Let’s say that you’ve finally gotten your sales process off the ground.
You’re prospecting, qualifying leads and closing deals on a regular basis. Nice! But now what?
Your sales process isn’t something you can simply “set or forget.”
Just as your customers and their needs are constantly changing, your approach to closing deals should be dynamic as well.
This means fine-tuning your sales process over time to win as many long-term customers as possible.
How to optimize your sales process for the long-term:
While the quest for more deals is a never-ending one, it doesn’t have to be an uphill battle.
Optimizing your sales process simply means acting on what’s working and what’s not with your current sales strategy.
1. Pinpoint the leaks and bottlenecks in your pipeline.
We’re all chasing the “perfect” pipeline.
But before we get there, we need to figure out the inefficiencies in our sales process.
Specifically, leaks and bottlenecks.
Let’s start with identifying leaks.
Leaks occur when there’s a significant drop-off in your conversion or completion rate from one stage of your sales process to the next.
For example, a business might absolutely crush it when it comes to qualifying leads but just can’t seem to move the bulk of those leads past the demo phase.
This could signal a breakdown in communication between your reps and demoed leads. Such a leak could also mean that there’s a technical problem (broken links, autoresponders or videos) that needs to be addressed.
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To identify potential leaks, ask yourself: “At what phase of my sales process is my conversion rate the lowest?”
In many cases, leaks in your sales funnel can actually be attributed to bottlenecks.
A bottleneck occurs when a phase of your sales process is essentially “plugged up.” In other words, your leads and prospects get stuck at Point A and never move forward to Point B.
Bottlenecks are time-sensitive. The longer folks spend stuck in your funnel, the more challenging it is to convert them.
Think about it. Your leads and prospects can’t wait around for you forever.
To identify potential bottlenecks, ask yourself: “At what phase of my sales process are people spending the most time?”
Fixing leaks and bottlenecks starts by looking at your long-term sales data. Do you know how long it typically takes your reps to close a deal? Do you know exactly how long your prospects leads spend in the different phases of your pipeline? Reports such as Copper’s pipeline summary report can clue you in.
An example of a pipeline summary report
Before you worry about how to fix these sorts of inefficiencies, you need to know that they exist in the first place. Your CRM data can break down the low-points of your sales process so you can devise a plan of attack.
2. Automate as much of your sales process as possible.
Closing deals isn’t just a time-sensitive process: it’s a potentially exhausting one, too.
Any given business’ sales reps are at risk of burnout if they’re stuck taking care of tedious tasks rather than, you know, selling. Bear in mind that employees are most engaged and productive when they focus on their strengths.
Automation can empower your sales reps to do just that.
For example, Copper’s series of automated actions allows users to create time-saving workflows. These actions enable reps to put actions such as scheduling meetings, follow-up demos and contract signings on autopilot. This is in addition to other automation features such as reporting, email templates, note-logging, by the way.
Automating tasks can save you a huge amount of time
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3. Reduce your churn rate.
In your quest for more sales, don’t neglect the customers that you already have.
It costs five times as much to acquire a new customer than it does to retain one. Reducing your churn rate is part of a healthy sales process and means more money in your pocket. This rings true for current and new customers alike.
Adopting the principles of customer relationship marketing is a solid starting point for reducing churn. For example, businesses should frequently check in with their customers not only to provide stellar service, but also to understand what sorts of solutions those customers might be looking for in the future.
Relationships and personalization go hand in hand with customer retention. If you want to give your customers what they want, having more meaningful conversations can go a long way.
Learn strategies to reduce churn and keep customers longer with this handbook.
4. Align your sales goals with your marketing goals.
Your sales team can’t afford to be an island.
Eighty-six percent of today’s employees and executives blame “the silo effect” for many of their organization’s problems and shortcomings. When sales and marketing teams are on the same page, both teams win.
Your sales department should be fully aware of your business’ marketing campaigns. Some significant questions to ask your marketing team which impact your own efforts include:
- How is your company currently positioning itself against its top competitors?
- Are there any promotions, discounts or pricing changes your team should know about?
- What marketing touchpoints (think: social media, email) are being made with current leads and customers?
Understanding these pointers makes it easier to communicate value propositions and speak to the pain points of your audience. Ideally, your sales and marketing teams should have frequent check-ins for the sake of aligning your goals. If both teams are working within a CRM like Copper, you can also support each other via activity notes with individual customers.
5. Shorten your sales cycle.
When it comes to your sales process, time is of the essence.
According to research by Drift, 55% of companies take up to five business days to respond to leads (if they respond at all).
The same study found that the longer it takes for businesses to follow up with someone, the less likely they are to win a sale.
As noted earlier, a speedier sales process is key to reducing bottlenecks. Keeping your sales cycle short also helps your business get paid faster. Just consider the long-term financial implications of shaving days, weeks or even months off your sales cycle.
The key to shortening your sales cycle isn’t cutting corners. Instead, it’s about finding ways to reduce lag time and back-and-forth such as by:
- Increasing the frequency of your follow-ups (or simply sending more follow-ups) with leads and prospects
- Cutting down the amount of time between demo periods
- Providing more comprehensive resources (webinars, demos) to properly educate people about your product
Of course, try to maintain realistic expectations when it comes to shortening your sales cycle. Nurturing your leads and prospects takes time: don’t sacrifice quality of service for the sake of speed.
6. Prioritize your highest-earning sales activities.
Continuing with the theme of “time is money,” your reps should understand which of their actions result in the most revenue.
Maybe it’s phone calls. Perhaps it’s cold-emailing or running demos.
Either way, research shows that sales reps spend only one-third of their time on revenue-generating activities. This speaks to both the need for automation and for reps to use their time wisely.
Here’s yet another area where a CRM can be a game-changer.
For example, Copper allows users to break down their most valuable sales activities by user.
As a result, companies have a bird’s eye view of how their top-performers are spending their valuable time and what the rest of their sales teams should focus on.
7. Monitor your most valuable metrics and KPIs.
Remember: optimizing your sales process is an ongoing effort that’s rooted in data.
The length of your sales cycle. The cost of customer acquisition. Conversions.
The amount we can learn from our sales data is staggering. That’s why tracking sales metrics is a must-do. If you want a better idea of where your business should be going sales-wise, you need to know where you’ve been.
Which sales metrics are you tracking?
Reporting on your sales process is something that needs to be done consistently and likewise communicated with your team. Your numbers will ultimately allow you to set realistic sales targets as you continue to fine-tune your sales process over time.
How are you optimizing your sales process?
Reality check: sales process optimization isn’t a silver bullet or one-time quick fix.
However, it is something that any business is capable of and should be doing in the Relationship Era.
Taking a good, hard look at your sales process not only spells good news for your customers but also ensures that your reps are making the most of their time.
And the quicker you can spot inefficiencies, the quicker you can resolve them and focus on scoring more sales. With the robust reporting and automation features baked into tools like CRMs, your business can do exactly that.