In order to have predictable revenue, you need a couple things:
- Predictable lead generation.
- A sales team that bridges the chasm between marketing and sales
- Consistent sales systems
The biggest win in building a predictable revenue system is usually found by creating an outbound sales development team that focuses 100% on prospecting, meaning no closing deals and no working inbound leads.
It can take 2-12 months to get lead generating cranking and generating predictable revenue. This is because you have to spend time starting a new program, designing and implementing it, beginning to generate leads, and adding in your sales cycle length of time.
The best ways to increase lead flow are:
- Inbound marketing - white papers, webinars, email newsletters, to extablish yourself as thought leaders. This takes lots of time to build predictable momentum and requires a ton of patience.
- Building an excited partner ecosystem - very high value, very long time-to-results.
- Cold Calling 2.0 - by far the predictable and controllable source of creating new pipeline, but it takes focus.
The 2 metrics that are most important to focus on:
- Closed business
- Amount of new qualified pipeline.
Other metrics to track are qualification calls per day/week, and qualified opportunities per month.
To prospect effectively, you need two core tools. A CRM like Salesforce, and an online source for lists of companies and contacts like OneSource.
The biggest bottleneck in prospecting is finding the decision maker / influencer / point person. Often the ultimate decision maker is NOT the best person for your first conversations. Most companies approach and sell to low. But you can also start low sometimes to learn how the business works and current challenges before reaching out higher.
The most effective mechanism for getting a foot in the door with cold leads is to send mass emails to high level executives, to ask for referrals to the best person in the organzation for a first conversation. Then you email the new contact, mentioning the individual who referred you.
These emails should be short (biggest mistake is sending long emails). They should always be "blackberry sized" and ask one question. Example:
Subject: Can you point me in the right direction?
I'm sorry to trouble you. Would you be so kind as to tell me
who is responsible for [insert your biggest pain point here that
resonates with your ideal customer; OR insert function like
“sales” or “recruiting”] and how I might get in touch with them?
Name, Title, Company, Address, Phone
The highest ROI activity you can do early on is to spend time identifying and clarifying your Ideal Customer Profile. To do so, identify what companies are most similar to your top 5-10% of customers, defined as likeliest to purchase for the most revenue. Develop focused target lists based on these tight criteria. Example:
"They just installed a _____ kind of system. They already have an agency/provider in place, or a full-time person dedicated to ______. They churn and burn the consultans or agencies they hire to do _____. Know-it-alls / "We know what we're doing." Geography. Their monthly budget for _______ is _______."
You can do this with people as well. For example:
"Our ideal contact is a VP of Sales who is new to their role (less than 90 days in), who is looking to make things happen. They are process-oriented, report to the CEO or division president, and love data and reports. Their challenges include not being able to give accurate reports to their CEO becuase of problems with their sales system."
When reps do call into cold accounts, rather than cold calls, make "research calls". You want to have rigorous qualification standards before moving people into the opportunity phase.
As a rule of thumb, it takes 2-4 weeks on average to qualify a new opportunity from an initial response.
Start by sending 150-200 outbound emails per week, over the course of 3-4 days. Your goal is to recevie 5-10 responses per day - more and things will start to fall through the cracks. Send either before 9am or after 5pm, and avoid Mondays and Fridays.
Be methodical in how you handle respones - keep them logged and organized. Don't ignore bounces - clean bad emails out of your list as them come in.
Learn to love "out of the office" replies - those have names and contact information of more people to target like exec assistants who can help route you to the right person in the company.
Great questions to ask in prospecting emails include "who is the best point of contact" or "when is the best day/time for a quick discussion around ____"
Once you have the right person, your next goal is to set up a call. The objective is to set up a quick time to see if there's a high level fit between your company and the prospect's company. The call should be focused entirely on their business, not your business. Lead the conversation and ask open questions that encourage them to talk about their business.
Start with "Did I catch you at a bad time?"
In a first conversation you might ask 3-4 questions. Examples:
"I'm doing some research on your company to determine if we're a fit or not..."
