Think about this: 89 percent of workers admit to wasting time at work, and well over 50 percent say they waste more than one hour per day on non-work-related tasks. While I know that not every single moment can be spent on tasks, this is a significant amount of time lost.
When it comes to the sales team, wasted time equals wasted chances to grow the company. Add in the fact that each sales rep at any given company is not going to convert every lead, and a lot of opportunities are undoubtedly missed. There is a simple solution to improve outbound sales: Ensure that every rep inside your sales team is as focused and as productive as possible.
To do that, I suggest not only making sure sales employees have the proper mindset but also that they’re implementing an efficient process and utilizing the right tactics and tools.
The Right Mindset and Process
Attempting to be more productive at outbound sales simply won't work if a team isn't motivated, understanding of the customer base and working within a positive atmosphere. Address these things first.
Keep the Mind Fresh
Focus is a problem for any employee. It shocked me to discover that a little distraction, such as checking email, going on Twitter or taking a personal phone call, disrupts work for an average of over 23 minutes. While research has shown that breaks can improve productivity and creativity, the data on work interruptions is showing that too much time is spent on these breaks and that some are simply avoiding work.
So where's the balance?
First of all, if you’re not time-blocking, you’re losing hours of productivity. Sales guru Mike Weinberg advocates for time-blocking if you want to take back ownership of your calendar. Sales sage Jeb Blount proclaims that “Time blocking is transformational for salespeople.”
Next, implement activities that refresh the mind and keep sales employees engaged. Hold workout sessions at work, as exercise sharpens the mind and increases focus. At PersistIQ, we constantly take 10-minute breaks to stroll around the block. We also have a pull-up bar mounted in the mainspace. Aside from a physical workout, a mental workout can be just as refreshing. Run brainstorming sessions where all salespeople are encouraged to share ideas -- without judgment and in a laid-back environment.
Understand What Buyers Want
Thanks to the good old Internet, buyers are more informed than ever. To reach them, you have to ask better, smarter questions.
Of course, this is easier said than done. PersistIQ’s CEO and Cofounder, Pouyan Salehi, was recently interviewed for the Accelerate! Podcast hosted by Andy Paul. In it, Andy asks Pouyan what is one book that he recommends all salespeople read, and his answer was Question Based Selling. This made me revisit that book, and one of my favorite chapters was on curiosity.
The author Thomas Freese, posits that one of your goals in conversations with prospects should be to ask questions that earn you the right to probe further. Begin conversations with questions that are easy for you to ask and for your prospect to answer. Once you have earned the right to probe further, escalate the focus of your questions to increase the value of your sales conversations. Freese calls this “ Escalate the Value of Your Questions.”
There are a few types of questions, each serving a different purpose and should be used at different times. First, Freese makes the distinction between Status Questions vs. Issue Questions. A status question probes for specific pieces of information that will help reveal the current “status” of a prospect or lead and are low in value. Issue questions begin to uncover potential issues that are in need of viable solutions. Examples of Issue Questions include:
- “What's the most significant business issue you currently face?”
- “What would you like to accomplish with this type of product?”
- “To what extent is growth a factor in your business?”
- “What other challenges do you foresee?”
“To What Extent” is relatively straightforward yet highly valuable to you, “To what extent is important?” is a technique that uncovers needs. By asking this, you will have successfully escalated the focus of your questions.
Moving on to the next stage, Implication Questions get prospects to think about the impact of an issue, further into the prospect's thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Here, get the prospect to explore what might happen if an issue isn't addressed.
Here are some examples of Implication Questions.
- “What would happen if your computer system went down and was unavailable for an entire day?”
- “Have you ever calculated how much money every hour of unscheduled downtime is costing your company?”
- “How does system downtime affect your customers?”
- “What would happen if your data was lost completely?”
The more implications you uncover, the easier it is for prospects to justify a favorable purchase decision.
Lastly, Solution Questions help you lock in the next step in the sales process. Focus this discussion on the benefits that will come from having your solution. Solution Questions motivate the prospects to move forward by focusing their attention on solving the problem.
“Mr. Jenkins, if I could show you how to solve each of the issues we just discussed, would you be willing to take the next step?”
Whatever the next step in your sales process is, Solution Questions are excellent closing tools that use the potential value of your offering to secure the prospect's commitment to engage further.
Take these questions, or questions from another framework, such as SPIN Selling, then adapt and adopt them to make it your own. Personally, I advise against hard selling and relying on scripts. Instead, I suggest that a sales rep try to offer a solution to the customer's problem. This can go a long way in bringing back customers, as 82 percent of clients state that quick issue resolution is a major reason for their loyalty to a company.
