How to Meet Sales Needs with Evolving Technology

Posted in Social Media, Toolkit on May 26th, 2016

The strategic implementation of technology into your sales team can be both necessary and maddening. On one hand, recent technological advances leverage sales efforts, minimize daily tasks and decrease the sales cycle. On the other hand, weeding through the endless stream of “next big things” to find the tools that truly meet your salespeople’s needs and help move your company forward is a heavy burden to bear.

Challenges come from all types of decisions regarding technology, such as:

  • Data dilemmas diminished. Technologically advanced third-party providers handle data more efficiently than the on-site servers of old. There are fewer calamities, crashes, and data losses for example, than in the past. This results in more productive operations and more robust sales information at a fraction of the cost. But, which ones to choose?
  • Mandatory mobile movement. Offering mobile tools is no longer a “should” or “might” initiative, it’s a requirement for modern business. Companies that fail to invest in mobile technology will languish several pages deep on search engine returns, and frustrated prospects will abandon ship with a simple tap of their smartphone. Optimizing your website and business for mobile and employing mobile sales apps are crucial steps to staying competitive and relevant, plus, top sales teams use mobile to close more deals. How can you accomplish this?
  • Big data beef. This is a major sticking point. According to Hubspot’s Sales Professional Survey Report, 53% of sales professionals ranked “bad processes” as their top challenge. Smart decision makers understand that gathering potential clients’ information and buying habits increase their company’s reach and forge greater brand awareness. However, big data can take a lot of resources to organize, edit, and analyze. How can you benefit from big data without a drain on man hours?

Technologically advanced tools level the playing field between established and blossoming, and corporate conglomerate and modest boutique, but only if the leaders make the best decisions. Before you fork over a hefty slice of your budget for a technology investment, build a plan of action that helps minimize wasted resources and maximizes your ability to meet sales’ needs with the best evolving technology.

Take stock of current tools.

Before you embark on a buying adventure, inventory the sales software you already possess. Do your present technology solutions offer upgrades or integration? Would those suit your needs and be cheaper than brand new ones? If you are already planning on purchasing new tools, will your current processes be able to implement them with little effort? Establish your technology baseline by answering these questions.

Examine your business goals and growth agenda.

By outlining your company’s short and long-term direction, you can pinpoint your technological needs faster. Talk to business colleagues, research your competitors and create a list of new technologies that would make your sales team more agile and higher functioning.

Allow proper vetting.

Don’t jump on the newest software or the snazziest app the first time you hear of it. Conduct research about the processes, read reviews of current clients and how they use it and discuss the potential new technology with your sales team. Use their expertise to measure and weigh your decision. Putting the right technology in place at the right time takes more than a cursory glance every six months. Stay educated on new advancements by reading journals and technology blogs. Investing time helps to ensure smart, timely decisions and positive results.

Consider a shift in job titles.

Salespeople are no longer just knocking on doors and writing up orders. They are looking at lead conversions, social media connections, and mobile selling tools. Is it time to create an evolved position that rides the fence between sales and marketing and technology? Will such an employee be a valued asset in streamlining emerging technical trends with traditional ways of conducting business? Seriously contemplate when and if such an addition is necessary to get the most out of your technological investments.

Be prepared to pay.

It’s a bit daunting to see the price tag on some of the newest tools and is stressful for decision makers to pull the trigger on such a large outlay of cash. Identifying a solution that will energize your sales team, and be instrumental in bringing on a greater number of clients in a shorter amount of time, will make the return on invest (ROI) worth it.

Take measures to be ready for when, not if, you need to invest in advanced technology. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to raise the capital for your investment, from spending cuts to small business loans to credit cards. While none of these options are painless, it’s imperative to secure funds to keep processes functioning and on par with your competitors.

Analyzing, choosing, and implementing evolving technology is a big job, and takes a commitment. It is, however, an important part of a modern company’s strategy and cannot be ignored without falling behind your competitors and losing business. By maintaining a keen understanding of your current tools, investing time in research and education, and securing the financial means to invest in technology that helps your sales team meet their goals faster, you will stay ahead of the curve and keep your company thriving.

Are you thinking about investing in evolving technology in the near future? What tools do you favor, and how they will assist you in your goals?

Matt-Greener_App-Data-Room

Matt Greener is a marketing, digital and SEO leader. He currently heads marketing at App Data Room, a mobile sales enablement platform.

