Want to boost your sales? Doing less can be more

By Laurence Bret Stern, Chief Revenue Office, Pipedrive

Achieving sales is the life-blood of every small business. It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of an efficient and well-drilled sales team, and yet scaling companies struggle to be able to quantify their ‘success’ at sales.

In fact, businesses rarely look at analysing their sales workflows.  When sales revenues fall, it is most often the product or price that is revised, rather than the sales processes or channels involved.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, here at Pipedrive we’re rather obsessed with making sales teams unstoppable. We’re also always looking for ways to quantify sales teams’ success, and every year we analyse the anonymized metadata from tens of thousands of sales teams around the world. It’s a lot of data, but then we tend to find some pretty interesting conclusions.

So what’s the headline? Out of 70,000 small companies we found that higher performing teams (those that beat their industry and regional averages) saw a typical conversion rate of around 37%. That’s more than one in three inbound leads converted into sales.

Depending on your sector that may seem high, and yet we found businesses across sectors, from big manufacturers to small estate agents, hitting the magic 37%. And remember this is global. So no excuses.

The secret? Do less. Or rather, do less more intelligently, and more efficiently. Organisations with low conversion rates conduct 30% more activities, (by which we mean calls, emails, meetings etc). That’s approximately two more per deal than higher performing teams.

The key is focusing the right sales actions on the right leads. So hold off on chasing that cold email if they haven’t replied, it’s probably going nowhere. Focus that energy on the deal that might just need a little nudge or some more attention to get over the line.

Overall, high performing companies are quicker to sales results – their salespeople have a stronger impact on customer decisions, and do less work but take the right actions to close sales.

So, in light of this, here are five ways you can supercharge your sales process in 2018. Selling more by selling less, you might say.

1)            Stick to clear strengths

It might sound obvious, but don’t try and micro-manage your teams’ sales strategy. Let them embrace their strengths. Just because a salesperson isn’t spending eight hours on the phone doesn’t mean they aren’t performing. If they’re a wordsmith, let them stick to emails, if emotional intelligence is their strength, then it makes sense to let them spend time out of the office to focus on those important face-to-face meetings. Our data shows there is no universal one size fits all approach, so do make sure your sales teams have true freedom to work to their strengths.

2)            Streamline your sales process

One of the key conclusions from our data is the art of simplification. Sometimes salespeople try to do too much. Champion the art of cutting back the layers of process in favour of clear and easy-to-remember steps. This means sharpening up your act and shaking off those stages that are not working. Don’t be afraid to be brutal and cut activities that don’t lead to conversions. Expensive marketing literature not working? Scrap it.

3)            Embrace new tech

Sales teams can’t be expected to remember everything about every prospect, and a critical part of the sales process has always been managing and keeping records of conversations. No notes means no progress. Think about leveraging online tools to advance conversations along the pipeline. Whatever your tool of choice, embed it deeply into your sales process.

4)            Focus to get ahead

A lean pipeline is not always a bad sign. Focus is key, and data shows that companies reap better results when they know exactly what needs to be worked upon. Avoid a scattergun approach, keep an optimum number of good deals in your pipeline. Otherwise, it affects everything: the processing, analysing and execution. Trying to spread yourself across too many leads will lessen your chance of converting any of them.

5)            The need for speed

It’s true that if you’re quicker to hear ‘yes’ you’ll achieve a higher performance. Conversely, that also means you may be quicker to hear ‘no’. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from the past decade in hyper-growing companies is – failing is OK, if you fail fast.  As tough as a ‘no’ is, it will also brings clarity – it means you can move onto new prospects. Never be afraid to break up with a prospect early on if it’s just not working out.