A rant if you please…
Wouldn’t life be easier for all of us if sales prospects made their way through the B2B sales funnel in a single-file, orderly manner? But unfortunately, the B2B sales funnel looks less and less like a funnel and more and more like a game of Chutes and Ladders.
B2B sales prospects aren’t always going to go through the funnel like we’ve laid it out in our minds – suspect, prospect, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, close. Each buyer is going to have their own unique path to your company’s offering and a unique path to doing business with you.
What happens first? The prospect might view some of your whitepapers or articles.
Then they might eventually engage a sales rep… but oh wait, they’re not ready to make a decision – go back ten spaces and nurture this lead.
Then they might re-engage and go through a sales presentation.
Then they create an internal evaluation committee to assess your solution… but wait, go back another five spaces because the CFO needs to convene with legal to see if your contract makes good sense.
Uh-oh, it doesn’t, and they come back and say, “Let’s change the scope of this proposal, and, by the way, can we get it for $2,000 cheaper?”
Hey wait, they have a new CEO and need to freeze the budget for another couple months.
The new CEO wants to see competing offers from other competitors.
“Can we redraft the proposal please?”
And then maybe they will do business with you.
There are a number of metrics that support this hypothesis that the funnel is no longer a straight line from top to bottom. For example, we know that sales cycles are getting longer. We know that there is a flood of information from outside sources, which can become a hindrance to your deal.
There’s no way you could ever use any type of software solution to predict each unique buyer’s journey. So adapt to the role of a 21st century B2B sales professional. Know that there will be hiccups in the process and always be nurturing leads that may go dormant in your sales funnel.
I like a good movie. Who doesn't? As a professional in the sales industry though, I'm particularly drawn to films that sensationalize the art of selling... and there have been many. We're going to have a little bit of fun on a Friday afternoon.
I recently watched The Wolf of Wall Street, and it didn't disappoint. Martin Scorcese does a great job with this film - an entertaining story, mixed with great characters, and a dash of Scorcese raunch.
The story of greedy Wall Street exec Jordan Belfort is one of tragic hubris - and Leonardo DiCaprio shines in his portrayal. Belfort is brash and unaplogetic, but he sure can get his team of salespeople in a frenzy. One scene in particular has Belfort inspiring his callers to sell more stock in the most sensational fashion imaginable. It got me thinking about other sales speeches I've seen in films - ones like the classic "put that coffee down" speech from Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross and Ben Affleck's speech to new stock broker recruits in Boiler Room.
I recently asked a question about community members' favorite sales movies in the LinkedIn group B2B Sales, Marketing, Social Media & Lead Generation and thought I would share some interesting answers (and movies you might not have thought of):
Which is your favorite? Take a look below and share your choice. (All videos are censored and safe for work.)
Glengarry Glen Ross
The Wolf of Wall Street
Guest Post by Keith Engberg from Vanguard Systems
At Vanguard Systems, we’ve built a thriving business in the document management solutions space by getting our target market excited about what our solutions can do for their organizations. We’ve learned that, first and foremost, getting sales prospects excited about your tech solution starts with you, the salesperson. It doesn’t matter what you sell – it can be a world-class Accounts Payable Automation solution from Vanguard Systems or it can be a $20 per month social media software solution. The bottom line is that in order to get a sales prospect excited about your solution, you as a sales rep must first:
- Believe in your product
- Be outwardly enthusiastic about your solution – it’s infectious
- Most importantly, be passionate about the results your solution can bring to your clients
So, let’s consider your own enthusiasm and excitement a given in the formula. What are some other triggers that get B2B sales prospects excited about your solution and in a more favorable buying mindset?
Accentuate the Customizability of Your Solution
One-size-fits-all solutions are becoming a rarity in the world of business technology. Every organization has its own set of processes and best practices which make it truly unique. Get your sales prospects excited about how your tech solution will “fit like a glove.” Acknowledge that their business is different and special and emphasize that you can provide a technology that is as unique as they are. For example, our document management solutions at Vanguard Systems are designed to be completely form-fitting to the client. So one of the ways that we incite enthusiasm in our prospects is by reinforcing that our solutions are so customizable that they can mimic their existing processes and workflows in a digital environment.
