You know that feeling of a past experience, where you look back and ask yourself:
What would I have done differently?
This text started with just such a reflection!
As a consultant and former manager of a marketing and sales consultancy, I have been involved in more than 127 projects to structure and scale processes in the commercial and marketing area.
From all this experience that I went through, there are learnings for all sides. Therefore, I decided to compile what I thought was the most important in this trajectory here.
My idea, when writing this content around Capital Smart City, is to guide managers, CEOs, Sales VP, or sales and marketing directors on the importance, and on the arduous but extremely rewarding path (revenue), which is to have a company based on processes and techniques.
My intention is that this works for any company, regardless of size, as long as it recognizes that its commercial can be improved, whether through a new sales culture, or optimizations that lead to better results.
My idea was to make content so practical, that the new team of consultants (whether sales or projects) have this material as a must read. And I hope that, later, it will serve as a ramp up for the team itself.
Relentlessly search for the result analyzing gaps in your process – Practical example
You may have heard the expression “Results Culture” a lot, but when it comes to consulting this becomes even more evident. Perhaps because it is such a banal expression, people end up overgeneralizing and never fully understanding what it means.
The commitment to the end result has to be so great that it makes you go out of your way (the famous be resourceful) to deliver what it takes. This is extremely valid for the head of the commercial, whether he is a CEO in an early stage of the company, or a marketing and sales manager in an established company.
This ability to adapt to look for the result is a classic trait of good professionals.
The real truth is that you will never get it right the first time. Accept this! But you better know where you want to go.
To make it more practical, I want to show you an alignment that is made at the beginning of a consulting project, with the funnel that we are going to look for. I’m going to use an example from a client here so you can understand how the numbers are rotated, ok? 😉
The first point to think about in this funnel is the differentiation between quantitative variables (number of smart leads, MQLs, SQLs and Customers to be generated) and qualitative (conversion rate between steps).
Making this alignment ends up being important, because it becomes more tangible, for the customer and for the supplier, to know that the partnership was a success.
During a conversation, it is common to hear from the consultant:
“Having reached this value, can we count our partnership as a success?”
But remember I told you that we hardly get it right the first time? Yes, it did, but this is where things are going to get fun. 😉
First month after implementing the new process with trained members. Lots of work to be done.*Hint: Always round numbers down.
In this case, the only history we had was the number of leads generated and sales month by month.
The “funnel” that we had from the client, before our consultancy came in, was something like this:
Funnel before consulting. I’m going to talk about one of the topics about the importance of having data at hand.
Two scenarios, which I will mention here, are very common for clients before they enter the consulting process.
The first is that the salesperson performs all the steps in the process (there is no segmentation: whether commercial intelligence, hunter and closer or their variations), and the second is that the origin of a sale is unknown: it came by outbound, inbound or recommendation?
Although the funnel after implementation is still not ideal, it was already possible to see some gains clearly.
- Visibility: It is now possible to have an analysis based on data instead of intuition and opinion. From there, we can think of an action plan;
- Quantitative increase: the customer is managing to raise more leads and sales month after month. It’s too early to talk about conversion, as I didn’t have that background before;
- Quota to be converted: s in an SLA (Service Level Agreement) it is impossible to trust that the quota (total value of the SQLs) will be converted during the sales cycle. For this case, 22 SQLs with an average recurring ticket of $1200.00 would be converted over time. That is, R$26,400 coming in every month if we keep everything constant.
But of course, if we compare the funnel we wanted to get to with the funnel we currently have, it’s clear that we need to improve.
As we have visibility, it is possible to look at the funnel and arrive at the following diagnosis:
Problem 1: Conversion of Smart Lead to MQL below 10%
For the process to be predictable, it is important to ensure that the lead generation is constant and really of quality. A second point is to ensure that the prospecting cadence flow is optimized and that the team is following this flow.
So, we would have to do a survey of information with Commercial Intelligence and prospectors. The action plan looked like this:
- Analyze whether Smart Leads were in accordance with the Ideal Customer Profile ;
- Survey and analyze prospecting indicators: email open and response rate, bounces and operational indicators (number of new flows created, emails sent and calls made);
- Validate Hunters speech to see if there was any discrepancy or lack of conversion.