4 Things the Best Salespeople (in the Digital Age) Do Immediately Following a Sale

Posted in Toolkit on May 23rd, 2016

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4 Things the Best Salespeople (in the Digital Age) Do Immediately Following a Sale

Via Salesforce

Stop Copying Templates: How to Create a Unique Cold Email in 6 Steps

Posted in Getting organized on May 16th, 2016

Have you ever wondered how many of your sent emails were deleted before the reader reached the second line?

It seems like nowadays we can almost smell a sales pitch right after it’s sent. That’s because there are patterns, or even whole templates copied so many times that we don’t even bother to read them. We see the subject line and think: “OK, yet another sales pitch…”

If you want to see more replies, try to come up with unique content that draws prospects into your message and makes them want to respond. It is a difficult task but you can organize the process into six steps to make it easier.

Step 1: Craft a ‘perfect key’ subject line

Subject lines are like keys. If it’s not cut for the right door, it won’t open. Many cold email subject lines sound like newsletter titles or commercials, and thus feel generic. They are irrelevant to the personal message that a cold email is supposed to accomplish.

Take for instance:

  • “iOS & Android Application Development Proposal”
  • “Professional Business Marketing Video”

These sound like they were sent to thousands of people at the same time.

Compare the two above with these:

  • “Mobile version of <company> web app”
  • “Your post on <topic> & a question”

I would open an email with a subject line like this because it promises that the message is going to be about me and my company. It’s a personal touch and it works.

When crafting your subject line, make it personal, relevant and valuable.

Step 2: Draw them in with the intro

Start with a reference to their work and draw them with relevant context to your value proposition. Make your prospect the main character in the story. Next, find a link between your product or service and their business needs.

Step 3: Write a value proposition that actually shows value

This can be tricky as it’s very difficult to avoid sounding like a sales pitch. “At ABC, we do <this and that> and I thought…” And that’s usually the moment we think: ‘aha! this is a sales pitch!’ Don’t get me wrong, we all need a value proposition in our cold email. The trick is to make the recipient actually see the value in it.

To make sure this happens, keep in mind the following 3 rules:

# 1. Write about actual benefits that you bring the recipient.

# 2. Choose one most relevant benefit and craft the whole value proposition around it.

# 3. Show them how exactly it helped other companies so far.

Step 4: Don’t ask for too much in the Call To Action (CTA)

CTA triggers the prospect’s action after they have read your email. Make sure yours is clear and to the point – it should specify the exact next step to be taken.

The most common CTAs usually ask for a call or a meeting, but take time to get to know your prospect first. A prospect-focused question is a good first step.

Seek to start a relationship and to learn as much as you can about your prospect. The better you know their business needs, the better you’ll be able to help them. If they feel you’re helping, they’ll be more eager to buy from you.

Step 5: Plan a valuable follow-up sequence

You likely know and have received the “touching base” and “just checking in” follow-up email. As Jill Konrath rightly points out, such follow-ups are the easiest way to make yourself look selfish.

A follow-up email should show your prospect that you care about helping them and not just selling to them. Use this as an opportunity to showcase the value you bring. Here are some examples:

  • a link to a case study of your successful customers, which will allow the prospect to relate to your offer.
  • a post, article or event that will exemplify how the type of solution you’re offering may be useful for their type of business.
  • an example referring to another painpoint than the one you’ve already addressed, which may resonate better with their needs.

Try to keep the follow-up as valuable as the opening email, but shorter. It is possible, it just requires considerable effort to achieve – which your prospects will appreciate.

Step 6: Keep learning, testing & improving

I’m not telling you to burn all cold email templates and resources including sales emailing tips. On the contrary: get all the templates you can! Analyze them – look for patterns and practices that may work in your outreach.

I was collecting templates and analyzing them to understand the mechanisms that rule cold emails. Then, I put the results of my research in an ebook, for others who look for inspiration and want to learn.

Don’t copy the most effective templates. Analyze them, learn from them, and use the knowledge to craft your own emails. Then test and improve your copy on the basis of first-hand experience.

cathy_patalas_photo_square

Cathy Patalas is Marketing Manager at Woodpecker.co – SaaS helping B2B companies directly contact prospective clients via personalized sales emails & follow-ups sent automatically. Cathy writes about cold emailing and prospecting at blog.woodpecker.co and is author of the ebook 15 Cold Email Templates that Will Get You Leads.

