Today’s guest post is by Jennifer Stanley, expert partner (Marketing and Sales Practice) at McKinsey & Company. Hear her speak about this topic at the Sales 2.0 Conference on May 2 in Boston.
Today, salespeople have more ways than ever to find and connect with prospects. In fact, they’re drowning in data and interaction opportunities across the customer’s many digital touchpoints. But these many insights and channels often overwhelm the typical B2B rep.
This has created an interesting paradox for sales professionals. In organizations with well-resourced presales teams that sift through customer data and digital footprints, reps’ pipeline conversion rates go up. But, for B2B reps without those resources, that information doesn’t always help much. Amidst unsorted data, pipeline improvements are tough to come by.
However, there is a simple hack that any salesperson can try to cut through the noise of data and multiple touchpoints – potentially improving early pipeline qualification conversion rates up to 50%.
Make Fewer, Shorter Sales Calls
Some of the most successful reps I’ve encountered spend less time with customers – and even attractive prospects. This may seem counter-intuitive…until you consider the fact that today’s B2B customer is impatient. Many prepurchase activities occur through digital channels, which means customers are more informed. Half of them express a desire to spend less time interacting with reps. The successful rep respects this preference and opts to spend far less time with the client. As a result, both the customer and the rep benefit.
One rep I know in a complex, industrial business regularly sits atop his team’s leaderboard; I believe this is due to his disciplined prospecting approach. Here’s how he works:
- He blocks 15- and 30-minute slots for face-to-face prospect meetings. (He isn’t lulled into thinking that selling a complex solution to sophisticated buyers equals hours of upfront time with prospects).
- After each planned visit, he also leaves 30 minutes for entering debrief notes into his company’s CRM and planning his next steps.
- He builds an extra buffer of time into his customer-meeting time block in case the customer needs more time. Because he’s so well prepared, customers frequently do want to use that extra time with him. (Since he also blocks “next-day planning” into his calendar every night and holds it sacred, he can shift his debrief time to that block if he needs to).
- He blocks similar “sacred time” weekly for studying a prospect intensely. He doesn’t just rely on the information he’s handed from marketing, as good as it may be. He invests this time because he knows that B2B prospects, in addition to not wanting too much contact, also loathe a lack of preparedness.
His results? More successful visits with more prospects than his peers, and a regular top leaderboard spot. While he’s not wasting customers’ time, he’s not wasting his, either.
Being efficient with time – whether one’s own or the customers’ – doesn’t require sophisticated presales analytics and teams. It’s within the rep’s control and a critical key to unlocking higher prospect conversion rates.