Categories
pipeline development

Creating The Optimal Business Development Strategy

For a lot of people, business development is practically synonymous with sales. And while they have their similarities—both are geared towards profit, after all—they are two distinct entities.

What is Business Development?

Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization via customers, markets, and relationships. It’s the sum of all the strategies, tactics, and activities used to acquire new clients and expand existing ones.

Given this definition, we can assume that business development representatives are in charge of growing your business. This means finding opportunities for expansion and having expert knowledge of the current market, their target audience, and potential business partners. Thus, they’re the ones who have to prospect and qualify leads before handing them off to the sales team, who will then nurture the new relationships in order to close the deal.

Business Development vs. Sales vs. Marketing

The lines between business development, sales, and marketing are very blurry. There are several overlapping responsibilities between the three teams, and it doesn’t help that business development can look very different from company to company.

Let’s take a look at their differences:

Marketing: Marketing is the customer-facing branch of your organization, and its primary goal is to attract customers.  The marketing team is responsible for brand management, using websites, social media, advertisements, and other channels to stay at the forefront of your customers’ minds. They are also in charge of educating customers about your company and your products, and they handle offers and promotions.

Sales: The difference between business development and sales is murkier. Some companies even treat the two departments as one team, interchanging the responsibilities of the two.

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Business development and sales operate in separate stages of the same customer journey. BDRs are responsible for top-of-the-funnel activities: finding leads, starting conversations, and educating potential customers. They are in charge of filling the sales pipeline, while sales representatives nurture the pipeline by turning qualified leads into prospects, eventually convincing them to buy.

The Optimal Business Development Strategy

When planning your business development strategy, it helps to think of it as a system with several interconnected parts.

This is because a lot of business development strategies tend to lack clarity and focus. Oftentimes, they’re too complicated and have lost sight of the revenue team’s overarching goal—which is to answer why a potential customer should buy from you instead of the countless other options in the market. The inability to answer this question can lead to useless tactics, poor execution, and confusion for both your revenue team and your clients. 

The story and the purpose of your business should be the cornerstone of your business development strategy. You need to differentiate yourself from the competition. All of your revenue team’s actions should be able to reflect your unique position in the market.

As mentioned above, business development intersects with the other departments in your revenue team. Though the lines are blurry, it’s not really a matter of reassigning certain tasks to the other team. Instead, the affected teams should work together towards the common goal: The company’s continued growth.

Business Development and Marketing

Marketing and business development should work together to tell your organization’s story and strategize how to generate leads. Together, the two teams can help prospects make informed decisions about engaging with you and availing of your company’s services via the following factors:

Your Positioning In The Market: The way your company is positioned in the market defines the backbone of your entire business development plan. It provides a clear blueprint of your target market, effectively acting as a North Star for every business decision you make. 

Customer Traffic: The right amount of traffic and traffic from the right people to solidify your position in the market. Exposure to your company and your core message is required to get results.

Messaging: Your message should be compelling enough to be able to stop people in their tracks when they hear it. Remember: The more you can gain and keep someone’s attention, the more chance you have of landing a new client. 

Channels: Your marketing channels can greatly affect your overall business development and marketing strategy. For example, to establish authority and solidify your position as a thought leader in your market, you’ll need to post insights on social media, speak in events and interviews, and publish original content regularly. 

Business Development and Sales

Your sales process starts with finding the right clients—after all, you can’t close deals when there are no customers to begin with. With this, let’s go back to your company’s position in the market. Your positioning helps dictate the people your business development team will reach out to, filtering out all but the best prospects through a stringent qualification process. 

Now, your sales strategy should support your qualified prospects’ ability to make good decisions—specifically, to sign contracts with you. Inversely, your sales process should also eliminate customers that fail to meet the criteria in your qualification process. Otherwise, you may experience unnecessarily long and unpredictable sales cycles, which could affect your quota attainment. 