Paint a Clear Path to ROI (and be specific)
Let’s face it… Return on Investment is the lynchpin of every B2B transaction. In our experience, our prospects get excited when they have a clear line of sight to ROI. What exactly do we mean by “clear line of sight”? You should quantify ROI in specific terms, like (1) time to ROI, (2) expected revenue above purchase price, or (3) percentage increase in efficiency resulting in ROI. Frame the prospect’s return on investment in terms of their specific use case, citing examples of how your tech solution can show a return for them. Avoid using pie-in-the-sky numbers or vague examples that they may not relate to. As an example, when Vanguard Systems presents our Accounts Payable Automation solution, we’ll often analyze the prospect’s current AP processes and frame ROI in terms specific to their business – with most of our clients reaching ROI in 6-18 months by way of reduced expenditure on resources.
Speak Fluently in the Prospect’s Language
In tech sales, we find that buyers become more enthusiastic and open when they feel they are entering the sales cycle with someone that they relate to – someone that can speak their language. There’s a certain lexicon associated with different job roles. Salespeople use similar language. Same with marketing pros, HR personnel, or IT specialists. When you are fluent in the language of your buyer counterpart, you will be seen more readily as an advisor and a peer. In the case of Vanguard’s solutions, we find ourselves communicating primarily with CFOs and Controllers and similar Finance-type profiles. As a result, we have a team of sales reps that, in most cases, were Controllers or Finance Directors at some point in their careers. It gives us the flexibility to be able to communicate with CFOs in a language that they understand. In terms of sales psychology, our prospects then view us as equals who understand their vernacular and, by extension, their challenges.
Do Your Homework and Identify How Your Solution Can Help the Prospect in Their Specific Role
We all have our day-to-day challenges. A prospect is as interested in what your solution can do for their company as what it can do for them specifically. Often we speak to prospects about our Accounts Payable Automation solution who are bogged down with paperwork, inefficient processes, etc. While this creates overall inefficiency in the organization, on an individual level, this causes huge headaches for our prospect in their individual job role. Get into the headspace of your prospect and find out what is important to them in their role, in their job function, and in their day-to-day goings-on. Ask yourself candidly, “If I were a prospect, what would really be helpful to me?”
Prepare to Explain How Your Solution has Helped Previous Customers that are Similar to the Prospect
Nothing speaks louder than a real-life use-case that may be similar to how your prospect will use your technology solution. This goes a little deeper than mere namedropping. Identify similarities in how your current client uses your solution and relate that to your prospect. Have examples at your fingertips through proper research before your sales presentation.
Keith Engberg serves as the Director of Sales & Marketing at Vanguard Systems, a premier provider of best-in-class Enterprise Document Management Systems. Vanguard’s client base reaches across the globe with businesses large and small, including several fortune 100 companies. Vanguard supports a vast variety of industries from manufacturing and distribution to government agencies. Vanguard provides a suite of document imaging, forms design, workflow, data extraction, and content management solutions, which makes the power of information instantly available anywhere across the enterprise. Vanguard provides their clients with a seamless solution that covers the entire document lifecycle. Connect with Keith Engberg on LinkedIn. Connect with Vanguard Systems on Linkedin and Twitter.
Here’s the catchphrase of the day:
Your company can't grow if you're still rooted in thinking small.
Let that sink in a little.
SalesStaff has grown by nearly 100% each year over the last three years. We’ve been on the Inc. 500|5000 List of Fastest Growing Companies for two consecutive years. It’s been a great ride and there’s no sign of slowing down yet. But that kind of explosive growth doesn’t come without its perils and trapdoors… especially in managing a B2B sales team that is constantly shifting and growing itself.
I recently interviewed my colleague, SalesStaff’s Vice President of Sales Walter Snoddy, with the goal of identifying the factors that have contributed to his sales team’s continued success in the face of explosive growth.
Garrett Hollander: SalesStaff is growing by leaps and bounds. What kind of challenges does that present from a B2B sales management standpoint?
Walter Snoddy: It’s like being strapped to a rocket ship hurtled into space, but the rocket ship never slows down. In all seriousness though, the most challenging aspect of managing a B2B sales team in light of huge company growth is that the pieces to the machine are ever-changing.
Let me draw a comparison. I worked with a very mature sales team at a former company. When I look back and compare our growth to that, it’s a world of difference. With slow, sustainable growth, everything is very predictable and steady, but with explosive growth, it’s the polar opposite. Things move very rapidly and as a result you have to look farther down the road to anticipate changes before they happen. You can’t just put your head down and think, “Hey, this is how it is today and it’s working great and this is how it’s going to be in six months, too.” Because, quite simply, it’s NOT going to be the same.
GH: What is the most glaring difference between managing a B2B sales team of 3 people versus a team of 10 people?
WS: Time. It’s your most valuable resource. When you manage a smaller team, you have time to dig into issues and more deeply analyze strengths, weaknesses, and metrics.
GH: So how do you go about mitigating that? How do you account for the increase in time needed to effectively manage a larger team?
WS: The role of management and the layers of management adjusts to accommodate a larger team. The needs of a B2B sales team that’s growing become a lot to handle. There’s diminishing returns in effect and it’s a sort of magic line that you can’t see but you know when you get there. Really, it’s not the gradual growth of a sales team from 3 to 10 that’s challenging; it’s the marginal increase from 8 to 10, because that’s where the magic line starts to become apparent. The bottom line is: I can help three B2B sales professionals be very successful, but when you have a team of ten, all of a sudden, you’re stretched thin and the time and resources that you can allocate become miniscule. So, the key is to build in a layer of management that can help serve the team with the resources they need to be successful. Maybe it’s a couple of Senior Sales Reps or a Director of Sales, but you have to anticipate when your diminishing returns are going to kick in and act accordingly.
GH: Let’s wrap with a nugget of wisdom. In a sentence, give me the best piece of advice you can give B2B sales managers responsible for rapidly-growing sales teams.
WS: Anticipate the changes ahead of time so that you can manage the growth; otherwise, it’s going to manage you.
Walter Snoddy is Vice President of Sales at SalesStaff and is a seasoned Demand Generation professional with more than 20 years of executive sales leadership experience for the demand generation and inside sales fields. As a member of SalesStaff’s senior leadership group, Walter is responsible for expanding the business development team and developing the capabilities of the company’s national sales force. Walter possesses a rare combination of both sales and operations experience in our industry which transcends into growth and profit for SalesStaff. Walter served as an operations leader and member of the management team of InterNEED, a demand generation firm originally founded by SalesStaff’s CEO David Balzen in 1994. Connect with Walter on LinkedIn.
Starfleet Media recently posted the results of a survey of 261 B2B marketing and sales professionals from around the world focused on uncovering information about B2B content marketing efforts. As a marketer, I found some of the results interesting. Some key findings include:
Over the next year, 63% of B2B marketers plan to allocate more of their marketing budgets to content marketing.
Furthermore, almost 1/4 of the respondents plan to more than double their spending on content marketing in the coming year.
Zero marketers surveyed intend to decrease their spending on content marketing over the next year.
It looks like 2015 is going to be the year of content for B2B companies. That’s not all, folks. Check out some of these other results:
Distribution of Content
Those surveyed say they keep a whopping 80% of their major content pieces gated (behind registration/landing pages).
But as you might expect, certain content types are rarely gated – like infographics (92% never require registration to access infographics).
An extraordinary percentage (96%) of those surveyed use their sales/account teams to distribute content.
The effectiveness and ROI of B2B content marketing can be elusive to track; so I found the following interesting:
84% of marketers measure the success of content marketing campaigns by the number of leads generated – and that’s probably the way it should be.
