful campaign and the best lists are built organically, but that takes dedicated time and effort on a consistent basis.
- Follow-up when not ready to buy – This challenge was shared by many. If sales detects someone is not ready to buy they move on to the next lead. However, they have antiquated ways at best [their description] to remember to reach out to that prospect again. We talked about how 80% of these “not ready folks” go on to buy in the next 18-24 months. And they only buy from those that stay top-of-mind and that take time—time the sales reps said they don’t have.
- Limited number of sales folks to handle all the selling – The premise here was companies keep reducing the size of sales teams or maintaining and yet, they keep increasing the revenue goals for the teams. Sales leaders are constantly looking for ways to help their sales teams be more efficient.
- Get non-selling people to sell – In many organizations there are people expected to sell but they are either not wired that way, causing them huge discomfort, or have too many other things to do to see this as a priority. People were looking for ways to make selling easier for these non-selling types.
- Bad sales people – How to raise the game of sales reps that are not strong hunters. Often there is time and money invested in sales learning the product and services of the complex sale, but they are not strong at hunting and closing deals. How to best drive this performance is a challenge.
Sales Best Practices
- Become a valued partner – People are seeking trusted partners to help them make decisions about the best solutions for their company. One way to do this is to truly seek to first understand the prospect’s situation and needs. Another way is to be relationship focused – because people buy from people they like and trust and this starts with a focus on providing value, not just selling products. And along that line it was shared that a key differentiator for sales is when there is a focus on delivering great service long after the sale.
- Consistency with Follow Up – Many times when a sales person sizes up that there is no opportunity NOW, they are less than consistent in their follow-up. Since 80% of people who say “sounds good, maybe later” go on to buy in the next 18-24 months, this can be a costly decision.
- Prospect Fanatically – Prospecting is a sport that requires a lot of time and effort. You can’t expect to win without putting in the time to succeed. The challenge is the number of things that are on a sales person’s plate other than prospecting. The statistics show between 40-70% of sales’ time is spent on non-selling activities. So, it requires carving out dedicated time daily to prospect or it will never get done.
- Establish yourself as a thought leader – This ties a bit into #1. People will see you as a valued partner if they see you as an expert in your field. While it takes time, positioning yourself as a thought leader through blogs, social media posts and speaking events can have huge dividends.
Are There Answers?
The night continued with discussions around how do you address some of the challenges so many sales leaders are facing. We were able to share how North Star has a proprietary process called Sales Amplification and, even better, one of our clients in the healthcare solutions space who uses Sales Amplification to support 33 of her sales reps was there to share her deep understanding of the challenges and how Sales Amp is making many of those challenges go away.
It was a great night! We’d love to hear your thoughts on the above challenges. No time to comment but want to hear more about the night’s key takeaways? Let’s get a time on the books to connect.