This is the last in a series of three sales blogs that deals with the impact of COVID-19 on your sales pipeline. Each sales blog builds upon the previous, providing guidance why, how and when to implement a rapid audit strategy using the Sales Pipeline Development Platform to help strengthen your sales pipeline after the initial COVID-19 disruption.
- The next steps to strengthen your sales pipeline after the COVID-19
- Delivering a rapid audit service to support buyer enablement
- When should I offer a rapid audit to help deal with the COVID-19 disruption?
In the sales blog – The next steps strengthening your sales pipeline after the COVID-19 disruption . We considered the impact COVID-19 pandemic is having had on many companies sales pipelines and sales forecasts.
We recommended the following three activities, using the Sales Pipeline Development Platform, to better manage both your own and your customers uncertainty, including financial uncertainty and your sales engagements.
- Offer a rapid audit to earn buyers trust and discover insights upon which to build and manage a value-based sales engagement.
- Offer help supporting buyers make better purchase decisions.
- Implement revised forecasting methodologies and leading indicators focusing on progress and success within your control.
These activities support your salespeople earn buyers’ trust. Earning trust means buyers will open up and share more insights, which is required to deliver more value, better manage your sales engagements, strengthen your sales pipeline, increase your average deal size, and forecast a sale closure more accurately.
We discussed delivering a rapid audit in the sales blog – Delivering a rapid audit service to support buyer enablement.
We will now consider when is the best time to offer a rapid audit. How you can help buyers make better purchase decisions, and the steps you can take to revise your sales forecasting methodologies and implement early warning leading indicators.
When is the best time to offer a Rapid Audit service?
Gartner recommended in their report, Next Steps for Sales Leaders After the Initial COVID-19 Disruption. Capture latent opportunities by guiding with information and insights that serve as a clarifying force and give customers confidence in times of high uncertainty.
In the sales blog – The next steps strengthening your sales pipeline after the COVID-19 disruption. Also the sales blog – Delivering a rapid audit service to support buyer enablement. We discussed the Why and How to deliver a rapid audit service, now we need to consider When you should offer to deliver this service.
Managing a value-based sales engagement and maintaining an accurate sales forecasting is all about time.
In the perfect world, the ideal time would be at the beginning of a project because everyone will be more open to discussing the project and building relationships. However, life in sales will never be that straightforward.
The reality is that buyers are not contacting sellers until they are over half way through their buying journey. I discuss this further in the Knowledge Hub article – Why has smarketing become relevant to the buyers’ journey.
You may also become aware of a project in the latter stages when buyers are totally focused on execution to deliver the project.
Or, there may not be a project and you are prospecting and hunting for an opportunity. I also discuss how to better manage these sales engagements in another article on our Knowledge Hub – Become a problem finder, not a problem solver.
Whatever the situation, one fact remains constant when managing your your sales engagement – Time. If you know where you are in time related to those you are serving, you will have a competitive advantage.
The Sales Pipeline Development Platform includes a Timeline Reporting sales tool that helps salespeople know where they are along the buyers’ journey and adapt their behaviour to their audience’s behaviour.
The earlier you engage on a project, the better, which is why problem finders are often the most consistent performing solution salespeople closing high-value sales engagements. However, irrespective where you are along your sales opportunity’s project timeline, the secret sauce is knowing where you are along this timeline.
If you know where you are related to your sales opportunities and customers project timeline, and you adapt your own sales behaviour to their situation, you will better understand how to position a compelling offer to deliver your rapid audit service.
The image above presents an empty Timeline Report that guides the salesperson where they are along the buyers’ journey and project timeline. The timeline also presents the buyers’ budget period, and the sales person’s forecast close date.
Using the Timeline Reporting helps salespeople to:
- Be more effective prospecting and hunting for projects, guiding salespeople to adapt their behaviour to where their audience is along their own project timeline.
- Adapt their behaviour and sales engagement for when they are engaging with buyers at
- the beginning of their project,
- the middle of their project,
- the end of their project.
