Two top B2B sales problems are:
- Low output, measured as new customers acquired, revenue growth, margin, and product mix
- High selling costs measured as productivity, efficiency, revenue yield per rep, sales cycle time
We’ll use one important cause of these top sales problems — low sales prospecting effectiveness — to focus our main point.
Poor prospecting is an inability to create enough good opportunities, with the right prospects, quickly enough. It “shows up” as an inability to get enough first and second conversations with new prospects.
This is a decades long, universal problem. It continues to get worse, despite communication and technology breakthroughs.
Why is this? What’s missing? This is a complex problem.
But does it have to be complicated? Complicated is often due to lack of clarity about key requirements. So this prompted us to developed a list of the primary requirements for B2B sales prospecting success.
Primary Sales Performance Success Requirements
Sales people, managers and organizations need the right:
- Mindset — Beliefs, Attitudes, Curiosity
- Competency — Skills, Techniques
- Knowledge — about markets, buyers, business problems, how to sell, products, etc.
- Discipline — to execute the right actions in timely manner
- Database — right contacts, contact info, phone #
- Messages — what to say
- Questions — how to say it
- Stories and Proof points — how to support it
- Content — situationally relevant and useful
- Tools and Systems
- Feedback — system based on reality and data
- Support Structures for continuous improvement (Incentives/Compensation, Environment, Management, Tools)
These are inter-dependent requirements. Weakness in any one area compounds others. In fact, each weakness has a disproportionate degrading impact on overall success due to this compounding factor.
These factors certainly apply in the microcosm of sales prospecting. They apply in every other activity that makes up a complete B2B selling system.
Sales Feedback System is a Missing Requirement
When we looked at these requirements, we were surprised to find one in particular that is frequently weak or missing in many organizations. Without it, there is no way to confirm or improve the other factors.
B2B sales performance suffers in undetectable ways because sales organizations lack a formal sales feedback system that is based on reality or data.
Rather, it’s typically based on anecdote. This can be heard in the common phrases, “How’s it going …?” or, “What’s happening with …?”
Selling is a system. One of my colleagues has long said, “The money is in the feedback loop!”
Without an effective feedback system based on reality and data — actual selling performance with prospects — you are managing and selling blind.
The right feedback provides visibility based on specific indicators about the first nine prospecting success requirements (above). This feedback indicates which areas to prioritize. The right actions become clear.
There is still be work to do to resolve each area needing improvement. But a feedback system lets you know you are working on the right areas!
How Would You Know?
In the aggregate, how would you know if your sales team has a sales prospecting problem? (What indicators would you see, what would this problem look like?)
How would you determine what impact that problem has on your sales productivity and top sales outcomes?
How would you confirm each sales person is executing the necessary sales prospecting requirements?
How would you identify what specific areas need improvement, for each rep, at any given time?
What job performance information would you rely on for this understanding? How would you capture it?
How does data-driven decision-making fit with your preferred management approach?
How does data or analytics inform your understanding of your sales prospecting reality?
What if you had daily visibility into key sales prospecting performance indicators?
What would be the impact on your business if sales reps, their colleagues and managers, received and reviewed weekly, analytic produced, actionable indicators of the state of key requirements?
What would a 30% increase in the number of quality, high level first and second new prospect conversations mean to your business? What about 300%?
If you are serious about creating breakthrough sales performance, a sales feedback system is a good place to start.