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5 Strategies to Reverse Your Sales Productivity Problem

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Oct 5, 2018 10:00:00 AM

sales-productivityThis post originally appeared on HubSpot's Sales Blog.

For more than 30 years (yikes!), I’ve been directly involved in selling, managing, and leading salespeople, and providing advisory services to sales organizations. There are two trends that have persisted:

  • The increased prominence and investment in sales technology and sales force automation
  • The consistent decrease in sales rep productivity, or the time salespeople actually spend selling

Recent research from The Aberdeen Group and Docurated indicate good salespeople today spend less than a third of their time selling, while increasingly more time is spent managing various administrative tasks surrounding sales and demand generation.

Whether you’re a salesperson, sales executive or other investor or stakeholder in a growing organization, I’m certain I don’t need to tell you the direct and collateral damage done when salespeople aren’t selling.

Before sharing the key to increasing sales productivity, let’s look at the three root causes for the problem sales organizations have dealt with for decades:

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Topics: Sales Enablement

5 Rules to Effective Breakup Emails

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Sep 27, 2018 1:00:00 PM

breakup-emailsIf you’re in sales, there are two things you can count on:

  • You’re going to rely on email as a core communication tool
  • Prospects are going to go dark on you

It’s a particularly frustrating experience when prospects seemingly disappear. Part of the reason for this is that there’s a bit of a time warp from the perspective of a sales rep vs. a prospect/buyer. I advise people to realize that to a sales rep, every day feels like a week, but to a buyer, every week feels like a day.

Take a situation where a prospect who has promised to respond has “gone dark” for two weeks. To the rep, this feels like they’ve disappeared for almost ten weeks. To the buyer, they feel like they’ve missed their promised date by two days.

While that time warp certainly varies and there’s no science behind it, it illustrates the ambiguity that exists. If a salesperson acts too aggressively or desperately, they could create the very problem they’re worried about avoiding. Wait too long, and the prospect could easily forget about things or have their attention diverted to some new issue. (Time kills all deals.)

I sell as only a part of my overall responsibilities here at Imagine, and I deal with at least one of these situations every week. Full-time sales reps may deal with this every day.

This is where the breakup email comes in.

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Topics: Sales Development, Sales Enablement, Demand Generation

What Is Lead Activation

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Aug 24, 2018 2:00:00 PM

activationAfter a decade of dominance, people are beginning to doubt—seriously doubt—the validity of demand generation. In the last three weeks alone, I’ve had more than eight conversations with prospects who flat-out proclaimed “We’re not interested in demand generation; that’s for low-price consumer commodity products. We sell high-priced, complex [fill in the blank] solutions. We need something more sophisticated.”

Despite the last five years, when lead generation has exploded, revenue and customer acquisition growth has actually declined per dollar invested/spent on growth initiatives, leading to a crisis of confidence for a core component of the modern revenue growth playbook.

What Is Lead Activation

Lead Activation is the process of generating active engagement from buyer personas at companies that meet your ideal client profile, before they’ve reached the point of buying intent. The Lead Activation Process purposefully advances engagement and increases their probability of becoming a high-quality sales opportunity.

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Topics: Lead Activation, Lead Nurturing, Lead Generation, Sales Enablement

The Critical Role of Intent in Demand Generation, Sales and Marketing

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Jul 12, 2018 1:30:00 PM

intent-video-splash-screenWe've been doing a lot of research over the last year into a critical part of the buying process that seems to get very little attention in the design and execution of demand generation: sales and marketing efforts. Anyone who has ever been involved in attracting or acquiring new customers knows that buyer intent is an important ingredient in the customer acquisition recipe.

Intent varies by person, by market and/or by what you're selling. There are any number of factors that are going to impact when and where intent occurs, but somewhere along the buyer’s journey, buyer intent hits a critical point. Intent, initially, does not necessarily relate directly to buying from any particular vendor. Buyer intent refers to the decision that some level of action needs to take place. If you think about the last major purchase or even decision that you made, you can quickly and easily identify that point that separates pre-intent actions from post-intent ones.

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Topics: Sales, Marketing, Demand Generation, Lead Generation, Inbound Marketing, Performance, Sales Enablement

New Research from SiriusDecisions is Bad News for Sales Teams - Here’s What to Do About it

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Jun 26, 2018 2:00:00 PM

bad-news-for-sales-teamsA new research report from SiriusDecisions presents a pretty damning view on the state of sales today. The 2018 Global Chief Sales Officer Study surveyed the heads of sales from 250 companies covering a broad array of business, from small business through large multinational businesses.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Fewer than 50% of sales reps are hitting quota
  • At 70% of companies, fewer than 70% of sales reps are hitting quota
  • Marketing is contributing less than (a paltry) 25% to revenue
  • Sales cycles are getting longer for 64% of companies, with 27% seeing an increase of more than 30% in just the last year.
  • For the typical company, sales reps spend just 27% of their time on direct activities involved in selling to customer or prospects. Higher-growth companies reported their reps spent 53% more time selling (though I'd point out that’s still only? 41% of their time spent actually selling).

I’ve got to tell you, I had to read the report twice before I believed what I was seeing. The last five years have seen greater investments in customer acquisition and sales than ever before, yet these numbers indicate that nothing has improved.

Of course, I really shouldn’t have been surprised to see these numbers as I’ve got front row seats to this whole thing. While I caution people to be wary in reading too much in surveys, this report is another piece in a growing plethora of evidence that shows that selling organizations have still not made the necessary adjustments in their approaches to sustain and succeed.

