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Tactical Best Practices for B2B Sales - Data Access-Sales Interactions

Authored by Ric Ratkowski on February 25, 2020

The typical situation we found many of our sales prospects in when they were considering our solution is:

  • Sales reps don’t timely update their sales force automation platform
  • Sales reps don’t have sufficient, timely and accurate information about their sales opportunities
  • Sales Managers don’t have the data they needed to accurately forecast sales for the quarter or coach their direct reports on specific opportunities
  • The end-of-quarter is a mad scramble and there is no visibility into the deals to focus on
  • Forecast accuracy suffered

Generally speaking, the more data you can collect on the sales opportunity the better.  However, in addition to collecting the information, it has to be organized in a manner that is easily accessible, “in-context” with other information used to make similar decisions  and presented when the user is ready to consume it (but we will save that for a later blog).  

Solving the Data Problems with Best Practices

Implementing the data access best practices is a journey, it requires change management, and it is incremental.  It requires technology changes, behavioral changes and a focus on making processes more efficient. To help the implementation of these processes the best practices are described in terms of:

Baseline

Current Status Quo we see most of our new customers at when we implement them

Good

An incremental first step to streamline the data collection process

Better

Enhancements to good to increase benefits and decrease workload for data collection on the sales reps

Best

Description of best practices in collecting data and making it available to everyone in a highly usable manner

 

The previous blog defined four categories of data:  sales activity dynamics; opportunity attributes; buying team members and roles; and company attributes.  The remainder of this blog reviews best practices for sales activity dynamics in a good/better/best format.  Subsequent blogs will look at tactical best practices in the other areas.

Sales Activity Dynamics

Tactical Best Practices in Sales Activity Dynamics

Problem/Business Need:

Sales reps and sales management work in a vacuum.  The SFA application is not consistently and timely updated with changes to the opportunity or sales interactions.  Sales reps need help keeping up with updating all the sales interactions in their CRM system so details do not slip through the cracks and they can spend more time “selling”.

Requirements:

  • Need to timely track inbound activity from opportunities reflects in the overall health of the opportunities.  
  • Sales management needs access to most recent buyer/seller interaction to have an unbiased judgement on the current status of a sales opportunity.
  • The more information sales management has on buyer/seller interactions the better position they are in to coach the sales rep on appropriate actions for this opportunity.  

The need is to automate:

  • The data collection of inbound and outbound email activity, including the content of the emails.
  • The data collection of all meetings and calls scheduled in the calendar
  • The content and results of meetings. 

Baseline

Good

Better

Best

Sales reps update their SFA application with meeting schedules, inbound and outbound email content and summarize meeting results.

Email and meeting counts automatically update the SFA application.  Emails are flagged as inbound emails from the prospects vs outbound emails to the prospect.

Email, meeting and calendar content details automatically update the SFA application.  The sales rep has the ability to add personal notes and observations to the activity as well as score the activity as positive or negative.  Meeting transcripts are available.  

Activity is automatically scored based on content messages and AI driven sentiment analysis.  Sales reps personal activity rating serves to update the lexicon used for sentiment analysis. Email interface allows editing opportunities while in the email

 

The baseline is what is currently happening in most companies.  The sales reps are expected to keep the CRM system up to date, while gaining nothing in return.  This process is flawed for a number of reasons. One already mentioned is it takes away from selling time.  Another is the information can be biased by the sales rep. Happy Ears reps may be over optimistic about emails, meetings and other interactions.  Sandbagger reps may not even update CRM until they know they have the deal in the bag.

At the Good level, opportunities are updated with just the count of both inbound and outbound interactions.  The interactions are sequenced by date. Inbound interactions are when the opportunity reaches out to you.  Outbound interactions are when the sales rep reaches out to the opportunity. Inbound interactions are more important than outbound interactions.  Outbound interaction count show that the rep is managing the opportunity. Inbound interactions show the opportunity is interested in what you have to offer.  No inbound interactions in the past 2 - 6 weeks (pick time appropriate for your situation) shows the opportunity is going dark. Measuring counts is a step in the right direction but will fall short in assessing the overall health of an opportunity and subjectively assessing the health of the opportunity.

At the Better level emails, calendar invitations, and meeting results are updated to your SFA application.  This includes full email and meeting content. This saves sales rep time by not requiring them to summarize the email in the CRM application.  It also saves reps time by allowing them to easily reference the most recent correspondence and understand the issues without digging through their email.  It saves sales managers time to have a better understanding of the overall health of the opportunity without needing to interrogate/grill sales reps.  

At the Best level, there are two parts.  The first part is rating the interactions.  The second part is enhancing the email interface with an add-on that allows the rep to take action on the opportunity from within the email application.

Rating emails can be both by AI and allowing the sales rep to also rate the interaction.  When sales reps rate the email content, the AI can also analyze the rating and update the AI lexicon for analyzing email content in the future.  This may seem like over sharpening a point, but it provides an early warning system to potential deals going south, many times even before the sales rep has a chance to read the email. It also provides an unbiased interpretation of the email which helps provide a basis for unbiased opportunity assessment.  

Enhancing the email interface with an add-on goes beyond just pulling in emails from the email server.  It allows sales reps to update their opportunities from within their email application.  It allows the system to work, where the reps work, rather than require the reps to log into the CRM application to change anything.  This overlaps with our next discussion on opportunity attributes and opportunity roles.  The key is to make it as easy as possible for the sales rep to do their job.

Available Solutions

There are quite a few solutions available to get you to the “Better” level of tactical best practices by collecting detailed email, calendar and meeting content.  The challenge most of them have is putting the interactions in-context to the overall sales opportunity and opportunity timeline. Many of them do not group interactions by opportunity and only group them by lead or contact.  Many of them are point solutions, providing a solution to one part of the overall problem and complicating the sales tech stack in the long run.

TopOPPS covers all four levels.  

Next Blog Post

The next blog post will analyze best practices for data access as they relate to opportunity attributes and buying team members and roles.

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