By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
This article is a continuation from the as part of the “It Is What It Is” (IIWII) series.
Companies sometimes appear schizophrenic in their attempts to monitor seller activities. For example, website leads are scrubbed in excruciating detail based upon visitor activities before being deemed as qualified leads worthy of a seller’s time and effort to follow up on them. Once the website scoring system is set up, this costs companies very little as buyer activities and actions are all measured and reported electronically.
As relates to cost of sales, leads starts to become exponentially more expensive as soon as salespeople contact prospects. At a bare minimum it takes a phone call that could lead to several face to face calls, entries into your CRM software, involvement of other members of your staff, quotes, proposals, etc. Oddly enough, most companies are solely reliant upon the opinions of their sellers as to whether or not these activities are being expended on qualified opportunities.
Not all sellers are created equal. Some can quickly qualify (or disqualify) prospects. They want to spend their precious time and resources on opportunities that have high probabilities of turning into orders. Other sellers are either inexperienced or less skilled and fail to understand the difference between activity and progress. As long as buyers are willing to talk with them, they’ll continue to spend time with them. They take comfort in the number of “opportunities” in their pipelines. Their focus, sometimes unknowingly is on quantity rather than quality.
Quota pressure can exacerbate the situation. As sellers fall father behind being YTD against their quota, unlike the website grading algorithms, their qualification criteria become less stringent. Many sales managers focus on activity. If there isn’t enough in a seller’s pipeline, the manager starts putting pressure on sellers to increase what’s in the pipeline often with little regard for how qualified opportunities are.
Companies that have stringent grading systems for website visitors yet very loose criteria once sellers get involved are like manufacturing companies that count screws and nuts but not expensive components in inventory.
If a seller takes a prospect to lunch or dinner, he or she must provide a receipt in order to get reimbursed. In the same way sellers should be required to provide deliverables, usually in the form of emails to buyers that provide validation that their activities are likely to move opportunities through the funnel with the right people and involvement. Rather than having milestones be subjective decisions, to have some teeth they should measure buyer reactions. Some examples:
- Have buyers shared business outcomes as to why they might buy?
- Have sellers gained access to specific titles that will be involved in making the decision?
- Has a written cost vs. benefit been created with the buying committee?
- Has the buying committee given a timeframe for wanting a recommendation?
- Has a written sequence of events been agreed to with the committee?
In the same way website activity is measured, so it is that buyer activities during buying cycles should be monitored so that sellers and their managers can avoid confusing activity with progress.