A good friend of mine, a sales rep at a marketing software company, confessed that despite his years of experience in sales, “sometimes it felt that it wasn’t my deep product knowledge or my outstanding interpersonal skills that made the difference”, he said, “sometimes it was just a matter of knowing when the lead was ready to buy…!”
Since he’s a stellar performer, I was very interested in knowing how he could figure out when this happened: he had specific “triggers” that informed him that a lead was ready - in his case, it was when they were recruiting people for their marketing department. This was a hint that they are making changes and / or growing the team, so they might consider their software.
Clearly this person is not a cold caller. He definitely knows why cold calling is dead. What he needs is timely Lead Intelligence.
The tools used today
Sales teams that excel today have new approaches and hence need new tools to be great at what they do. A list of emails and telephone numbers tells you very little about why they should buy, or even if your product is the right one for them.
Modern sales teams don’t pitch - they are genuinely curious about their leads’ challenges, so they spend 90% of the call asking questions.
We’re in a cambrian moment for sales technology, and despite the general feeling of negativity towards it, I think it’s a good thing. It’ll lead to consolidation of the products that actually solve a need, and a natural selection (a.k.a. Startup failings) of the ones that don’t.
So let’s have a look at what people have today.
The sales tech stack is very different depending on a team’s size and complexity, but it always starts with a CRM. The CRM was essentially just a sales activity log database, but salesforce took over the sales world by making it open to other companies, effectively inventing the multi-vendor sales stack with the launch of the App Exchange before the iPhone and its app store even existed.
Besides the CRM, teams use Linkedin (and Google!) to research about their prospects profiles, which gives them some context as well.
Mark Roberge, in his game-changing book The Sales Acceleration Formula, showed that the biggest predictors of sales success at hubspot were NOT:
- Closing ability
- Convincing ability (negotiation tactics?)
- Objection handling
Actually, all those three had a NEGATIVE correlation to sales success. The biggest predictors were Preparation, Adaptability and Domain Experience.*
All these three skills for sales teams require external information - when the lead is actively hiring or launched a new product, or perhaps when they entered a new market. How do you get this information in a systematic, consistent way?
Well, if you only have 1-2 leads a week you can rely on manual, ad-hoc searching, but if you’re an average salesperson, you have 100-150 leads a month. All of whom you’re supposed to have the right context to when they’re ready to buy.
You’re supposed to have Lead Intelligence, delivered to you, at the right time, so that you can be more prepared, adapt to your leads’ specific context and build on your domain experience.
*There is a chart on the book’s notes about this, not sure if Mark would allow me to publish it here, so I’m just leaving some conclusions here.