Based on my experiences with CRM implementations in sales teams in recent years, these kinds of blind spots within sales teams appear to be the rule, rather than the exception. Which is a shame, because those blind spots can cause warm, suitable leads – which come down to potentially substantial order values, especially in the manufacturing industry – to leak out of the bucket, somewhere in the middle of the sales process. The more capital your solution entails, the more painful it is when leads fall through. In these times, you simply can't afford to drop leads as a Sales Manager – because not only do we need to make sure everyone stays healthy, the business also has to stay afloat.
Let's have a look at where we find most of those leaks and blind spots. In this blog, I'll share my key insights gathered during two years of intensive collaboration with various sales teams in the manufacturing industry and the optimisation of their sales process.
1. Number of Sales Qualified Leads per month
Leads come in many different ways: at a trade show, via marketing, or by phone or email. How do you maintain an overview of these various flows and how can you, as a Sales Manager, be sure that all these leads are followed up? To determine who is working on which leads, your first challenge is to make sure you know what's coming in from which marketing & sales channels. Do all of these leads actually end up on your sales employees' desks? All too often, we find that this process is not securely embedded in one central system, despite the fact that recording these kinds of things in a CRM is more accessible than ever. If you don't know how many leads are in the pipeline, then you won't know if any leads aren't being followed up and end up falling through the cracks either. So you must have an umbrella system in place, in which all your leads are recorded.
The very first step is to determine together which leads are sales qualified and therefore ready to be linked to a sales employee. Sales teams that aren't yet using modern sales tools have less than 1/3 of their time to spend on interacting with potential customers. So you'd better make sure that those leads are good enough to warrant the time investment – and then you might be able to hold off on that new sales vacancy after all.
2. Number of Sales Qualified Leads per sales employee
In many cases, sales teams can still get by with "emptying the sales mailbox together on a daily basis", but leaving the initiative to pick up a lead with your sales employees can have a major detrimental effect on your sales results. Online leads in particular expect an answer to their request or inquiry the very same day, if not hour. How long will the query of a potential customer sit in that mailbox if no one feels responsible for picking up that lead?
An average response time of 42 hours for B2B leads – those days are long gone. Make sure you have a process in which leads are assigned to people, and ensure that the responsibility for following up leads is embedded within your team. Make sure that they establish first contact with the leads (albeit briefly) as soon as possible.
Use a modern CRM to capture those leads and their ownership. This way, as a Sales Manager, you'll gain insight into the number of leads your sales employees have and whether their workload is in proportion to the deals they must close. This information is even more important if your sales team is divided in districts, or if your sales people are responsible for certain regions.
3. Number of Qualified Leads per stage of the sales cycle per employee
New leads come in daily, but they haven't yet been converted into deals, nor are they part of your forecast or the sales pipeline of your expected order intake. Do you know what happens to all those sales opportunities? It's what your team is working on every day, after all. Until your people alert you to a deal that might be coming up, it's all a bit of a black box for the manager. And when you're dealing with long sales cycles, as is often the case in the manufacturing industry, the black box is even bigger. You can ask them to record and register even more about a lead's progress, but that would take away valuable time from interacting with customers.
By embedding your leads in a modern CRM system that allows you to automate sales tasks – such as HubSpot – and recording your sales process in the same system, you can take this entire process away from your sales team. Systems such as HubSpot recognise which of your leads have responded to sales emails, meeting requests or phone calls, and which haven't. Based on data regarding the activity of the sales employee in relation to a specific lead, that contact will be automatically assigned a lead status. This will give you, the Sales Manager, a clear overview at all times of how many leads are in a certain stage and what you should start seeing in your forecast or sales pipeline shortly.
4. Number of calls and emails per sales employee per month
As a sales manager, your main focus is on achieving individual and/or team targets. Yet it can be very useful to know which communication channels your sales employees use most for their sales activities. Not to assess them on the number of many calls they make in a day (unless you manage a call centre, perhaps), but to gain insight into the balance between emails and phone calls.
Email, of course, is a very efficient tool to gather some extra information from your potential customer – before you know it, you might have spent an hour on the phone with someone who isn't an interesting customer. Unfortunately we do see some good deals go bust in sales processes that use email.
It's hard to have an exploratory conversation via email to find out your potential customer's actual pain points. The danger here is that your sales employees move towards a solution too quickly and fail to add sufficient value for the customer. If the competitor is better at asking the right questions and, as a result, comes up with a better solution, you might still end up losing the deal at a later stage.
A good example is one of our customers, who noticed that two of their deals were lost at a very late stage in the sales process, at which point deals normally had a 90% success rate. Because HubSpot CRM registers all sales activities, the Sales Manager was able to use these insights to find out that the sales employees had only communicated with these two potential customers via email, and to use that information to optimise the sales process.
Ensure a healthy balance between phone calls and emails when dealing with leads.
Together, decide on a lead qualification method such as BANT or GPCTBA/C&I to make sure every sales employee enters into an exploratory conversation with your leads. To quote marketing expert Jos Burgers: "Never give a customer what he asks for, give him what he needs." And if the lead isn't a good match with your organisation, you'll find out soon enough.
