Sales acceleration could be compared to a Formula 1 pit stop.
Formula 1 pit stops are the most nerve-wracking events of a Grand Prix race. The cars decelerate to make it slowly into the pit from a top speed of 240 mph. The pit crew pounce into the car - fuel-ups, changes tires and completes the check-up in a matter of seconds. The world record for the fastest pit stop in 1.82 seconds. Let that sink in. The perfect pit stop happens because of the synchronized activities of a hundred team members working on the minutest of details. The Mercedes team has over 980 team members, with each of them working round the clock to get every possible detail of the car right.
Sales acceleration does the same to a lead as the lead begins its journey towards becoming a customer. An inbound lead fills a demo form on the website. The user analytics software tracks source (Organic search, referral, or social media) and the complete journey of the lead on the website - pages visited, time spent on-page, and what prompted them to fill the form. Based on the email id of the lead, the lead enrichment tool updates the company information of the lead including details such as Job Title. The lead insights tool quickly gathers all market-related information about the company such as new CEO, new product launch, fund-raising, and the new roles the company is hiring for. The sales rep is now armed with enough data points to have an intelligent conversation with the lead. Sales acceleration isn't done yet. There is more including automated calling, fallback emails, automatically scheduling meetings, and more. Let us accelerate and go deeper.
What is Sales Acceleration?
Traditional sales methods of prospecting are over, almost. Cold calls are out. Inbound sales is in. Lists are out. Intent driven inbound leads are in. Transactional sales is out. Contextual consultative sales is in. Sales acceleration is the perfect answer to respond to the challenging demands of new age buyers.
Sales Acceleration may seem like a self-explanatory concept, but it is far from it. At the surface level, it is about improving the speed and efficiency of the sales process. The idea is to identify key areas of improvement in the sales process and scale them in a way that adds tremendous value. This may include:
- Reducing process inefficiencies and refining the results
- Leveraging key trending technologies that accelerate sales
- Systematic and scalabe training to the sales team
- Aligning marketing and sales with SLAs that are in line with changing market conditions
- Continuous analytics to drive a metrics driven culture
Analysts and industry thought-leaders have heaped praise on sales acceleration. Analyst firms such as Gartner and Aberdeen continue to raise projections for the sales acceleration market. User review websites like Capterra, G2Crowd, and Software Advice now even have a separate category featuring sales acceleration software. Sales leaders, managers, and even users are talking about the need for sales acceleration, and with good reason.
Why Sales Acceleration matters?
There is no denying that the sales industry has undergone fundamental evolution. Your average sales rep today is no longer overbearing to the point of repulsion. Instead, they are highly trained, professional, and empathetic personalities who constantly check on their customers and guide them towards gentle, value-oriented sale closures.
How is this achieved?
By using the right amount of research, analytics, and a number of software tools including account planning software. What was once a soft-skill, now also includes a technically sound and process-driven culture. With the right team culture, sales acceleration fits right into this equation. It makes use of processes and data to achieve sales success, rather than relying on ad-hoc decisions and hunches. That isn't to say that soft-skill of sales doesn't matter in the equation. The sales equation also has another factor at play - the buyer.
The new B2B Buyer needs no sale
Gartner in one of their recent sales insights summarized the B2B buying situation well. Sales teams have very little opportunity to influence customer buying decisions. All the information related to the purchase is available online via digital channels. Gartner research says, "When B2B buyers are considering a purchase‚ they spend only 17% of that time meeting with potential suppliers. When buyers are comparing multiple suppliers‚ the amount of time spent with anyone sales rep maybe only 5% or 6%."
A study by CIO Insights in the recent past made similar claims. It claimed that 70% of buyers have already done their requirement analysis before speaking to a sales representative. Close to 50% have already decided the solution before engaging with sales. No wonder sales is becoming a channel rather than 'The Channel.' This growing B2B buyer behavior aligns really well with a sales acceleration approach to sales. Something, which was demonstrated with success by Mark Roberge at HubSpot.
