Stop Dreading Sales Pipeline Meetings

Sales pipeline meetings are an essential part of the sales process. Not only do they update you on the progress of opportunities as they move through the pipeline, but they can also identify potential problems in time to address them before they cost your company the deal. Even more importantly, they can be instrumental in the development of your sales representatives – but only if they're done correctly.

If you or your team dreads sales meetings, then something isn't working. Sales pipeline meetings may never be fun, but they should be helpful. These types of meetings can often turn into interrogations between managers and sales reps which doesn't help anyone. Tough questions should be asked, but there should be more to the meetings than that. An excellent way to get your meetings off on the right foot is by starting on a high note.

 

Weekly wins

Start the meeting by asking your sales reps to share a win. Yes, you may have sales reps who aren't doing well, but the odds are that at some point since your last meeting they had some sort of win. Whether it's a one-on-one meeting or a group, ask each sales rep to share a win. It might be a big win, like finally closing that deal. Or a smaller win, like landing a meeting with a notoriously hard-to-reach CEO. Even the tiniest win is worth celebrating here to set the tone for the rest of the meeting.

For some wins, it can be helpful to go into detail. How did that sales rep finally land that CEO meeting? Did they go through a new communication channel or simply persist through more traditional methods? What exactly went into closing that big deal? Exploring what went right can be just as helpful as what went wrong.

And there are always ways deals can go wrong. That's why the next topic on the agenda is reviewing opportunities.

 

Reviewing Opportunities

The truth is not all deals are closable. We've all experienced those painful interactions with potential customers. You know the ones – they drag on for months and don't end successfully. That's why it's so important to evaluate all current opportunities to try to determine which ones are closable – and which ones might be at risk.

 

Review Closable Opportunities

How do you know if a deal is closable? The easiest way is using a CRM software like Collabspot Connect Pro, which reviews the strengths of each opportunity through deal assessment questions. This kind of software also can rate the probability of a deal's success as high, medium, or low based on the frequency and type of communication and engagement with the prospect.

Of course, you shouldn't solely rely on software to tell you if a deal seems likely. There are all kinds of factors that go into closing a deal, and some of those can't be tracked online. That's why it's important to review opportunities in your meetings. You can review the quality of online communication that is tracked through your CRM software, but also find out how the deal is progressing in other ways directly from your sales rep.

As you review opportunities, you might come across some opportunities that could be closable but are at-risk at the moment. This is the part your meeting should focus on, as these are deals that could be put back on track with a little help.

Review At-Risk Opportunities

There are several factors that could put a potentially closable opportunity at risk. The most common – and easiest to remedy – is a sales rep dropping the ball when it comes to communication. If you are using a CRM, you can track how the activities your sales rep is doing to close the sale, see who the sales rep is contacting and how often they are doing so.

That kind of information makes it easy to spot red flags like a decrease in activity level. Making sure you review these at-risk opportunities with your sales reps helps them understand how the pipeline works and hopefully be able to spot these kinds of issues on their own. Plus you may be able to point out less obvious obstacles that might be standing in the way of a successful deal.

 

Identify obstacles

There are all kinds of obstacles that come up when reviewing opportunities, but the two most common types of obstacles that derail deals are lost contact and lack of coverage.

Lost contact

Most prospects don't buy immediately. In fact, 80% of sales require at least five follow-up calls after a meeting – yet many salespeople give up after only one follow-up. That's why losing contact with prospects is one of the best ways to lose a deal.

And it isn't always about the number of follow-ups. Some prospects require time to let the deal work through their channels. 63% of people who request information don't buy for at least three months. Up to 20% will take more than 12 months to purchase. That's why it's so important to for sales reps to stay in contact with prospects and keep them moving through the pipeline. But staying in contact isn't always the problem. Sometimes it's staying in contact with the wrong people.

Lack of coverage

Some deals require a lot more coverage than others. A sales rep may be in constant contact with the VP of Sales, but that person isn't the decision maker for the company. The sales rep can do everything right. It still won't close the deal because he isn't talking to the right person.

Sales reps should understand who they need to be talking to with each account. Sometimes it might be the VP of Sales. It could just as likely be the CEO, CFO, AE, or anyone in the executive suite. Lack of coverage could cost your company the deal just as easily as losing contact, so make sure you help your sales rep determine the coverage they need for their accounts.

 

Create action items

Helping your sales reps is the entire point of these meetings, which is why you need to go beyond just sharing information. You can have a wonderfully informative meeting, but if your sales reps don't know what to do with the information you've covered it was a waste of everyone's time. That's why you should always create a list of action items. These items should help the sales rep understand exactly what they need to do to keep the deal moving forward.