 

How to Build Trust in the Initial Conversation

Posted in Art of conversation, Building Trust, Conversation, Skill, Story on May 3rd, 2016

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High-performing sales professionals and executives make conscious time to network and explore new leads. In business building trust quickly has several benefits. Not only does it make you memorable but also incredibly valuable. Recovering from a bad first meeting is hard to do but there are several easy ways to avoid fumbling and instead create a positive first impression.

What not to do

Don’t treat initial conversation like a round of speed dating. It’s a poor idea to spend your time ranting about your qualifications and accomplishments. There is a time and place for this and it’s best received coming from someone other than yourself. You don’t want to be remembered as the one who wouldn’t stop talking about him/ herself.

What you should do

Practice Active Listening.  Make eye contact and ask questions that have impact.

Arrive prepared. To ensure you’re ready for conversation, do some research about your subject before the meeting. This doesn’t need to exceed a few minutes and can help move conversation forward if there is a lull. Be ready with 2 or 3 key facts about them that are unique and interesting to you.

Be dependable. Think about someone you trust. Whether it’s your boss or your significant other, chances are you trust them because they’ve proved to be dependable.  Take this opportunity to showcase that you are a man/woman of your word. Confirm your meeting place, date and time the day before. Make good on your promise of deliverables following the meeting. If you promised materials after the meeting, provide them within 24 hours. (Sooner is better!)

Be funny! Humor is disarming and when used appropriately can increase overall comfort and make you memorable.

Be self-effacing in an authentic way. Authenticity is key! Admit your foibles. Many think this destroys credibility in a client relationship but in theory it has the opposite effect. Sharing concerns or mistakes you’ve made along your professional career is one of the quickest ways to build trust. It shows you’re authentic and not only showing your best face.

Send a handwritten thank you note.  Providing a thank you note after your meeting will help you to stay top of mind. Handwritten notes are the most impactful and offer yet one more touchpoint for building upon your client relationship.

Professional Sales Speaker Craig Wortmann

Written by Craig Wortmann. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Photo credit: Lotus Carroll via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

What to Ask Your Marketing Department For to Help You Close the Deal.

Posted in Closing, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Marketing vs Sales, Web design & strategy, Web presence on April 22nd, 2016

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Add Newby Andy Twomey

Recently You & Co Media had an interesting experience moving through the marketing and sales funnel of a business we really admire. The early experience from web through to email nurturing was seamless, enjoyable and engaging. Then when marketing passed over to sales, the entire brand experience shifted, and where the human element should have extended the experience, it damaged it.

The experience was a negative one and trust was lost in the visual and lingual communication of the brand. It was clear that three things should be accomplished for sales to have an effective transition and close deals.

  1. The customer shouldn’t notice a shift in the messaging from marketing to sales.
  2. The customer shouldn’t notice a shift in presentation from marketing to sales.
  3. The customer should feel continuity to build trust in the company/brand.

When so much of the consumer’s research is completed online, there is a language – both visual and written, that they identify and are interested in. When a prospect is ready to consider their options, it’s essential to continue the look and feel of your information. This maintains comfort and build trust in you as a sales rep in what is likely their first face-to-face interaction with the business.

Give your customers peace of mind, a great sales experience, and help to build trust not just in you, but in the business you represent. Ask marketing for assistance with these three sales collateral pieces to avoid confusion.

Designed case studies:

If the prospect has gone through a well thought out funnel and are ready to see proof, what better way than to show them a case study that explains what your customer wanted to achieve and the results you delivered. The information should definitely tell a story, as well as have the facts and figures clearly presented.

The first thing to ask for is a designed case study for each of your core personas – that tells a story, not just displays results. Having this sales collateral at the closing stage will ensure your lead is confident in your services and identifies their needs.

The better you know these success stories the better your conversations. By listening to the pain and needs of your prospects, you can offer a case study in line with their pain points through the eyes of someone who experienced the same frustrations to emphasis the points you’ve shared.