78% of marketers measure the success of content marketing campaigns by tracking sales conversions.
66% of marketers measure the success of content marketing campaigns by the quality of leads.
About the Research
The report was based on data from a survey of 261 B2B marketing and sales professionals from around the world (71% from North America; 23% Europe; 6% other). Respondents came from a range of company sizes: 16% very large, 21% large, 18% medium, 27% small, 18% very small.
I was in the ATM drive-through lane of my bank this morning, getting some quick cash. Apparently, the machine and I weren’t moving fast enough for the person in the vehicle directly behind me. So what do you think her reaction was? You guessed it – honk!
I looked at her through my car’s rear view mirror, shrugging as if to say, “Hey, it’s not me. I’m moving as fast as I can.”
Now I’m feeling rushed, anxious and a bit agitated by her behavior. But what else can I do? I stop looking at her and wait the fourteen more seconds it takes for the machine to spit out my cash. I quickly grab it and drive away. Whew!
So I get to my office, the impatient lady in the minivan long gone from my memory, when I pass one of our salespeople in the hall. Before I can even say “Good morning” he says, “Hey, I can’t wait for some more great sales leads this week!”
Much like an ATM machine, inbound marketing has launched the ALM, the Automated Lead Machine. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s the best thing to happen to sales since the telephone, but by itself it’s not enough. Moreover, are we creating “direct deposit” salespeople? And if we are, are they becoming spoiled?
I know how currency gets from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to my bank’s ATM. In case you don’t but would like to know more, here’s a cool explanation. But I’m less concerned with how the money gets to the ATM as I am with if the money is actually there when I need it.
Just like me and my ATM experience, most salespeople are less concerned about how many prospects there are, but rather if and when a prospect is ready to engage. The role of B2B demand generation is to deposit qualified leads into the sales “ALM”. The expectation is not only that leads have been directly deposited, but that the ALM will notify sales that a qualified lead is ready to be withdrawn…or rather…engaged.
For the most part, B2B salespeople have an appreciation for the lifecycle stages that buyers travel in their journey from unknown visitor to delighted customer. And while inbound marketing does an excellent job of ensuring that the ALM is flush with currency (qualified leads), it’s a good idea to include the human element to engage with those qualified leads until they are truly ready to speak with a salesperson. In staying with our theme, think of it as going to the ALM on behalf of sales, withdrawing a prospect, and then delivering the prospect to a sales rep as if each was expecting the other.
Has inbound marketing spoiled salespeople? You bet. And isn’t that wonderful?
OK. So maybe it isn’t like writing a book, but to B2B social media marketers, it can sometimes feel that way. With social media schedulers like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, drafting a whole slew of Tweets all at once and then scheduling them out has become commonplace. It may seem like a pretty quick task to write 100 Tweets… after all, it’s only 140 characters each right? Not so fast, young padawan.
I recently wrote out a campaign of 100 Tweets and it took way longer than I expected. It got me wondering. How much time should I really be allotting for such a task? So, being the analytical guy that I am, I started to break it down into real numbers.
Let’s assume that you max out each Twitter post at 140 characters each. That means that the total campaign will have 14,000 characters.
Having taken a sample of about 10,000 words of random written prose from the internet, I figured that the average character count per word (including the trailing space) is about 5.44 characters per word.
That means that a 100 Tweet campaign is like writing a document of:
That’s a lot of writing even for the fastest copywriters. Just to give you an idea of what that really means, 2,573 words is equal to:
- about 4-8 standard blog articles
- 10 Gettysburg Addresses
- 25% more than Obama’s 2012 inaugural speech (2,096 words)
- 3.5% of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye
- over 17 minutes of spoken word (at an average speaking rate of 150 words per minute)
It’s really a lot more than you’d think, right? So, here are the takeaways:
- If you are a marketing manager, recognize that it is no quick task to draft a 100 Tweet campaign.
- Plan your time accordingly. Writing 100 Tweets will likely take you a few hours (including research and formatting).