Action items could be as simple as developing a response to overcome an objection or as complicated as negotiating a contract. The important thing is that the action items are things that can be done immediately. To help keep the sales rep accountable, consider setting deadlines and alerts in your CRM. Not only will this help your sales rep know exactly what they need to do and have reminders to do it, but it will also help you keep tabs on their progress. And the sales rep should be able to report on the success – or lack thereof – of the action items at the next meeting.

 

Follow up on previous pipeline review

These meetings should inspire action in your sales reps, and following up on their progress since the last meeting is one way to do that. At every meeting, review what happened at the previous meeting and ask the sales rep to evaluate their progress before you do. This will allow you to see how they feel they've done in the time between meetings.

If they don't offer the information, ask them if they completed all the actions items. If they have not, ask them why. Maybe the items weren't as clear as you thought, or they needed assistance to complete them but didn't want to ask. But more often than not, knowing that they will be asked to justify not accomplishing their action items can be enough to encourage them to do it next time. But what if it isn't?

 

What to do if reps are unprepared

Everyone makes mistakes. If a sales rep shows up unprepared once, find out why. Maybe they had extenuating circumstances at home, or an unexpected snowstorm knocked out power for days. There could be a very valid reason for their lack of preparation.

But if a sales rep repeatedly shows up unprepared? Dismiss them. At first from the meeting, because they are wasting everyone's time by not doing their work beforehand. This lets everyone know that being unprepared isn't an option. If a sales rep refuses to prepare for meetings time after time? It might be time to dismiss them from the company entirely.

When your sales meetings are more productive, your sales reps will be more productive. By taking the time in each meeting to celebrate wins, review opportunities, create action items, and follow-up on previous meetings, your team should have a better grasp on what is expected of them. They'll also learn what to watch for as opportunities move through the pipeline, allowing them to take on more responsibility instead of relying on you to guide them. And as a bonus? No one will dread the meetings anymore!

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Save your sales forecast: How to get rid of deal slippage for good

You’ve seen it before: the red flags clogging up your CRM. The close dates that get pushed back—further, and further, and further.

The panic at quarter-end: your sales forecast is way off! You're going to miss your benchmarks! There are blocks in your pipeline and it feels too late to fix them.

What you’re dealing with is called deal slippage—and it’s one of the most taxing, and most solvable, drains on your sales pipeline.

 

What is deal slippage?

Deal slippage is exactly what it sounds like. You have a target close date for a deal that has gained some momentum, but then, uh-oh. The buyer's company hires a new CFO, a few emails go unanswered and a meeting needs to be scheduled and Voila! The deal slips into next quarter.

 

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Lack of communication usually means the deal isn’t going to close anytime soon!

So you work to get back on track. However, there’s a question of security. IT needs to audit before things can move forward. The deal slips another month.

Then your contact takes a vacation. The deal slips. There’s something in the terms that the new CFO doesn’t like. The deal slips. Legal needs to approve. The deal slips.

Sometimes, your deal slips because of lagging communication. Your emails aren’t making it to the company’s key decision makers—or your communication has become totally one-way.

But month after month, quarter after quarter, the deal slips, until, just maybe, it gets dropped all together.

 

Why does deal slippage matter?

Meeting your sales benchmarks and effectively allocating your team’s resources is dependent on your sales pipeline. The plaque on your sales pipeline is deal slippage.

When deals get pushed back, month after month, your sales forecast gets murky. Expectations aren’t met. Team morale is hurt and your potential customers are unhappy.

That’s right. More than anything, deal slippage hurts relationships with your potential customers. When you set a target close date, you set an expectation. If your product or service does, in fact, provide value to the customer, the problem they're trying to solve or the opportunity they're trying to capitalize on remains while the deal stays open.

Making sure the deal closes on time requires strong sales leadership. It’s a key part of a customer-centric sales culture. It impacts your reputation and your overall sales effectiveness. Because if you push a deal back too far, and it might not close at all.

To help you, we’ve broken the battle against deal slippage into 3 phases and developed tips for you to follow in each phase—so you can close on time, keep your customers happy, and develop a sales forecast you can count on.

 

Phase 1: Learn

Ask Tough Questions

One of the biggest ways to combat deal slippage is to make sure the deal is closable in the first place. Before you even start to even think about your target close date, ask:

  • Is the buyer aware of our pricing structure? Have they been introduced to this early on?

  • Am I in touch with the key decision-makers? Does my point of contact have any clout in this deal closing?

  • Are the potential buyers familiar with our solution—or do they require a lot of education before they purchase?

  • What internal and external regulations, checks, reviews, and audits will this potential customer have to go through before the deal is done?

  • Which of our customer’s departments have a say in how and when this deal is closed?

 

Once you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to give the deal an accurate and attainable close date. And you’ll be able to outline milestones, contact the right people, track progress, and flag potential hold-ups.

