7 Data-Backed Sales Best Practices
In this post, you’ll learn how to use predictive analytics and big data to improve your team’s inside sales skills. Follow these sales best practices to improve your sales reps’ selling skills and turn regular salespeople into sales superstars.
In this article:
- The Significance of Understanding the Digital Buying Process
- Selling Is a Competitive Sport
- Combining Data with Predictive Analytics
- 7 Sales Best Practices
Enhance Your Team’s Sales Skills Using Inside Sales Data | Inside Sales Best Practices
The Significance of Understanding the Digital Buying Process
No one can stress enough the significance of having the right sales skills.
An analysis by the Corporate Executive Board revealed that B2B customers completed nearly 60% of their purchasing decisions before even having a conversation with a supplier.
This forced marketers and their organizations to change how they participate in the digital buying and sales process.
Unless these sales leaders understand what this digital buying process is, along with the buying patterns and behaviors of prospects, they run the risk of clients removing them from their list of considerations.
Selling Is a Competitive Sport
Such was the claim in a 2016 TechCrunch article. I agree with them.
Like sports, sales is so competitive that professionals are constantly trying to push themselves to excel. In the case of sales, it’s to reach new customers and perform at peak levels.
Some aspects of sales, however, don’t.
Granted, today’s market is different from what it was three years ago.
Sales techniques back then may not be as effective now. Opportunities and salable products may also be different.
The goals of every organization tend to remain the same. They revolve around increasing sales and profit, lowering costs, and enhancing the efficiency of marketing.
They also want to build long-term relationships with their client. Sales success also rely mainly on the essential sales skills of the team.
To accomplish this, sales, much like sports, evolved beyond what happens in the office and on the phones.
The movie Moneyball shared the true story of how Billy Beane, the manager of the Oakland A, a baseball team, used statistical analysis to find undervalued players.
His approach allowed the A’s team to win a record number of games on a budget much smaller than their competitors in the league.
At XANT, we do the same.
We help sales teams maximize their potential by helping sales athletes perform at higher levels. We do that by:
- Monitoring activity
- Measuring performance
- Motivating achievement
- Managing workstyle
- Modifying behavior
Much like how Oakland used data to gain a competitive advantage, we believe the information can offer the same benefits for sales.
Combining Data with Predictive Analytics
Predictive Analytics Definition: It’s a process of extracting and analyzing data to identify patterns or trends, which can help organizations figure out possible (and winnable) outcomes.
For the past years, sales conversations were about data, particularly big data.
It isn’t surprising. Scores of studies showed how powerful data could be in helping organizations reach and maintain long-term success.
Data alone, though, isn’t enough to help sales teams succeed.
Back in 2013, ScienceDaily reported that 90% of the world’s data had been created in the past two years. The rate of data creation is rapidly accelerating as well.
While we aren’t short on data and information, we are missing something: the ability to make some sense out of them.
What does this mean for the organizations and their sales team?
This is where the power of predictive analytics shines.
After 10 years of collecting sales data and using predictive technology, XANT found consistent patterns. This helped us determine the best practices sales professionals can use to reach more people and see greater results.
7 Sales Best Practices
Using predictive analytics, we are able to identify these seven sales management best practices that can convert a prospect into a loyal customer. Organizations can then use them to improve their sales skills:
1. Respond Immediately
XANT’s work to determine the optimal time for responding to inbound leads made it to the Harvard Business Review.
When sales reps respond within 5 minutes of an inquiry instead of 30 minutes, they get an uplift of 21 times in qualifications.
As of now, the average response time for U.S. companies is about 38 hours. In the UK, it’s a little faster at 24 hours.
That’s still well short of where it needs to be.
How to Respond Faster to Inbound Leads
Responding fast to every single inbound lead can be a challenge. However, with the right training and perspective, this can get easier.
First, sales managers should begin by actively setting the goal for the entire team of being more responsive. Coach each rep to proactively think about responding as fast as possible to queries.
Of course, all goals have to be measurable to be able to determine their success. A simple way to measure this is by comparing the previous responsiveness rate and the rate after the coaching session.
Once you’ve seen an improvement, you have to remind your reps regularly to keep it up. Otherwise, old habits may resurface, and your responsiveness rate may drop once again.
2. Be Persistent
Just as it’s important to respond quickly, it’s also important to call often.
According to a recent XANT response study, the average sales rep at a U.S. company gives up on a lead after an average of 1.5 call attempts. In the UK, it’s slightly better at 2.39 attempts.
However, both of those numbers are well short of the ideal six to nine attempts.
The research shows that when a salesperson calls within the ideal range, they experience an initial lift of three times in contact rates.
How to Be Persistent
The biggest fear of a salesperson is to be so persistent that they end up annoying the prospect. So much so that they get cut off before they even get to the sales pitch.
The fear of losing a client or an opportunity to turn prospects into clients is understandable. However, persistence is an effective sales tool that has been proven to work time and time again.