- There have been over 30 billion Tweets written in the history of Twitter. Uh… that’s a lot of typing and phone-tapping.
So the next time you are assigned the task of writing a Twitter post campaign, make sure your expectations of the time it will take are accurate.
Being that SalesStaff is one of a few premier B2B lead generation companies, I could literally write a 10-page document on the questions you SHOULD ask a lead generation companies prior to an engagement with them.
Asking the right questions of B2B lead generation companies is the only way to determine if they will deliver the goods. As a company that does what we say we will, we never shy away from the tough questions.
Here are a few questions you should absolutely ask any B2B lead generation companies you’re considering working with to generate B2B sales leads or appointments:
- Expected Results: Based on feedback from your clients, what percentage of sales meetings/leads you provide result in qualified, funneled opportunities?
- Providing the Database as a Value-Add: Will I own the final database at the completion of the campaign?
- Recourse: How do we reject a sales meeting/lead and what is your replacement policy?
- Industry Experience: What kind of experience does your company, and specifically the rep that will work on my campaign, have in my industry?
Many B2B lead generation companies are valuable members of the sales & marketing services community, but – like most industries – there are some fly-by-night solutions. Buyer beware and be sure to always ask the right questions of any vendor you work with.
These questions are some of the ones featured in our free resources:
In looking at your B2B sales team, the great majority of B2B sales reps can be categorized in one of the three groups:
- The All-Stars (aka A-Players) – Much like an all-star athlete, these B2B sales reps are gifted and they work hard. They need little to no management or oversight to get to their quotas.
- The Unpredictables (aka B-Players) - This group represents the great majority of your B2B sales team. These reps may make their quota one month and miss the next. It’s difficult to figure out exactly why. They appear to have the ability but their performance is unreliable.
- The Underacheivers (aka C-Players) – These B2B sales reps rarely hit their quota. You are left with a wish and a prayer that they can bring up their game. But in the end, they probably are not equipped for a sales role.
Attention Sales Managers: Your best bet to improve your team’s performance is to focus on those Unpredictables – the B-players. Even marginal improvements in their performance can amplify their way throughout your sales performance, as a team.
Look at it this way… Let’s assume the following premises:
- You have a team of 10 B2B sales reps which exist in some iteration of the normal distribution bell curve; that means that you will have 2 All-Stars, 6 Unpredictables, and 2 Underacheivers.
- Their sales quota is 5 units per month
- Your All-Stars meet the quota every month.
- Your Unpredictables average 3 units sold per month.
- Your Underacheivers average 1 unit sold per month.
If these premises hold true, on an average month, your team will sell 30 units per month (10 from your 2 All-Stars, 18 from your Unpredictables, and 2 from your Underacheivers).
So your Underacheivers need a lot of work. Let’s say that with 6 hours of training/reinforcement each, they can increase their performance by 1 unit per month. Then you’ll see your monthly units sold increase to 32. You’ve spent 12 hours for 2 more units sold.
Now let’s assume that your Unpredictables don’t need as much training. Maybe they need some nudging. So you decide to spend 2 hours with each of the 6 B2B sales reps and all of them increase their output by one more unit. Now you’ve spent 12 hours for 6 more units sold.
You see what I’m driving at here? You need to spend less time with the B-players to get them to produce than the C-players who will rarely produce anyways. Not only do you need to spend less time with them, but you can see that the B-players make up the majority of your B2B sales force, and so there are some economies of scale in play, as well. You can train or work with them in mass and further increase your performance on a lower “time budget”.
At the end of the day, B2B sales people are people and I don’t mean to reduce them to just a number. But when you view B2B sales management in terms of hours spent for units produced, it’s obvious that your best investment of time is with your Unpredictables.
I couldn’t be prouder to announce to you, our faithful audience, that SalesStaff LLC has been ranked for the second year in a row on Inc. Magazine’s 33nd annual 2014 500|5000 list. It really is an honor to be named on this exclusive ranking of the nation's fastest-growing private companies. We’ve ranked 13th among Houston metro area companies, 47th among Business Services companies and 908th overall (see SalesStaff’s complete Inc. profile here).