The Sales Acceleration Formula - Mark Roberge
Mark Roberge is the best selling author of the book 'The Sales Acceleration Formula.'
In the book, Mark (Chief Revenue Officer of HubSpot) describes how he devised a sales acceleration formula for scalable and predictable revenue growth at HubSpot. Using this, he was able to scale revenue to $100 million in 7 years. According to him, the Sales Acceleration formula or process has 5 key pillars.
Sales Hiring Formula
- Defining the ideal characteristics of a salesperson for your organization and devising a framework to test these skills.
- Finding top-performing salespeople by incentivizing internal recruiters on success rates.
- Determining the first ideal hire in the sales team, someone that perfectly aligns with the characteristics, long-term vision, culture, and maturity.
Sales Training Formula
- Creating a systemic sales training program that is focused on the buyer journey, sales process, and sales qualification matrix.
- Taking into account individual traits and skills of salespeople in a way that is predictable and scalable.
- Constantly iterating the sales training program and ensuring that it aligns with the needs of the team instead of merely the organization.
Sales Management Formula
- Sales Training: Focusing on a single skill set every month instead of a list. Manager support is driven by open dialogue, self-reflection, and mutual buy-in.
- Performance Analysis: Creating a metrics-driven dashboard to analyze how a salesperson is performing at every funnel stage.
- Compensation and Incentives: Evolving incentive programs as the business grows. Creating a culture of promotion based on success metrics.
- Promoting from Within: Supporting internal transitions from sales to managerial positions and establishing sales leadership coaching.
Demand Generation Formula
- Making inbound marketing an integral part of the growth strategy.
- Shifting from cold calling to inbound by positioning salespeople as thought leaders.
- Creating a buyer matrix to pinpoint the interest level of leads in your product or service.
- Mapping customized buyer experiences for leads based on their buyer journeys.
Technology and Innovation
- Understanding that most technologies increase the workload on salespeople and selecting them wisely.
- Using technology that empowers salespeople and/or improves the buying experience of customers.
- Creating a bottom-up culture of experimentation by selecting the top-performers.
- Focusing on metrics such as Lifetime Value and Customer Acquisition Costs, customer retention, sales productivity, etc.
Top Goals or Functions of a Sales Acceleration Framework
By now, you understand the ‘What’ of the trade. But how does an actual Sales Acceleration framework looks like in practice? Here are the top 4 deliverables that a successful Sales Acceleration framework should include:
- Engagement-tracking: Whether it is in the form of feedback analysis of inbound calls or monitoring the lead closing process, engagement tracking is an important ingredient to understand how well your key accounts are growing.
- Data analytics: Hands-on data about deal sizes, distributions, sales velocity, or productivity sheds light on opportunities that can be used to grow key accounts and pinpoint avenues of account expansion.
- Automation: With the right technology, you can automate redundant day-to-day tasks such as auto-dialing, price quote generation, or inventory monitoring. This leaves the door open to focus on more strategic account management tasks.
- Personalization: Boosting customer engagement by leveraging personalized content in Account Management.
Sales Acceleration Benefits
When each pillar of Sales Acceleration is aligned with the organizational vision, immense value is created. And when it comes to Key Account Expansion, the value is only compounded given the natural scope for growth and scaling. Once you set out on this journey, here are some benefits that you can expect:
Predictable scalable revenue and account growth
This is the number one benefit. Sales acceleration contributes towards the overall revenue growth as sales teams become more predictive and systematic in hunting. Learnings from the sales acceleration process could also be taken up for key account management. Sales Acceleration is all about mindset, automation, and technology, enabling sales teams to reach their targets quicker. For instance, they can use automated dialers to quickly prospect leads and sift through low-level accounts to find promising opportunities for Land and Expand. Sales acceleration also increase the velocity of sales given faster conversion cycle.