 

Keep an Eye on the Calendar

It sounds obvious, but when you’re looking at a deadline 6 months away, it’s easy to miss a few common delays. Before you set a target close date, consider holidays and standard employee vacation time. Christmas and New Year’s Day are international holidays, which many of your points of contact will take off. When working internationally, factor in holidays in your customer’s home country.

Maybe the company you’re selling to takes a retreat in August. Or has all hands on deck for a conference in July. Maybe they’re budget for next year is due quarter 3. Or maybe you’re taking some time off yourself in February.

Either way, knowing the external factors that could hold your close date back is essential for setting that target close date in the first place.

 

Phase 2: Plan

Make Your Close Date Sacred

You should be adjusting your sales strategy to meet your target close date, not the other way around.

That means looking at the customer buyer process, identifying verifiable outcomes, and making sure those milestones are being met in time to close on your target date.

To break this down: verifiable outcomes are just steps the buyer has taken to confirm where they are in the buying process. They’ve presented your solution to the team or they’ve confirmed their budget with finance.

Once you have these, work backwards. And adjust your milestones and communication patterns—rather than your target close date.

 

Write Up a Give/Get List

Preparing a list of “gives” and “gets” helps you move through all those pesky particulars at the negotiating table. Take a few seconds to identify some agreements or concessions that you might need to make in the last stages of your sales cycle.

Are you willing to shorten the agreement terms? Cut back on some fees or restrictions? What value does each of these “gives” have—and what, of equal value, can you “get” in return? Come prepared with your “gives” and “gets” in mind, and you’re more likely to close the deal on time.

Sales Performance International has a great cheat sheet for outlining your Give/Get list, to get you started.  

 

Build a Strong Connection

Your customers are people. They are facing their own stresses and obstacles throughout the buying process. Genuine rapport is a key to pushing them past their internal hurdles.

When a new executive wants to look at competitors again or their company imposes one last bureaucratic step, potential customers will remember you. They will remember how you reacted at each touchpoint and how diligently you worked to overcome obstacles. Building trust throughout the entire sales process despite delays and last-minute hiccups will encourage loyalty. And that loyalty will help you make the deal on time.

 

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Review your past deals and start to understand what communication patterns signal that a deal will close

 

Step 3: Accelerate

Remember: Time is Money

Think about the value the customer is losing every day they don’t buy. We’re talking about specific, big impact digits that are sure to light a fire.

This means first knowing the ROI your product will bring to your prospect—and making sure they know it too. Little concessions and agreements get turned around quickly when hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the line. And motivating your customer to act quickly is easy when they’re reminded: “As this deal slips—so does my bottom line.”

 

Chase Small Wins

Sometimes, it just takes getting your foot in the door. It’s easy to get hung up on an initial deal size—the five year contract, the enterprise pricing option.

Instead, make the smaller sale happen. Once your customer trusts you and starts to rely on your product, it’s easy to land-and-expand. And as you start to upsell, you’ll find fewer and fewer roadblocks between you and your loftier end goal.

 

Remember Their CTRAs

You’re not the only one with deadlines. Why does your customer need what you’re selling? For what? Take the time to learn about big CTRAs, or “compelling reasons to act.” Maybe they need your product for a new launch, a particular event, a conference, or a presentation. Maybe they’re relying on what you offer to meet their own monthly or quarterly metrics.

All of those events have deadlines. Reminding a potential customer of how your capabilities will help with their big milestones can keep a deal from slipping.

So what’s next?

You won’t find a CRM without the footprints of deal slippage, and you won’t find a sales team that isn’t frustrated by all the delays. But by spotting the deal slippage in your sales pipeline, you’ve already taken a big step towards meeting your benchmarks, clearing up your sales forecasts, and building loyal, lifelong relationships with new customers.

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Spot the signs of deal slippage early

Luckily, Sugar users can use Collabspot Connect Pro to spot the signs of deal slippage early on so they can save the deal and update their pipeline accordingly. Contact the Collabspot sales team for a free trial.

 

Bad Data is Killing Your Company’s Sales… Here’s What You Can Do About It

Let’s sit down and have a chat about sales data.
 
Maybe it’s just a bit messy. Maybe it’s totally decayed. Maybe it’s incomplete, or irrelevant, or you just can’t get to the bottom of it all. 
 
Either way, odds are: it’s costing you business. 
 
Luckily, collecting, utilizing, and preserving your data is easier than you think. Let’s break down how the future of data can transform your sales potential, how you can beat back some of the biggest threats to your data’s integrity—and how you can turn those new data-driven insights into cold hard cash. 
 
Data is Your Sales Team’s Super Power
 
From email response rates, to direct sales—data is linked to your profits. 

In fact, 50 to 75 percent of a B2B marketing campaign’s success comes down to the accuracy of data. And in some stages of your funnel, clean data can net you a 25% higher conversion rate than your disorganized competition. 
 