Looking over many of this year’s honorees, we’re in great company and if you happen to be included, as well, congratulations to you and your team.
In reflecting on some of the main factors that have contributed to our growth and success over the years, there are quite a few that are most prominent. We’re happy to share them with you here.
First and foremost, you have to be strong performers and throw mediocrity out the window.
SalesStaff generated over 10,000 sales appointments and 25,000 sales leads for our clients the last 3 years.
Invest in the right pieces to ensure a quality product.
Our Quality Assurance department is independent and second to none.
Have a verifiable impact on your clients.
We have contributed $3 billion to our clients' sales pipelines in the last 3 years.
Be willing to respond to the market with products that solve challenges.
We respond to the market with new, valuable services like our ProspectID program.
The best case study is the internal use of your solution (if applicable).
We drink our own Kool-Aid when it comes to generating leads - 100+ internal inquiries a week. After all, we're in the business of growing our clients' pipelines - we do the same for our internal pipeline.
Structure your payment terms in a way that’s friendly for your client and a win-win for everyone.
We pioneered the Pay-for-Performance model in demand generation - clients only pay for guaranteed results.
Recognize when you may be in a buyer’s market and capitalize.
For us, market demand for outsourced B2B appointment setting and lead generation is on the rise.
Your sales organization should be one of the strongest departments in your company.
We use effective methods in our sales process.
Invest in content creation which drives hand-raisers into your pipeline.
Our content marketing initiatives generate 500+ resource downloads per month.
Finding the best talent available is absolutely indispensable.
We recruit only the best Inside Sales Representatives in the industry.
We do what we say we'll do.
Have clear and concise expectations to keep your own team accountable to their promises.
Our focus is on delivering sales opportunities that meet our clients' qualification criteria.
Curate an audience via social media and email marketing and publish content that resonates with them.
Our social media presence has afforded us an audience of over 300,000 sales and marketing professionals.
Try to eliminate some of the administrative duties of your sales reps and let them close deals.
Our sales support staff is busy generating proposals and finding sales opportunities which allows our sales reps to do what they do best – win business.
Make SEO a priority by writing sharable content with a focus on industry keywords.
Our SEO program has SalesStaff ranked on the first page for hundreds of industry keywords.
It’s been said that it’s cheaper to retain a client than to earn a new one; if you put a premium on quality deliverables, this should come naturally.
Our customers renew their contracts at very high rates because we deliver the goods.
Deliver results to your clients and they will keep coming back.
65-75% of the sales opportunities we deliver to our clients make their way into the sales pipeline.
Pick the right personnel to be client-facing – helpful, understanding, results-driven.
Our Account Managers and Program Managers are the best in the business.
Invest in a strong technology platform, not only to drive your sales and marketing efforts, but also to deliver your solution.
The technology we leverage to produce sales appointments & leads affords us HUGE production potential.
Fill key management and executive positions with people that have an intimate understainding of the business you’re in.
We know technology demand generation… our management comes from the tech Demand Generation world, in fact.
Respond to market inquiries effectively and swiftly.
We have the best Market Response team in the industry; they handle hundreds of inquiries each week.
Be a company with a moral compass, driven by integrity.
We choose to be a company that stands by our commitments. We take our guarantees seriously.
Share your expertise with the world and be seen as an authority in your space.
We share our knowledge freely through our resources and whitepapers.
Be upfront about your payment model and avoid “surprises” with your customers.
We don't charge any hidden fees - setup fees, data fees, no way.
Data is the fuel to all marketing campaigns; invest in a comprehensive prospect database.
Our amazing data team fuels our campaigns with qualified suspects to maximize productivity.
Be (or hire) executives who are leaders in the truest sense of the word.
Our principals are the model of great leadership and commitment to clients and team members.
As a team, we’re proud to work for a company that focuses on strong, healthy growth by making good on their commitments to clients and employees alike. It’s a recipe for success that we proffer to all of you.