To prevent anything from biasing my analysis, the manager of agro farm houses talked to each team member individually. For information gathering, this practice is great to have access to different views.
In the first meeting, it was evident that we had no problems with misalignment between what was being generated and what we needed to look for. Hunters were accepting almost all of the leads that were being generated, and when the hunter didn’t, Business Intelligence would generate new leads.
To be more secure, we surveyed all of the month’s leads and validated with the manager whether the leads had the profile to be prospected.
I know from experience that with a non-optimized cadence flow, the efficiency of the process is greatly reduced. Then I raised the email open and response rate in each of the streams. They were close to benchmarking, but some templates could still be improved.
I noted which follow ups could convert best for further optimization.
Within the prospecting cadence flow, I was startled by a fact: the number of cold calls was lower than expected. This was quickly noticed because, if you receive X leads per month, and all leads must receive at least 2 cold calls, the total number of cold calls in the month should be 2X, right?
The prospectors weren’t doing half of that. I knew it wasn’t an operational limit issue, as we had an IC-Prospector balance that would make the prospecting team not bottlenecked.
What was raised by the team was that cold calls were proving ineffective. This is very common feedback among prospectors for two reasons.
The first is that if it compares to sending emails, it spends a lot more time calling to try to connect.
This generates the first discrepancy which is: “I could send more emails if I called less.”
Not only is it easier to compare cold calling conversion, once you’re doing this, it’s also easier to get discouraged.
The big thing is that cold calling is important, because by varying touchpoints (email and call), you tend to reach the lead by different means and reach some people you couldn’t reach by email.
I aligned with the team that we needed cold calls and that we were going to try to reach the following result in the next funnel: for every 10 calls made to get at least 3 connections.
We use different types of new tests, different approaches with gatekeepers, calls at different times of day. To reinforce it, I lined up at the end of the conversation that this needed to be done throughout the month.
To alleviate my anxiety about whether that was happening or not, I asked commercial intelligence to raise these numbers in the weekly review, so we could know if we were on the way or not.
Problem 2: Converting MQL to SQL
For this problem, things got a little more complicated.
As it is a step of passing the baton, the problem can be in the hunters’ purview (low-skilled MQLs, for example), or closers (inability to generate maturity or buy time in a lead, or even not following the flow correct cadence).
So I defined the following action plan:
- Gather feedback with the closer on the quality of the generated MQLs, doing a monthly study on all the MQLs he has received;
- Ask hunters and closers for the month’s calls to analyze how each of them approached;
- Analyze if they were following the closing flow well and that they weren’t losing any business through engagement, which was easy since I had access to CRM.
If you do a Pareto, these are usually the 3 activities you need to do first to discover any gaps in the process.
I already had a suspicion that they weren’t the hunters MQLs, but it didn’t cost me anything to validate. In the weekly meetings, the closer had already cited the quality of MQLs being generated as the best case.
This was an indication that, if problem 1 were solved, it would end up generating more MQLs in a natural way, which would impact the entire process, right?
Hearing some calls from hunters, I just needed to give them a direction to learn a little more about the market they were in. This would make it possible to generate more authority with leads and convert more MQLs.
However, it was in closers’ bonds that I saw the greatest number of gaps. Despite the use of techniques such as GPCT, some parameters were missing, with Timeline/Urgency being the main one.
The salesperson followed the consultative approach he learned in training, but couldn’t generate an urgency, which he could use in a second time to get the sale.
This became obvious when I heard the closing calls, where he called the lead and could only get feedback on progress, or not. It was something like this:
“So, let’s close it?”
This is normal for teams that follow a consultative approach. However, the salesperson ends up being more passive, lacking a little aggressiveness to close the lead.
I honestly believe that role playing is the best way to solve gaps, so we simulated some scenarios so that the seller would be more prepared at the right time.
