These days, companies that sell software to businesses are in a tough spot. Marketers focus on the bottom of the funnel and send non-targeted communications to an ever-growing number of prospects, regardless of qualification (waste of money). Salespeople focus on the top of the funnel and painstakingly research businesses across disparate sources (waste of time).
These inefficiencies result in lower revenue, increased time spend, and, ultimately, decreased profit. Despite this, knowing that businesses are increasingly adopting technology, software companies are hiring armies of salespeople and increasing marketing budgets to capitalize on this.
So what’s the solution? The following sales best practices, inspired by Aaron Ross’ Predictable Revenue, can help companies close more sales in less time. Ross’s framework helped Salesforce.com, one of the most successful startups in history, increase recurring revenues by $100 million.
1. The biggest bottleneck in selling to companies that have more than a few executives isn’t getting to the decision maker, it’s finding them in the first place!
With no shortage of sales, marketing, and business-related roles — inside sales, outside sales, online marketing, email marketing, account executive, CRM/Salesforce administrator, lead generation, and analyst, to name a few — teams are specializing more than ever. This, coupled with the fact that teams are increasingly collaborating across roles to make “group” decisions, yields a gauntlet of potential decision-makers for sales reps to navigate.
2. Email C-level executives with non-salesy, plain-text emails that simply ask for a referral to the right person for a first conversation.
The referral process can yield an astounding 9%+ response rate. Being referred to a contact, be it professional or personal (e.g. dating), is one of the best ways to maximize the likelihood of an interaction. When you ask a more senior contact for an intro, you simultaneously give them the opportunity to “vet” you and potentially help their organization solve a major pain point, which reflects highly on them. It’s no surprise that response rates for referral emails are several times greater than those of normal emails. Never make a cold call again. Use the referral process to get to decision makers.
3. Avoid sending long sales emails that no one reads.
Send emails that are short (readable on a Blackberry) and to the point — what are you looking for? The average recipient spends ~15 seconds scanning an email as they skip around looking for key takeaways. Roughly half of all emails are opened on mobile phones. Furthermore, the vast majority of readers simply delete emails that are non-mobile friendly. Attention spans are shorter now than ever so get to the point using plain text and do it quick.
4. Remove unqualified opportunities from the pipeline early.
Resist the temptation to throw in lists of random prospects just because you have them. There’s a significant, sometimes non-obvious, opportunity cost to marketing to poor-fit prospects. There’s nothing more wasteful than a sales rep chasing what he thinks is a warm lead only to discover that the lead is anything but. Each entry in your CRM must pass the stringent guidelines you previously set for your ideal lead. Don’t relax those guidelines without careful consideration and rationale. Remember, quality not quantity.
5. Run outbound email campaigns with “targeted” mass emails.
Send small, personalized batch (50-100) emails vs. big bursts of mass emails. The idea is to make the recipient feel like you sent an email to him and him only. Small, batch emails allow you to customize the subject, body, and ask, based on prior actions the recipient took, the industry, successful templates/outcomes from other email campaigns, etc. Batch emails also allow you to generate the right number of responses (5-10 per day) so as not to over or underwhelm reps. Reps can’t handle more than that without dropping the ball.
Mo Yehia is co-founder of Sidewalk, a tool that helps marketers and salespeople close more sales to SMBs through targeting and automation. He’s lesser known for stints at Sparkle Buggy Car Wash and Lehman Brothers. He’s a self-proclaimed banker-turned-human.