Business Development and Product Delivery

Business development doesn’t end when the contract is signed. Before the ink is dry, you should be able to deliver on your promises.

The product delivery experience can create additional value for your customers, opening the door to more opportunities for your business development program. Let’s look at the three main components of the delivery process: your product, your service, and your customer life cycle. 

Product: The product you deliver should speak for itself. It should demonstrate your company’s value to your client, making employees tell their friends and colleagues about how great of a job you’re doing. This increases the chances of getting referrals

Service: The quality, speed, and ease of using your service can likewise boost business development by inspiring referrals. It’s important to fulfill your deliverables, don’t forget to create a good customer experience as well.

Life Cycle: Your customer life cycle is tied directly to your positioning. Telling your brand’s story increases traffic through the right channels, which you can take advantage of by creating a sales process that targets the right people with the right offer. When the contract is signed, you should deliver a product in a way that creates more value for your client and lets them see what else you could help them improve upon, effectively selling more of what they need along the way. 

Conclusion

In the end, there’s no such thing as a perfect business development strategy. Leads can enter your sales funnel in unexpected ways and can be removed from your pipeline just as well. 

By understanding the different components that drive business development, the different departments of your revenue team can work together and adjust your strategy to minimize risk and grow your profitability. 

Categories
b2b sales

How To Identify Your Customers’ Pain Points

Heart disease is the top cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. It accounts for 16% of the global death toll, and the number of its victims keeps rising year on year given the lifestyle we’ve cultivated.

There are ways to decrease your risk of suffering from heart disease, such as adopting a healthy, balanced diet, exercising for at least 2.5 hours per week, and giving up vices such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. These things aren’t that difficult to do. But why isn’t everyone doing them?

It’s because those who aren’t shifting to a healthier lifestyle haven’t experienced the pain of heart disease.

People buy for one main reason: To improve their condition. In the B2B context, this boils down to either helping your customer make more money or helping them mitigate risk.

Whatever the driving force is, the customer is, to a certain degree, dissatisfied with how things are. They know their situation could be better. And the fact that a stakeholder is thinking about shaking up their status quo means that there is a pain point that you, as a seller, could capitalize on.

What are customer pain points?

Pain points are the specific problems or issues that your clients may experience while on their customer journey. Since there could be a lot of problems, it’s important to prioritize which ones really need to be addressed. Think outside the box and put yourself in your customers’ shoes: What could be done to improve the account’s profitability?

As a modern seller, you need to focus on helping and educating your customers rather than selling to them. In the age of digital selling, your customers are bombarded with information and advertisements from all fronts. What will work best is a targeted, personalized approach centered on their agenda—not yours.

Always keep in mind how uncomfortable it could feel to be at the receiving end of a relentless sales pitch. You don’t want to be the pushy kind of seller that people can’t help but avoid. So shift your messaging slightly and focus on your genuine desire to help your buyers. While nobody likes being sold to, everyone likes to be helped out—and if you prove your value to your customers, they’ll be more inclined to purchase your product. 

Identifying Your Customers’ Pain Points

Before you can address your customers’ pain points, you need to identify them first. Your customers could be facing several problems at the same time—which issue should you address first? How can you unlock opportunities within an account by addressing this problem?

1. Social Listening

Social listening is probably the easiest way to reveal a customer’s pain points. Keep your eyes and ears open to see what your current and target buyers are doing online and what they’re saying on social media. You’d be surprised by the amount of valuable information you can from an account’s decision-makers, employees, industry peers, and competitors.

2. Qualitative Market Research

Qualitative research allows sellers to get detailed responses from customers about their buying journey and the problems they face. It’s harder to conduct than quantitative research—you’d need more time and effort to write sentences compared to encircling a number on a scoring system—but it yields better results given the fact that no two pain points are exactly the same. Since qualitative research lets the customers explain their problems in full, you’d be able to see the most common problems and the most serious roadblocks in your transactions.

