By building an effective website, serving valuable digital content peppered by the correct keywords, and establishing an efficient lead nurturing process with email workflows, CEOs can ensure that their Chief Marketing Officers create a scalable growth engine generating enough leads for their sales departments to succeed.
With significant advances in communication tools since the early 90s, sales personnel can conduct much of their activities inside their offices, making a successful Inside Sales role attainable. Most buyers, influencers and end-users today are comfortable communicating via email, telephone, video conferencing and other online means. Smart phones have raised the bar, enabling communication to new levels. With qualified, ripe leads, inside sales staff can be effective at closing business.
As important as leads are, this is only the first step in the sales process. Here are the remaining elements that your sales department should implement.
Establish the Sales Plan & Process
Your sales process should be detailed and documented to include the steps on how to handle the lead. This includes how the order is filled. When the lead is handed over to operations or fulfillment, following up as needed will help to ensure satisfaction and facilitate future orders.
Territories need to be carved out, well defined, and contingencies need to be in place to handle potential conflict. Territories should be established geographically, alphabetically or in any other obvious and transparent manner. This helps maintain continuity and prevents territorial battles.
Commission schedules should clearly outline calculation methods and payment terms. Explain whether commissions are based upon booked, invoiced or collected revenue. Is the commission aggregated and paid monthly, quarterly or annually. Indicate when commission accelerators apply and for which periods. Less confusion will lead to more harmony.
Define your discount policy and specify who is authorized to provide them. Sales reps love to discount. You want your sales people to have the ability to discount when needed to procure business, but you also need to control and enforce the circumstances and conditions.
Document the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) practices for your sales team. Include updating leads, contacts, accounts, and potential opportunities and how a lead transitions from one stage to another. Sales people that are not in the habit of using CRM tools tend to be the worst offenders. Reinforce the importance of keeping data and leads up to date and don’t ease off until they get it right.
Outline face-to-face client meeting policies, travel approvals and how travel expenses are reimbursed. Travel time, air fares, meals, lodging, and car rentals add up fast. Leverage client meetings by combining other client and prospective meetings in the same region. A good CRM enables targeted email blasts to setup regional meetings.
Define the client transition process from sales to operations or fulfilment. Outline sales staff responsibilities beyond fulfillment. The sales process does not end with the sale, it transitions to servicing, maintaining and growing the account.
Establish mechanisms for continuous improvement to further optimize the sales process.
Derive Achievable Goals & Metrics
There are high level sales metrics and key business ratios that you want to closely measure, monitor and compare to your industry’s norms. For example, how many leads does it takes to issue a proposal, what is the average dollar value of a proposal, how many proposals does it take to close a sale, what is the average value of a sale, how long does it take from proposal to a sale. Measure and track these numbers for all sales people, territories, products and services. Over time, keep improving your processes until you beat your competition’s averages.
Sales quotas can be derived for each salesperson based on the number of leads their territory receives.
Most of the above numbers can be obtained directly from your CRM. You can get sales reports, pipeline projections, cash flow analysis and more.
Establishing a sales process and metrics enables tracking and optimization. This creates a successful channel for your company and checks one of the key boxes in the Business Model Canvas, placing your company on a path to consistently produce sales and improve efficiency.
Protect Your Data
Lead and data theft is more prevalent than you think. It can happen to any company. Follow common sense and practices to protect your data. Never give your sales people admin privileges to your CRM, they don’t need it and shouldn’t have it. Prohibit them from exporting data in bulk from your CRM, accounting system or production databases. You can configure your CRM user settings to limit access on a need-to-know basis, limiting the risk of theft.
Have new hires sign a non-disclosure and a non-compete agreement. State and Federal laws protect companies against theft and unfair competitive practices. It’s best to have a strong agreement signed by every employee when they are hired. Go over important privacy and anti-competition clauses with them after they sign the document to ensure that they read them and understood them.
If you don’t want your sales people to take your data when they leave your company, don’t ask them to give you their previous employer’s leads when you hire them. Instill a code of ethics and provide the example.
Perform exit interviews with departing employees to remind them of their legal obligations and, when in doubt about their intentions, assure them that your legal council will defend your rights to the full extent of the law.
Constantly Lookout for Great Sales Candidates
Constantly be on the lookout for great sales candidates. Although your process enables average sales people to perform well and meet their quotas, average should never be your goal.
When you are contacted by your competition, be courteous to them. You never know when they may be knocking on your door looking for a job. Connect with them on LinkedIn and seek to establish a professional relationship with their stellar performers.
