In the beginning, sales organizations were built on field hours and face-to-face handshake deals. With the advent of SaaS, things shifted to focus on inside sales, and in the process the volume of conversations increased exponentially. To manage the increase in volume, sales teams started to rely on phone calls and email as their primary outreach channels.
That approach worked for a long time, and then we saw another shift, this time to a focus on capturing leads via web traffic and outbound marketing. But soon enough, the results from that approach hit a plateau because everyone ended up doing the same thing.
It works by taking the massive investment your marketing team has made in driving traffic to your website and converting that traffic into conversations. By engaging prospects with real-time answers, feedback, and information, conversational marketing and sales help site visitors make critical buying decisions that move them more efficiently down the path to purchase.
There are two parts to getting your sales team up and running: the right tools and the right people. Here’s how.
Embrace New Tools and Discover New Success
Not too long ago, the phone was the salesperson’s best friend. That’s not the case anymore. Today, there are so many other means of communication that make more sense for buyers who are both incredibly busy and who are also used to consuming information via a wide range of media and channels. Today’s salesperson can use video conferencing, chat, and text, LinkedIn, and video content to get their message across and engage in dialogue around the sales process.
Despite this wealth of communication tools, many sales teams are still holding onto the email and phone channels as their go-to option. It’s not surprising. Change is hard, and in a functional area that moves as fast as sales, finding time to facilitate change may seem impossible.
At Drift, the phone is definitely not our primary channel, but we still use “soft phones” (run through a computer) and mobile phones because there are still instances when a customer would prefer to talk voice-to-voice rather than via text or video or chat. But we definitely don’t have landlines on our desks anymore. No one would use them.
If your team is unsure about giving up the old-fashioned phone channel, you don’t have to make the switch all at once. Take a small part of your team and have them spend more time in another channel like chat or LinkedIn. Consider all the different channel opportunities you have and encourage your reps to experiment. Focus on activities with repeatable processes that really drive outbound. See what happens. You may be surprised.
The key to success with any transition is being thoughtful and intentional about the change management piece. Most of us are creatures of habit, so changing how we complete a task can send us into a tailspin. Introducing a new way to interact with customers—like chat—creates a bit of a learning curve as your team figures out how to integrate the new tools and process into their existing routine. But it’s not a big curve, and it’s not that steep. If you believe, as a sales leader, that a conversational marketing approach will enable your team to have more conversations, they will commit to the process more fully and you’ll see results more quickly.
Obviously, as far as specific tools go, the team here at Drift is partial to our own product; but it’s certainly not the only must-have in our sales toolkit. For example, we spend a lot of time on LinkedIn for both marketing and sales activities. It’s a comfortable place where sales reps and potential customers can interact without a hard pitch.
We also depend on Dialpad and Zoom on a daily basis. Dialpad is the software that allows our sales team to call and text direct from their computers. Centralizing all these communication tasks on one device is both convenient and improves productivity. Zoom is one of the most powerful tools we use because it adds a visual element to our conversations, which in turn allows us to gauge critical body language cues and also better express our enthusiasm.
The key with tools is to avoid assuming that the ones you’ve always worked with will work for you always. Pay attention to what’s happening in the market and how buyers prefer to connect. Their expectations are changing based on how they use technology in the non-professional areas of their lives. To stay on their radar, you need to adapt.
Hire the Right People and Support Them
While tools are incredibly important, they certainly aren’t the whole story. The other half of conversational marketing is the people having the conversations—your sales team. The value of hiring well and providing appropriate training cannot be overstated.
The best way to bring the right people into your organization is to hire based on intrinsic characteristics rather than on experience or teachable skills. This means focusing your interview questions so that they help you uncover insights about a candidate’s drive, curiosity, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence. Your goal is to figure out what kind of person you’re talking to, because if they are missing any of the key characteristics at their core, that’s something that’s really, really hard to work around. Some things you can teach, others you can’t. Make sure you’re starting with a strong foundation of character.
Onboarding and Training
When it comes to getting people up to speed, you want to make sure you’re not overlooking the skills that are at the heart of how you do things. For example, there are plenty of universal sales skills we might teach new hires here at Drift, things like forecasting, prospecting, and how to stage a deal. But the most important thing we have to teach new team members is how to be conversational.
Many traditional selling methodologies are pretty rigid, with highly structured and repeatable scripts that are, quite frankly, pretty predictable from the buyer’s standpoint. What our salespeople need to perfect is how to make a human-to-human connection by really understanding the buyer at a deep level. This means understanding what they care about not as it relates to your product, but as it relates to what the prospect is working on on a daily basis. That’s the only way to establish a connection between your product or service and the prospect’s challenges.
Organizing Your Team
It’s a very effective strategy to put people in positions that allow them to narrow their focus so that they can become a specialist. This allows each rep to become intimately familiar with the particular type of sale that they work on, which will make them more successful and more efficient. There are a number of ways to create specialization—around a specific customer segment, product, or type of buyer—the key is just to create a situation in which the rep knows that particular sales scenario inside and out, forwards and backwards, and nine ways to Sunday.
Before you start any journey, you need to know where you’re going. The same concept applies to getting to your number at the beginning of each year. You have to figure out what the goal is and how you’re going to get there. The smartest way to work this out is to reverse engineer from the number you want to achieve.
Say, for instance, that your goal is to get to 125% of last year’s number. Once you have that figure, you can work backwards—using your own selling math—to identify the tasks you need to achieve on a daily basis to hit that goal. Because you know your win rate, you can determine how much pipeline you need to create on a regular basis. And because you know how many interactions you need to create that pipeline, you know how many activities you need to do each day to make sure you’re keeping pace.
From there, you can get into specifics about exactly which activities you will do each day—LinkedIn outreach, chat, emails, phone calls, texts, etc.—to ensure that your efforts are aligned with the intended outcome.
Mentoring and Coaching
Sometimes, despite best intentions, someone on your team may struggle to hiy quota. In these situations, it’s important to consider the effort component before cutting your losses. If someone is putting in the effort, but still missing the mark, that’s the time to step in as a mentor or coach.
When things are falling down, you can dissect the points in the sales math formula to identify the piece that isn’t working. For example, if someone on your team is having lots of conversations, but is unable to convert them into pipeline opportunities, you may need to look at the messaging they’re using, the pitch, or maybe the kinds of questions they’re asking prospects. On the other hand, if someone has an abundant pipeline, but isn’t closing much of it, you might want to look at negotiation skills, how they price proposals, and other end-of-funnel considerations.
Look Ahead but Stay Focused
With the New Year stretching out ahead of us, it’s natural to be thinking ahead to what the future may hold for your business. There’s a fair amount of uncertainty about the economy these days, but it’s not really worth it to focus your time or mental calories on things that are outside of your control. The market conditions will change, and they will change again. Your job is to adjust to the changes and focus on building a strong company that can weather any conditions.
If you have a strong business model, strong focus, and the ability to deliver value to your customers, you will be fine. And if you go the extra mile to give your company every advantage, you’ll be better than fine.
Conversational marketing can you set you up for success in 2019. Get a demo of Drift today.