You need to ask the right questions in order to properly conduct qualitative research. As we’ve said earlier, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and try to visualize what your problems would be. Ask open-ended questions that can help you get to the root of the issue.

3. Your Customer Service Team

A customer’s pain points can change during their buying journey. What might be their most pressing priority while evaluating your purchase might cease to be a problem after signing the contract.

This is when your customer service team comes in.

Your customer service team is on the frontline of your business, fielding calls and complaints from your clients. This makes them crucial sources of information when it comes to fine-tuning your messaging. The key is digging deeper into the problems the customers have presented, distilling them into the simplest possible point. For example, if a customer said that they didn’t purchase again because they weren’t offered a discount, that could be an indicator of a financial pain point—and you could be missing significant opportunities because of this practice.

Conclusion

As we’ve mentioned at the beginning of this blog, people buy to improve their condition—and the fact that they’re thinking about purchasing from you is significant.

One final bit of advice: The next time you have a conversation with your client, try asking them outright why they think you and your company can help them. This can reveal significant information about what differentiates you from your competitors, and how you can improve your messaging.

We hope this helps!

Categories
sales fundamentals

How To Ask For A Sales Referral

Pop quiz: What’s the sales tactic with the highest ROI?

It’s neither email campaigns nor PPC ads. It’s not social media marketing, and it’s definitely not cold calls.

The correct answer is asking for referrals.

Referrals work because people are more likely to purchase products that are endorsed by people whom they actually know and trust. According to a Harvard Business Review article, “ 84% of B2B buyers are now starting the purchasing process with a referral, and peer recommendations are influencing more than 90% of all B2B buying decisions.”

Those are impressive numbers, especially when you take into consideration the declining success rates of cold calling and email marketing. What’s even better is that asking for referrals doesn’t entail spending money.

Why Do People Trust Referrals?

Sales referrals leverage the goodwill between the referred customer and the person making the referral. A referred prospect will be quicker to trust you and your product because they trust the person who referred them to you. And since they are more confident that you can deliver, they will move through the purchasing process faster than cold opportunities.

In fact, according to a 2015 Heinz Marketing survey of over 600 B2B sales and marketing leaders, 69 percent of respondents said that referral leads close faster than non-referral leads, while 71 percent of respondents said that referrals have a higher closing rate compared to leads from other sources.

This probably has to do with buyers’ wariness of traditional sales tactics, which could come off as pushy and self-serving. The shift to social selling—using social media platforms to research leads, prospect, and provide insightful content—allowed sellers to build relationships in a less hard-sell manner, proving their value until customers are ready to purchase.

So why doesn’t it seem like salespeople are using referrals to their advantage?

Perhaps they just don’t know how to ask for referrals properly.

Building Your Sales Referral Strategy

Building Your Sales Referral Strategy

1. Time it right

“Referrals need to be a process as much as prospecting is a process,” says Amar Sheth, Sales for Life’s COO. “It should be done when a customer has crossed a certain lifetime value with you—for instance, customers that have been using your solution for 6 months or 3 months, or whatever term you think is appropriate.”

It’s important that sellers first demonstrate their value before asking a customer for a referral; otherwise, they could come off as self-serving. But at the same time, don’t wait to pounce until it’s too late and the excitement over your product has run out. You need to strike when your happy customers are still buzzing about your product and how great it is.

2. Be precise  

As much as possible, don’t leave it up to the customer to decide whom they’ll introduce you to. 

“Traditionally, B2B salespeople, when they ask for referrals, they’re asking the customer to determine who they should be introduced to,” says Sheth. “That’s actually very dangerous, and it’s not a smart thing because the customer has to now think about it, which means that there’s a high likelihood that this request may not even be fulfilled.”

Use social tools like LinkedIn to check their sphere of influence to see who they’re connected to. This lets you ask for strategic and surgical referrals, allowing you to enter and penetrate accounts of your choice instead of being at your customer’s mercy.

