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Cognism

GUEST BLOG: Fixing the broken sales funnel

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.

Has GDPR made marketers more data conscious?

The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018 has undoubtedly disrupted inbound and digital marketing strategies.

From adding compliance overhead to the soaring cost of inbound campaigns and fear of non-compliance undermining confidence in outbound campaigns, marketers are struggling to meet revenue targets.

But GDPR has also served as a massive wake-up call: marketing teams have, finally, recognised the sheer inadequacy of existing data resources.

James Isilay, CEO, Cognism, welcomes a new generation of revenue focused, data-aware marketers who are confidently combining trusted, compliant data resources with Applied Intelligence to deliver focused, targeted outbound marketing campaigns that result in a significant revenue uplift…

Blessing in Disguise

Marketers have had six months to come to terms with the realities of a post-GDPR world, but as the dust settles it is not the fear of punitive fines that is dominating the agenda but the challenge of achieving ROI given the spiralling costs affecting every stage of the sales and marketing funnel.

From the addition of the Data Protection Officer to the sheer weight of compliance overhead now borne by marketing and the spike in PPC costs, the marketing budget has taken a massive hit. The logistics associated with meeting GDPR requirements for routine data cleansing, ensuring that contacts are registered and that any out of date records are deleted are without doubt a challenge for many companies.

Yet what has really taken many by surprise is the sheer inadequacy of existing sales and marketing databases – and the knock on implication for marketing campaigns. The fact is that approximately one-third of data degrades every year and most sales teams have been using data that is up to 60% out of date: recognising and addressing this fact alone will make GDPR a blessing in disguise for marketing teams.

Data Confidence

This new era of data awareness is, in many ways, long overdue. If companies want to maximise the value of marketing data resources, the number one priority has to be accurate and up to date information. That means ditching the spreadsheets and embracing a CRM platform to achieve better data control; and it means ensuring that any data provider is by default providing GDPR compliant data and can prove strong privacy and compliance credentials. But it also means recognising and addressing the speed with which data degrades: how is the business planning to ensure data is kept up to date, accurate and alive?

It is only when armed with a trusted, accurate, real-time and GDPR compliant data resource that a business can truly begin to transform marketing performance, and hence improve the revenue stream. Combining this trusted data resource with Applied Intelligence (AI) marketing can transform performance – from gaining more insight into customer personas to identifying purchasing triggers, and delivering highly targeted, highly effective outbound campaigns.

Global Compliance

Compliance to data privacy regulations is becoming a fundamental requirement for marketers globally – from Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) to the diverse interpretations of GDPR throughout Europe and state-specific demands in the US – and that is great news in raising data awareness and understanding. But no marketing team is rewarded for achieving regulatory compliance: it is driving revenue from those data resources that remains the primary goal. And with the cost of inbound marketing campaigns continuing to spiral, there are very real opportunities for those companies able to combine real-time, compliant data resources with AI to deliver highly targeted, highly effective outbound marketing to drive tangible revenue uplift.