Sales Force Productivity

Are Inside Sales Departments good at Lead Generation/Lead Qualification?

Should you consider outsourcing to complement Inside Sales?

ETI clients often have Inside Sales (IS) departments.  

Typically Inside Sales are tasked with a range of responsibilities including (but not limited to) Supporting Field Sales, Customer Service, Account Management, Order handling and Processing as well as some Lead Generation, Lead Qualification and Lead Nurturing.  In some instances they also play a role in building and maintaining Partner relationships.  

IS reps are for the most part involved in passive activities such as responding to the needs of accounts and supporting field sales.  

When most managers spec out the job requirements for their IS staff you will find Lead Generation/ Lead Qualification high up on the list of requirements.  Yet, proactive Lead Generation and Lead Qualification somehow gravitates over a period of time to become a small(er) part of their actual activities.  

Now let’s define the typical traits of the IS staff:

  • Hunters are great at identifying and either bringing in new business - or at least generating and qualifying leads.

  • Farmers’ strength lies in nurturing and helping grow existing accounts.  In addition they frequently function in a ‘customer service’ role.

  • Gatherers’ wait for the low hanging fruit to fall into their lap.  

Rarely are IS reps highly effective at all aspects of Hunting, Farming and Gathering.  Most are more often excellent at the latter two with only a small percentage having the strength to undertake the grueling work of Hunters.  

Now let’s consider the traits of the personnel needed for the various types of Inside Sales activities:

   Traits
    Hunter Farmer Gatherer
A
c
t
i
v
i
v
t
i
e
s
Account Management Not a Match Good Match Not a Match
Customer Service Not a Match Good Match Good Match
Lead Generation Good Match Not a Match Not a Match
Lead Qualification Good Match Somewhat of a Match Good Match
Lead Nurturing Not a Match Good Match Somewhat of a Match

Another consideration is the IS Management Team.  It’s safe to assume that the team they build will be around their core competencies.  If their competency is in Customer Service and Account Management and not in Lead Generation then you will probably not have a department that is meeting its Lead Generation / Lead Qualification goals.  

It is rare to find an IS operation that is good at everything.  It is even more rare that it will be staffed with adequate resources to fit all its requirements.  

  • If you need it all then consider allowing the IS team to focus on a specific core competency - rather than trying to be all things to all people.  You can then outsource the missing elements to a company that has those core competencies and that can deliver results in quick order.  This can result in a major positive impact on your ROI.

At ETI we’ve had unparalleled success working with Inside Sales departments to maximize their productivity by providing the solutions they need to maximize their resources including all of the above activities.

We’d be happy to engage with you and explore how ETI, might compliment  your IS department.   Please call 1.800.466.4384 - select option 1.

Can your company boost sales through productivity gains?

In a given day week or month ….

  • What percentage of sales time is spent prospecting (i.e. developing highly qualified leads) versus selling?
  • How many sales visits (to qualified prospects) do your salespeople make?
  • Or how many conversations (cold or warm) do they have with targeted prospects?
  • Or how often do your salespeople reach out to their top 50 / 100 / 150 targeted prospects?
    • And what happens with those targeted prospects in the next range(s) (151+)?

No two sales forces are ever the same.  Neither are any two salespeople ever the same. However, whatever your existing resources you need to ensure that the focus should always be on those prospects the company has targeted (i.e. go beyond the low hanging fruit many salespeople focus on) … and are ready to buy.  This should be priority number one.

Having worked with some of the most sophisticated selling operations in the world in High Tech, Healthcare, and many of the world's largest Financial Institutions for some 27+ years, I can attest to the fact that almost none have a practical game plan to address selling productivity.  

So you may ask … “If these large and successful companies do not care about sales productivity then maybe it’s not that important?”

Let’s examine the following scenarios:

Realistic circumstance - No optimization

In scenarios where a salesperson role is to find, qualify and generate awareness among the prospect universe at least 66.66% of their time, then it’s likely that each salesperson will only close approximately 2 sales per month.  

New Sales Visits per week Average no. of sales visits per month Assume 20% Sales conversion ratio
2-3 10 2 sales per month

However, in an ideal scenario, a salesperson could potentially close 8 sales per month (400% more sales) if his/her role were to focus on highly qualified leads (HQL’s) 100% of the time .

Ideal circumstance - HQL’s provided for optimized sales productivity

New Sales Visits per week Average no. of sales visits per month Assume 20% Sales conversion ratio
10 40 8 sales per month

Primary benefits of maximizing sales productivity (in the above scenarios)?

  • 6 additional sales (8 total) or more sales per month per salesperson (300%+ more than the non optimized scenario)
    • Significant revenue gain
    • Reduced lost opportunity factor
  • You probably employ more sales persons than you need
    • Field salespeople are your most expensive sales resource (even if solely commission based)
    • Costs per sale potentially increase 4 or 5 fold because of low productivity

Sure nothing is straightforward.  No doubt Marketing and or your Website help to partially fill the sales lead pipelines with qualified prospects.  Rarely however, (I’d hazard a guess - NEVER) are salespeople provided with sufficient HQL’s so that they can user their time more productively.

And of course if a percentage of their time is involved in other activities such as Account Management and other Administrative activities you can bet the result in real terms is worse than outlined above.

ETI offers a free sales productivity analysis.  In full disclosure we do it (for free) because inevitably the rationale to use our services becomes more than obvious when you see the reality.  

Are you ready to measure your sales productivity levels and explore ways to potentially increase sales velocity by 400 to 500%?

Please call.  We’ll be happy to discuss.

 

Effective Customer / Prospect Profiling (Part 2)

Imagining Business Profiling Nirvana

Sing along …

  • Imagine all those salespeople selling all the time.
  • Imagine their pipeline that is constantly being topped up with fresh “sales ready” opportunities.
  • Imagine if real ROI is positive.
  • Imagine your salespeople could be held to account for focusing on the prospects and accounts you want them to focus on (not just the low hanging fruit).

Let’s be honest.  You can imagine all you want but unless you have and own the business intelligence (data) to know the makeup of your account and prospect base, you have no real chance of attaining any semblance of Nirvana.

Nirvana (or something close to it) requires a determination and a commitment to deploy resources to achieve it.  Above all it requires a salesforce that is disciplined to focus their efforts on those prospects and or accounts that you (i.e. management) want them focused on because that is where the business and sales growth is going to come from.

Why do you think the military places such an emphasis on good intelligence? How about the importance the US government places on it by spending trillions on the CIA and NSA?  Why does the Financial Industry spend billions on analysts to research the companies they want to invest in?  They do it because if there is any sure way to winning a battle it’s knowing the enemy, their resources, their location/s, their tactics and their operational plans.  

So why is it that when it comes to business, so few companies invest significantly in business intelligence.  Some do research gathering statistics for trend analysis but very little is invested in deep strategic data about targeted and strategic accounts and prospects.

Ask yourself …

  • How well documented is your database (CRM or other database system) with strategic information of your top accounts?
    • Do you know the names and contact details of the key stakeholders?
    • Do you know all relevant locations / geographies that the account operates in?
    • Do you know the potential account size (not historical value)?
      • How confident are you that part of your marginal accounts are not in fact LARGE accounts purchasing from a competitor?
        • If so which competitor?
    • How much do you know about adaptation and potential usage (or the number of installations)?
    • Do you know about growth (or contraction) plans?
    • Is the data accessible to all sales and marketing resources?

If the answer is “.. we know very little” then you have an opportunity to change that by engaging in a structured and ongoing information and business intelligence building effort that will give you a leg up on the competition and will enable your sales and marketing operations to be laser focused by maximizing sales and marketing productivity to increase sales.

See Part 1 of this article

Why good sales people should be terrible at prospecting

Here is a simple proposition: When a sales person is selling, he or she is not identifying new opportunities. And that’s a good thing, because you always want your sales people to be actively selling.

The better the sales person, the greater the imperative to focus his or her attention exclusively on selling. It’s not that great sales people can’t prospect successfully. It’s just that they simply shouldn’t have the bandwidth available to do the job well.

Consistent prospecting requires organized, dedicated contact with prospect companies, initially to identify the right stakeholders and then to engage with them, cultivate a relationship, and build an in-depth understanding of their needs, challenges and aspirations. That’s a full-time job; it can’t be done well on a catch-as-catch-can basis. It’s not a “one day a week reserved for prospecting” kind of task.

And, it’s no secret that most sales people hate prospecting. They often find it demotivating and foreign to their primary skill set. Good sales people get “pumped” when they are eye to eye with a prospect, deeply engaged in problem identification and solving, not when they are “smiling and dialing.”

Put them in front of the right people with an identified need and interest and they are smack in the middle of their ideal milieu, with their juices flowing. That’s when they can be most productive — cultivating the relationship, building a foundation of trust and closing the sale — and that’s exactly what you pay them for.

So, if your sales people aren’t engaged in prospecting, how do you get it done?

You can either develop your own, internal, dedicated business development team or you can outsource the activity to a company that specializes in lead generation. The choice is up to you, and it’s a function of how you want to deploy your resources. There are arguments to be made in support of either choice.

The key variables to consider include whether or not you want to take on the responsibility and overhead of hiring employees and the associated costs and, if you go down that path, whether you will then have the flexibility to ramp up and down as needed to meet your seasonal needs — not as easy with an in-house team.

There’s also the matter of lost opportunity costs associated with sick time, vacations and turnover. You pay an outsourced partner only for what they are doing, not for lost time. Along with turnover comes the need to hire and train regularly (it becomes a revolving door).

Then there are the costs of management, equipment and systems (all of which have their own associated indirect costs). Most often, in-house solutions are more costly than outsourcing if you account for all direct, indirect, and lost opportunity costs.

But you may want to spend more to gain greater control, and owning the process internally certainly gives you that. Moreover, it's easier to facilitate communication and teamwork between your own employees than it is if you use an outsourced partner. And that's an important consideration.

And let’s not forget your brand and the image that is portrayed by those who are representing you to your prospect (and customer) base. Whether the solution is in-house or outsourced, that’s a critical variable that is too often overlooked. The cost of a bad connection between one of your representatives and a prospect or client is huge. You can’t overestimate the importance of professionalism and brand and product image.

So, whatever route you choose, be sure that your representation is professional enough to raise the esteem of your brand as well as accomplish the primary goal of generating qualified sales opportunities Ensure that your management structure is sufficient to mandate accountability from everyone involved, from those responsible for seeking out the opportunities to the sales people who must follow up if your investment is to have solid ROI.

Regardless of your choice, the lesson here is simple. Sales people are among your most expensive assets. Employing them to undertake work that can be more consistently and productively accomplished by a competent, dedicated prospecting team is both far more expensive and unproductive. Keeping them in front of the right people as often as possible is the best way to maximize their productivity as well as the return on your investment.

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