A slick proposal template:

Salespeople are known for having large personalities, which can also mean a penchant for being individual in their approach to their sales pitch. Though when it’s time for a proposal, your future customer needs to see a slick, company aligned presentation – not something that was created on a standard PowerPoint template. Designers have a way of working out how to structure visual information to enhance the experience of the audience. Ask marketing to sit down with you (and a designer if you can), and give a clear brief on your biggest objection points and try to present these challenges in a way that becomes less daunting for the prospect.

Customer reviews of your product or service:

Prove it!

This is V2.0 of your designed case studies. These don’t have to say “We doubled our business in 3 months!” they need to be genuine and duplicate the live reviews section of your Google+ and Facebook (or any other review places you are using) profiles for a genuine reminder that these services have been supported by other people in similar positions and they had a good experience.

So arrange a meeting ASAP. Get in sync with marketing. Find a place that supports your sales messaging style AND complements the marketing collateral that the prospect has become so used to.

BONUS TIP: Leverage current marketing for social selling.

For those social selling or maintaining an active online profile (clap clap). A great place to start with ensuring you’re on brand is to review the communication/style guide for any blog or social media efforts the business makes and align your core language markers with those. This is an easy way to build further continuity in brand messaging from attraction phase through to signing the deal.

When creating sales collateral that follows the good head start marketing has made, what’s demonstrated on the website or early collateral should be continued both in messaging and visual style. Considering your marketing as the preface to your sales messaging is essential to the best customer experience.

you&co

Andy Twomey is the Managing Director of You & Co Media, an Inbound Marketing Agency in Sydney. He loves a good gin, is an average surfer and wishes ‘marketing’ wasn’t such a dirty word.

9 Statistics That Strengthen Your Sales Pitch

Posted in Toolkit on April 20th, 2016

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9 Statistics That Strengthen Your Sales Pitch

Via Salesforce

10 Tools Every Sales Team Needs to Get Stuff Done

Posted in Skill, Toolkit on April 14th, 2016

By Austin Duck

When professionals of the future look back at 2016 it will be remembered as two things: the year that the truly sophisticated sales stack finally rose, and the year professional productivity was perfected.

Each alone is significant accomplishment but the overlap is an epic moment of tech-driven sales productivity. If you know where to look, there is an opportunity to be the first of a new breed: the tech equipped, productivity-driven super salesperson of the future.

So in the spirit of being productive and getting to the point, here’s the 10 tools every sales rep needs to get stuff done.

10 Tools Every Sales Team Needs to Get Stuff Done

Translate Your Playbook into Workflow with ToutApp.
Given that sticking to your playbook is a must for any successful sales organization, it’s surprising a tool like ToutApp didn’t exist before. Tout takes your winning plan and translates it into an easy-to-follow, accessible-anywhere workflow that ensures all your reps are taking the steps to get things done properly.

Forecast and Score Your Opportunities with InsideSales.
It’s hard to say “no” to doubling your forecast accuracy and even harder to turn down a tool that takes that intelligence all the way to scoring your leads. InsideSales completely obliterates the gap between MQL and SQL, making each dial and meeting count that much more.

Create Transparency in Your Sales Development with SalesLoft.
Offering “semi-automation” to the sales development process, SalesLoft helps your SDRs strike a balance between personalized communications and marketing automation. That way, their outreach scales without ever sacrificing the personal touches needed to really hook and begin qualifying prospects.

Keep Your Whole Team Aligned with Calendly.
Creating and managing client meetings has never been easier. With Calendly, there’s no time wasted going back and forth. Your reps set their availabilities, clients / prospects pick the times, and all relevant calendars are updated so no one misses out on key business.

Build Lightning-Fast CPQs with SteelBrick.
Generating CPQs, creating add-on orders, sending invoices: none of it has to be done by hand with SteelBrick around. SteelBrick offers 5-10x faster deployment than traditional quote-to-cash options and frees up your reps to do more of what they do best: sell.

Understand Your Org’s Relationship of Performance to Revenue with InsightSquared.
Imagine a platform dedicated to making every element of your sales effort make sense. A tool that translates every effort (and every dollar) into actionable data. That’s InsightSquared. It takes the guesswork away from your reps and empowers them with everything they (and you) need to crush quotas and reach your goals.

Ensure Great Contact Data Flows Into Your CRM with ScanBizCards.
Bad data in your CRM will stop any effort, no matter how intelligent, in its tracks. ScanBizCards offers a way for reps to import great contact data into your CRM and scans business cards to simplify the process of entering new prospects.

