Prospect-Experience
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Convert more prospects. Drive more revenue.

Insights to Optimize the Prospect Experience

Resources: It’s a LOT more complicated than you think!

When it comes to marketing and sales, you very seldom see the word “resources” when it is not preceded by the word “limited.”

After all, we live in a world of limited resources and unlimited wants and needs. When I first conceived the notion of the “12-Point Prospect-Experience Transformation” I had content on my mind as the resource that is squandered most often.

My experience has been that sales reps ask for more content than they need, and marketing does its best to provide the requested content, often not truly understanding the prospects’ actual needs or how to talk to them. As I researched the subject of resources, I found that it’s a lot more complicated than appears on the surface.

This blog is broken down into the following segments. (Note that I could write a blog on every segment and a book on the topic—so this has been stripped down a good bit, but I have provided links to source material when it is not my own.)

Segments:

What is the minimum tech stack? 

Segment and focus on the best targets.

Focus on a buyers’ specific industries, roles and unique challenges.

There is a point of diminishing return when it comes to providing sales with sales support. 

There are two types of resources needed: helpers and tools (it is NOT all about tools).

Training and development should be such a big part of most programs.

What is the minimum tech stack? 

How do you deal with marketers with limited resources? This was a question posed to Matt Heinz by Mark Nardone, EVP PAN Communications.

Matt’s answer? “This doesn’t start with a software technology stack. This doesn’t start with how many marketing channels do I have access to or have a budget for. This starts with how well you understand your buyer and how well you can communicate with them.

“I got a question a couple of weeks ago: What’s the minimum technology stack to do modern marketing today? And my answer was the telephone. If you fundamentally understand the complexity of the buying environment you’re selling into, and those different roles that people have, and you understand the nuances of how to communicate with them, then if you have one salesperson you teach them the difference between those different roles.

“You teach them how to have those different conversations, and even then, if you have no resources but one sales guy, you can customize that conversation and hopefully create more resonance between your message and their needs, which helps you get a lot further along in the process.”

My take is that marketers need to perfect processes so that they are repeatable and scalable. And, it may be that automation is not the best way to build a repeatable and scalable process. In many cases, in my experience, automation has simply made it possible to get more poor-quality leads to sales than ever before. THAT is the problem we need to fix.

 

Segment and focus on the best targets.

To use limited resources more effectively, it’s smart to scale back the number of targets. In this blog by SiriusDecisions, they recommend answering the following questions in order to pinpoint your prospects to make sure you’re being as efficient as possible:

“• How many target organizations comprise the market, and how many target organizations are in each segment?

• Does the corporate plan align with expected market distribution? If so, how do you allocate top-line, corporate goals to the targeted segments and geographic areas? If not, what opportunities have been overlooked, or what risks have been ignored?

• What is the company’s share of customers in total and by segment, and what does this indicate about the company’s strengths and weaknesses in the market?

• Which segments represent the best targets for the next 12 months?

• Which customers and prospects are in segments that hold the most opportunities over the next 12 months?”

This is a great list of questions. A couple of very specific markets identified themselves as I was thinking about targeting and going through the SiriusDecisions list. We have done a lot of work in healthcare, federal, state and local government and ERP – so naturally I want to focus there rather than a broader market that would be more difficult to penetrate. I am not sure I would have gotten to the specific markets for me to target without this SiriusDecisions list of questions. Thanks.

Focus on a buyers’ specific industries, roles and unique challenges.

Marketers need to focus even more on both personalization and a personal touch in every aspect of target audience engagement. This is the main take-away from ITSMA, in a gated study titled How Executives Engage: Connecting with Customers at Every Stage of the Relationship Lifecycle: “More focus on content and initiatives tied to buyers’ specific industries, roles, and unique business challenges … provided with an omnichannel approach that lets buyers engage on their own terms, their own time, and with their most preferred formats and channels.”

My take on this is that most personalization today is not very effective. It ends up being viewed as a one-to-many approach rather than a true one-to-one approach. The mention of a “personal touch” is right on. To me, personalization at scale is an oxymoron. As Stevie Nicks says: “Feels good, sounds good…”,  but even using artificial intelligence will often result in the reader seeing through the so-called personalization. It often comes across as “fake” to the prospect. Enhancing the Prospect-Experience requires focus (on the best market(s), attention (not black box spam cannons) and persistence. You cannot call once, leave a voicemail, follow that up with an email and then give up.   