3. Use referral templates

Having templated emails ready allows you to ask for referrals quickly in a polite and professional manner.

Here’s an email template you can use for your customer advocates:

Dear [name of advocate],

I hope you're doing well!

I’m so glad to hear that our [work/service/product] has been working so well for you and your team. I knew that by working together, we’d be able to drive significant impact for [their company].

You’ve been a great advocate for [your company], and I would greatly appreciate if you could recommend us to any/all of the following people:

1. Jamie Shanks from Sales for Life
2. [Name of person you’d like to be introduced to] from [company]
3. [Name of person you’d like to be introduced to] from [company]

I’d love to help them achieve the same results you’ve gotten.

Thank you so much in advance!

Best,
[your name]

Asking for referrals is one of the simplest ways to generate new business. But while referrals have a higher success rate, don’t expect immediate results—these things can take time as your referred prospects might not need your product or service at the moment. Qualify these opportunities carefully.

In the meantime, keep building value, and have your account executives check in with your advocates and prospects to see how they’re doing. And don’t hesitate to ask your advocates if they know anyone who could benefit from your services—you’ll never know unless you ask!

Categories
Account Based Sales Development

Using The Sphere of Influence To Select Your Accounts

When we launched our initial sales training services back in 2012, we were stuck in a basic sales quandary: We had very limited time until we ran out of money, but we had thousands of potential accounts in the Toronto market that we needed to target.

If you were in our shoes, how would you start?

If you’re only familiar with analog sales tactics, you’ll probably create a list of the fastest-growing companies in your target industry or vertical and call them, one by one, to talk about your product or service.

Now, this route wouldn’t take you very far.

Yes, given enough time, you might be able to crack into one of these accounts. And yes, the financial value and brand reputation of these accounts would have been excellent, and they would make a great addition to your company’s portfolio.

But this process is extremely tedious, and chances are you would have run out of money way before you could reach your target.

This all changed when we created the Sphere of Influence account selection process—a much faster way of securing leads.

What is the Sphere of Influence account selection process?

The Sphere of Influence sales play is usually implemented at the first point of engagement with the customer. This sales play aims to humanize the seller by demonstrating the high social proximity shared by the seller and the customer. This sales play reduces the customer’s apprehension of unsolicited engagement, pushing them off their status quo. 

Your company’s Sphere of Influence may include: 

  • The employees who currently work at your customer accounts
  • The previous employees of your customer accounts
  • The competitors of your customer accounts
  • The vendors and partners associated with/supplying your customer accounts. 

Your own personal Sphere of Influence may include: 

  • Your family
  • Your friends
  • Your sports, community and/or religious social network
  • Your previous school alumni 

These are experiences and relationships that your competitors can’t easily replicate. That’s why each of these relationships creates varying degrees of asymmetrical competitive advantages for you.

Starting your Sphere of Influence account selection process

If you are a sales professional, you should first forget about the predetermined named or targeted accounts that you’ve already focused on. While some of your targeted accounts might have been pre-assigned to you for various reasons (as is the case of most sales professionals globally), a portion of the accounts within your territory can be selected at your discretion.

This is where you should apply the Sphere of Influence.

1. Choose an existing customer: Select an existing customer that can present a large opportunity base of new accounts. Here are some examples you can start with: 

  • Accounts with high churn (but great success with your solution) – Key stakeholders that may have used your solution during their time with the existing customer and have since moved on to become directors, vice-presidents, and/or C-level executives in their new companies.
  • Accounts with large partner ecosystems – Brands that are highly recognizable and whose name would easily attract a new buyer’s attention when mentioned in future sales engagements.
  • Accounts that are renowned in their respective fields – When a company has an excellent reputation, especially in highly competitive industries, even the mention of their name will generate engagement.

2. Focus on your advocates who have moved on to new companies: The Sphere of Influence sales play has created more opportunities and revenue for Sales for Life’s customers than any other account selection action. In fact, one study conducted by one of our customers showed that their highest-converting opportunities were their customer referrals, clocking in at 68.7%.