Now, saying “who cares if my data isn’t perfect” is as good as saying “who cares about a HUGE potential profit loss.”
 
The answer to the second question is “everyone”. The answer to the first question should be the same. 
 
Here are just a few game-changing ways that you can turn big data, into big wins. 
 
Game Changer #1: Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics is a crystal ball for lead qualification—and just about every other decision your sales team needs to make. Put simply: it’s taking the data you’ve built up in the past, and using it to predict who will buy in the future. 
 
Predictive takes your current customer database, mixes it with data from external providers, and gives you a holistic view of who your prospects are. Then, using machine learning, it funnels data through statistical models—continuously refining it into concrete patterns. The result? Nearly spooky insight into who your customers are, where you can find them, and when they’re ready to buy. 
 
Why is this a big deal?

The data that comes out of predictive analytics yields some seriously powerful patterns. They can improve customer databases, source net-new prospects, and give near psychic-insights into which prospects are ready to buy. 
 
Or, in a nutshell, as defined by Swift Capital:  
 
“We know 80% of our revenue will come from 20% of our prospects. And 80% of pipeline will come from 20% of our campaigns. Predictive identifies the 20%.”
 
Beyond that, predictive analytics is set to grow…and fast. A recent report suggests, within the period of a year, 36.8% of high growth companies will have invested in predictive. 
 
Hint: if you’re hoping to be a “high growth” company, this is where to look. 
 
Game Changer #2: Sentiment Analysis
 
If you think of data as a set of digits and demographics—you're missing some pretty big opportunities.
 
Introducing, sentiment analysis: data that reveals how your customers (and potential customers!) really think about your brand. 
 
Sentiment analysis software can extract meaning from millions of messages—revealing the positive and negative emotions behind the torrents of text. Now every email, social media message, or chat pop up, can be broken down—dissected by syntax, voice, and tone—and harnessed for a better understanding of your customer base.
 
Why is this a big deal?
 
Sentiment analysis hones the masses of inbound intel your company gets everyday. From that, it creates a nuanced portrait of your market, in a time where that understanding is critical. 
 
Looking forward, the companies that excel, will win on customer experience. Right now, of companies that deliver best-in-class service, 70% rely on customer feedback
 
So for a customer experience that gives you a competitive advantage—you’ll need a better understanding of who your customer is. And for that—sentiment analysis is the key.
 
But if emotional data still sounds a little “soft” to you, know that sentiment analysis doesn’t live in isolation. Pair these insights with behaviour models, and you can easily increase your predictive power—yielding more accurate revenue projections, better leads, and a higher sales volume. 
 
Game Changer #3: Pipeline and Data Visualization
 
Your sales data is only as good as the impression it makes on your team. Maybe moms who like you on social media convert better than the business owners on your newsletter. But if that insight is buried in spreadsheets, it might as well not exist. 
 
Collabsport Collect Pro visually represents contact engagement data—right on your dashboard. We’ve seen this feature boost sales’ teams accountability, and better define their goals and action items. 
 
One of our favorite new visualization tricks is pipeline visualization. When you model your sales pipeline, you see (literally) where your deals fall. Your sales team knows when to reach out. Everyone saves time, and you make money. 
 
However it’s modeled, data visualization is the key to understanding your CRM’s data—faster, more accurately, and more insightfully. 
 
Why is this a big deal?

As the wealth of data we have access to grows, data visualization becomes more and more important. Reports show that you’re 28% more likely to find timely information if you rely on visual data discovery tools—rather than a typical reporting dashboard. 
 
Ultimately, data visualization answers the question of: "I have the numbers—now what?" 
 
And that answer leads to smarter insights, more relevant action items, and in the end—an increase in sales. 
 
Inaccuracy is Your Sales Team’s Kryptonite
 
As the sales landscape changes, your team will rely more on data. And the teams who have a handle on their data, will have a clear competitive advantage. 
 
So it’s time for a moment of truth. Ask yourself: how accurate is my data? 
 
And before you answer—take a good look at where your data lives. In all likelihood, that’s your CRM. 
 
83% of senior executives claim their biggest challenge with CRMs is getting their staff to use the software. They're not wrong. Less than 37% of sales reps actually do use their company’s CRM correctly. 
 
Meaning: if your system isn't automated, it’s definitely not fully accurate. 
 
But even if it is, or your team is made up of flawless input robots, there’s a greater threat to your data integrity be aware of: decay—the pesky result of our shifting digital footprints. 
 
A prospect gets a new job? Their old email is mucking up your database. Someone signs up for your email list, but uses a nickname? You might be stuck with duplicates. 
 
Some estimates put the average annual database decay at 25%—meaning every year, a quarter of your records could be irrelevant. 
 