There is a point of diminishing return when it comes to providing sales with sales support. 

“Evaluating our sample set of companies in hardware, machinery, industrial equipment, and information and communications technology, we have found a wide disparity in the amount of sales support that organizations employ.” Continuing this blog from a writing team at McKinsey: “The efficiency of their sales departments, as measured by sales ROI also varies widely: the top 25 percent of companies we analyzed boast a sales ROI more than twice that of the bottom 25 percent. And these top performers have a 30 percent higher level of sales support than the rest of the companies. However, having too high a share of sales support has a negative impact on sales ROI, as it simply increases the cost base without adding additional support to the front line. In fact, most of the companies with 60 to 80 percent sales-support ratios are in the bottom 75 percent range of sales ROI.

“The makeup of sales support is just as important as its quantity. We found that what matters most are the levels of operations and administrative support. The top-performing sales organizations have roughly the same share (30 percent) of customer-facing support as their peers, but twice the share of operations and administrative support (27 percent in top companies versus 12 percent in their peers).

“Sales operations and administrative support are sometimes a victim of overly aspirational cost-saving efforts. Yet they are invaluable because they enable frontline and pre-sales employees to spend more time with customers and to focus on sales and growth.”

To me a good example of “overly aspirational cost-savings” is cutting back on the generation of qualified leads and depending on sales to do most if not all their own prospecting. I have opined for years that if you force a good hunter (closer) to beat the bushes looking for opportunities they will leave and go someplace that provides more prospecting support. I hate to say that I learned this from experience. 

There are two types of resources needed: helpers and tools (it is NOT all about tools).

I find that too many organizations are depending on tools to drive opportunities to sales. They think: just put email addresses in one end and out the other end come newly minted opportunities. Not so. This is an excellent article from Tenfold (What is Sales Support) was written by Dan Sincavage, Co-Founder and currently serving as the Chief Strategy Officer: “Sales support refers to a variety of functions that help your sales representatives focus on actually selling and closing deals. These functions differ per company, industry and sales team. And, they can be done by hired associates, outsourcing teams, productivity tools, and—worst case scenario—by the sales representative themselves.

“While sales support is not the factor that closes deals—it is crucial and important to your sales operations.

“As your sales rep puts his or her best foot forward and gets in the proverbial door, sales support has already done the background work. It is the administrative, research and customer support work that cracked that door open, in the first place.”

What are the types of sales support? Tenfold goes on to say: “There are two major types of sales support that you need to employ: helpers and tools. Simply put, these are people, tools and documents that you’d want to have available for your sales team to use.

 “Helpers are … functions best done by people. They require a good level of expertise and decision-making skills that only trained men and women can provide.”

“The tools of the trade are documents and software that help sales reps get their job done.

“This could be as simple as letter, presentation and video templates that are easy to personalize, with a few clicks. Or, you might draft help documents on your brand’s benefits, and answers to common questions and objections.

“Software tools include pre-programmed calculators and computer-aided designs (CAD). You might even have a website, which gives your reps access to secure pages for the private viewing of their prospects.

“You can also invest in printed paraphernalia to leave with your prospective clients. This is still employed in certain industries, such as real estate. However, it may be redundant in some cases. If you already have a website with requisite information, product manuals and the like, why waste your budget on leaving a paper trail. You just need to make your market aware of these readily accessible online materials. “The author of the post recommends a comprehensive customer relationship management (CRM) system. I agree that this is critical IF there are processes in place with teeth to force compliance. Otherwise, this technology is overhead with dubious return

The author goes on to say, “When you decide to task a person to support your sales team, it is important to have a clear idea on the jobs that you will delegate and the skills necessary for accomplishing them. This comes with optimizing your sales operations. You need to make sure that each member—the sales reps and the sales support group—is contributing their fair share to your company’s success.

“Here are some of the tasks that you might assign to a sale support member:

·         Lead processing and management

·         Lead research and filtering

·         Customer account monitoring

·         Prospect and customer communications

·         Research, monitoring and reporting

·         Schedule management

“Sales support is typically office-based and available 40 hours a week. However, with today’s outsourcing and telecommuting options, part-time employment of an internal or outsourced support staff has become popular. Again, your choice depends on how much you’d benefit from a dedicated office-based support staff.” Dan, the author, does a great job of describing each of their tasks and warns that companies should keep administrative tasks to a minimum.