Build Strong, Lasting Relationships with Contactually.
CRMs are ubiquitous in sales organizations, but many times their complexity creates impersonal experiences with customers and prospects. Contactually fixes all that with a relationship-based CRM experience that joins the data accessibility of the big leagues with the personalization that keeps relationships thriving.

Keep Important Documents Organized with Evernote.
Though probably not news to you, Evernote is an incredible way to keep notes and documents organized. With the ability to organize and share notes, transform documents into presentations on the fly, and access anything you need on any device, Evernote offers a way for reps (and teams) to centralize their knowledge-share.

Win the Trust (and Business) of Prospects with Postwire.
Creating interesting, personal experiences for prospects is the stuff of sales dreams. Postwire makes that a reality. By offering simple-to-create microsites, Postwire allows your reps to curate helpful, individualized content hubs for prospects that take your nurturing efforts to the next level.

Taken separately, each of these tools uses incredible tech to make a single element of your sales organization run a little smoother than before. Together however, they make a tech stack: a living, breathing confluence of technologies that keep your sales team productive and help you drive revenue more efficiently than ever before.

Happy selling!

Austin Headshot

Austin Duck is Content Marketing Manager for CircleBack, an innovative address book designed specifically for networking and sales. He regularly contributes to StartupGrind, Business2Community, and elsewhere and lives in DC with his army of cats.

How to Leverage Social Selling With Inside Sales to Deliver ROI

Posted in Social Media, Toolkit, Web presence on April 5th, 2016

by Jeff Kalter

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” — Aristotle

While inside sales has been around for many years, it’s now experiencing tremendous growth.  InsideSales.com conducted a study with sales and marketing managers in 30 non-retail industries. It showed that inside sales was growing 300% faster than field sales. Social selling, on the other hand, is the bright, shiny new tool. When you meld inside sales and social selling together, you form a strong bond and a solid strategy for setting appointments with your target audience.

What Is Social Selling?

Most are familiar with social media marketing which has been used to build relationships for many years now. But many are less familiar with social selling. Both tactics use the same channels to develop relationships with prospects and customers through content and conversations. They have the same goal of delivering ROI to the business. So, what’s the difference?

The responsibility for social media marketing rests squarely on the shoulders of the marketing department. They communicate en masse. On the other hand, while marketing contributes to social selling by providing the content and messaging, sales leads the way. Salespeople distribute content and use personalized messages to communicate one-on-one with prospects.

Essentially, social media marketing attracts followers, builds engagement and the brand. Social selling then closes the loop, turning awareness and interest into leads. Now that both sales and marketing are sharing the use of social media, it has become more successful in delivering sales results.

How Inside Sales Can Use Social Selling

It’s great to build relationships online, but you also need to have a process that moves prospects through the buying process offline. Social selling is step one, but the goal is to get prospects on the phone. Here are some tactics you can use.

  • Pre-Call Research and Outreach 

Today, there is no reason to call someone blindly. Inside sales people can use social media to do their pre-call research, checking out LinkedIn profiles and Twitter feeds. You should have an idea of who a prospect is, what his or her company does and even the challenges the business may be facing.

But reps can go further. With one of LinkedIn’s premiums packages, they can reach out to individuals using InMails. According to LinkedIn, this communication channel achieves open rates seven times greater than typical emails.

A sales person should personalize messages based on what they learn through their research. In this way, it starts to build a connection and open the door to a warm telephone call. For example, “We work with businesses similar to yours in the information technology industry. We’ve helped many of them who are experiencing difficulties with lead and demand generation to achieve a 47% return on their marketing investment. Is this something that interests you?”

The added benefit is that the recipient can quickly check out your profile, get a sense of who you are and whether they want to talk to you. As long as you’ve optimized your profile, you can build credibility without saying a word.

  • Join the Online Discussion 

Inside salespeople should chime in on online conversations about their prospect’s hot topics, offering their insights. This is an excellent way to engage with prospects, often early in the buying process. For example, look for industry groups on LinkedIn where people are actively participating in discussions. (Be careful here because many groups have become forums for spam and not active conversations.) Another advantage of joining groups is that you get free messages to the members.

Also, to remain visible on social networks, inside sales reps can start a conversation themselves by curating content and sharing content their marketing team has created. A good rule of thumb is to mix 80% curated content with 20% of your own content.