If you find your reps having trouble with this, you can give them a couple of tips to help them overcome this. These can help them get over their fear and find a balance between being persistent and not being annoying.
To avoid being too persistent, they have to set limits on themselves. An example of this is to set an acceptable time period before they reach out to the prospect.
A good rule of thumb is to wait 48 hours before contacting a prospect if they didn’t respond immediately. After the acceptable period has passed, the rep can try changing up their message a bit to try to reel the prospect back in.
This can be done for a maximum of three times. After that, the rep should stop contacting that prospect.
Another limit to set is the length of follow-ups. If they’re too long, the prospect might lose interest.
Be clear, succinct, and to the point.
3. Establish a Local Presence
When you receive a call from an unknown 1-800 or 0-800 number, do you hurry to answer it?
You figure you don’t know the person calling, and it’s probably another telemarketer.
To sell, it’s essential reps have communication skills and sales negotiation skills.
Additionally, sales teams also need to be where their customers are. They should be using local numbers to contact their customers.
Try using local numbers to contact customers. It can increase contact rates by up to 38% when you use a toll-free number and up to 25% from a long-distance number.
XANT customers who adopt this approach experience a 57% uplift in connections.
Sales Operations Best Practices for Connecting with Locals
Localization efforts don’t have to be difficult or overly complicated. Aside from those mentioned above, it can be as simple as researching the market and creating buyer personas.
You can also invest in relevant social selling strategies that familiarize reps with prospects. You’ll find out more about how to optimize your sales funnel to make it easier for your prospects to interact with you.
4. Create a Cadence
Cadence Definition: This refers to a specific sequence of steps, actions, or activities to generate and convert a lead.
Most companies have no cadence strategy.
They haven’t made any attempt to create a consistent outreach strategy to follow up with and contact potential buyers in the best way.
Our customer data shows that companies that adopt a 10-day outreach strategy typically see a 26% increase in appointments set.
How to Develop a Sales Cadence
We’ve developed a five-step process on how to build a sales cadence, which includes the following steps:
- Analyze the attempts.
- Figure out which types of media to use.
- Determine the ideal duration.
- Figure out the appropriate spacing between your activities.
- Craft content that speaks to your customers.
You can learn more about each step in this post. These steps can help your reps get opportunities with prospects, and with proper execution, closed deals.
5. Motivate Your Staff
When an organization wants to increase the performance of its staff, the sales manager often turns to spiffs as an added incentive.
However, studies show that spiffs aren’t enough. If used too often, they start to become expected and lose their motivational power.
Instead, by incorporating real-time points and leaderboards, sales teams can achieve a 38% increase in sales activities.
Ideas on How to Motivate Staff
Aside from creating a sense of competition to motivate your staff, you can also motivate them by involving them in the process.
Including them in the decision-making process of how to incentivize them can help you reward them better. Plus, it’ll make them feel like you’re listening to them, which is good for morale.
You might think throwing a pizza party is a sufficient reward for a job well done, but it might not be to them. Thus, getting their input helps you give the right incentive to fire them up.
Another way to motivate them is by setting goals for different timelines. You should have a different goal for the day, week, and month.
This gives your team a direction for the short-term and the long-term.
6. Hire Smart with Data
Will you trust your hiring decisions to a coin toss? That’s pretty much what most organizations are doing.
Data shows that recruiters hire successful talent only 60% of the time.
Organizations should be using data to help predict which candidates are most likely to be top performers.
With data-driven decisions, XANT customers have experienced a lift of 2.5 times in hiring accuracy.
Leverage Data During the Hiring Process
To be able to leverage data during the hiring process, you should focus on how you collect your data. Optimizing the data collection process makes it easier for you to find relevant reports that’ll help you during the hiring process.
Also, software is a great tool to have to optimize the hiring process for your HR team. Recruitment CRM can be used to manage the relationship you have with candidates, so it’s easier to keep track of those who are in the running.
7. Analyze Your Sales Pipeline
How do you know which deals are coming down your pipeline? Are you going to hit your targets?
Research conducted by XANT revealed sales reps often delay committing to winnable deals. They tend to only commit to deals they feel confident about.
This strategy leaves a lot of winnable deals uncommitted, especially early in the quarter.
By applying data science to your sales pipeline, you can make your forecasts more accurate and actionable.
Teams that adopt this approach see a lift of three times in forecast accuracy.
Analyzing the Sales Pipeline
Using data science is one of the best sales pipeline management practices. However, if you don’t monitor your pipeline regularly, you might miss chances that are time-sensitive or not snatch up opportunities at the right timing.
No matter how optimized you think your sales pipeline is, it’s always good to look back and check deals that closed, are closing, or didn’t close. Data science allows you to use historical data to improve your current pipeline.
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To outperform the competition, sales teams should begin adopting each of these best practices in sales.
XANT customers who implement these and adapt them to their sales skills can reach more prospects, set more appointments, and close more deals.
Which of these best practices do you find easiest and most difficult to implement in your own sales team? Why? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 2, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.