Somrat Niyogi, CEO of the sales automation app, Stitch, says: “Organizations that understand how to minimize the amount of time salespeople spend doing administrative tasks, such as data entry, win by helping them be more productive.

“Analyze the prevailing sales process within your team. What are the tasks involved? Is it necessary for sales reps to spend hours in front of their computer before they get in contact with a lead? Is your CRM system user-friendly enough that it does not eat up man-hours?”

To wrap up, Dan with Tenfold offers a laundry list of recommendations (with excellent detail available in the article):

“Qualify leads before sending them over to your sales reps.

Enable better communications and collaboration.

Use a CRM system that is specific for sales.

Invest in regular training and team development opportunities.

Gamification strategies can help push your sales reps into action.”

Training and development should be such a big part of most programs.

I just covered that while there is a point of diminishing return, the ROI on sales enablement is very high. Simply put, sales enablement has the goal of providing the sales organization with what they need to optimize sales effectiveness.

In this blog from the TOPO, CEO Scott Albro defines the seven attributes of sales enablement:

  1. “The objective of sales enablement is straightforward. It’s about providing sales people with the resources they need to sell more effectively. Of course, how you make this happen is a more complex discussion.

  2. Sales enablement is less about sales and more about the buyer. The field of sales enablement is predicated on providing sales people with what they need to engage their target buyers. As such, it’s important to remember a simple tenet—provide sales with the resources the buyer wants. It’s also important to understand when the buyer wants to leverage these resources.

  3. What sales enablement provides to sales people is a critical part of defining your program. What you provide usually takes the form of information. We group this information into two categories. First, there are things like content that sales will provide to the buyer. Second, there are things like best practices, research, and tools that sales will consume internally.

  4. Another defining attribute of enablement is that sales people must know how to use the resources you provide to them. That’s why training and development should be such a big part of most programs. The most effective programs conduct traditional training programs, but also use technologies like collaboration tools to make sales training continuous.

  5. One fundamental premises of sales enablement is that it helps all sales people whether you have a sales organization of one or 1,000. Given that, you need to make sure that what you provide to sales people is easy to use. When designing for usability, you should make resources easy to find and easy to apply. You want these resources to be used repeatedly. This will only happen if they are high quality (see the previous point on the buyer and providing sales with things the buyer wants) and easy to use.

  6. Whether the sales team uses what you provide is key to sales enablement. The best sales enablement programs track and enforce whether resources are being used across the sales organization. Most importantly, they optimize future sales enablement efforts based on what’s used and what’s not used.

  7. The final defining characteristic of sales enablement is measurement. Some of the more meaningful sales enablement metrics that you should track include: average sales cycle length; number of reps achieving quota; and average deal size. There are other metrics you can track, but these three are a good place to start.

One thing that most experts agree on is that sales enablement should start with a deep understanding of who the buyer is and what they want. In other words, effective sales enablement is customer-centric. It’s a program that helps sales people communicate more effectively with customers by providing them with the information and tools they need to provide buyers with what they want.”

My thought is that measurement is what seems to be missing in most marketing today. I have heard over and over how well account-based marketing (as an example) is working only to find out when I probe that this evaluation is totally anecdotal. Marketers believe that some black box solution is working for others so surely it will work for them.

To summarize:

What’s the minimum technology stack to do modern marketing today? Matt Heinz is adamant that it is the telephone (and I agree). .

To use limited resources more effectively, it’s smart to scale back the number of targets, according to thought leader SiriusDecisions

Personalize: Focus on a buyers’ specific industries, roles and unique challenges—ITSMA tells us why it’s important.

Having too high a share of sales support has a negative impact on sales ROI, and McKinsey has the statistics to prove it.

Sales support refers to a variety of functions that help your sales representatives focus on actually selling and closing deals, according to Tenfold and other industry influencers.

Training and development should be such a big part of most sales enablement programs, and the numbers bear it out, as TOPO report.

This is the last of four blogs in the “Message” section in this series. Up next … I’ll cover the 4 steps you need to take to transform your prospect experience having to do with “Metrics.”

I look forward to reading your comments and please feel free to ask questions.