Keep advertising on your website and make it known through all other possible means that you are seeking qualified sales professionals. When you stumble upon them, grab them before the competition does. An excellent sales person always justifies his or her pay.
Provide the Necessary Tools
Your sales team needs to have access to tools to effectively and efficiently perform their tasks. This includes a computer, telephone with a head set, quiet space, a comfortable desk, an ergonomic chair, a CRM account, MS Office Suite, Internet Access and other needed tools for them to complete their daily duties.
Additionally, you should compile a directory on a common file server or on each of their computers to contain all the assets that they need that will be useful to them. These assets include:
- Prospecting files and templates such as your boilerplate service agreement, mutual NDA, price list, credit reference form, company logo, fax template, letterhead template, quote samples and template, and proposal templates for each solution offered.
- Helpful product information and write-ups to include your must-have content like datasheets, brochures, infographics, PowerPoint presentations, whitepapers, articles, case studies, testimonials, eBook and other assets that your sales team can use to engage prospects and win their trust. These are the same gated must-have assets that you have on your website. Repurpose them if needed.
- Email templates similar to the ones built in your CRM, customizable for sending to individual prospects or clients.
- Phone and voice mail script guidelines to help them initiate cold or warm calls to prospective clients.
- Include a miscellaneous directory for training manuals, territories and rules, signed company W9 form, payment instructions and any other useful files that they will need and reuse.
To ensure consistent and adequate servicing of your clients and prospective clients, institute a comprehensive training program for your sales team. Enable them to maximize the use of the tools and assets that you offer.
Training topics should include:
- Product training for familiarization with your products or services
- Company rules and standard operating procedures
- Company org chart and key people that can help your sales team function
- Proper use of technology like phones, teleconferencing and software tools particularly the CRM to ensure accurate data and metrics
- Best use of the company’s website and all the digital assets that your marketing group built that can be used throughout the selling process
- The sales process including vetting leads, issuing proposals, quotes, estimates and any regulatory or legal requirements required for compliance
- Post-sale procedures such as client follow up, survey requests, CRM entries, and transition to operations or fulfillment
- Code of ethics
Train employees upon hire and as soon as major changes are made in your sales process. Have the trainees sign off on each training module. Recommend retaking training when you think it can help improve performance or if you encounter non-compliance with the process. At GlobalVision International, our ISO 9001 quality management system requires us to administer training to ensure conformance to our document translation service processes and methodologies.
Track Individual & Total Results
Economic fluctuations are a fact of life, client spending habits or needs change, industry trends shift over time, disruptive forces interfere with set practices, competitive actions and reactions impact sales. Verify your key metrics by periodically tracking both individual and aggregate results.
With individual and total metrics, you can identify meeting your revenue goals, see who needs help improving, and learn who is pushing boundaries and raising the bar.
Motivate, Support & Encourage
Numbers are a great way to remove subjectivity and favoritism from the process. Create triggers in your metrics and goals that will initiate steps to motivate, support and encourage your sales staff. When these triggers are set, the CEO or VP of Sales can personalize emails to your sales team members to thank, encourage and reward them to do better, or to request one-on-one meetings.
Initiate dialogs as needed to see what is causing a sales person to fail or fall behind his or her committed quota. Open communication channels between the people that create the process and the people that execute them. This will facilitate improvement and help retain your sales personnel, thereby minimizing costly employee turnover.
Replace Sales Staff as Needed
Motivate, support and encourage first, but know when it is time to cut your losses. Sales people can cause severe harm to a company, its clients, employees and investors. It is not a step that should be taken lightly. When there is no way around it, swiftly remove incompetent or insubordinate sales employees. By continually remaining on the lookout for great sales people, you are, hopefully, prepared to find a replacement quickly and effectively.
Reward Exceptional Performers
Perhaps a new car to the top sales person each year is too rich for your budget. That’s fine. You don’t need to go that far when you are doing what it takes to deliver quality leads to them each day.
Do recognize exceptional performance (and performers) when you see it. Your metrics, sales pipeline, individual results and sales figures give you a clear vision to identify overachievers. You want all your sales people to overachieve, so reward them generously when they do. You can do so by recognizing them in front of their peers and by offering generous financial rewards.
Impact on the Bottom Line
Companies spend on average, 7-15% on sales. When you add sales staff salaries, commissions, rewards, travel expenses and other overhead, costs quickly add up. By instituting a robust lead generation process based on inbound marketing techniques and coupling it with a properly staffed, trained, motivated and rewarded inside salesforce, companies can cut the cost of sales significantly generating both higher sales and higher profit margins.
Need help with your inside sales transformation, process and metrics? Request a free SCORE Mentor Today!