"How are your teams/functions organized? How does your ______ process work today? What systems do you use for _______? How long has the system been in place?
"What are your challenges now? Have you been looking at alternatives yet? Have you tried and failed with other solutions? Where does ______ fall on your priority list? What is higher? What would and ideal solution look like? How will your decision making process work? Why did you buy the old system? Who made the decision to purchase it? What is the probability a project will occur in the next 6 months?"
Who else should I be talking to at other divisions_teams? If you were me, how would you approach your organization?
Don't be eager until you see there's actually a fit. And don't be afraid to challenge them a bit. How serious are they about solving their challenges? Are they actually ready to take action? Are they the person with power or influence? Is there real interest in a next step?
Ideally use a tool that lets you track opens. You can see who opened emails multiple times and/or forwarded the email on. That's a good signal.
Assuming you are talking with a prospect who's a good fit, the goal of "Selling the dream" is not to sell. It is to help the prospect create a vision of a dream solution that will solve their problems, and then connect the product to their key business issues and dream solution.
Always work to schedule your next step while you're on the phone. "Do you have your calendar handy?"
Use voicemail as a tool to increase response rates from emails rather than to attempt to get people to call you bad. Example:
"Hi John, this is Aaron Ross from Salesforce. My number is 555-555-5555. John, I'm calling to follow up on the email I sent you, I'd love to hear either way if you can help my out or not. Again, Aaron Ross, 555-555-5555. Thank you and have a great day."
Always frame a next step in a way that is valuable to them: "The best way for us to save time..." "Here's how I can help you get to a decision faster..." "Your team will learn...."
You want to "sell to success", meaning the business succeeds because of your product, not just that you closed them. Don't care too much about the close. This causes you to give signals to the customer that you don't care about hteir success.
If you and your customer create a joint vision of how the product will make them successful and they believe you, then the close just becomes a logical step in that progression.
Before closing, include a simple "Success Plan" step. it should pain a picture of the basic steps beyond deployment to actual client success. It should include a definition of what success means to the client, a few key milesones, and some responsibilities for you and the client. This can be as simple as a half dozen bullet points in an email.
Ways you inadvertently extend your sales cycle:
- Selling to the wrong people or companies. Focus on your ideal niche. Don't be fuzzy or vague.
- No process. ANYTHING is better than no process.
- Selling rather than solving. Qualify. Sell the vision.
- Selling too low.
- Not understanding hte buying cycle. There's no point in getting impatient in month 3 if the buying cycle is 6 months. Ask what your process is like to evaluate products like this?
- Not caring about them.
- Beating dead or bad-fit opportunities to death because you haven't clarified your ideal customer
Focus on the decision making process, not the decision maker. Ask questions like:
- How have you evaluated similar products or services?
- What is the decision making process?
- Who is involved in making the decision?
How will the decision be made?
First contact: Is there a fit - 15 minutes:
“We’ve found the best way to quickly figure out if there’s a real fit or not takes just two steps: first, a more in-depth 'discovery' call with yourself and any other people you want to bring in. And then if that call goes well, a follow-up group whiteboarding session or call with the key people on your team who’d be involved, so that we can flesh it out all at once if, how and when we should work together.”
Step 2 - one hour qualification call - is this a fit?
Call with 1-2 point people. goal is to see if they like you, and to qualify them as well. Your goal, if there is a fit, is to create a plan with the prospect to organize a working or whiteboarding session that brings in their key people and decision makers, to meet with and create a vision with your key people.
Step 3: (Two Hours) Group Working Session: “Should We Work Together?”
In this session, you want to create a joint vision together. Walk them through a design process on how they can and will become successful with your product. Coach the vision out of them rather than telling it to them.
Prospects should EARN proposals. Don't waste your time creating proposals too early. If you're not winning 50% of your proposals, you're too easy.
When the prospect casually asks about pricing or getting a proposal, don’t give it to them until you know they want it. Tell them you’d be happy to, and to do that, you’d need to set up a scoping call with them and the key people, to ensure the proposal is accurate and meets their needs.
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