- Focus on developing a value-based sales engagement to deliver value and earn trust, and increase their financial deal value.
Using the Timeline Reporting also helps sales managers support their sales teams develop a value-based sales engagement and prepare for deal reviews.
Knowing where you are along your customers’ project timeline and buyers journey, allows salespeople to competitively position the rapid audit service offered, and present the most significant value to help buyers deal with the initial impact of COVID-19.
Timing is also essential when handling objections in sales, which we discuss in the sales guide – How to handle the seven most common sales objections, guiding handling objections in sales.
Your sales teams will also benefit from the sales prospecting tools, and sales enablement scorecard included with the Sales Pipeline Development Platform guiding them better manage their sales engagements.
Support buyers make better purchase decisions
A challenge many salespeople face is how to earn the trust of all those involved in the buying process. Earning the trust of all people involved in the buyers journey is become more challenging because more people are influencing the decision to purchase.
In the sales blog – Do your sales playbooks focus on the buyers’ Journey? we explore how to better support buyers move through their buying journey. According to CEB, a subsidiary of Gartner, their research predicted by 2018, there would be 10.2 people involved in the decision process. Following the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and buyers’ decreasing risk tolerance, we can expect the number people involved in the decision process to have increased.
The Sales Pipeline Development Platform guides and helps salespeople to identify the roles and contacts involved in making and influencing the purchase decision.
Brent Adamson, Distinguished VP, Advisory, at Gartner, sums up the buyer challenge perfectly. “As hard as it has become to sell in today’s world, it has become that much more difficult to buy. The single biggest challenge of selling today is not selling; it is our customers struggle to buy.”
Gartner identified six B2B buying “jobs” that customers must complete to their satisfaction to finalise a purchase decision successfully:
- Problem identification. “We need to do something.”
- Solution exploration. “What is out there to solve our problem?”
- Requirements building. “What exactly do we need the purchase to do?”
- Supplier Selection. “Does this do what we want it to do?”
- Validation. “We think we know the right answer, but we need to be sure.”
- Consensus creation. “We need to get everyone on board.”
We discuss this further in the sales blog – Help buyers make better purchase decisions.
The Sales Pipeline Development Platform includes another sales tool called the Buyers Journey. The Buyers Journey guides salespeople to earn trust and deliver value by helping those involved in the buying process better manage these six buying jobs.
The Buyers Journey is designed to work with the Insight Threads sales tool, also included with the Sales Pipeline Development Platform. Armed with better insights discovered using Insight Threads, the Buyers Journey guides and supports salespeople developing a compelling business case and proposal.
Establish revised forecasting methodologies and early warning leading indicators
During a time of crisis, it is imperative sellers focus on what they can do better than their competition.
We developed a useful Venn diagram we call the Value Wedge, shown in the image above, to competitively position themselves deliver a compelling business case. The Value Wedge guides clarity of purpose by focusing on what you can do better than your competition. Focus your efforts developing your sales pipeline here and you will be more competitive helping customers achieve their priority business outcomes.
Customers’ priority needs will be shifting in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Your competition will also be shifting their response, which means you must have greater clarity and focus, competing from your value wedge, if you are to remain competitive and deliver your best story.
Managing time also means investing your own time into those sales engagements that value what you have to offer and have the money to pay you. Your salespeople’s behaviour and where they invest their time will directly influence the strength of their sales pipelines and your company’s competitive positioning and success. Sales leaders need to carefully consider requests for their sales peoples’ time so they remain focused. They also need to ensure their teams’ request for other limited resources, including supporting sales teams time, is focused on developing well qualified opportunities.
The Sales Pipeline Development Platform supports you guide and improve sales discipline to focus on your value wedge, while ensuring salespeople maintain control, are creative and innovative, managing their sales engagements.
The Sales Pipeline Development Platform achieves this managing each sales engagement, which we refer to as a scorecard, guiding salespeople to have the conversations to develop a value-based sales engagement.