Now, how can you achieve these numbers for your organization?

First, look for your customer’s previous employees using LinkedIn. Focus on those who are in a position of power and have become a potential champion, influencer, or decision-maker at a new account that meets your ICP. Prioritize people who switched companies less than 1 year ago—newly hired key stakeholders are keener to bring change, and might also bring along the people, processes, and/or technology that helped drive success in their past business. 

3. Map your existing accounts, including their competitors, partners, and vendors: The most common sales play you can then do is to identify the competitors of your customer base. You can also identify companies that sell to the same vertical or even buyer persona as your existing customers. While they don’t directly compete with your customer, they compete for mindshare and budgets.

For partners and vendors, look for channel partners, alliances, and vendors of record. These companies know your customer’s name well, and their successes are intertwined.

4. Look at the social proximity of referral candidates: Remember that each of your existing customer accounts is made up of people with high social proximity to like-minded people, who could very well be key stakeholders in other companies that you want to do business with.

Organize the people that have relationships with their customers. If necessary, seek out these relationships yourself. With sales quota attainment on the line, leveraging customer relationships in order to broker sales opportunities will give you an asymmetrical competitive advantage.

Don’t limit your options to only the customer advocates that your team really likes and deals with all the time. Push your team to extend their social proximity range by assigning them to form a 1st-degree LinkedIn connection with champions, influencers, and decision-makers within their target accounts.

5. Determine the accounts and connections with the highest social proximity to your customer base: Your Total Addressable Market (TAM) can increase when you can see the entire social networks of your 1st-degree LinkedIn connections. The ensuing web of connections could be overwhelming, so focus on the first five accounts that an advocate has the highest social proximity to. Perhaps they used to work at that company, or they have family who works there, or they’ve been a vendor or a partner of your advocate for a few years.

High social connections in an account are usually correlated to high social proximity, making this an asymmetrical competitive advantage that will provide you a higher “propensity to buy” score.

Conclusion

The Sphere of Influence concept is the overarching framework that leverages relationships with high social proximity to gain an asymmetrical competitive advantage over your competition. If you already have relationships within your target accounts, it’ll be easier to influence their decision-making process. Their high social proximity to your successes, customers, and advocates will make it easier for them to relate to your stories. 

With the Sphere of Influence sales play, you can develop targeted account lists by using your existing network to gain an asymmetric competitive advantage. This involves thinking outward from a customer-centric core, rather than just using subjective biases such as the potential commission score. The result: A larger customer base, higher conversions, and stronger customer relationships.

Categories
Sales Management

The 5 Components of a Winning Sales Team

As sellers, it’s our responsibility to stay abreast of the latest sales trends and best practices. So when we read the Harvard Business Review article “The Sales Playbook of Successful B2B Teams”, we immediately wanted to share it with you because it really resonated with us.

Right at the onset, the article, which was written by four Bain & Company partners, mentioned one of the most common problems that sales teams face: underutilizing the tools at their disposal.

“Every major B2B company invests millions each year in sales technologies, yet 62% of 167 companies surveyed recently by Bain & Company said the return on their investment fell short of expectations. What companies hoped would be an intelligent CRM system ends up being used as a simple accounting and workflow management system. They’ve bought a high-octane car but lack driver training.”

At Sales for Life, we’ve also encountered a lot of companies with this same problem. Solving it isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s not just a matter of installing the tool on everyone’s computer or browser and enforcing its use. All the technology in your roster should work together seamlessly to achieve your organization’s goals, and there has to be an overarching strategy governing their usage.

The 5 Factors of a Winning Sales Team

Revenue teams need to develop different sales strategies for different occasions. Similar to how sales teams these days use data and statistics to select their players and create training routines and game plays, all of your revenue team’s moves should be based on proven facts instead of relying on gut feel or following what’s popular.