If salespeople have hot targets with whom they want to engage on LinkedIn, there are a couple of ways to see their updates on LinkedIn in the same way that you see updates from your first connections. They can follow up to 5,000 people on LinkedIn. Alternatively, they can sign up for LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator, and classify targeted individuals as leads. When they see a relevant update, they can comment on it, share it and get noticed.

  • Transition to a Live Conversation

Social selling does not make any sense, however, unless it leads to a phone call where salespeople can deepen their relationships and help move prospects through the buying cycle.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the phone appointments came to them? They can. Simply offer a phone consultation to leads. Make sure it’s something they will find valuable, not a sales pitch. Then schedule a phone conversation.  

Because social selling can translate into phone calls, it makes sense to marry the two tactics. It’s an efficient way to connect sales people one-on-one with the people to whom they want to talk, eliminating the need for cold calls.

Jeff Kalter

Jeff Kalter is CEO of 3D2B, a global business-to-business telemarketing company that bridges the divide between marketing and sales. He leads customer acquisition programs for Fortune 500 companies and is passionate about building strong business relationships through professional phone conversations.

My Start In Sales: Steven Baumgartner, Independent Sales Consultant

Posted in My Start In Sales on January 21st, 2016

There’s no shortage of sales advice for rookies. We can all talk about how to make a cold call or write the perfect prospecting email until we’re blue in the face. But we can do better than that. Sales Engine seeks to help salespeople sell more efficiently and effectively at all levels so we decided to launch a blog series that provides an insightful resource for salespeople early on in their career. The “My Start In Sales” series “tells it like it is” (namely, that we’ve all been there and done that — and that’s a good thing!). We will feature one veteran salesperson in a standard Q & A format every few weeks. We’re excited about sharing these successess and failures with you.

My Start In Sales: Steven Baumgartner, Sales Consultant

Current location: Chicago, IL

Current gig: Currently Independent Sales & Marketing Consultant

One word that best describes how you work: Pragmatic

Current mobile device: iPhone 5

Favorite to-do list manager: The right side of my notebook (I know it’s dated but I’ve tried them all and can’t seem to convert)…but haven’t missed anything in quite a while

 

Tell us a little bit about what you do now & whether or not you currently work as part of a sales function at your company.

I am currently an independent sales and marketing consultant…meaning, I am selling my own services to help companies become better sellers. I’ve worked across a dozen industries with everyone from FORTUNE 50 companies who have plateaued…to PE firms looking to fix what’s broken across the portfolio…to start-ups looking to just figure it out.

As I’ve spent half my career in direct sales and sales management and the other half in consulting, my approach is very “operator-based” with an eye for simplicity. There are always little things companies can do better in order to create momentum. Seldom do they need to throw everything out and start over.

What was your first sales role and how did you get the job? 

My first sales position was an Account Executive position for PR Newswire (PRN) out in San Francisco on the front end of the “dot com” boom. I was handed a territory and told to “go get em”.

My first job out of undergrad was a junior writer position for a marketing services firm that was trying to expand into PR. As I was the writer in charge of press releases and eventually wanted to become a PR professional, a colleague connected me with the local PRN rep who walked me through the distribution process. I was more excited about what the rep was doing so after the meeting, I asked my colleague to quietly reconnect me about any open positions. With my PR training and considering the booming market, I was a natural fit to help companies with their press releases

Did you picture yourself working as a salesperson before you started?

Never! I actually took the job because I figured…what better way to meet all the PR people in the Bay Area than to be a service provider and of course someone would hire me within a few months. But once I got my “sales legs”, that PR dream was long gone.

What do you wish you had known before you started selling?

I wish I knew how much self-discipline it took. Not only the ability to stay self-motivated but how to balance what I focused on any given day. As anyone who’s managed a territory can tell you, it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in all the wheel spinning activities. Just because you’re emailing and having hundreds of conversations, it doesn’t mean you’re spending time on the RIGHT activities.

Do you have a story to share about a mistake you’ve made as a salesperson? What did you learn from this situation?

