Sales is always going to be challenging. Targets are always going to be a part of that, especially for outbound sales teams.
But right now, we have to accept we are living and working through some of the most challenging times for generations. A global pandemic, and recession. Alongside existing social, economic, political and climate-based challenges.
Sales leaders are rightly wondering, how can my team keep hitting targets?
Not only how can they hit targets, how do we generate more sales leads and move the whole company forward?
For outbound sales teams, this might seem like a lot of pressure. Outbound selling is changing, for the better in many ways. At the same time, potential buyers are changing their preferences too, as a result of the pandemic. Let’s look at what this all means, and ways in which outbound teams can keep hitting targets in challenging times.
How are buyer preferences changing?
As a result of the pandemic, trends amongst B2B buyers that were becoming evident before this happened have accelerated. A key one that outbound teams need to be aware of is the desire for “seller-free sales experiences.”
In many ways, that would make B2B sales similar to B2C eCommerce. When you buy from an eCommerce store or platform, such as Amazon, do you interact with sellers? No. It’s rare when customers feel the need to interact with the brands they want to buy from.
More buyers are wanting a similar sort of experience when it comes to B2B sales. Especially when a product or service can, in many ways, sell itself. Such as software (e.g. SaaS), or lower ticket/simplified service offerings.
According to a Gartner Future of Sales report, “research shows that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels.”
Even before the pandemic, that figure was 33% of buyers, wanting a “seller-free sales experience”, and amongst Millennials (born between 1980 and 1996), that figure was already 44%. Gartner is expecting those figures to rise even higher now. As older generations retire and younger generations are appointed to buyer, decision maker and budget holder positions, we can definitely expect these trends to continue.
Naturally, for outbound sales teams, this is going to impact how leads are generated. Despite this, the pressure is still on to generate more leads and bring new customers through the door. How can teams keep doing this within a new environment for sales teams?
How to generate more sales leads?
#1: Ramp up inbound efforts. This might sound counterintuitive since we are talking about outbound sales teams. But in these challenging times, if outbound teams aren’t getting enough positive responses from cold calls, emails and messages, then a new approach is needed.
Getting more warm leads in the pipeline starts with inbound efforts. Look at what’s already working, and then aim to ramp up what you’re already doing to generate more leads (budget allowing). This could mean the sales team or at least a sales manager is working more closely either with a marketing team or an external agency.
Ensure the inbound marketing makes up for the loss of any in-person activities this year, such as networking and events or trade expos. Chances are, if you’ve benefited from those in the past, you might not be able to attend or exhibit until next year, depending on the state of the pandemic in your country. Many international ones are still canceled too.
Look at approaches you’ve already taken, whether they worked or not, and how to strengthen them. Then increase them whenever possible, so that if content and advertising is generating 10 leads a month on a $1,000 budget, ramp that up and see how many more leads come through.
#2: Improve the buyer experience. Coaching and listening to sales calls and demos needs to be a key part of the sales process for managers.
You need to know salespeople are making the same sorts of efforts to hit targets when working from home. Make sure you help them improve every aspect of the sales experience for buyers, to increase conversion rates and hit targets more often.
#3: Strengthen sales enablement. A Gartner 2019 survey found that “B2B sales organizations indicated that sales enablement was the most critical priority”, and urgency to improve this function only increased in 2020.
Sales enablement covers everything from pitch documents to proposals, emails and messages, case studies, one-pagers, and any other assets a sales team uses to convert leads.
If the sales enablement material you are using isn’t doing that job very well, then it needs an overhaul. Either work with an internal marketing team, or an external agency or a freelancer to improve what you’ve already got, or start from scratch. Everything you create needs to be eye-catching, impactful, focused on the needs of sales leads.
Ideally, you can also get software for pitch documents that lets you track when they’ve been opened and read, such as BetterProposals or Proposify.
As we have seen, this pandemic has changed everything. For outbound sales teams, it might mean previous efforts aren’t as effective. If that is the case, look at ways you can adapt, keep building on current success, and keep hitting targets.
Guest article by Jói Sigurdsson, Founder & CEO of CrankWheel, a zero-hassle screen sharing and remote control solution, designed to help salespeople increase conversion rates and engagement with prospects.
CrankWheel: Cut your sales cycle in half with instant screen-sharing. Go from two or more sales calls to one: Become a one call close sales team.