Build a Productive Culture
Building culture is hard, but there’s one thing that I know: teams will evolve to emulate the personalities of the leaders. I have learned that any sales team needs leadership much more than someone micro-managing their tasks. Create a comfortable environment where ideas can be readily exchanged. Hire talented sales reps that can work well with one another. Be clear about what is expected of the team, and meet regularly to analyze key performance indicators, handle issues and brainstorm. Coach in the moment and cite the success of high performing sales reps to motivate other workers.
And when the time comes, reward your team and celebrate success milestones. The happier and more engaged your sales team is, the more your company will succeed. This stat proves it: In 2014, average revenue for the Fortune 100 "Best Companies to Work For" jumped a whopping 22.2 percent.
The Right Tactics and Tools
Being successful at inside and outbound sales also involves understanding the buying process, keeping in touch with current clients and making use of technological tools. Doing these things, along with those mentioned above, can lead to crushing your quota.
Capitalize on Referrals
If you have a common acquaintance with a contact, see if you can get a referral. Referrals offer an "in" that just doesn't exist when you cold call or cold email a potential client. With research showing that 84% of B2B decision makers start their buying processes with referrals. That's how influential a common connection can be. I absolutely believe that using such contacts will increase sales.
There are a few quick rules for referrals. First, timing is very important. A client or customer is most likely to refer your business when they’re on an emotional high, which would be right after you’ve implemented your product/service for them or after they’ve had their first “win” with your product/service. In regard to timing, this is pretty obvious, but what most people miss is the timing with respect to the person that your client is referring you to. Here’s what I mean. Most referrals are to people who are either already evaluating and on trial with other solutions, which means your chances are slim to none, or happy with their solution, which give you very similar chances. The goal is to get a referral to the decision maker immediately after they’ve experienced a trigger event that put them into the window of dissatisfaction.
In their book SHiFT, Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto tell us that in order to get the right referrals, we need to find “people in the know.” These people are typically complementors, competition or connections. Complementors selling similar product or services, but aren’t direct competitors. Often, the purchase of one product/service oftens leads to a situation that connects directly to your service.
Next is your competition. This may sound crazy, but hear me out. This isn’t your direct competition, but rather a product/service that provides a similar solution to a problem that you solve. Think of it this way -- not everyone is a perfect fit for your product, so rather than leaving the buyer high and dry, why not refer to a “competitor” who may be a better solution in this instance? Now, find a competitor who will reciprocate.
The last of the “people in the know” who will refer us to decision makers at the right time are connections. This in anyone who has regular access to and sell to the people that you want to turn into customers. This isn’t just the typical individual who goes to all the networking events, but rather someone who sells products/services that decision makers who experience a trigger event have bought or are going to buy. For example, a real estate agent closes a home with a pregnant couple. Guess who will be in the market for life insurance soon? To find these people ask yourself, “What else do decision makers who are dissatisfied with their current solution need?” and “Who else has customers I want?”
It's about utilizing your existing network to drive growth from outbound sales. Buyers will be more likely to engage with you if they know someone that knows you. It's an age-old truth.
Keep Connected With Existing Customers
Building loyalty with the right customers is key. Acquiring a new client can be anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than maintaining an existing relationship. Furthermore, word of mouth is powerful, and if your current buyers are satisfied, they'll naturally spread the word to family, friends and colleagues. We make sure our sales and customer success teams regularly supports current customers via various methods, including:
- Hosting in-person events
- Online webinars and trainings
- Product updates
- Exclusive access beta programs/products
- Just saying thank you
Make Use of Technology
Your sales team should be using the latest apps to improve outbound sales productivity. PersistIQ, for instance, is a robust top-of-funnel platform, as it works to help you turn cold leads into qualified opportunities. Calendly is convenient for mid sales stage support, as the tool makes scheduling meetings, demos and appointments with customers seamless. And SteelBrick provides excellent software for the late sales stage by making quote creation simple and quick.
In addition to these, there are lots of other software programs and apps that can be utilized to make you more effective and close more deals. Explore some of these and more in a post we wrote titled How to Build the Perfect Sales Stack for Your Company. I don't advise you overload your sales reps with programs to learn, but do provide them with appropriate tools to take their sales game to the next level.
Stay tuned for more of the latest in outbound sales best practices and methods.
This post was brought to you by PersistIQ. Our software empowers salespeople to easily convert prospects into a qualified pipeline and create personalized outbound campaigns at scale. See how PersistIQ can help you make your own sales efforts more effective today.