Hit 'Refresh' on That Stale Sales Cycle and Never Miss Your Numbers Again

First, you must help your reps straddle the line between hunting and harassing.

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By Manny Medina

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A new quarter lets you do more than just turn a calendar page -- it's an opportunity to overhaul a stale sales cycle and ensure that all of your team members crush their numbers consistently, quarter-over-quarter. This means that the reflection you do shouldn't be limited to the end of the year once the final numbers are in. Nor should you, as leader, focus on an individual sales rep.

Related: 3 Sales Strategies to Help Increase Your Business in 30 Days

Instead, you should be looking at your business strategy at large, and on a rolling basis.

Studies confirm that taking time out to reflect improves job performance -- in fact, it's been tested to up performance by 22.8 percent on average, according to a Harvard Business School study. In short, reflection is a key component of working smarter, if not necessarily harder.

So, to get on track and ensure your team members don't sink back into their old habits as fast as they'd sink into quicksand, here are a few tips to get everyone geared-up and excited for the long-distance race -- not just the quarterly sprint.

Straddle the line between hunting and harassing.

One of the first rules of sales is, you must learn, master and teach the art of the follow-up. Regardless of what you're selling, in today's digitally inundated world, it takes more than one or two touch points to gain contact with a prospect. In fact, it takes an average of 18 calls (reported by TOPO's Sales Development Technology report) merely to connect with a buyer.

The takeaway here is that persistence is key. However, there is a fine line between doing persistence right and being labeled a nuisance; and that's where technique comes in. It may be tempting to release your sales team out into the world with a "volume is victory" mindset. But resist that temptation.

Related: 3 Strategies for Ecommerce Sales and Growth Using the New Technologies.

Instead, to successfully create not just a touch point but ultimately a sale, make sure your reps offer to the prospect something new and personalized at each and every engagement.

Personalization, after all, has a vastly positive effect on a company's overall bottom line, meaning it can't be ignored in today's market. Take the graph database platform Neo4j, for example. The company's sales team was able to go from a 3 percent to a 21 percent reply rate simply by tailoring the emails they sent to individual potential customers.

As for the number of phone calls they logged, the numbers -- earlier -- had been below their industry's average on outbound metrics, and were impersonal and cold. But once those calls incorporated personalization tactics, the cold-contact reply rate went up 17 percent to 18 percent, according to company claims.

To help capture the value of personalization, teach your reps to utilize the immense amount of prospect data at their fingertips. By utilizing intelligent tools that enable more sophisticated communication, reps will be able to deliver the right information at the ideal time and eliminate the chance that their message is viewed as spam.

Global data management provider Cloudera's sales team is a great example. By reviewing prospect data and responding appropriately with more targeted outreach, team members increased their email open rates sixfold and saw reply rates go up, on average, from 3 percent to 20 percent, and even 30 percent, according to company claims.

Volume is necessary in sales, but volume without the proper technique will never win.

Conquer fear before it conquers you.

As anyone who's ever been in the field knows, the word "no" is inevitable. With this in mind it's important that your team members not fear the word, but instead view it as a jumping-off point to turn the conversation around. The responsible thing to do upon being told "no" is to dig deeper and ask "why?" In fact, taking the time to ask questions of prospects and giving them the floor helps seal the deal. Simply increasing a prospect's talk time by 22 to 33 percent significantly boosts closing rates, according to a Sales Hacker report.

Here's where the coaching portion comes in. Encourage reps to put themselves in a prospect's shoes, listen to their problem, look at their pain points and determine what would help them most in their current situation.

This strategy not only helps get to the root of the problem, but helps establish an emotional connection with the prospect. Top-performing sales professionals rank "tailoring your sales pitch to the customer's needs" and "asking questions that show your expertise" as two of the most effective strategies in a successful sale.

Cultivate a winning mindset.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos is a big proponent of the idea that the culture you create determines your company's fate, and this trickles down to the inner workings of the company's sales teams as well. With the major portion of reps' time being spent in the trenches and in settings out of your control, it's crucial that the time they spend with their colleagues and leadership be positive and reinforcing.

Reps need that kind of recharge to get back into the fold and bring a winning energy to each and every conversation.

The steps to creating a winning mindset, then, aren't difficult. More often than not, it's the little things that make all the difference -- like recognizing and celebrating wins at both the individual and team level. "Wins" don't always need to be monumental achievements; even small ones can boost an individual's and team's outlook significantly, leading to excellent execution. Let your reps know their victories are valued, as well as the hard work and progress they put in to achieve them.

Keep an eye on the pipeline.

"Hunting" in the business sense doesn't apply just to sales reps in the field. On a higher level, hunting translates to keeping an active eye out for issues or holes in the pipeline and repairing them before they become critical pits.

As a leader, it's your job to ensure the team stays on track, and that the track they're on is well maintained. This process shouldn't be just a first-of-the year-reflection, but a constant assessment.

A great pipeline hack entails creating a checklist to routinely run through. One of the most critical questions to ask is if the tools available to your team are still the most effective, or might there be better options on the market? Native video advertising company Virool knows this issue well.

Its sales team members were dependent upon an outdated tool that had them stuck in tedious, manual processes. Once they migrated over to a more advanced solution, Virool's sales development reps earned two additional hours back in their day to spend working on tasks that resulted in a greater impact. As a result, they've experienced 3.5 times the number of qualified meetings, according to company claims.

Related: 4 Sales Strategies to Increase Your Average B2B Deal Sizes

Overall? There's never a better time than the present to elicit positive change. So, put these tips in motion and lead your team to success in 2018 and beyond.

Manny Medina

CEO of Outreach

Manny Medina is CEO of Outreach, a system of action for sales. Medina joined Amazon’s AWS team as an early employee, and helped Microsoft drive the mobile division from launch to $50 million in annual revenue. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a computer science masters from University of Pennsylvania.

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