This is a guest post from Matt Sornson, head of growth marketing at Clearbit.
Sales is tough. In startups, it is unrelenting. The objective is growth, so no matter what target you hit this month, next month will be even harder.
But people don't get into this industry for an easy ride. Salespeople like hard work. They want to hit those targets and then be given harder targets. They want that growth for themselves, the team, and the company.
What they don't like is stupid hard work. They want to be talking to customers and moving them through the pipeline. They don't want to be wasting time.
Any sales leader should be easing the burden on their team. Not so they can take it easy, but so they can focus their energy on the important parts of the job. You can do this by giving them easy access to data—on both your customers and your team.
Make it easier to understand your customers
Modern sales is data-driven. When you give your salespeople insight into prospects, they close better deals faster.
Take outbound email as an example. The average response rate for a cold email is 1%. As Guillaume Cabane, VP of Growth at Drift points out, this is only marginally better than phishing attacks.
Cold email should be a great channel for most SaaS salespeople. It is a 1:1 personalized communication with someone you know needs your product. Except, for most outbound email, that last sentence isn't true. Most aren't personalized. Most aren't to people in need. Because most salespeople don't have this data.
Instead, they have two options:
- I don't have data, so I have to do more manual research which eats into my time, so I can send fewer emails—more work for less success.
- I don't have data, so I just won't do any research and use my time to send more, generic emails—more work for less success.
Having the data on hand would allow salespeople to do less research and send fewer emails. But the emails they did send would be much stronger with a far greater response rate. This is what Guillaume has found at Mention, Segment, and now at Drift. He outlines a 4-step approach to using data for great outbound:
- Discovering Intent—Do your prospects want you to solve their problem? Do they even have a problem that needs solving? Without this data point, all other activity is moot. This has always been one of the hardest parts of the sales process to grok. But now you can know if a certain company is visiting your site, or has recently installed new tech that you integrate with. These behavioral intent signals are readily available for you to feed to your salespeople, so they know people are interested when they send out that email.
- Deciding Fit—Not everyone setting up a new tool or moving job is going to want your product. And not all are going to be good fits for your product. That is why qualification is such an important process for your salespeople. But manually qualifying through search or criteria is time-consuming for salespeople and might require them to get on a call with an unqualified lead in the first place. Feeding information into data-based lead qualification can cut down on this extraneous work, making the qualification process automatic. Then salespeople know they are only reaching out to people in need, will want, and will succeed with the product.
- Personalizing outreach—the final part for email is using this information to data to personalize the email. This is more work. But it is useful work. Check out the email below. This is triggered by someone from Eli Lilly visiting the Segment site (intent), qualified through finding tech that Segment works with (fit) and then personalized with this information and lookalike companies. When the recipient receives this it makes sense. They will respond.
At Segment, this technique increased email conversion rates by 200%. At the same time, it made like dramatically easier for the SDR running it. They had the right information at their fingertips and could be confident that when they sent out these emails, the people on the other end found them useful.
The fourth step? Check whether outbound is even for you. If you have someone on your site already looking, then waiting to send them an email could be too late. Use Intercom or Drift instead. This is exactly what Heresy are doing, ready to talk to any potential customer on the site in real time today.
Make it easier to understand your team
The data that helps your team isn't only external. Any sales team is sitting on a gold mine of data that can tell them exactly where they are going right and where they are going wrong. If only they can find it and use it effectively.
By surfacing this data and presenting it for easy consumption, you can make your team more efficient. This is as true in traditional sales as it is in Agile sales. In Agile sales, we can see how each member of the sales team can be aided by having easy access to simple data.
A burndown chart helps salespeople understand their goal
Frontline salespeople are often left out of analytics. They are seen as donors of data, not beneficiaries. Analytics in most BI tools helps managers understand reps, but not reps understand reps.
Something as simple as a burndown chart can change that:
A salesperson presented with this every day knows whether they are on target or not, and how each of the deals in their pipeline is going to contribute to their monthly quota.
The simplicity is key to making life easier for that rep. They aren't distracted by extraneous detail. They are not really thinking about targets or quotas; they are just trying to make sure that the “actual” line trends with the “ideal.” It allows them to focus easily on their goal.
A deals board helps scrum masters understand the pipeline
During each sprint, it is the scrum master that is responsible for the cadence of the team. They need to know where each deal is to keep the flow moving. A kanban board is just as ideal for this as it is for software or car production.
At a glance, the scrum master can see where the team is, what needs to be chased, and what deals are in which phase. They can have this open all day and see the deals that are moving, as well as the deals that are not. Then they can act on this information.
Again, simplicity is key to making the scrum master's life easier. Sales is awash with analytics and data, but what really matters? It is knowing where deals are and what needs to be done. Reducing their cognitive load back to just this makes them more effective.
Analytics helps sales managers understand the big picture
Agile sales is about iteration. Quick sprints lead to faster insights, but only if you have the data.
In Agile sales, the sales managers are there to coach the team. If salespeople are struggling to close deals, they are the person that needs to find the answer.
This is an area that really needs hard data. Salespeople are prone to optimism. If asked about their closing technique, they are going to offer only qualitative information. Being able to show them the numbers means a more honest conversation now and better practices, and results, in the future. For this data-driven sales coaching to be effective, you need to think about:
- Reporting infrastructure. This is going to be your analytics. Again, simplicity works. Pointing to a dozen numbers to improve isn't going to help the rep or the team. Instead, having the single number of “average time to close” as a metric both gives a starting point and a goal.
- Problem diagnosis. With the data available, rep and manager can sit down and go through all the data to see what might be holding them back. They can then approach the problem together as a team finding the iterative solutions that will slowly bring the time to close down.
- Training framework. With data readily available to the whole team, the whole team can be involved in training. The intra-team training is an important component of Agile sales. Having the simple data available for everyone means everyone can help each other, not just the managers.
Less waste; more speed
Each of these types of data—external for understanding customers, internal for understanding your team—might seem distinct. But they are both part of a wider framework that sales teams need. They need to understand that data is going to help you do the job faster and better. It lets you know your customer today and learn more about yourself tomorrow.
Most importantly, it makes life easier for your salespeople. The grunt work can go, leaving just the hard work of sales. Which they love.
To make life easier for your sales team, head over to heresy.io and signup for your (free forever) account.
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