Separating the approach into qualification and closure, I killed 2 problems at once. The first, improving the low conversion rate from MQL to SQL, and the second, increasing the number of new customers.
To monitor this indicator, I followed a weekly approach to the generated SQLs and started to follow the progress of deals from the mouth of the funnel in a weekly forecast together with the seller.
I had to do this because it depended on the sales cycle and it would take longer to know if it was really being effective.
End result: Better than thought
Final funnel, before project completion
This was the funnel we delivered before the end of the project. Of course, we can never say that we did it alone. Having the team close and showing the importance of doing something is extremely necessary to ensure an excellent job.
Long term is much better than short term
Have you ever heard of the impact and effort matrix? If not, it’s this one:
It is a 2×2 matrix that can guide you in making a decision about any activity you have to do. It has two variables, as the name already mentions, impact and effort.
These two variables unfold into four possibilities: Fill in Jobs, Thankless Tasks, Quick Wins and Major Projects.
- Fill in Jobs: they are activities you do to “meet the schedule”, require little effort and generate little or no impact;
- Thankless Tasks: s will those activities that require a lot of effort, but generate no impact;
- Quick Wins: s will the activities that, with little effort, we can generate a good result.
- Major Projects and Strategic Initiatives: s will activities that require a lot of effort, but generate much impact.
What’s important to think about is this: every action you choose to take will fall into one of these quadrants.
For example, for a sales manager, or responsible for the sales area, you can accept to participate in the demonstration of a product that you know doesn’t solve your problem, but you end up doing it just because it’s necessary. Classic Fill in Jobs.
For Thankless Tasks a good example is that member of your team who, despite all the effort, you still try to make him reach his full potential, or change a behavior that you know is wrong.
The Quick Wins are very good to run because they generate a legal result. But don’t live on it, it’s highly addictive. Just correcting small directions is not enough to get you where you want to go.
Already the Strategic Initiatives are the ones that really need to define and seek. These strategies require a good investment of time, but they pay off in the long run.
I often mention that a consultancy is a Strategic Initiatives. It’s a long-term project that requires a lot of effort, but when it’s executed it has a big impact on the entire organization. For a marketing and sales consultancy, this impact comes in the form of growth.
You saw in the first topic the importance of making optimizations and improvements in the process. It is common to have an average implementation of at most 3 months, and these optimizations happen from there.
Yes, you will run quick wins, but within a strategic initiative, which is a consulting project. Strategic Initiatives Direct Quick Wins. Never the other way around.
Think, for example, of building a house. To do this task you need to use a hammer, which will help you hit nails and be firm when lifting the structures of your house, right?
Then I ask you the following question: Do you ask your architect to design your house using this hammer as a starting point? I do not think so!
The hammer is a means and not an end activity. The tool is crucial, but the process design is n times more important.
Because data helps achieve predictability faster
“Without data, you’re just another person with opinion.” – W. Edwards Deming
I particularly like to divide sales data into 3 categories:
- Volume: can be operational (calls made, emails sent, etc.) or key (MQLs, SQLs or new clients generated);
- Productivity: q aunts Sometimes I need to perform an operation to generate a given key? Or from how many executed meetings will I be able to generate an MQL/SQL? Productivity indicators show scraps, non-ramped members within your process;
- Translation: j will this type of indicator explains what are the changes between two macro steps, it is a qualitative feedback. Did you see this in the previous steps: what conversion rate do I need to get between the Smart Lead step and the MQL step?
The first problem is that this information is not collected in a procedural and constant manner. Thus, we lose speed when making a certain decision, either because there is no previous data, or because this data arrives in our hands at an inappropriate moment.
As much as the ultimate goal is to achieve predictability in sales, it is a requirement to maintain predictability in previous steps of the funnel: Smart Lead, MQL and SQL.
These are 3 steps that we need to make well optimized, but it is possible to think of specific action plans as soon as you see that the data is not consistent with what you need.
For example, before collecting the data from the first funnel, it had already been observed, with the Commercial Intelligence team, that it was difficult to reach the daily delivery target.