And with visualization, sentiment analysis, and predictive analytics changing the sales landscape—75% accuracy just won’t cut it. 


Here to Save the Day: A Healthier Database
 
So the bad news is: most companies are struggling to reign in their data. 
 
The good news is: once you reign in yours, you’ll have a leg up on the competition. 
 
Here are a few, easy ways to get ahead. 
 

1. Give your database a checkup. Keeping your data healthy means giving it a thorough diagnosis. At a minimum, take a look at your: 

  • Email Bounce Rates: Are they much higher than 2%? Are they increasing, or decreasing? 
  • Auto-replies: Are they mostly out-of-office? Or do many indicate a job change?
  • Last Touch Report: Check your CRM. Who hasn’t heard from you in 90 days? 6 months? A year? Those contacts have probably gone stale. 
  • Non-responses: Maybe they're just not that into you. Maybe their contact info, just isn't that accurate. 

 
Throughout this process, data visibility can make all the difference. Investing in software that makes bounce rates or non-responses clear, current, and easy to observe—can go a long way towards making database checkups painless. 
 
2. And do it regularly. Ideally, you should be monitoring and cleaning your database at least once a month. If you’re a small business—make sure to give it a thorough scrub yearly. 
 
And when we say scrub, we mean every single data point. Reports show the cost of dirty data escalates. It’ll cost you about $1 to verify a record as it's entered, $10 to scrub and cleanse it later, and $100 if you do nothing at all.  
 
3. Improve your CRM adoption. So scrubbing your data cuts you from $100 to $10. But if you want that expense down to a dollar per record—your data entry needs to be spotless. 22% of all reported problems to successful CRM implementation were people-related or linked to user adoption. Tools like Collabspot, simplify manual data entry by integrating your CRM with your inbox. Automating this process can save you time, and save your data’s integrity. 
 
4. Prevent duplicates. Duplicates are a plague every database. They waste your sales team’s time, as they sift through redundant prospects. And they skew the results of your emails, tests, and audience insights. Investing in software that automatically deletes or merges duplicate contents, could save you money and time in the long run. 
 
Next Steps
 
The future of sales is data driven. The present of sales is filled with data that doesn’t work. 
 
The companies that grow, are the companies that take data seriously. They’re the ones that harness it: to predict how and when prospects will buy, to mine how their customer base feels about their brand, and to visualize which action items will lead to success. 
 
To be a company leading the future of sales, look to your present CRM. And remember not to look away from it for too long.
 
 

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CRM Adoption Isn’t About Compliance

You’ve spent hours pouring over Capterra reviews and sitting through demos with pushy sales teams. You’ve spent weeks learning, customizing, and fully implementing your shiny new CRM system and you’re finally ready to unleash it to your sales team.

After a few days, it looks like only a few people have logged in and started to enter their data. No big deal, you can send out a reminder email.

After a few weeks, barely anyone is updating records. Nothing to be overly concerned with, a quick training video will do the trick.

After a few months, you look up and realize most of your team hasn’t logged into your expensive system in weeks and is back to keeping track of their deals using their old Excel template. Now… You’re a bit peeved.

If you’re reading this, you likely recognize this scenario. The excitement of a brand new productivity tool destroyed by a lack of adoption.

For shame.

I spend my days talking to sales managers that are experiencing the same issue. An overarching lack of user adoption that has many consequences. Decreases in productivity and collaboration which lead to a decline in sales, which lead to a not so fun year-end meeting with your boss.

What these otherwise brilliant sales minds fail to understand is that CRM adoption isn’t about simply changing technology or upgrading a process. It’s about changing a culture. Nearly 70% of CRM installs fail because these sales managers don’t realize that changing a CRM is about systematically breaking habits that some sales reps have had for years, and then instilling in them a process that’s 10x better than it was.

Your sales reps will resist change. They love their processes. If you ask them there is no better process in the world. So as a sales manager, you need to guide your sales reps to see the value they will receive out of your CRM, not the value you or your company will receive.

To lead your team to the waters of productivity you follow the three pillars of CRM Adoption:

The three pillars of CRM Adoption

People

  • Involve users
  • Choose a CRM ambassador
  • Invest in training
  • Reward early adopters

Consistency

  • Daily Consistency
  • User Consistency
  • System Consistency

Technology

  • Make it easy and intuitive
  • Ensure your data is clean and correct
  • Automate whenever possible


I’m sure you noticed that it never says create so many rules and regulations around your CRM that you create a culture that hates your CRM. Yep, let’s try to avoid that.

CRM adoption is about developing a sense of value and ownership of the CRM for each and every user. If you rely solely on beating people over the head with compliance rules, then you’ll end up with salesforce that is using your CRM out of fear.

This isn’t to say that there is no place for compliance standards and regulations. You shouldn’t lean on compliance rules however to be the number one way you obtain CRM adoption buy-in.