Each scorecard is tracking over fifty data points for each sales engagement, each salesperson is managing developing their sales pipeline. Collecting these data points is a background process managed by the Sales Pipeline Development Platform because they relate to questions salespeople should be asking anyway to develop a high value-sales engagement.
Asking these questions, hypothesising with buyers, helps and guides salespeople to develop and manage a value-based sales engagement.
The more contacts involved in the sales engagement, the more data points will be tracked. The Sales Pipeline Development Platform groups these data points so they are available as both an early warning system and sales performance leading indicators presented within each scorecard dashboard. These data points can also be synchronized and shared with other systems, for example, your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system managing your sales pipeline.
Presenting and reporting these indicators at different stages within a sales pipeline helps challenge sales pipelines and is ideal supporting sales managers better manage their deal reviews.
Gartner recommends in their report, Next Steps for Sales Leaders After the Initial COVID-19 Disruption, to establish revised performance indicators of commercial progress and success. The Sales Pipeline Development Platform supports you achieve this outcome.
These indicators are valuable because previously established KPIs and performance expectations will not account for current market realities. Gartner recommends partnering with the sales operations function to develop revised forecasting methodologies and leading indicators of customer demand.
For most companies, their CRM system manage the sales pipeline and sales forecast. However, there are still situations where some companies continue to use spreadsheets alongside their CRM system.
Whichever is your current approach to managing your sales pipelines and forecast reporting, one fact remains. You need current data-led insights that help sales leaders, managers and salespeople proactively address emerging challenges and shifts in buyers behaviour and needs to be effective developing sales engagements, allocating sales resources and strengthening sales pipelines.
Using the Sales Pipeline Development Platform, you can quickly achieve all these outcomes.
Integrate revised sales methodologies and leading indicators into your sales pipeline
The Sales Pipeline Development Platform supports you integrate and early warning system and leading indicators supporting you implement a revised sales methodology with your existing systems adapting to the impacts of COVID-19. For example, share and synchronize the early warning system to challenge your sales pipeline and forecast managed by Salesforce, Oracle Netsuite, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, Hubspot, Sugar CRM, or any other Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems you may be using.
The Platform incorporates one of the world’s leading integration platform as a service (iPaaS) as part of the Scorecard Enterprise Edition subscription. It means you can easily connect your SaaS, cloud, and on-premises applications with our Sales Pipeline Development Platform. Instantly and securely synchronize sales pipeline data between systems sharing early warning leading indicators and intelligence between our Platform and your systems and business processes.
The result – you will strengthen your sales pipelines and forecast accuracy because you have integrated a revised sales methodology and leading indicators into your existing sales pipelines and forecast reporting.
To improve sales behaviour, your sales methodology must be part of your sales regime. The Sales Pipeline Development Platform upgrades your existing sales methodologies, guiding salespeople on the conversations required to manage sales engagements, maintain an accurate sales forecast, foster value-based selling, and increase sales values to achieve their sales quota targets.
As well as establish revised performance and early warning leading indicators, tracking sales engagements’ commercial progress and success. The leading indicators can also be integrated into your sales systems to challenge and strengthen your sales pipelines, sales forecast, and reinvent your appraisal, development and reward processes.
Pulling it all together
To remain competitive, sales leaders must provide their sales teams with the tools to earn trust and deliver value. At the same time, sales leaders have to balance distributed governance and give salespeople the autonomy to develop and manage their sales engagements.
Sales leaders must provide the environment and culture for their managers and salespeople to be creative and innovative. To quickly discover and respond to emerging customer needs. To support managers better guide their sales teams to manage sales engagement helping buyers make better purchase decisions.
Being effective delivering a rapid audit services comes down to timing. Get your timing right, adapt your sales behaviour and how you present the rapid audit service, and you will help customers and sales opportunities better deal with the initial impact of COVID-19.
When salespeople know where in time they are along the buyers’ journey and project timeline, they will adapt their behaviour and sales engagement to present a more compelling rapid audit offer to their customers and sales opportunities.
The Sales Pipeline Development Platform supports your company, sales leaders, managers, and salespeople achieve all these outcomes.