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Topics: Sales Enablement, Performance, Demand Generation, B2B Sales Strategy, Sales Development, Lead Generation

Lead Activation Syndrome (LAS): The Ailment that is Costing You Millions $$$

Posted by Doug Davidoff

May 9, 2018 4:00:00 PM

lead-activation-losing-moneyLast week, I was going through some older files when I came across a standard presentation deck from six years ago. Two things struck me as I reviewed that deck. The first was just how much of what we were talking about five years ago still applies today.

The second was the amount of time we spent in that presentation on the need to develop a formal lead generation process for businesses desiring growth. While the strategies shared are still applicable, what I found interesting was that, just five years ago, we spent a considerable amount of high-value sales time getting business executives to understand the importance of simply generating leads.

Certainly, there are companies that haven’t adjusted, but even those companies acknowledge the importance and value in designing top-of-funnel strategies to drive higher lead volume. (They’re just still working through their list of excuses.) Today, we rarely spend time talking about the importance of lead generation.

Instead we find, with increasing frequency, that companies committed to serious growth are suffering from a very different problem. They’ve generated the leads, and continue to generate them. Often, they’re generating more leads then they can handle.

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Topics: Sales Enablement, Sales Cycle, Sales Development

Why I Don’t Give My Head of Sales A Revenue/Sales Quota

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Apr 27, 2018 1:00:00 PM

No-Sales-QuotaMake the number! It’s probably the three words that dominate the thinking of salespeople and executives everywhere. I’ll admit that over my career I’ve literally had dreams--and nightmares--where making the number was the central theme. (Of course, whenever this happened, I knew it was probably time to take a week off).

Sales quotas (or revenue quotas) are a foundational element of the sales. For most, the only question to ask about quotas is “Where should the target revenue or new customer acquisition quota be set?” Questioning the need, appropriateness, or effectiveness of even setting quotas is sacrilegious in business circles.

But the time has come for those leading businesses into the future to admit that quotas aren’t working. Recent research from CSO shows that barely 50% of salespeople are meeting quota, a trend that has been steadily deteriorating. Anecdotally, many senior sales executives responsible for setting quotas adjust to this reality by setting artificially high quotas and putting more pressure on salespeople.

Earlier this week, I presented a webinar where I revealed some research that we just completed, along with ways to implement strategies that can double your pipeline in 90 days. In this session, I shared that the nature of sales continues to undergo rapid change. If selling is going to remain a viable strategy, leaders must rethink their fundamental assumptions about sales, how they allocate talent and resources towards the sales process, and how they assess and compensate performance.

At the beginning of this year, I determined it was time to take a lead in designing the sales model of the future. As a part of our 2018 sales plan, I eliminated the sales quota as a key metric for our VP Sales. Here's why.

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Topics: Sales Enablement, Sales, Sales Cycle, B2B Sales Strategy, Sales Development

5 Steps to Design Your Pipeline to Shorten the Sales Cycle and Align Sales & Marketing

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Apr 10, 2018 3:00:00 PM

Sales-PipelineIf any of these objectives are a high priority for you, read this post (if not, feel free to skip it):

  • Create predictability in your customer acquisition process
  • Shorten the ramp-up time for new salespeople to be successful
  • Transform marketing momentum into sales momentum
  • Shorten the sales cycle
  • Improve your ability to forecast

While strong strategy, insight and execution are certainly crucial to achieving these objectives, what is all too often overlooked are two especially important operational structures that are 100% necessary for consistent success:

  • A clearly defined funnel structure
  • A clearly defined sales pipeline structure

You may be thinking, “Doug, you’re crazy. I haven’t overlooked a pipeline, it’s central to our CRM!” And while the vast majority of companies that I see do have stated deal/opportunity stages that define their pipeline; more than 90% of them aren’t worth the paper (or bytes) they’re written on. Not only do they fail to create any real value or insight, they are central to the problems that sales and demand generation organizations are working so hard to overcome.

This post will walk you through the key elements of designing an effective sales pipeline structure, as well as enabling you to diagnose some of the fundamental flaws that likely exist in your existing process.

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Topics: Sales Enablement, Playbooks, Sales Training/Coaching, B2B Sales Strategy, Sales Development, Lead Generation

Is the Sales Development Process Still a Strong Strategy for Sales Growth?

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Feb 27, 2018 11:00:00 AM

imagine-blog-sales-strategyOver the last decade, the hottest trend for fast-growth sales organizations is the birth and dominant role of sales development teams to accelerate lead generation and the creation of qualified opportunities. Even as recently as five-years ago, sales development was still being adopted by only the most forward-leaning companies. Today, sales development is de rigueur. If you're a company that's committed to serious growth, a sales development function is pretty much table stakes.

In our own way, we've contributed to this reality. In 2015, I spoke at Inbound sharing how sales development was not only a complement to Inbound Marketing, it was necessary to successful execution. Back then (if two and a half years ago can be considered "back then") my topic was controversial with many people arguing against it. Today if I were to present such a topic I'd be lucky if anyone other than a member of my team was present for the session. 

I talk with executives every day about growth. I see how the strategy how gets implemented today. While there is a tremendous amount of content available on sales development (with more coming every day), one question doesn't seem to be asked: is it still a viable strategy?

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Topics: Playbooks, Sales Development, Sales Enablement