Sales in the slumps?
If so, your company isn’t alone. In a study by CSO Insights, only 60% of sales representatives meet or exceed their sales quotas in any given quarter.
Salespeople are highly incentivized to meet their quotas so why aren’t more of them successful? To find out, we took a fresh look at research on pitfalls reps most frequently fall into.
We found that salespeople who can avoid the following four pitfalls are likely to increase win rates, but for those who can’t, quota shortfalls are likely to continue.
By the end of this article, we hope you’ll come to realize, as we did, that it’s possible — in many cases easy — for every sales team to avoid these pitfalls. But they can’t do it alone.
Pitfall #1: Prospecting efforts (or lack thereof) leave leads on the table
Prospecting for new customers — by cold-calling, email, or messaging — is necessary for keeping leads in the pipeline. It can also be hard work. In fact, 40% of sales reps surveyed by HubSpot site prospecting as the most challenging part of their job.
To be successful, prospecting requires perseverance, more than many reps may realize. We learned that reaching a potential buyer by phone requires an average of eighteen calls (SalesIntel) but it turns out, the average sales rep is only ringing twice. (SiriusDecisions)
While cold calling can be especially discouraging, traditional sales teams behave similarly when prospecting by email, with 70% giving up on a prospect after sending just one.
Once a rep does reach a prospect, it takes an average of five follow-ups for a prospect to further engage (Marketing Donut), however, a remarkable number of reps (92%!) quit contacting prospective customers after hearing “no” just four times*.
Considering 80% of prospects say “no” four times before saying “yes” (Marketing Donut), it’s evident that a majority of potential customers are abandoned right on the cusp of raising their hand.
If prospecting is a numbers game, then clearly perseverance pays off for the 8% who hang in there through call five.
Imagine what win rates could look like for your company if sales teams reversed those rates — if 92% of sales reps made that fifth touchpoint?
Pitfall #2: Your sales reps are neglecting to properly nurture
There is, apparently, good reason for the stereotypical image of a sales rep: 84% of buyers complain salespeople are “annoying” in their efforts to convince them to buy.
If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the path to this pitfall is paved with additional touchpoints that only add noise. In fact, reps spend 50% of their time on unproductive prospecting (HubSpot).
So prospecting isn’t only a numbers game. Adding touchpoints that nurture prospects even before they receive their first call has been shown to significantly improve prospect response rates.
Nurturing prospects means warming them to your brand, keeping your company top of mind, and priming them with relevant and helpful information. Cold calls become warm ones as prospects are ready to raise their hands when the right opportunity comes along.
Nurturing prospects also requires salespeople to play a longer, more targeted game. But most sales reps don’t have the luxury of extra time to spend on longer games.
We found an abundance of information on how salespeople spend their time and it appears a whopping 67% of it is spent on “non-revenue-generating” activities.
Across the board, sales reps spend just 33% of their time actually selling.
What if reps were able to unload some of these “non-revenue-generating” activities, nurture prospects properly, and increase the amount of time for selling? How many more deals might they close?
Pitfall #3: Your sales & marketing teams aren’t aligned, a.k.a, the content conundrum
Seeding content prior to a sales pitch is crucial. Successful early movers are positioning their marketing collateral digitally on self-serve portals or landing pages that prospects can access on their own time.
As a result, 70% of today’s buyers fully understand their own needs before even engaging with a seller (G2).
To maintain credibility and trust, sales reps must be able to demonstrate a deep understanding of both the buyer’s needs and their own offering from the moment a prospect raises their hand. And to do this, sales reps need quick access to highly relevant content like case studies.
Unfortunately, 65% of sales reps say they can’t find the content they need when they need it (Kapost). Some reps must spend 20% of their time creating their own content (CSO Insights), a pitfall that costs businesses “$1 trillion per year in decreased sales productivity and wasted marketing efforts.” (G2)
The good news is, sales teams that work closely with marketing to pave over this pitfall can realize 41% growth toward reaching quotas (G2). Furthermore, sales and marketing alignment “can help your company become 67% more effective at closing deals,” says G2.