My biggest mistake provided two lessons. My first territory held a big account that was notorious for being “high maintenance”. The primary contact would call sometimes 2 or 3 times a day and asked the same questions over and over. But because it was big, I always felt like I had no choice and I NEVER said no when he asked for something special…which was daily. In any given week, 10 hours could be dedicated to this account. As you can imagine, all this time spent farming this one account meant other opportunities were falling through the cracks and actual hunting time was almost non-existent.

This eventually got me in quite a bit of hot water with my manager because while this account was up, my overall territory was down. Hence, the first lesson was that I had to learn how to balance hunting with farming.

The second lesson…after 3 months of this, my primary contact left after an acquisition. I always assumed he was the overall decision-maker but never actually asked. Since I had no relationship with anyone else, the business was immediately switched to a competitor. So, if the account is that important to spend as much time as I did, make sure you have multiple relationships at all levels.

Have you ever encountered the “sleazy salesperson stereotype”? How do you respond to this? 

Of course! Especially with people who aren’t used to being sold to. The best way of getting past this stereotype is to tell them exactly why you’re there. Prospects know you’re not calling because you’re trying to make friends so why be coy on the front end? I like to tell them who I am, what my company does, and ask for their time to see if it makes sense to work together. This immediate honesty tells them I’m open to “no” if the solution isn’t right. I won’t sell them something they don’t need.

What is one tool or resource without which you would not be able to do your job?

I don’t know how I did my job without LinkedIn. Sales is a people and relationship game. Calling the switchboard to get the name of Contact A is a slog and seldom results in meetings. The warm or at least tepid intros and the company information you can get through LinkedIn make the job much easier.

What are you currently reading? 

I am not a business book person but am a voracious reader of the social content and posts now available across the various platforms. I don’t want novels of text as much as I like all the individual perspectives based on experience. What’s a better way to learn than to read a few paragraphs from someone who’s just come across a specific business situation and has thoughts on how it was or could have been handled?

Are you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert?

I’m probably more an extrovert than anything. But every once in a while I need to go dark and get things outlined in my head before I can move forward.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

About 10 months into my first sales position, I was put on a “PIP”…which meant they had started the HR process of firing me for poor performance. Of course, I felt like I was getting “railroaded” by a manager who didn’t like me but the stress of the process caused me to shut down instead of double down. About 2 weeks before what would be my final notice, I was ranting to a more senior colleague in management about how my manager hated me and he stopped me and said, “Steve, it doesn’t matter how unfair you think this is…YOU are the only one who can get yourself out of it”.

From that day on, I’ve always been able to look in the mirror and ask what I could be doing differently. If I’m not making my numbers, it’s up to me. If one of my sales reps is failing, I need to do something different in developing them. As a result of that guidance, I quickly turned things around and not only earned the sales person of the year award the following year, but also held that same sales director position I complained about.

Steven Baumgartner

Steven Baumgartner is a seasoned sales person, leader, consultant, and entrepreneur. He specializes in building, managing, and fixing sales functions and teams for companies of all sizes and dedicates time as a mentor at the 1871 digital technology incubator in Chicago.

How to Use Data to ‘Sell Personally’ to B2B Customers

Posted in Lead generation, Toolkit on January 7th, 2016

How to Use Data to Sell Personally to B2B Customers

Leads and The Data Driven Approach: Sell Personally

If you were ever stereotyped as a troublemaker or a nerd in high school, you know what is it to be classified, to be put in a box. Chances are you didn’t like it, and that wasn’t fully who you were.

But, you may have played the part of the troublemaker or the nerd anyhow. We tend to conform to labels unless someone gives us a chance to break out.

And that’s what a quality marketing and sales operation does: gives the lead a chance to become more than just a lead, and gives the prospect a chance to become more than just a prospect. Craig Wortmann’s impact questions are an example of what I’m talking about.

Impact questions give a prospect the chance to think and to involve their opinion in the sales process. By doing so, these questions recognize the individual’s status as an individual, with important opinions and feelings.

But when it comes to generating leads, how do you give someone a chance to become more than just a lead? It’s like walking up to a person you’ve seen in the hall at school, someone you want to be friends with, and trying to start a conversation. If you simply know them as a troublemaker and treat them as such, you’re not going anywhere.

Let’s Get To Know Our Leads  

For the sake of this exercise, I’d like to talk business-to-business sales. According to Forbes author John Rampton, a 2015 Harris Poll shows 95% of executives want personalized sales interactions. So if we’re doing B2B sales at the executive level, we need to look at who this person is.

