I’d like to introduce you to some of the basic concepts we’ve been applying to help build successful sales organisations for our clients at Mount Arbor. There’s a bunch of stuff I’d like to cover, but I’m excited to share this because Inbound Selling, I believe, is going to be useful to you if you’re a CEO, Sales Leader or BDR starting out on your sales journey - these are some of the things we’ve learned and that we apply with our clients for predictable success in sales.
What we’ve done is break down the sales and marketing systems we work with into their component parts, and in doing so, we can recommend some strategies you can use to accelerate sales without breaking your engine or losing momentum. What that means is lowered risk while increasing your chances of growing a thriving business.
Your sales team probably aren't analysts - they appreciate mobile drag-and-drop sales processes, rather than confusing spreadsheets. Even the most disciplined sales teams fail to follow a sales process that doesn’t flow naturally into their daily routine. HubSpot Sales Hub and the Growth Suite offer a new way to unite your sales and marketing organisation so attribution, reporting and data-driven sales actually work - but not before you discover a few hidden gems you'll need to deal with first.
Sales and Marketing alignment is about speaking a common language and understanding responsibilities. In modern sales organisations, everyone is a salesperson, and the line is blurred between departments as you deliver value to each customer.
Mount Arbor was one of the first in Europe to offer clients Sales Acceleration on the Sales Hub Enterprise platform, and we’ll present some case studies and some success stories. We’ll also share some bad habits you'll want to avoid, especially when moving from Salesforce, as well as the quick wins and fast tracks to follow when you move your sales organisation onto this rapidly growing platform for sales.
We are going to focus on the human element in your sales process - if there are no humans involved in your sales process, this might not be for you - I’m talking about B2B sales - business to business - or maybe in some cases a considered purchase on the consumer side...
Basically if your customer has to spend some time talking to a sales person before they buy, maybe they take a week or two to make a decision, then there are humans in your process.
You may be looking at some or all of these sales metrics in your business already - or maybe none of them. In a lot of the growing businesses we’ve worked with, we find that the first thing we’ve got to do is make sure everyone is on the same page with sales metrics.
If you’re not working directly with sales in your business, it’s very likely that you don’t deal with these kinds of metrics at all. If you’re in marketing or the technology side of the business, something like your ‘Opportunity to Close Rate’ might be about as relevant to you today as the current wholesale price of bananas at the local fruit market.
These sales metrics are the lifeblood of your business! Knowing how your overall business activities affect revenue, and how these relate to the kinds of metrics you can track, is what I’d like to talk to you about today.
First let’s start off with just a couple of questions for you, so you can get an idea of the kinds of business you have. Place yourself in the following categories:
The answers to these questions will directly influence your sales strategy. We are going to focus on the human element in your sales process - if your customer has to spend some time talking to a sales person before they buy, maybe they take a week or two to make a decision, then there are humans in your process. And humans can be tricky…
Over the past 15 years, I’ve worked in a lot of businesses in every possible area - sales, marketing, IT - at one stage I might even have been the guy crawling under your desk to reboot your PC. I gradually moved from IT to marketing to Product Marketing to Sales … As a consultant I get to observe each of these businesses from the outsider’s perspective. It’s kind of a unique way to look at a business.
You know what I’ve noticed? Traditionally marketing and sales speak different languages. It’s like they’re living in different countries. For example, if you’re a marketing manager losing sleep tonight over your Cost Per Acquisition or Conversions, try having a conversation about that with your Head of Sales when they’re worrying about Opportunity to Close Rates. Sales and marketing live in different worlds - and they kind of meet in the middle most of the time.
I’ve had kind of an interesting life… This is my family about 2 hours drive outside Baghdad, Iraq, in Summer 1987.
We’ve seen incredible results for our clients, and we were one of the first Sales partners in Europe for HubSpot, which gave us a bit of a head start on their new sales platform.
To me, sales and marketing is all about storytelling. Especially when you can link it to revenue!
This photo says a lot about my family. We were always encouraged to do things a little differently and to see things from different perspectives.
So here we are years later and I’m talking to you about sales. How did that happen? I’ve got one of those ‘connect the dots’ careers that are fashionable now. I tried things, I made mistakes, I tried again. Like Bruce Springsteen says, ‘It’s not the time in your life, it’s the life in your time’.
I couldn’t see the connections then, but I’ve discovered a common thread. The connection between all of these experiments is what I wanted to share with you today, and hopefully my unique perspective will help you. I love seeing good people succeed, which is maybe why I enjoy teaching so much. And Sales is all about people. I’ve kind of stumbled on this magical combination of weird skills from different areas, and it all makes sense now we’re all talking about customer journeys …
What’s the difference between sales and marketing anyway? If you think about it from the customer’s point of view, there really isn’t a difference - they don’t care - not really… Think about it for a minute - everything that goes on in your business, every time you interact with a customer … your point of view is the direct opposite of the customer’s, most of the time. They BUY, you SELL. They EXPLORE your product, You DEMO FEATURES…
The Journey for your customer can last months, especially if we’re talking about B2B sales - from the first time they download your white paper or have a chat on your website to when they purchase months later, they’re probably going to talk to multiple people in multiple departments in your organisation. For the BUYER, this can be even more confusing or frustrating they’re also dealing with multiple personalities along the way.
What we try to do is make this JOURNEY - the journey your CUSTOMER takes, as smooth and enjoyable as possible - after all, it benefits everyone if you can provide your customer with the value they need as quickly and easily as possible, right?
From the POINT OF VIEW of the BUYER, it’s all the same to them whether you work in sales or marketing - what they’d really like is to be heard, understood, and presented with value. They want relevant, personalised options every time they talk to someone from your organisation.
But how do you make this happen? It’s easy if you’re a one man band, or if you’ve got a small team of founders doing all your sales - but what if you suddenly find yourself with a sales team and a marketing team and lots of spinning wheels in your sales organisation - how do you align everybody with this Journey in a way that works for both you and the customer?
The journey your customer takes is basically how a customer moves through your sales organisation - for example, 10000 people arrive at your website, 10 customers pop out at the bottom, and all the rest get qualified out or lost along the way…
Top of Funnel:
This is typically the Marketing team’s responsibility
Statistic: Before we move on, let’s think about those leads - What if I told you that on average, it takes an average of 18 calls and emails to actually connect with a buyer?
Middle of the funnel:
This is where you’ll usually find a bottleneck in a fast growing sales organisation. Usually it’s sales who handle this area, or a combination of marketing and sales - which can get messy as your team grows.
Statistic: on average, salespeople spend just one-third of their day actually talking to prospects. The rest of the time they’re doing data entry, updating the CRM, researching, going to meetings, scheduling calls…
Bottom of the Funnel:
3 Secrets to a Sales Flywheel for your business
1. Establish goals the team understands, even if they speak different languages
The first magic spell is to get everyone on the same page. How to establish goals the team understands, even if they speak different languages. We know this is hard, but why?
2. Build a relationship with your customer, without coming off like you have multiple personalities
Next we look at how to build a relationship with your customer - everybody talks about the customer experience, but done correctly that goes right back to the first encounter right through to when your customer success team are calling on them to buy more products from you. So what I’m going to today is show you how to build a relationship with your customer, without coming off like you have multiple personalities.
3. Grow your business with sales without breaking anything, slowing down or hiring a used car salesman to run your team
Finally we look at how to optimise your sales in a methodical way - without breaking anything, slowing down or hiring a used car salesman to run your team. We’re looking for ways to build a sales system that doesn’t disrupt your team or your business, and gives you clarity on what’s important to you - like revenue, customers and profit.
First of all, we have a lead management problem. Let me ask you a question: If I threw 1000 new leads into your sales team tomorrow, but you had to contact them within an hour or they’d disappear, how would they handle it? If you got 10,000 leads tomorrow what would you do? What would your sales team do? How would they handle it? Would they miss any? Would any of those leads pile up or get lost in the system?
A lot of companies do it this way. They buy loads of leads by spending money on marketing, and they throw them at the sales team. The sales team sometimes think the same way - get me more leads!
Now, I know that’s simplifying things, and data driven software companies in particular can get very sophisticated when it comes to attracting and nurturing leads. But I’ve yet to come across a company where the handover to sales isn’t a little mysterious, where sales meetings aren’t a little ad-hoc - most of the companies I’ve worked with have a lag between marketing and sales where leads get lost.
Remember I mentioned the MQL? That’s the entry point to your sales system.
What happens AFTER the MQL?
Thinking of your sales and marketing in isolation is like thinking of a scene in a movie, without planning the whole movie. It might be a great scene, but it’ll be a crap movie! The most common thing I hear by far is the CEO or Sales Manager saying “I dunno, I just feel like a lot of our leads are falling through the cracks…”
Putting leads through an inefficient sales engine is like burning money. If you think of leads as fuel, and marketing as a way to buy fuel, if your sales engine isn’t efficient, you’re burning fuel and not getting any return.
You’re wasting money on marketing, unless you’ve got a sales system that can handle it.
Across your sales organisation, all of these independent units help to move your BUYER through their journey - lots of people working to a common goal, right? The goal being not only a sale, but making sure that customer gets the value they were looking for so they stick around, tell their friends and maybe buy again from you. Let’s face it, the more efficient you can make this system, the better chance you’ll have against your competition - and there’s always competition, especially in technology sales.
By looking at Sales as a function of an overall system, where you’re figuring out WHO you sell to, WHAT you sell, WHERE you sell it, WHY AND WHEN a customer should buy and finally HOW they are delivered the value you promised - by looking at this in a systematic way, you can show how metrics in each unit in your system can give you a good financial forecast.
As an example, what we do for our clients is we try to get to a point where our clients can intelligently make decisions on conversion targets for things like:
* ACV (average contract value)
* win rate
* conversion rates
* qualification rates
But we do this in a way that every part of your organisation is on the same page.With a system you can measure, and benchmark, and use Science to make the right decisions.So how do you go about building a sales system? Well, let’s start with people.
Sigstr ran a survey of 250 sales and marketing teams and only ONE THIRD of respondents said their teams were aligned. That’s not the worrying part though - 3 QUARTERS - 75% - of salespeople said marketing is not effective at helping deals move forward. And just to show you the division, 60% of the marketers came back and said sales aren’t effective at following up leads. That’s not a Christmas party I want to attend…
That chasm right there is where we choose to focus in my company Mount Arbor. It’s a really interesting area and adds a lot of value if you can figure it out. Even if you’re using a CRM and sales automation software - and there are loads of those so I’m not just talking about Hubspot here - a lot of this is left to chance.
Let’s get something out in the open - the answer is not going to come from a new CRM. It’s not even going to come from a better sales process. As soon as you get new people in the door as you grow, or a new sales manager, or the CRM loses it’s appeal and costs too much to run - you’re back at square one - the same chasm opens up … With a good sales system at this point in the customer journey, your customer can smoothly transition from marketing to sales and be none the wiser…
What I’d like to do is help you become less people dependent, and more systems dependent. Systems can be independent of the technology you use, and people should be able to hook in or out of a system easily - your system can act as the bridge between marketing and sales and beyond…
There’s a lot of risk for both sides in sales and marketing, and nobody wins when the whole team can’t be in on sales. As long as there’s no link, no clear through-line between marketing and sales, Marketing will always be seen as a Cost Centre, and Sales will always be the revenue winners.
Yet, most of us think of sales very differently.
So how do you solve the problem? What a lot of growing businesses do is they think about hiring THIS GUY.
I thought of sales this way myself for a long time - maybe that’s why it took me a while to move into sales. I guess it’s something to do with accountability - The average tenure of a Sales Manager is 18 months. It’s just hard to get it right when sales kind of operates in it’s own little black box, and the reporting is too complex or too customised for anyone to follow properly.
Training on its own doesn’t work either - According to Altify, Most people only retain 13% of what they learn in sales training, which typically costs a lot and takes your team out of the office for at least a few days.
Most salespeople never intended to get into sales - especially women
To get over the inherent prejudices in sales and include our Sales System in our flywheel, we've got to consider a NEW TYPE OF SALESPERSON...
The Inbound Seller has evolved for the Sales Flywheel. They're as concerned about the customer's problems and pain as their own. They know it's going to benefit them to not only present value every step of the buyer journey, but to make sure it sticks so the customer comes back for more after the first deal has 'closed'.
The Inbound Seller: empathetic, male/female, storyteller, optimal, less calls, more wins, quality vs. quantity, team player, consistent, predictable, trusting & trustworthy, safe, secure, content, healthy, helpful, balanced, harmonious, rewarded for long term relationships.
You need to HIRE or BE an INBOUND SELLER
Find opportunities to master your Sales Flywheel by focusing on these 4 Performance factors for Sales:
What would your sales system look like? How would it look if it was running like clockwork? What would it look like for your team if everyone was involved in sales?
What about your sales process? If everyone’s speaking different languages depending on what department they’re in, then you’re going to need a CRM glossary or some kind of reference point to get everyone on the same page. Speaking of your CRM - if you’re a growing company you might have got this far just fine without one - a lot of the businesses we work with were still using spreadsheets and notebooks to run their sales team when we first met. It’s quite common - despite the fact there are over 50 CRMs to choose from out there, all of which offer some kind of value - the important thing is this - EVERYONE has got to be able to access and use your single source of truth for every CUSTOMER - otherwise how are you going to have a coherent conversation with that customer if multiple people speak to them at different times?
If you want to grow your company, you’re going to need a CRM and a sales framework that connects you with your customer.
Next we look at your sales organisation. A good sales system is about EFFICIENCY as much as selling. The efficiency of a good, prospecting sales rep making calls all day can be 10 times what you’d get from one highly paid enterprise sales person. This is proven time and again by the world’s most successful companies.
What’s vital here is that you understand the ADVANTAGE you have when you think of the different aspects of sales as SPECIALISED. If you want to find out more about this, check out a book called “Predictable Revenue’ By Aaron Ross and Mary Lou Tyler - that book will explain clearly why sales specialisation and giving your team a clear path to selling will improve your sales exponentially.
Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge (ex HubSpot) is also a great book ;)
Different skills needed for different stages of your sales process. And sometimes, different people…
Remember, on average it takes 18 dials to connect with a single buyer! It takes a certain kind of person doing to be persistent enough to do that for each of the Active Leads in your pipeline - Especially when leads responded to within 5 minutes are 100x more likely to be qualified. Or put another way - if you don’t follow up in 5 minutes, a warm lead is 90% more likely to never come back.
What we’ve found is that working with our clients to build a specialised sales team not only delivers results, it also helps everyone know what they’re supposed to be doing, to speak the language and communicate coherently with the customer throughout the BUYER JOURNEY.
Now what we do is, we help our sales team to specialise in the areas that they can play to their strengths. But we also equip them to reduce friction in the handoff or transfer to another area of the business, so the flywheel keeps turning…
Prospectors at the beginning of the BUYER JOURNEY spend their day prospecting - they’re hunters- they’re looking for active buyers. They’re not trying to close - they’re looking for people who fit your ideal buyer profile, and they’re connecting with them, exploring their goals and challenges, and they’re working hard to find a fit. These are your business development reps - and they’re trained to identify, connect and most importantly, qualify every prospect that comes knocking on your door.
Once they’ve found someone who looks like someone you can help, they step aside to let the account executives do what they do best - nurture and close your prospects, sometimes meeting them 5 to 7 times on average before they close the deal - this requires a bit more finess, more research, more understanding of the customer’s needs and challenges - so account executives generally tend to be paid a little more because they need more experience and have more responsibility.
Finally, once the opportunity is managed through to close, the Customer Success team takes over - again, their motives are a little different for your customer - their job is to build relationships and ultimately, to make sure the customer comes back for more and raves about you to their friends.
What’s important to notice here is that each area in this specialised sales organisation answers to a different set of KPIs - and the people involved have different motivations and concerns as they engage with your customer.
The worst thing you can do is have someone who is trained to prospect attempt to close a deal on a qualification call - you’re losing the opportunity to find out for sure what the prospect actually wants! Without that knowledge, chances are your win rate is going to be pretty low as you pass poorly qualified leads through your sales process - which is expensive too! and vice versa - the last thing you need in your opportunity management is someone trained to build relationships and generate leads - at this stage you should be looking to close the deal with a qualified prospect who has already expressed a clear interest in buying from you…
Looking at your overall organisation in a systematic way just makes sense. And if everyone’s using the same platform to pass the customer through your company, like HubSpot for example, then it just makes it so much easier to track and measure each prospect’s progress through your organisation.
What does every business want? As a consultant, when I meet a client, the first thing you’ll want to know is ‘How are you gonna help me get me more Revenue, more Customers, More Profits?”
I knew something had to change when I finished a project with a client one day and I knew things had gone really, really well. I mean - I felt like we knocked it out of the park - you know? Anyway, it was a ‘job well done’ kind of situation, and in my wrap up conversation with the CEO, I asked him ‘How do you think it all went?’ He answered ‘Andrew - you moved the dial, you really did. You moved the dial in this company in a significant way’. I smiled, nodded, walked out … and kinda went …. “Wait a minute? Moved the dial?! What does that mean? By how much!?”
It was there and then I saw the problem with marketing and sales - even though everyone should be driving toward the same goal - SALES, CUSTOMER SUCCESS and REPEAT BUSINESS - the fact is that in most companies MARKETING is on the COST side of the equation, and SALES is on the revenue side - Sales can count the deals they’ve sold - Marketing tend to be more disconnected from those deals - because of that chasm we talked about.
But the good news is it doesn’t have to be like this - I moved into sales and we figured it out!
And the cool thing is, if you lay these 5 levers out in a particular way, each feeds the other and you can come up with strategies to improve each lever.
This way of looking at your sales and revenue does a great job of simplifying sales everyone in your sales organisation and it can be applied methodically to your sales system - it’s not perfect and obviously there are complexities here- but as you expand your sales organisation, simplicity really helps, and looking at this model for new business works - because everyone can get behind it and understand it - it’s a simplified model - to bring in NET NEW business
Here’s how we define the 5 levers -
Each of these 5 levers can have strategies to improve them - and what’s more important is that you can actually control them directly. All you really need is ONE NUMBER and you can reverse engineer the rest! After you’ve figured out your ‘average sales price’ you can work out the rest, for example.
Even a 10 or 20% increase in any of the 5 levers can make a disproportionate difference to how many customers you attract, how much money you can make and how much you profit.
If you look at the right hand column, you’ll see that raising each of the 5 levers by 20% will, in this case, increase your number of customers by 44%, your revenue by over 200% and profits by almost 250%.
While this is really just mathematical trickery, and again it’s just a model, the important thing to remember here is that by focusing on the areas of your business where you have direct influence, rather than outputs that are dependent in some way on customer decisions outside your control - by focusing on things you can change, it’s possible to build a predictable model for growth.
OK let’s talk about practical applications of this - for example- how do you 10x your pipeline?
Well, the top two levers which you can make the largest impact (potentially 10x your revenue) are actually repeat business and your average sale price. But it’s actually a lot easier, relatively speaking, to multiply your number of Active Leads by 10 than it is to double or triple your win rate - so you have to be strategic and prioritise what you think might be most useful to your business in the short, medium and long term.
Take a look at your Win Rate for example - We can help you with at least 10 different areas here… there are tonnes of ways to improve Win Rate, which is often thought of as one of the easiest levers to change to increase revenue. While it definitely plays a part, a healthy win rate is between 25%-40%. If you win over 50% of your deals it could be an indicator that you're undervaluing your service, potentially leaving money on the table.
Here’s another example:
If you win 10 deals at 10000 dollars, or euros, depending on where you are!, you have 10 clients to provide services to for 100K of revenue. Alternatively, if you found you could win 5 deals at $20K, you’d spend your time servicing 5 clients for the same revenue, 100K. In which scenario do you think you’ll be able to do a better job? When you get to 10 clients in the second scenario, you would, in theory, have twice as much revenue to service with.
What about a more simple example?
Let’s say you want a 10% Revenue increase this year -
Well, first you’ll need a baseline. You need to know for sure what your revenue is, but also what all the moving parts are doing in your sales system. Simply introducing active reporting can increase your revenue by 10%. It’s often hard or sometimes impossible to make improvements to any of the levers if they are not understood, or measurable. By measuring and taking action you can start to identify patterns, problems, and start your journey to being data-driven in your decision making.
It’s not about doing everything - it’s about PRIORITISING the most effective initiatives and projects for your team so you can measure and control your success as you grow…
Ok - so far we’ve covered a lot. We talked about how you need a foundation of your sales organisation. Your team need to specialise to get the most out of your sales process. And we saw the 5 levers you can control for revenue, customers and profit.
So what difference can all of this make to your business?
Well, quite a bit as it happens.
Think about it - how hard would be for you to increase your number of active leads by just 10%? People tend to start with lead generation because it’s the one lever in this model that we are most familiar with in terms of strategy - more investment in marketing, paid online advertising, or outbound sales strategies are just some of the ways you can increase the number of active leads coming into your sales pipeline. If you want, we could help you out with at least 10 strategies here - but what about Win Rate? This one’s a little more tricky - it’s easier to 10x your Active Leads than it is to double your win rate - but again, there are plenty of strategies that can help you nudge your win rate higher - you just have to find ways to limit the chances of a Buyer getting all the way through your sales process if you can’t provide them with value that meets their expectations - after all, if your win rate is low, one of two things has happened - either the Buyer thought you were selling something you’re not, or else it’s very likely your competition made a more attractive offer. By focusing on Win Rate as a priority, you and your team can make it a problem, then solve it.
It pays to play around with this. To help you out, I’ve included a link below this presentation to a spreadsheet where you can plug in your own metrics to get a sense of what you can achieve with a data-centric sales system.
To get all of this up and running in your business, you’re going to need a few elements in place first. You’re going to have to be able to measure and monitor each of these benchmark metrics, and you’re going to need a CRM.
Build your sales system around a specialised sales team and prioritise your projects in a way your whole team can get behind. The beauty of a sales system like this is that you don’t have to do EVERYTHING. You don’t have to do ALL THE THINGS!
Knowing the effect a focused effort in one area will have, and working backwards from the things most important to you and your business, means you and your team can be more confident in your decisions and investments.
Start with the initial benchmarking as a project. Fill out the spreadsheet below with your own numbers - you only need one to get started - maybe figure it out with your target revenue for the year and work back from there, for example.
After that, roll it out and watch it grow!
This video talks about how Zutec Intl. Ltd. created a Sales Flywheel in their business for predictable sales growth, better alignment between sales, marketing and customer success, and a foundation for the international growth of a rapidly expanding, NASDAQ listed company.
HubSpot makes it extremely easy to get started with a CRM and sales tools to run your sales organisation, but we understand that some users may want more in depth customization, coaching and guidance as they transform their organisation to an Inbound Sales Flywheel. If you are looking for any help on making this work for your business, let us know! If Mount Arbor doesn't seem to fit your exact needs, we'd be happy to chat and we have plenty of resources we can share that may be a better fit! The simplest thing to do is to book a strategy call, starting with a 5 minute conversation to see if there's a fit.