As soon as I submitted my last blog on Sales Productivity, CSO Insights published an update to their quota attainment research. The good news is global sales rep quota attainment rose from 53.0% to 54.3%. The bad news is that it falls within the range of error, so we probably won’t know if sales productivity is truly improving for another year. Even at 54.3%, sales reps remain well below the 63.0% quota attainment level of 2012. When CSO Insights Research Fellow Jim Dickie looked at the underlying metrics, 22 of the 23 operational metrics declined over the past five years.
CSO Insights found that our sales processes are poorly defined and our sales reps have declining competencies. Dickie noted declines in our ability to prioritize which accounts to pursue, gain access to key decision makers, and penetrate other business units. This is the basic blocking and tackling of sales.
Boost Your Sales Productivity with Sales Engagement Software
Professionalizing the Sales Development Role
Sales Engagement platforms offer the opportunity to professionalize the SDR role. They also assist with aligning sales and marketing teams, prioritizing sales activities, and reaching out to prospects across target accounts.
Reaching key decision makers has become more difficult as they are inundated with sales messages and ignore most of the emails and phone messages left for them. We trained our Sales Development Reps (SDRs) to “smile and dial” and failed to train them in saying anything compelling. SDRs are often fresh out of college and new to sales. Being an SDR is an opportunity for sales reps to prove themselves, but if we simply put them on the phones with a generic pitch, most are likely to fail. It rewards the tenacious and affable, while burning out the smart problem solvers who will be needed for the increasingly complex sales of the future.
If we are to build relationships and trust with our ABM prospects, extend our presence into additional departments, and successfully upsell and cross-sell, then we need to ensure that we train and promote those with strong listening and business problem solving skills. Tenacity and affability are excellent sales skills, but the ability to understand the client’s problems and suggest the appropriate actions are becoming increasingly important.
Sales Engagement platforms such as TruCadence help professionalize the SDR role through sales cadences, email templates, and prospect insights. Too often, SDRs quit on prospects after only one or two touches, taking an initial lack of response as a lack of interest. But prospects are busy and may simply have missed or ignored initial contact attempts. Often, it takes seven or eight messages to gain a prospect’s attention. By simplifying the messaging and outreach schedule, sales engagement platforms increase the likelihood of earning your prospect’s ear without overburdening the sales rep with planning, tracking, and messaging tasks.
A cadence provides a scheduled, multi-channel approach to messaging your prospects. Reps can iterate between phone, email, and social channels. What’s more, cadence software tracks messaging and response activity for the rep, removing task overhead while ensuring that follow up tasks are scheduled and appropriately spaced. With analytics and call transcripts in hand, sales managers can identify rep weaknesses and provide coaching. They can also listen in on calls and whisper suggestions into the rep’s ear.
Cadences provide structure to SDRs and built in persistence. Cadence software also provides tested messaging, task prioritization, leadership dashboards, and analytics.
Tied to cadences are a set of email templates which provide tested messaging. Sales reps do not need to send templates as is and should engage in limited scope personalization. SalesLoft found that a small bit of personalization greatly increases click-through rates. According to their research, a rep can double their email click through rates by personalizing twenty percent of the text. Thus, a small investment in time results in superior results.
Furthermore, cadences can be assigned to specialized templates which are customized by industry, job function, company size, and underlying technology platforms. With Adaptalytics Data Intelligence, key variables are gathered from vendors such as Zoominfo (leads), HG Data (technographics), and Bombora (intent). Sales Operations or SDRs can then properly segment and assign prospects to the appropriate cadences. For example, if a list is built around Salesforce customers, the messaging can be customized around a firm’s AppExchange offering.
Along with custom messaging and personalization, data intelligence assists with prioritization, helping the sales rep direct their activities throughout the day. Marketing can work with sales operations to identify the key attributes of ideal customers and build lead scoring models. These models can include intent data, which flags accounts showing a spike in topical interest. Knowing that a company is likely evaluating a specific technology or looking to address specific problems raises the priority for the account. It also provides direct suggestions for custom messaging.
Cadence tools assist sales reps in determining who to call, when to call, and what to say. Sales reps can tailor their messages by industry, role, or surging topic of interest. As LinkedIn noted in a recent guide on sales engagement, “To truly engage with buyers you must understand their preferences.”
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