Lead scoring

One way we can get to know our executive is through lead scoring. This system relies on numbers to narrow down leads—to qualify leads based on what the numbers tell us about them.

According to Intelliconnection author Sandra Donovan, lead scoring looks like this:

  • Metrics, both explicit and implicit, tell the story of where the lead stands in relation to target audience and level of engagement with a product or service
  • Explicit metrics: demographics, firmographics, budget and authority to purchase, need for product or service, time-frame for purchase
  • Implicit metrics: website activity, email engagement, and social media activity
  • Scoring takes metrics information and assigns the lead a numerical value, based on how close or far way they are from being likely to make a purchase
  • Evaluation and iteration accounts for the individual’s dynamic relationship with the product, service, or brand; this part of the process tracks the lead’s ongoing proximity to prospect status

The elephant in the room

Lead scoring uses data to create an in-depth picture of a person, in relation to a product or service. But are we treading on people’s privacy when we collect data on them and use it to target sales? If 95% of execs want a “personalized sales interaction,” how far should we go in personalizing?

In terms of data breaches, if I’m an executive and my company is one of the 55% who don’t have a security strategy in place, I would be concerned if lead scoring goes toward collecting and analyzing my companies’ internal information. But lead scoring looks at data that is readily available—it’s not intrusive.

I’d like to go back to the analogy of making a friend in high school. If you’ve simply observed this person likes basketball, and has gone to every basketball game this season and has hung out with other fanatics during halftime, you’re not invading privacy. You are making observations about how the person spends their time in relation to an interest. That’s what we’re doing with lead scoring.

Let’s Get To Know Our Executive

This is where things get interesting. For the sake of the exercise, I’d like to talk travel.

For explicit metrics, there’s survey information from Travel Leader’s Group. Survey respondents predicted business travel would go up by more than 7% in 2015. If I’m in the hotel industry, I can look at this information to pinpoint what type of product or service my leads—in this case executives—will value because of the increase in travel.

Executives don’t just travel domestically, they travel globally. And 78% of global business travelers are looking for ease of access to Wi-Fi, both on the plane and in the hotel. But according to the Travel Leader’s Group survey, 17.7% of business travelers encounter a hotel fee for internet. The executive may be more inclined to stay at a luxury hotel, but a Hipmunk study found that luxury hotels are the most likely to charge for internet. Travel costs are the fifth biggest concern for businesses.

Just looking at this on a surface level, I can assume an executive would prioritize my hotel if I offer free high speed Wi-Fi. Or, they may be interested in a loyalty program that offers free internet. This is one of the things that could attract an executive to give me their company’s travel business. Earning loyalty points is the fourth biggest concern for businesses.

A study by Marketforce found 40% of people found their hotel through an online search. So I would increase my email outreach and social media marketing, in addition to optimizing my website user experience and SEO. If I offer free Wi-Fi, I would market accordingly.

Marketforce also found that the Marriott and Hilton were rated best overall. And, according to the Hipmunk study cited above, both Marriott and Hilton have loyalty programs that offer free internet.

The Sales Picture

The metrics I gathered above are available to anyone. Just looking at these type of stats, if I’m a smaller hotel chain, I can drill down and look at other stats related to the business traveler hotel experience. Then, I can get closer and closer to my target customer—the enterprise business executive who wants to save money on smaller travel expenses—such as internet—because the size of their business requires a ton of travel.

I can use implicit metrics to see how close they are to needing accommodations. From there, I can tailor my service, and my sales-presence at trade shows, accordingly. I can use sales acceleration software to determine best times to make sales appointments. Finally, I can make appointments with HR executives and offer them a loyalty package for all their business accommodation needs, a loyalty package that blows Marriott and Hilton away.

These are just some of the ways I could use the information about the travel industry. The point is, I’ve worked to get closer to understanding my leads. Once my leads become prospects, my personalization is valuable to them. I’m that much closer to understanding what they need, and I’m that much closer to converting.

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Daniel Matthews

Daniel Matthews is a freelance writer from Boise, ID who writes for Social Media Today, Switch and Shift, Triple Pundit, and Jeff Bullas, among others. He specializes in company culture, marketing, and tech, with a sprinkle of anything super-interesting in the world right now. Please find him on Twitter.