Engaged customers and sales teams
Armed with user insights and powerful tools; sales reps and key account managers can give customers personalized experiences, across multiple touchpoints. The ability to have relevant conversations enables sales reps to create the right equity with prospects and customers. Account managers can take these learnings to co-create solutions with their customers.
Sales acceleration also fires up sales team members by aligning them to their goals. Sales acceleration software eliminates the need to perform many manual tasks, allowing sales teams to focus on finding the right solution for their customers.
Marketing Sales Alignment
B2B SaaS companies have listed marketing sales alignment amongst their top 3 priorities. Misalignment between the two leads to poor revenue growth and falling. It is imperative for fast-paced digital businesses to not only drive this alignment but strengthen it further with every opportunity. The opportunities are many. Sales teams need more content and collaterals than ever before. This is to address prospect queries, objections and even competition comparisons. At times, prospects also need content to make a pitch internally especially in enterprise situations. Some sales conversations do no progress and leads tend to drop-off because of a number of reasons. Sales teams can tag such leads for 'nurturing' with the explicit reason for drop-off. Marketing teams can take such insights and add it to their content marketing plan. A sales acceleration philosophy can drive such an alignment of behavior and a sales acceleration software can enable it.
Sales Acceleration Tools
While an impeccable sales process is an important part of the trade, technology holds a prominent (and often the central) role in Sales Acceleration and Sales transformation.
Simply because the right tool or platform will deliver a sound foundation for your entire sales process to catapult towards growth. Here is a closer look at some of the leading sales acceleration tools.
- Email Tracking Software: Help to know the exact date and time that an email has been opened. This helps you to create more compelling emails, schedule them better for more engagement, curate impactful follow-ups, and save a ton of time and resources.
- Inbound Call Tracking Software: To put it simply, this tracks the source of all inbound sales calls and displays contextual data of the leads. Consequently, you get an entire snapshot of the campaigns that are driving valuable inbound calls. Account managers can also make better-informed decisions on how inbound sales calls should be distributed among teams.
- Market Intelligence: Helps key account managers and sales reps to access critical information about leads and accounts such that they can be easily scored and segregated into cold, warm, and hot categories.
- Outbound Sales Dialers: A sales productivity tool, an outbound sales dialer eliminates repetitive tasks such as dialing phone numbers or sending emails with intuitive features such as click-to-call or accessing a list of prioritized dialers. The idea is to speed up sales prospecting.
- List Building Tools and Lead Enrichment: Integration tools that sync up and link with various data and social media channels to help sales reps identify new key accounts that meet the sales criterion.
- Predictive Analytics: Leveraging a hoard of customer data across multiple channels and making use of intelligent machine learning models to accurately predict future sales opportunities.
- Salesforce Automation (SFA): An information technology that ties up closely with the sales process to automate tasks based on specific inputs. This usually includes repetitive tasks such as automated follow-up emails to leads.
- Sales Gamification: A tool to boost motivation within sales teams and increase competition by using game mechanics in sales activities.
- Configure Price Quote (CPQ): Automated and accurate generation of sales proposals, quotations, and pricing with centralized business rules and sales data.
- Sales Coaching Tools: Dedicated tools to coach sales reps to success. These might include models for feedback, coaching journals, sales management tools, peer group facilitation, and more.
Tech enables metrics-driven sales acceleration
Roberge emphasizes a metrics-driven approach to sales success. Technology is at the heart of it. Not just to automate mundane repetitive tasks but also to capture disparate data points. These data points establish the basis for informed decision-making towards sales improvement.
Here is an example. Imagine that you are the sales manager and a sales rep in your team has been grossly underperforming. How will you address the situation?
Most managers often dismiss this as an activity problem rather than digging deeper or looking at the bird’s eye view.
For instance, you might consider in this situation that the sales rep is not motivated or productive enough when in reality, a close look at the data might reveal that he/she is simply not receiving the volume of leads that other sales reps are. By now the message is clear - not to base your decisions on intuitions and always look at the data instead.
Perhaps, sales acceleration isn't just about good sales but also about good business practices. Watch this space for more.