 

Collabspot is Introducing Customer Success!

At Your Service written on a wooden cube in front of a telephone conceptual of help, client services, assistance, expertise and consultancy.

I will always be ready to serve you.

 

Hey there! Thank you for being a loyal Collabspot customer!

My name is Jerome Jimenez, and I am your new Customer Success Manager at Collabspot. Pleased to meet you virtually. Though most of the time we will be interacting mostly through email or through phone, I thought that it would be best to introduce myself by showing you how you should view our relationship- by going through some of the ways I will be engaging with you, and how you would expect to be engaged by someone like me. After all, we are embarking on this journey together to make you, and ultimately, your customers successful. With my addition to Collabspot, you can ensure that I will work with you every step of the way to make sure that your journey with the product is as seamless as possible.

Why are we so Focused on Customer Engagement?

There is a shift in control that hapened a few years ago, which has made organizations rehtink their strategy when it comes to engaging with clients. We have been flipped on our heads, as we are no longer selling products- we are selling TRUST. Trust is now the currency of business, and if we don't build around that, if we do not have a strategy to instill trust in our brands, our businesses may very well dwindle. My goal here at Collabspot is to have a Customer-centric organization, one that genuinely cares about our customers in order to build trust around the community. In order to do that, I need to interact with you, understand how your business works, and how that coincides to how you're using Collabspot.

 

How We’ll Work Towards Building a Customer-Centric Organization

You already know that your customers are the lifeblood of your business. Without them, what will your business hinge on to continue operations? Here are 5 ideas on how to engage with your customers:

 

  1. Genuinely Interact with Them, as You Would a Normal Human Being.
  • I'd like to give an example on Wendy's Twitter Page:

 

  • This is hilarious on all levels, and doesn't really take a genius to do this. However, it does take a certain level of human understanding to build out responses such as this. You also need to take into consideration on the type of industry you're in, or the type of culture you want your company to be perceived. Tailor your conversatrions to your target market, to the person you're talking to, and how the organization markets itself, add a little human touch or your own uniqueness, and I think you've got a head start in building great customer conversations. 

 

2. Always, Always, Always Listen to Your customers.

  • No matter how much you think it's important for the customer to listen to you, it's even more important to just lend an ear to your customer. Their feedback is VERY IMPORTANT. It's imperative that you take notes on how you can structure their feedback and how that can lead to dynamic changes within the organization. There are different ways to listen to your customers, and it's not just limited to personal conversations. You can listen to them through:

     

    • Social Media
    • Surveys
    • Customer Forums
    • Customer Service
    • Focus Groups
    • Blogs
    • Email, etc.

The more you listen to your customers, the more you will know how you can improve your business. The more your customers give you good, honest feedback, the more you know they are really using your solution. Carefully listen to that feedback, and you will know who your most valuable customers are.

 

3. Communication is a Two-Way Street

  • What's the point of listening to your customers if you're not going to act on the feedback they provided? You need to make them understand that you value their feedback and that you truly value them as a trusted business partner. With that said, take action. Let your organization know what your customers feel about the product, and how you can tailor-fit their feedback to each and every individual need. The software business can now be relatable to how Wendy's or McDonald's does business: through value meals or ala-carte. If you truly listened to your customers, you will know the type of services they will need during the sales cycle. What's more, when you have a developed a deep understanding of them, it'll be a great time to ask "Do you want some fries with that?" Food for thought.

 

4. Admit Your Mistakes- Quickly

  • Mistakes are a part of business, and your customers understand that. Sure, they'll be mad. Sure, they'll threaten to cancel subscription, but if you don't own to your mistakes and tell your client right away, you're going to make them vulnerable, and that mistake can multiply and explode right on their faces. That's something we want to avoid at all costs. We want to mitigate risks as much as possible, and we must all learn to brush this off and move on. Best of all, you learn from those mistakes as to not commit them again in the future. Honest, open communication with your client is what's going to separate one-tiome clients to repetitive, recurring business.

5. Never Forget to Smile

  • Smiling is something we all take for granted. It has a positive effect on your mood and can make the people around you feel better. Smiling also allows you to become more approachable, and what better way to gain the trust of a client than a genuine, big-ol smile? Smiling is contagiois, and can decrease the stress levels of you and your clients. A smile can even be felt through a telephone conversation, so be sure to make it a positive habit when you're with clients. With that said, you must also take precaution when NOT to smile. I once attended a review with a client, where the client was furious as to why the key milestones were not met. My sales partner at the time was smiling the whole time, which made my client flare up even more- and you can literally see his eyes bulging as he said in a very menacing voice "This is NOT a laughing matter." I wanted to crawl under the desk and quietly exit the room. Yikes.