5. Turnover forecast
How well can you estimate right now what turnover to expect? During the implementation of HubSpot CMS and Sales Hub, I come across many companies that haven't sufficiently standardised the sales process, which hinders accurate forecasting. The reason might be that the sales process includes optional deal stages that are not part of the standard process. As a result, deal stages are randomly applied, which makes your forecast less reliable than it could be.
Another common problem is that a lot of the various products or solutions that sales teams sell have different sales cycles, yet they're mixed together in one forecast. Accurate forecasting should be about the probability that you'll generate turnover and when the projected order intake will come in (probability x time). Due to extended sales cycles, these deals don't all go through the sales process at the same speed, creating a distorted picture of the forecast.
As a Sales Manager you can effectively fine-tune your forecast by asking yourself the following questions:
- Are all deal stages in my sales process mandatory and do they always take place?
- Base your forecast on the length of your sales cycle.
- Successful completion of the exploratory stage with a prospect allows you to quickly assign value to a potential deal in the sales pipeline for an even more accurate forecast.
6. Turnover forecast per sales rep
Not every sales manager chooses to hold sales employees to a personal target, yet it can be useful to have a good overview of the performance of your individual sales employees. Assigning sales opportunities/deals to your sales employees and ensuring they're visible for your forecast not only gives you insight into who is likely to generate the most revenue, but also who keeps the best records. The more up-to-date your administration, the more realistic your forecast. Since the forecast is often also used to look ahead to planning/production planning or recruitment, there is much more value to accurate forecasting than for the sales team alone.
Say your sales process has four stages, but one of your sales employees consistently skips deal stages when recording deals – you will be able to help the team record turnover potential in time.
7. Conversion rate between deal stages in the sales pipeline
A lack of insight into the conversion rates between the various deal stages means that many companies are still losing an unnecessary amount of leads during the process.
Do you know exactly how many leads move from one deal stage to the next and where the 'leak' is in your sales process? If you aren't using a modern CRM in which your sales team can follow up on leads and in which their actions are recorded, it'll be almost impossible to gain insight into these types of valuable conversion rates. Sales Managers who do have this insight, have the perfect opportunity to further optimise their sales process and avoid losing leads as part of the process.
It's okay to have a lower conversion rate in the first stage of your sales pipeline. This means that, after the initial stage(s), your sales team will be spending most of their time on leads that are actually interesting. As a result, however, the sales team might receive a lot of leads that aren't ready for sales yet or leads you can't help. This is a good opportunity to talk to marketing about whether the message they send out attracts the right target group.
The conversion rate between the final stages in your sales process should ideally approach 100%. This way, you won't be spending your time preparing useless quotes if you aren't sure yet whether a potential customer is really looking for your solution.
8. Time in Deal Stage – the time a sales opportunity spends in a sales stage
As discussed earlier, it is essential that your sales process is aligned with the sales cycle of your product. This offers you, as a Sales Manager, the opportunity to forecast effectively on the one hand, and to flag when a certain lead spends too much time in one of the deal stages on the other. A valuable insight, which will help you adjust as necessary in case of any deviations within the sales process.
Say you have a sales cycle of six to nine months on average and a sales process with four different deal stages. When you notice that a particular lead has been stuck in a particular deal stage for more than two months, you can effectively start a conversation with the sales rep in question to find out what's going on and how you can optimise.
9. Lead Score / Likelihood to Close
How do you ensure that your sales reps prioritise following up on the leads that are most valuable for your business? First, with the sales team, you must determine what characterises a valuable lead. Do those leads work in a specific industry, for example? Or for a company with a specific amount of turnover per year? Once you've made this clear, you can set up a simple scoring model based on the characteristics of a particular lead and rank your leads.
If you're working with a modern CRM system such as HubSpot, you can automate this entire process. You can do this by setting up lead scoring so that a lead is automatically assigned points when they perform certain actions, for example, or when you become aware of relevant information. HubSpot takes this one step further. Using artificial intelligence and data from previously closed deals, HubSpot determines the probability that a new lead will eventually become a customer. This is then expressed in a 'likelihood to close' rating that lets your sales team know exactly which leads to prioritise.
Make sure your sales employees always start their day by prioritising the deals that can be closed first. Only once all actions related to those deals have been completed, should they start looking at the leads that have a high lead score or likelihood to close.
10. Sales activity per sales employee
In this blog, I've mentioned the ways in which modern CRM tools can make the sales process scalable and reliable a couple of times. The successful use of CRM within your team fully depends on the extent to which it's adopted by your sales employees. A CRM must be user-friendly, of course, but the process set-up and team training are the main criteria for success.
Within a modern CRM system such as HubSpot, you can effectively determine which employees feel highly comfortable using your CRM, and which employees are afraid to start using certain tools or simply don't have the right information or skills. You can find this out by looking at reports on sales activity – in other words, how the tools are being used.
Make sure to choose a CRM that offers reports that allow you to measure how your employees are using the CRM's tools. Next, use the system to map out how much each individual sales rep uses the tool's functionalities. Is the tool being used to its full potential? If it isn't, you can talk to each individual sales rep about what's holding them back.
Request a quick scan of your sales process
After reading this blog, do you feel that you and your sales team are missing out on valuable opportunities? Or do you want to know how the above insights can be within your reach within a month, using the right tooling? Together with a Webs Sales Consultant, discover how you can further optimise your sales process and how you can make sure that you're no longer missing out on any valuable insights or leads.