Pitfall #4: Your sales teams don’t know what to do
A study by Accenture found “42.5% of sales reps take 10 months or longer to become productive enough to contribute to company goals.” When you consider the average tenure of a sales rep is 18 months (Accenture), the potential for lost productivity is glaring.
Effective sales training and coaching programs, including how-tos on the tech stack and a proven, well-documented sales process, are instrumental for ensuring successful onboarding experiences. We found it surprising then to learn that more than a quarter (27%) of companies don’t offer any kind of sales onboarding program to new reps.
Companies that invest in technology for both onboarding and ongoing sales training and development report 57% higher productivity than those that don’t — and companies that don’t risk more than productivity. They’re risking turnover.
How to avoid these revenue-killing sales pitfalls
Although these pitfalls differ from each other, leaving any or all of them unchecked results in a few common outcomes, namely: lower quota attainment, increased employee churn, wasted time, and increased costs for companies.
Salespeople bear responsibility for doing their job efficiently and effectively, there’s no arguing that. What’s also true, according to McKinsey & Co., is that companies that lead in their industry are more likely to invest in “making their sales reps’ jobs as easy as possible.”
Leaders can help their teams and individual salespeople avoid the pitfalls discussed above, improve quota attainment, and likely realize a number of other company-wide benefits as well. Here’s a list of a few solutions we believe will make the biggest difference:
Outsource prospecting to automated tech
While prospecting and nurturing used to require salespeople find their own targets, make cold calls, write and set up their own preset content for emails, and then monitor engagement, the Emerged platform has completely changed the game.
Emerged offers sellers in the healthcare and life sciences industry an automated solution that ensures a consistent, targeted, and successful approach to reaching new buyers (hello sales pipeline!) and nurturing leads. Emerged lets sales teams engage with pre-targeted, qualified leads, saving time and making it easier for your reps to close more sales.
And don’t forget what we discussed earlier. Not everyone is ready to close, or even to engage, in the moment. Just because a prospect says “no” at first, doesn’t mean they won’t come around (on attempt 5, based on the data). The value of Emerged is consistent nurturing across the year-long sales cycles.
Remember: Teamwork makes the dream work!
Buyers do much of their research these days, and if they don’t find answers on your site, they’ll move on. Have informative content available digitally on your self-serve portals or landing pages that prospects can access on their own time.
Sales teams need access to equal, if not more, information than potential buyers, however. Help those representing your company stay credible, build trust, and save time by normalizing communication between sales and marketing teams. With open channels for communication, teams can keep each other abreast of trending questions and appropriate, engaging information.
Consider technologies like sales enablement and marketing automation tools that streamline content sharing and connect marketing and sales teams. Many of these tools even help leaders track analytics and content usage to determine what works and what doesn’t so you can watch your teams improve success rates for closing deals.
Bonus: In addition to helping reps find the content they need without having to write it themselves, this helps keep content on-brand – a win for marketing, if you need help convincing them to collaborate.
Formalize a process and invest in getting your team up and running
First, it’s crucial to set up your sales process and guidelines (prospecting criteria, follow-up methods and timing, etc.) to get everyone on the same page. Then for new hires, invest in high-quality onboarding and ongoing sales training and coaching. Skipping out on either of these only shortchanges a company’s bottom line, whereas offering this type of support can improve capabilities for all your reps and improve job satisfaction — not to mention, your bottom line.
In addition to training, consider giving new sales reps a head start. Emerged offers services and automation that initiates outreach to prospects with approved, on-brand messaging and consistent follow-up. You can build up your sales pipeline in the background while new reps get up to speed. Once they’re ready, get them to close the deals!
Want to increase revenue? With Emerged, you can give all of your sales reps more time to focus on what they do best — selling.
Our multi-channel campaigns automatically handle your cold prospecting with proven touchpoints across social, digital, email, direct mail, and more. Our goal is to get your target prospects to engage, so your sales reps can close more deals. Interested in seeing if we can help your business scale?
Schedule a call with our team today to learn more about our process for sales & marketing alignment and nurturing.