Knowing that, we hired a plugin that improved the efficiency of this stage of the process and we didn’t let this problem be something to be solved for the next month. You can only think fast like that if you’re keeping an eye on your index finger.
With all this data in hand, executing and validating whether an action had a good result is much simpler.
Volume indicators tend to provide very high efficiency for the process. And if you are segmenting your process for the first time, normally, working with these indicators is enough to have a nice result.
But, if your moment at the company is different, because you are scaling up or already have a large team, productivity indicators will be much more important to drive predictability.
This is to be expected as, with a large team, knowing quickly whether a new hire is performing well is essential.
High performance path for ICs, Hunters and Closers
I didn’t get to do the exact math, but I believe that, in consulting projects in the most diverse areas, from SaaS to Telecom, I must have trained more than 200 professionals in the commercial and marketing areas.
And even though everyone is different on some level (and for that there is coaching and 1:1’s), the main difficulties are almost always the same, and there is a great way to reach the professional’s high performance faster.
I would like to talk to you a little bit about this. Come on?
Path to high performance of Business Intelligence
The responsibility of Commercial Intelligence follows 3 pillars:
- Generation of qualified leads;
- Business Intelligence;
- Market analysis.
We almost always recommend someone with little experience in the commercial area to hire this profile and that we have full control to develop.
This is important because this professional has less or no addictions, and has a more malleable development. Besides the fact that the new generation likes to work in a company that will invest time to develop them as a professional.
And for a new position, such as the one responsible for commercial intelligence, this is extremely necessary, as he will constantly need to update himself and look for more modern concepts.
The first discipline to develop in business intelligence is the ability to generate good smart leads. As operational as this may sound, there are many nuances to seeing whether or not a lead is a smart lead.
There are a series of decision making that are taking place in an interval less than 3 minutes (average time to raise an outbound lead):
- What segment are we dealing with?
- B2B or B2C?
- Do you have an investment or not?
- How big is the company?
- How big is the commercial area?
- Can the value proposition work with marketing/sales?
Usually, the manager is able to pass this information in an experience format and streamline the professional’s learning process. The more qualified this list is, the more information was collected.
In addition to this survey, it is possible to drill down better in the list generation and take a customized approach, such as generating a list based on 100 startups.
The second part of the commercial intelligence ramp up is the constant collection and analysis of data. You saw it in one of the threads about the importance of being data-driven, right?
I don’t even need to comment on how important this is in a management process!
At this point, your IC needs to become familiar with the main sales indicators and benchmarking.
Constantly monitoring your indicators makes it much easier to analyze seasonality and think of action plans that help the commercial area to achieve better results.
The last step, and also the one that requires more time to be invested by the manager and commercial intelligence, is the market analysis.
For example, if you know that a competitor (with a less robust solution than yours) is gaining adherents within a segment, you can use this to quickly target a highly focused prospecting strategy for that segment.
Unfortunately, gaining an understanding of the market is not something that is simple, especially when you don’t have help from someone who is constantly diagnosing the market or in direct contact with their customers.
Some examples of this discipline can be:
- Market size;
- Market trend;
- Customer analysis;
- Competitor analysis;
- Profitability by segment;
- Entry barrier.
This is not something that happens overnight and demands a lot of brain mass from IC and from the sales manager.
Path to high performance as a hunter/prospector
The hunter’s responsibility is:
- Achieve connection with Smart Leads generated through a cadence stream;
- Generate qualified MQLs for the sales team;
- Constantly optimize your process.
As the Business Intelligence team already generates the first Smart Leads, much of the prospectors’ time is spent ensuring that the leads are engaging within the cadence flow.
After training more than 300 hunters in one on ones, I know that the main gaps that will lead to high performance are:
- Cold calling posture and qualification: normally the prospecting team is a junior team that has just entered the market, so understanding the mindset for a correct approach makes all the difference. If you’re on my side during hunter training it’s quite possible you’ll hear a rhetorical question like: “[Hunter], what’s your stance going to be during the call? Optimistic (believing in cold calls makes all the difference), specialist (necessary in every B2B sale) or dominant?”.
