Time management is a major challenge for enterprise sales teams who must remain vigilant about the ROI of the time and money they invest in cultivating prospects and closing a deal. It's especially difficult in industries with long-tail sales cycles that might take months from initial contact to signing the contract.
Yet, despite the critical nature of time management and the pressure to succeed, studies show that enterprise sales teams spend less than half their time actually selling. Instead, they spend the majority of time generating leads and researching accounts, sitting in meetings, performing administrative tasks, conducting service calls, in training, and other activities.
It seems obvious that the key to maximizing sales efficiency is to ensure that sales people focus their efforts on activities that actually drive sales-cultivating the right opportunities, relationships and prospects that are most likely to buy. But, that's easier said than done. How do you know which leads are the "right ones" to pursue? And, even more challenging, what's the "right way" to pursue them?
- Identify your ideal customer. Based on your current customers, build a profile (or multiple profiles, if warranted) that captures the characteristics that make up your ideal buyer at both the company and individual level. Do these companies also tend to buy certain other products? What are the job functions, skill sets, and expertise they have in common? Are you selling to the C-suite, or a few levels down? Be careful not to focus too heavily on job title alone, as sometimes these don't accurately reflect the true role the ideal buyer plays in the organization. This identification process will take some time at first, but will ultimately help you hone in on the right targets and stop barking up the wrong trees.
- Acquire high-quality data. Lead lists and databases are only as good as the data they contain. Unfortunately, in the case of static sources, much of the data is often outdated by the time it reaches your desk. Ensuring that the names, phone numbers, and email addresses are current is very challenging in today's dynamic job market, but holding your data sources' feet to the fire on quality is important to keep from wasting your team's time.
- Gather insight to create context in your pitch. Before picking up the phone or laboring over a carefully worded email, do some research on the targeted company or the individual and find a way to connect your value proposition to their needs, interests, or area of expertise. Perhaps they've attended a relevant workshop, webinar or trade event, or maybe blogged about a topic related to your product or service.
- Leverage social media to accomplish steps 1, 2, and 3. It's astonishing how much information can be discovered by examining prospects' social profiles, posting, and commenting activity and it's all readily available, for free, at any time and from anywhere. By listening in on their interactions with peers, you can gain tremendous insight into prospects' needs, desires, and wants, and how you might address those. Are they ranting about frustration with your competitor's product? Are they looking to solve a problem your solution can fix? This provides the perfect opportunity to create the context discussed in Step 3. Even better, social profiles tend to contain up-to-date information about job roles, contact information, and more to ensure data quality (step 2). After all, what's the first thing most people do when they change jobs or employers, achieve a milestone or advance their expertise? Update their professional profiles.
- Automate. You could spend hours tediously researching each individual lead, but that would hardly be efficient or worthwhile from an ROI standpoint. The only practical way to achieve this kind of real-time, social-based lead prospecting is to automate the process. Build a system that matches prospects against specific keywords and search parameters that you configure based on your known ideal buyer profile. Similar to the way search spiders scour the Internet to index pages and allow search engines to deliver the right results based on your keyword searches, an automated social lead system will efficiently surface the most relevant leads-including both the companies and the individuals within them-who are most likely to buy with minimal effort and time investment for your sales team.
Despite all of the tools developed to maximize sales efficiency, like mobile tech, expense trackers, CRM solutions, etc., it's ironic that perhaps the most critical sales function-lead gen and qualification-has been relatively neglected. Fortunately, a new breed of automated technologies are making it possible for sales teams to efficiently tap into the social sphere and identify more qualified leads (both in quantity and quality) with less time and effort. In the perpetual race to do more with less, these tools can allow your sales team can finally gain a productivity advantage that will also make them more effective every time they pick up the phone, send an email, or meet with a prospect.