While different revenue teams have different priorities, thus having different strategies, the article’s authors observed that the highest-performing sales teams have certain distinct commonalities. These factors, described below, enable them to surpass their peers in terms of revenue growth and market share gain.

1. Detailed, specific data and sales signals that lend insight into an account’s priorities and spending habits at the individual customer level.

These data should go beyond contact information and surface-level company and financial data. Sellers should likewise know their target accounts’ priorities and goals, ensuring that their communication efforts address these.

Sales reps should also take note of Compelling Event Signals, which are specific, time-sensitive insights and events that can be leveraged to gain a competitive advantage. Compelling Event Signals give sellers a heads-up when there’s a particular situation that the seller can capitalize on, such as the installation of a new C-level executive that used to work at one of your existing customer accounts. If such a Signal comes up, the seller should act fast and play the appropriate sales strategy.

2. A sales play factory that can churn out a variety of plays that can be used for every conceivable occasion: Securing new accounts, upselling and cross-selling to existing accounts, renewing expiring accounts, and winning back former customers.

Selling isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. Different customers have different priorities and situations, and they will naturally have different ways of responding (or not responding) to your outreach efforts.

That’s why it’s important to have a selection of various sales plays, ready to be deployed if a particular situation calls for it. By applying a variety of themes, messaging, engagement strategies, your sellers would have a higher likelihood of providing value to your customers during the activation cycle.

3. A command center that tracks and manages sales plays, pushing out the most effective plays to the rest of the team.

In the same way that sports teams analyze their games and continuously refine their strategies and training regimens, sales teams should keep working on their most effective sales plays in a strategic manner, at the same time shelving sales moves that failed to produce favorable results.

In addition, the best sales teams also have a global command center for their sales signals. All their signals are aggregated on one platform, which is easily accessible to the entire revenue team. This way, sellers can take note of the hidden links connecting all the accounts in their total addressable market, allowing them to see the sales opportunities and risks that might be present. When all the information is centralized, they can roll out the best sales plays for any situation.

4. Consistent, intensive coaching like what Sales for Life offers, which delves into specific areas of improvement and requires actual results.

Sales training and coaching give your team the knowledge and skills necessary to keep growing and supporting your client base. It also fosters accountability in your sales leaders, allowing them to guide their sellers to produce better results.

Remember, building the best B2B sales team doesn’t just entail hiring the best sellers and investing in the best sales tools. While these could propel your revenue team to the top, you’ll need to invest in regular sales training and coaching in order to stay there for a long time.

5. An array of interconnected sales technology tools that are integrated within your existing sales system and are fully utilized by your whole team.

Even if you have all the best sales tools at your disposal, they wouldn’t make a difference if they are not maximized.

“One software-as-a-service (SaaS) company had invested in technologies for customer relationship management, marketing automation, sales enablement and cadence, and call recording, but it was barely using them. By taking the time to embed these technologies properly into its sales processes, the company was able to increase revenue growth by 200 basis points within a few weeks.”

Conclusion

These five factors are essential for revenue teams that want to succeed in today’s cutthroat sales environment. With these systems in place within your strategy, all the departments within your sales and marketing teams work better with each other.

These five components also allow you to address your customers’ needs efficiently. You’ll be able to provide more value at the right time, benefitting your customers and giving you more opportunities to successfully close a deal.

Categories
Blog Sales Advice

7 Lessons for Millennials Who Are Afraid of Cold Calling

There are few things more intimidating than phoning a total stranger, interrupting their very busy day to sell them something. We’ve all been on the other side of those calls, so you know how annoying it can be to get a call from a number you don’t recognize, only for the stranger on the other side of the line to sell you something you neither want nor need.

Categories
Blog Sales Advice Sales Process

Starting Your Day Right: A Daily Sales Routine For Success

Do your days start with the best intentions but quickly get derailed by unscheduled tasks and meetings? Are you often distracted by responding to emails? Do you feel scatterbrained throughout the day?