- Control of the methodology: s understanding about SPIN Selling, or other techniques, like Small Yes, it becomes very difficult to build agreement with the lead. The vast majority of prospectors tend to naturally understand the S (Spin situation) of the lead, but without constant feedback, they end up not raising the Problems, Implications and Need for Solution, which are the factors that really contribute to the sale.
- How to Handle Objections: to sometimes just good communication (remember that communication is not argument), you understand really the lead from the point of view, it is enough to override many of the objections. But it is important that you raise the main ones to ensure a faster time ramp.
- Sales of speech and market positioning: g rand of the MQLs are lost because the prospector cannot position the opportunity as something that makes your eyes shine the lead. Positioning yourself as an expert and as someone who will generate great value for the lead makes all the difference.
- Stack Tools: s in the right tools, the result tends to fall short of expectations.
Apart from these factors, we have other precautions you need to take with the prospecting team. As your business scales, it is important that you start to work on other factors to avoid turnover, demotivation and so on.
There is a certain size of team that you need to have a team leader for the hunter team.
Personally, I like to avoid the term “team manager”, or another nickname of the team, as it is important that this hunter continues to prospect, as well as lead some actions that lead the team to more relevant results.
That’s why it is important that, over time, the person responsible for the commercial starts to work on some aspects in addition to sales techniques: leadership, soft skills, etc…
Thus, we reduce the turnover of the commercial area and form other leaders within the organization, which ends up improving our scalability.
Note: Perhaps the activity that has the most impact for a prospector is role-playing.
Path to high performance of a salesperson
This is perhaps the most complex of the 3 professionals to ensure ramp up. I’ve seen so much impacting the salesperson’s performance that if I say a few here, you’ll be scared.
Although I believe that sales is a science, there are some very interesting aspects that also position it as an art. Sometimes it’s something so personal that the mood, level of pressure, personal life has a huge impact on the final result.
Being a process person and not so much people, I’ve always worked more on the technical side than the people, although lately I’m looking to mix them up. So, I’m going to mix the sides to better understand what guarantees the ramp up.
The technical aspects are:
- Advanced knowledge in SPIN Selling and GPCT ;
- Advanced knowledge in objections;
- Advanced knowledge in the solution and product;
- Champion Letters and digital communication;
- Market positioning to deal with other competitors.
This is a theme that would be worth a separate content and it is not my intention, at this moment, to delve into it. I’ve added some links in the previous threads, in case you wanted to know a little more.
As for the personal aspects, it’s always good to work:
- Vulnerability: I stole that aspect of “Coaching Sales People into Sales Champion”. Expressing vulnerability means being transparent about your mistakes and expressing your human side. This is essential for coaching your sales team (especially for salespeople who tend to be very secure);
- Self-Awareness: if every salesperson could check up on what situation he is involved in, it would be easier and faster to direct actions that will lead to the final result.
I mentioned some results that I believe are the most important for a successful closer development. It is obvious that without a structured process and constant coaching with the salesperson, nothing will do.
One of the big insights I’ve learned is that, of all training, the closer is the least one size fits all, and it’s important that you recognize that too. Usually the factors I’ve explained here may not be the most relevant to your sales team’s scenario.
As selling requires a human side, it is important to recognize the nuances of each of your salespeople, looking for strengths, weaknesses and even personal aspects.
Just as roleplaying is the main activity you need to perform with your hunting team, with the sales team it’s interesting that you shadowing.
In sales, just as there is a discussion about “the death of Cold Call” (I don’t particularly believe this), there is a discussion about whether shadowing is good or not in onboarding other salespeople.
There is no magic recipe, you need to test and find what is best for your process.
The precautions you have to take are things I’ve already mentioned here: having a clear business process, coaching your team, knowing how to differentiate between personal and technical traits.
Optimize your process all the time!
If you don’t have a process, start now to know what’s best for you. Organizations with a culture of learning tend to innovate more and grab larger market shares.
Be the leader of this revolution: a meeting with our sales technology specialist team or our consulting team is a good start 😉