As we plan for our next Sales 2.0 Conference on May 2 in Boston, we’re hearing some interesting solutions to emerging selling challenges.
Last week, Sales 2.0 speaker Jennifer Stanley, expert partner (Marketing and Sales Practice) at McKinsey & Company, published a post on the Selling Power Blog, “An Unexpected Way to Improve Your Sales Pipeline Conversions by 50%,” about an interesting paradox for B2B sellers these days. As she said:
Today, salespeople have more ways than ever to find and connect with prospects. In fact, they’re drowning in data and interaction opportunities across the customer’s many digital touchpoints. But these many insights and channels often overwhelm the typical B2B rep.
Stanley has found some very basic and simple time-management practices that can help salespeople cut through the avalanche of data and customer touchpoints. The secret, she says, is to actually make fewer and shorter sales calls.
Stanley says she’s seen this approach work wonders for a sales professional who works in the industrial sector and has a complex sales cycle. His prospecting approach is disciplined and strategic, and has consistently landed him a top spot on his team’s leaderboard. Here are the steps he follows.
Step #1: Blocking shorter segments of time (between 15 and 30 minutes) for in-person meetings with prospects.
Why this approach works: Stanley points out that B2B customers today conduct intense amounts of research on their own, online. They visit websites of competitors, download research and reports, and make use of online tools. By the time they talk with a salesperson, they’re deep into the sales cycle and ready to talk brass tacks. Sometimes they even know more than the salesperson does. Consequently, it’s a mistake for B2B salespeople to assume that the complex sales cycle requires hours’ worth of meetings to move the sale forward. Instead, you’ll get more traction if you set up a process that respects the prospect’s time (and your own).
Step #2: Reserving dedicated time to research/study a prospect with relentless focus.
Why this approach works: Again, today’s B2B customer is highly educated. No matter how good your marketing team is and how much information they give you, it’s still in your best interest to invest your own time in researching the prospect and studying their business challenges. According to Stanley, a recent McKinsey survey showed that lack of preparedness is a huge turn-off for prospects and can endanger your deal.
Step #3: Building “time buffers” into his planned meeting times with customers.
Why this approach works: Thanks to his preparation techniques, this sales professional finds that customers often want extra face time with him to discuss their business challenges and potential solutions more in depth. Again, this ends up saving time, since he can take advantage of the initial customer meeting to move the sale forward.
Step #4: Entering “debriefing” notes into his CRM and planning next steps (he allots 30 minutes for this, per customer).
Why this approach works: The Sales 2.0 team has observed that many successful sales teams run on automated platforms and advanced software. Tracking the pipeline and forecast in Excel spreadsheets isn’t going to cut for much longer. Without a functional CRM system that everyone uses in a disciplined and routine fashion, sales and marketing teams won’t be able to gain access to advanced tools like predictive analytics.
At the Sales 2.0 Conference on May 2 in Boston, Stanley will share more details about how B2B salespeople can create a similar process with their own customers and potentially improve early pipeline qualification conversion rates by up to 50 percent.
See the agenda for the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston or register now — discounted rates end March 17.