Triple the Effectiveness of Your Best Sales People

This week’s blog is from Ben Bradley, Managing Director of Macon Raine, Inc., who also blogs on marketing, sales technology and just about everything else at

When did the job of selling get lumped in with everything else? Asking a great sales person to clean CRM data, lick envelopes and turn over rocks looking for prospects is not a good use of skills, time or money.
Maybe this is why CSO Insights reported that only 52% of sales reps met their quota in 2009?

Selling is the management of a very complex business process. It is complex because customers aren’t predictable, they don’t always act reasonably. They need sales because they value the continuity of contact.  Customers can’t have a relationship with your brand; they need a person to have a relationship with.

Do the math, a top closer with a $2 million annual quota creates value worth $1000 per hour ($2,000,000/2000 hours=$1000/hour). Asking your top relationship managers to turn over stones looking for leads and updating CRM is costing your organization big. Prospecting is expensive.

In the 2010 Miller Heiman Sales Best Practices Study, fewer than one out of five study participants reported they use a prospecting plan. Yet, a full three quarters of top-performing sales organizations said they are consistent in this activity.  There is a disconnect somewhere.

At some point, as your sales organization grows, you’ll find it more cost effective to insert specialists into the process rather than ask your closers to manage the entire process. To triple sales, instead of tripling the size of the sales organization, the smart money looks for ways to triple the effectiveness of the best closers.  �
So how should you do this? What is the fastest way to break away from the old habits and build new, scalable, repeatable and affordable processes for creating new sales opportunities for your best closers?

  • The first task is the task of definition: Don’t fight it anymore. Go ahead and ignore the marketing purists who believe sales and marketing are different. For you, now, as you think about taking the next step in the evolution of your sales organization and as you try to stretch your very limited budget, the job of marketing is to create new opportunities for sales.  Period. The end.  The job of sales is to carefully manage those opportunities and relationships until they are ready to become customers and provide feedback on ways to streamline and improve the marketing activities.
  • Get on the same page. Get on the same page with what a customer actually looks like… less than a third of Miller Heiman’s study participants agreed that their sales and marketing organizations are aligned in what their customers want and need.
  • Decrapify your marketing: a January 2009 Customer Experience Panel conducted by IDC Global asked “which of the following is the #1 thing a rep can do to improve the value of your relationships with the sales team and the vendor they represent?” More than 40% of respondents said: “Put aside the generic sales pitch.” This means – it is okay to go ‘off message’ or off-brand as you help your people build sustainable relationships with your customers.
  • Give sales people time to do what they do best: It is easy to under-estimate the amount of work required to convert a qualified lead into a sale. From justifying ROI, recruiting and coaching an internal champion, managing expectations and competitive positioning, the skills required for successful selling are very different from the skills required for successful prospecting. Expecting the same person to excel at both is unreasonable.
  • Lead generation must become a core competency: Cold calling, tradeshows, advertising and other big marketing tactics still work for lead generation. However, the time is not far away when a consistent program of long-tail content, SEO and word of mouth marketing will become your primary source of leads.  The time is now to start understanding this reality and begin preparing your organization for the inevitable.
  •  Simple data matters: In B2B, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to know that you can’t sell something to someone unless you know their email, title, mailing address, company affiliation, title and phone number. In other words, you can’t sell something to someone unless you know who they are. Getting the right data, keeping the data clean and cultivating the contact data until the prospective customer is ready to have a conversation matters more than most think.  If you love your data, your data will love you back.
  • Slightly more complex data is even better: once your data is clean, you are then ready for the big time with lead scoring and modeling “online body language” by tracking a prospect’s visits to the website, webinar attendance, downloads and other behavior to determine the best times to enage the sales team.  You can’t do the fun stuff until you get your data under control.
  • How many net new names did you add to the CRM each month?  Don’t be content with the existing database. Every month there should a concerted effort to bring new names into CRM.  Even if you have a huge flow of inbound leads into your website each month, the acquisition of new names ensures your marketing remains proactive as you hunt for new key accounts.

The type of person comfortable cleaning data, that understands key account selling and is happy being the guardian of data is very different from the type of person happiest in front of customers. It may be the best qualified person for this role is not a sales person at all – but rather a specialist that understands the tools and techniques of marketing AND selling.