5.5 Show Kindness

  • As an addition to this, please be kind to your clients. A simple "Thank you" and shower of appreciation goes a long way. Many customers stay with their vendors simply because of the positive experience they had. There's a restaurant my family and I frequently go to because of their excellent and friendly staff. On top of that, the food was really amazing, which added a whole other level of experience. A friend of ours recommended another restaurant of the same degree, and we obliged to try it out. As it turned out, the staff were horrible, they treated us like we were second-rate customers because there were only four of us, as opposed to the huge table composed of 15-20 guests. Our orders came 45 minutes later, and my family was famished. Long story short, we are never going back to that place again. Ever.

There you have it. I hope this helps you along the way. Hey, I know we're complete strangers now, but isn't that how relationships start? As we progress along, I want to make sure that your experience with the product is what you expected, and then some. I just to make this clear: We are in this together. if you find anything remotely wrong with the product, please let me know. If you are experiencing come technical issues, please let me know. If you have any suggestions that would make your experiences even better, please let me know. If you love our product, and can't wait to tell your friends how awesome it is, then by all means, please let me know, and perhaps we can share your story in the Collabspot or SugarCRM community.

 

Handshakes and Highfives,

 

Jerome Jimenez

Customer Success Manager

jerome@collabspot.com


*Special thanks to Forrester on their research! You may want to download their 2017 Predictions HERE.

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10 Tips to Improve the Performance of Your Sales

 

“80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls after the meeting. 44% of salespeople give up after 1 follow up. – The Marketing Donut

 

“Each year, you’ll lose 14% of your customers.” – BusinessBrief.com

 

“We talk at a rate of 125-175 words per minute, listen at a rate of 125-250 words per minute, but think at a rate of 1000-3000 words per minute.  The processing gap creates opportunities for distraction and failure to listen attentively.” – The Mann Group

 

We would all like to think we’re great listeners that know exactly what our customers need. In reality, that may be far from the truth. Don’t just read these 10 tips; put them into practice in your business to start improving your sales performance today.

 

Tip # 1 – Everybody is a $alesperson

 

 

All employees have the opportunity to be salespeople regardless of their position or job description. Whether it’s Fred the customer service rep or Julie from accounting, here are a few tips on how to make selling a part of every person’s job. It is adapted from Patricia Sigmon’s Six Steps to Creating a Profit (Wiley).

 

  • Give employees an easy to follow instruction guide. This guide can be as simple as a bullet list that gives your company’s messaging about their products and services. It helps to tell your company story and illustrate the value they provide. In this guide, encourage your employees to engage prospects regularly in a conversation about your company’s offerings. The goal is to subtly spread your message, not overselling your product.
  • Make sure every email has a proper signature that has your company logo, links to your website, and information about your products and services. This should go out in every email automatically.
  • Keep an eye out for great talent in your organization. Maybe you have employees with a gift for social media or a writer that can create incredible sales letters. You can uncover some of these people by brainstorming with employees about what they can do to help generate more sales.

 

Tip # 2 – Listening to improve sales

 

One of the biggest challenges of selling is to get your customer talking, not you talking to the customer. Without listening, how will you know how you can help the customer? By letting the customer dominate the conversation, you can learn more about which products and services you can provide for them.

One of the best ways of doing this is a technique called active listening. It requires listening to the person with an understanding for what they’re saying. After they’re done speaking, you respond to them with a brief summary of what they’ve said.

 

 

By doing this you show your prospect that you fully understand what they’ve told you and you can use those clues to help you close the deal. You will also be demonstrating your respect for the prospect, which can build rapport.

Most of us, when we hear something interesting, will start framing a reply or planning what we’re going to say next based on what we’ve heard. The problem is, you’re doing this while the other person is still talking and you’re not listening to what they’re saying. One way to avoid this is to keep your mind on the speaker and mentally echo what they’re saying in your head.

 

Tip # 3 – Closing is a process, not a request

 

If your goal is to help a customer make the best decision, you’ll find that closing requires more than just asking for their business. When you are talking to your prospect, always listen for their pain points and opportunities to help them out. Ask them questions so you better understand their pain. These questions may or may not come from a checklist, but probably from listening to and understanding the person’s pain and how you can help.

 

 

During the closing process, you will transition the prospect by listening to them. Over time, you will gradually move the conversation from “what if” to “when” if the right decision is to buy from you.

 

Tip # 4 – Forget the elevator pitches

 

Elevator pitches have become popular, but in reality they’re a great way to bore your prospect. Do you really want to force them to listen to a 2 to 3 minute spiel about how great you, your company, and your products are? (It’s all about me, me, me!)

 

 

When you stop and think about it, do you like listening to people go on and on when they get to their elevator pitches?

Instead of forcing your prospect to listen to your bland, boring, and never-ending elevator pitch, give them an opportunity to talk instead. Ask them about what they do and listen. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can learn.

