• GUEST BLOG: Fixing the broken sales funnel

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    Business agility and the ability to respond fast to new sales opportunities has never been more important and a strong, intelligence-led sales model is essential to maximise opportunities. Yet in this post GDPR era, sales models have never been weaker or less efficient. A lack of data confidence is undermining outbound activity, leaving companies reliant on increasingly expensive inbound campaigns that are not delivering.

    To fix the broken sales funnel, organisations clearly need to use to fresh, accurate and GDPR compliant data. But that is just the start: successful sales activity is underpinned by a scientific, structured and metrics driven approach that leverages multi-dimensional real-time data, as James Isilay, CEO, Cognism, explains.

    Science not Art

    Fewer good prospects. Delayed decision making. Ever lengthening sales cycles. A lack of predictability in the sales process. For many companies, the sales funnel is looking less than impressive. Yet while the temptation is to blame new restrictions of data privacy created by GDPR on the other, there is little value in playing the blame game. What companies require is a solution.

    Where is the sales funnel broken and how can it be fixed? Understanding the ‘where’ is key – and something that far too many companies fail to address. How many good sales-people have been fired, when the problem was poor data? How much time has been wasted on prioritising the wrong prospects or failing to correctly identify the total addressable market?

    A broken sales funnel cannot be repaired just by adding technology, replacing salespeople, or addressing data quality – although these are without doubt essential components of sales success. Without a robust, clearly defined and, critically, measured sales funnel, organisations will struggle to maximise sales opportunities.

    Sales is a science, not an art; and companies need to take a far more metrics-led approach to sales models and management. Breaking the sales funnel down into its constituent parts, measuring performance and comparing results at every stage of the funnel to an equivalent industry standard benchmark is an essential step in understanding the current position.

    This means not just tracking the number of phone calls made but the number of dials, number of connections and the number of conversations. How many conversations then convert to meetings or product demonstrations; and meetings to opportunities and then closed deals?  And, of course, never overlook quality – it is essential to measure the quality as well as the volume of leads to optimise sales performance.

    Breaking down the prospecting activity into this detail is essential to reveal the specific point – or points – of failure; and to create a clear view of what needs to change to turn sales around and transform bottom line performance.

    Intelligence Led

    There are three core components of a successful sales funnel: people, process and technology.  Getting the right people to undertake specific components of the sales activity is key.  Break the process down into distinct areas and have specific KPIs for each to measure activity levels and outcomes. Allocate well trained and focused individuals to cold outreach, and more experienced individuals to deal closing. This is a far more effective model that will definitely improve performance.

    Provide clear benchmarks to set performance expectations – and use them. If an individual’s performance is not hitting the minimum standard, jump in. Determine the problem and address it – whether that is through training or new messaging. Being proactive is essential to ensuring the funnel continues to perform effectively.

    High Quality Data

    Supporting these people with great data is, of course, fundamental, especially given the GDPR data privacy compliance requirements. Bad data is one of the most frustrating problems for any sales team. From the time wasted calling contacts who have moved on, to targeting companies that recently spoke to a colleague or, even worse, invested in a competitive product, bad and outdated data is a major barrier to sales success.

    Combining good, accurate and continually refreshed data with a CRM system is an essential part of the model, ensuring data is up to date and shared across the sales function. With access to a deep, accurate and GDPR compliant customer data resource, the sales team can gain confidence and avoid time wasted in irrelevant outreach. But that is just the start. By adding events to the typical two dimensional company and people data – and ensuring this information is continually refreshed in real-time – companies can completely reconsider the sales funnel. From transforming the understanding of the total addressable market to using purchase triggers and decision making personas to prioritise activity, the use of revenue driven AI can deliver significant bottom line improvements.

    From new job titles to funding rounds, even office expansion, there are a number of triggers that can be used to more effectively drive the timing and messaging of outreach campaigns. And, by feeding persona specific responses to different marketing messages back into the CRM system, the process can be continually improved. Essentially, Revenue AI provides a positive feedback loop.

    Conclusion

    Extending the metrics led marketing model from inbound, where performance and return on investment is continually assessed, to outbound is perhaps a cultural change for experienced sales people. But a sales funnel reliant upon an old school contacts list and perceived market opportunities is all about the ‘art of sales’ – it will never stand up to a competition embracing a science led, metric driven approach.

    There is an enormous universe of prospective customers – and salespeople do not know every single company in the market, whatever their perception. New companies appear, others disappear; new funding rounds fuel growth; big wins result in business expansion. Without intelligence and a robust, process driven sales model, a company will never have an accurate handle on the total addressable market or a way to identify and prioritise outreach.

    With current global economic uncertainty, opportunities are thinner on the ground and those companies with a broken sales funnel will struggle. In tough times companies need to be able to effectively and efficiently target the best opportunities, at the best time, with the right message. It is the companies with the smartest sales model that will succeed.

    AUTHOR

    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien