Selling isn’t easy. Just ask the 50 percent of sellers who, according to a TOPO study, fail to make quota—83.4 percent of which consider poor time management as the culprit.
The situation’s more dire now, with the pandemic forcing companies to quickly shift to digital sales.
“While a lot of sales organizations took their field sellers and just turned them into BDRs overnight out of the reality of COVID, those people do not have the skills and capabilities to drive sales pipeline,” says Sales for Life CEO Jamie Shanks, who recently guested on Sales Pipeline Radio, the weekly podcast of Heinz Marketing President Matt Heinz.
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Solving this problem isn’t simply a matter of giving sellers more phone numbers to call or assigning them more activities to do. While this makes your team look productive on paper, it doesn’t always translate to actual results.
The answer lies in increasing your sellers’ efficiency, not workload.
Sellers have a basket of several accounts for prospecting, and they have to choose which ones to prioritize and focus their time on. Most sellers would call each one, going through their lists from A through Z or according to their industry or color codes.
Unfortunately, this method results in more losses than wins. You need to have a prospecting strategy that utilizes your sellers’ time and efforts in the most efficient manner.
What Signals Can Do For Your Social Selling Strategy
“[In the span of] over eight years, we ended up certifying a quarter million sellers,” says Shanks. “When you reverse-engineer a quarter million opportunities created, you start to notice a pattern…most of the opportunities created had what’s called a Signal attached to it.”
Signals have three main categories: Buying intent, workload consumption or product usage, and compelling events. The last one, compelling events, is further sorted into three subcategories. There is what we call a relationship roadmap signal, in which an advocate goes from company A to company B. There is the time in maturity event signal, examples of which include raising capital, installing a new executive, or increasing a department’s headcount.
Finally, there’s competitive intelligence, which can reveal yellow flags and red flags that can pose a risk to your target or customer accounts. A buying committee member showing a preference for a competitor’s product or service, or a newly hired employee who previously worked for a rival company—these are examples of competitive intelligence that can affect your accounts.
When utilized properly, these Signals can make your prospecting process efficient, positively impacting your social selling strategy. But how can Signals be gathered in the first place?
How to Use Signals In Prospecting
The cornerstone of effective social selling is efficient, effective prospecting. This isn’t just a matter of identifying companies and employees that are more likely to yield sales opportunities. Areas of risk—the asymmetrical advantages your competitors possess—should also be taken into consideration and, if possible, mitigated. You also need to consider the conversations you are having and the timing of your outreach efforts—why are you contacting this lead today instead of last week or next week?
“A lot of this data can be found in tools like LinkedIn, and there are other tools like BuiltWith [that give] sellers in the public domain the information to make informed decisions,” says Shanks.
“It’s a mindset shift, of course, but it’s the process of mining that intelligence that aids the seller in account selection and prioritization.”
Think of buying intent signals as puzzle pieces that can help a seller segment their accounts based on order of operations.
“If I’m going to look at 50 accounts and figure out which are the five I should really be focusing on, who are the ones that are raising their hand, are Googling the right words, or have people interested in what we’re saying?” asks Shanks.
The real challenge lies in convincing the individual members of the organization’s buying committee. That’s why buying intent intelligence needs to be complemented by compelling event intelligence, which function as puzzle pieces that tell the seller where they should spend their time based on the macro and micro things happening to the people within that business.
These events should be monitored because they indicate changing priorities in that business, and changing priorities are typically tied to human capital. After all, people are the ones who set priorities. People bring priorities with them into a new business and, conversely, they take priorities with them when they leave.
How an organization grows departments and deploys capital is a leading indicator of where their business priorities lie—like if a company’s marketing department’s headcount is doubled, then we can infer that they want to strengthen their marketing efforts.
The Secret To An Asymmetric Advantage
Always keep in mind that an organization’s priorities affect its buying decisions. Knowing the motivations behind a company’s business moves and making them the rationale behind your sales plays will give you an asymmetric advantage over your competitors. Detecting the buying signals reflected in the digital world gives your sellers ample time to plan their sales moves well in advance, increasing their chances of closing a deal.
Not utilizing signals for your sellers would be akin to sending them to war unarmed. Even the best sellers would need sales intelligence to support and effectively close their deals. With sales intelligence and signals, your revenue team will be in the best position to succeed in social selling.