 

Tip #5 – Introverts are better sellers

 

 

We all know the stereotype of the fast talking salesperson who appears in movies, television, and other media. However, in the real world people that have a hard-sell attitude can quickly turn off customers. We know that one of the keys of selling is listening, and introverts are far better at this.

Introverts are more interested in hearing what other people have to say. Since they avoid small talk, they are actually able to naturally develop a deeper connection with the prospect.

Introverts are more likely to study and like sales systems, which can be a major contributor to sales success. While extroverts love to engage with people, they are more likely to fight the system because they enjoy seeing unexpected things occur. Introverts, on the other hand, generally like to use less energy and therefore like to use systems to help leverage their energy to get the best results for the effort they put in.

 

Tip # 6 – Cold calling helps you grow

 

Most sales people do not like cold calling. Some would do almost anything to avoid it.

However, picking up a phone and talking to someone you don’t know to see how you can help them is a great way to strengthen your emotional muscle. It will help you learn to deal with rejection and establish rapport with new prospects at the same time.

 

Here are some tips for successful cold calling:

  • Always treat the gatekeeper with the proper respect
  • Make a dedicated time each day for cold calling
  • If you get voicemail, leave a short voicemail message and assume that your call will never be returned
  • Always use your product’s benefits, not features during the call
  • Keep in mind that cold calling on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons will typically have the worst results

 

Tip #7 – Use customer experience to build your brand

 

Most companies become obsessed with branding. In the end, it’s your customer experience that can build (or destroy) your brand.

This is not a new idea. Companies like Starbucks, Costco, and Ritz-Carlton have been using their customer experience to build their brand for a while.

 

 

“Today, there’s no argument that discovering what customers really want, then delivering it through fantastic customer experiences, is a hallmark of strong brands,” says Paul LaBelle at Tibco Blog.

Some top drivers of customer experience are:

  • Communicating with your customers in plain English while avoiding jargon
  • Making sure your customers feel valued
  • Quickly resolving any problems customers may have

 

Tip # 8 –  Take care of your loyal customers

 

Getting new customers can be an expensive and risky proposition. On the other hand, your existing customers have already purchased from you and selling additional items is comparatively easy.

 “Getting loyal customers to buy from you costs nothing and is automatic. Therefore, your priority should always be to transform existing customers into loyal ones; new customers are only a priority when you're just starting out,” says Geoffrey James at inc.com.

If you focus primarily on getting a new customer and at the same time lose an existing one because you ignore them, you will have the same number of customers in the end. However, you will have lower margins because of the additional cost required to get a new customer over retaining your existing one.

 

 

In the end, by adding one new customer for every one you lose, you will actually lose ground and suffer from reduced profits and increased marketing costs as a result.

Make the time to take care of your customers and be sure your products and services perform well for them. Since you already have a relationship in place, it is less expensive to sell additional items from your product line to those that already love your products.

 

Tip # 9 – Sales training does not make top performers

 

If anyone ever tells you that going to a sales training will make all of your sales staff top performers, beware! While good sales training is certainly worthwhile, it’s only going to provide marginal improvement.

 

 

In order to get the maximum return on investment from sales training, it is important that sales managers continue to coach their staff after the training is over.

Unfortunately, most training efforts fail to reach their objectives, in large part because of the absence of any kind of reinforcement or coaching. In fact, one of my former bosses whom I have quoted before, Neil Rackham, conducted a study that indicated that post training, if there was no coaching or reinforcement activity, there was a drop-off of 87% of the knowledge acquired. That’s a waste of 87 cents on every dollar spent on formal development efforts,” says Scott Edinger with Forbes.com.

Some action items from Scott also include developing “a clear line of sight between sales actions, sales goals, and business outcomes” and coaching by asking, not telling.

 

Tip # 10 – Remember that customers love to buy, but not to be sold

 

We all like to buy things, but none of us really likes to be sold. This is why when salespeople try to manipulate customers into buying things, it often alienates and causes resentment.

The main point in selling is to help the customer make the best decision. Doing so will help add pleasure and influence the customer’s inherent desire to buy.

 

 

The key to this is finding out what your customers want. You can do this using customer interviews, where the customer will tell you things that they would probably never mention while people are trying to sell them. You can schedule an appointment and do the interview by phone or in person with structured questions so you can document the results.

 

Conclusion

 

As you have probably learned by now, listening is one of the most important skills when it comes to improving the performance of your sales. Once you listen to get an understanding of what your customer wants to buy, you can then align your business model to meet those needs. You start with a good understanding of what a real customer needs and how they go about finding a solution and meeting those needs. Once you have this information, you can use your great customer service and training to turn your new prospects into loyal customers and reap the rewards.

 

Image Courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos