As sales managers we love having a process in place around our teams’ sales efforts. We create a series of repeatable steps for our reps to take prospects through, from proposal stage to negotiations through closing. But oftentimes, the hardest part of sales isn’t moving prospects through -- it’s getting them to the pipeline in the first place.
And for many managers, this is the part of the sales process where we have the least structure.
When I started working with Angie’s List, my client there told me the company’s 800 B2B reps spent approximately 70 percent of their time looking for their next deal. Seventy percent! And, the client told me the company had no process for how reps were to go about doing it … meaning they had no idea what their 800 reps spent 70 percent of their time doing!
There’s no other functional part of the company that operates in such a way. Imagine if everyone on your accounts payable team handled bills differently from one another!
Having 800 reps work in 800 different ways presents obvious issues, namely that without a process in place, it was impossible to know what was working well and what wasn’t. And that’s true even if the size of your team is closer to 8 than 800.
So I’ll share with you the same thing I suggested to Angie’s List – that regardless of size, your team needs a standard prospecting process, starting with a cadence for how often reps reach out to prospects. The actual numbers you decide on are less important than simply deciding on them - the point is to have everyone marching to the same beat, so you can then analyze that beat.
For example, if you find out your reps generally reach people between the fifth and eighth contact, but virtually never after the tenth, change your process to ensure reps make at least eight touches, but don’t waste their time reaching out more than that.
From Nothing To Something: 6 Tips To Help Start Your Prospecting Process
- Pick your number of attempts and frequency. For example, 10 calls per week for four weeks.
- Decide what time of day you will leave voicemails and when you will just call. For example, voicemail at 8 am and 5 pm, call at 11:30 am.
- Have your reps keep track of when they connect with prospects. For example, connected on sixth call.
- Analyze the results. How many contacts until your reps hear back? What time of day do they reach the most people?
- Change the cadence accordingly.
- Continue tracking and refining your process according to the team’s success.
If you think back to your middle school science classes, you’ll remember that every experiment needs a control and a variable.
By having them all perform the same process, your reps become the control in this experiment. The number of calls they make, the frequency of those calls, and the timing are all variables. At the end of the experiment, you will collect the data and run the experiment again, but be sure to change only one of the variables. That way, you can attribute changes in results to a specific activity.
For example, if the only thing you change is the timing of your calls from early morning to late afternoon, and the success rate in reaching prospects significantly improves, you can be confident that’s due to calling in the late afternoon.
If, on the other hand, you change the timing of the calls, the frequency, and start sending an email ten minutes prior to calling, it would be impossible to determine which factor led to improvement.
A few simple experiments like this and you’ll be on your way to more effectively managing your sales team’s prospecting process – and boosting efficiency with each step.
Got any other steps managers should consider as they implement a process for prospecting? Let us know!