When you’re trying to close customers quickly, focus is the name of the game. Especially now. But before you can focus, you need data.
In the best of times, having deep visibility into your pipeline allows you to make the kinds of decisions that will accelerate your business growth, as our CRO, Kevin Knieriem explains in this video:
Thanks to COVID, most companies are in replan mode and are trying to keep their business healthy. But as Knieriem points out, data must be leaned on at all times — especially in times of uncertainty.
“Visibility, shared responsibility, and transparency goes both ways. Good times and in bad times. And when you’re faced with headwinds, or more challenging times, we need to be honest about what we’re seeing,” he says. “The only way to do that by having the right data.”
In a recent Masters of Revenue Roundtable, Knieriem hosted revenue leaders from around the world to discuss (among other subjects) how they are successfully closing customers in the age of the “new normal.” One of the common themes was about gathering data to gain a deeper understanding of what prospects are facing, then using that knowledge to drive focus and efficiency throughout the sales process.
Here are some key ways those leaders are keeping their eyes on the prize:
Define the Customer Impact
No matter what business your prospects are in, every one of them has been impacted recently in some way — for better or for worse. Even those who didn’t change much financially still had to reposition messaging, update their product, or do some fancy footwork to stay on point. And as a revenue leader, you need to know which prospects fall into which category.
At Clari, we focus on the right prospects by segmenting our pipeline into “headwinds” and “tailwinds.” Headwinds are those companies that saw a negative business impact due to COVID (travel-industry related businesses for example), while tailwinds are those that are skyrocketing because of their essential services (like monday.com and Zoom).
Try classifying this way to get a clear understanding of your new pipeline. Then:
Measure the Impact
Be mindful about the approach for companies of all classifications and don’t assume any company is having an easy time. Each customer has a unique set of circumstances, be it cashflow or product availability. Get that data and evolve your sales cycle to accommodate those specifics.
“Key verticals have been impacted, some favorably and some unfavorably,” says Matt Cleaver, SVP of Sales Strategy at Extreme Networks. "For those that are favorable, you’ve got a different kind of challenge: you don’t want to be overly aggressive in going after those customers.”
Cleaver says that these “tailwind” companies should be approached with care. They are certainly generating more revenue — and that’s great! — but they have another layer of stress: They have to accommodate the demand. As a sales leader, you have to very quickly determine what they need in the here and now to make their lives easier.
Cleaver suggests posing this question to your team: “How do we rapidly accelerate what that customer needs, compared to what another customer might need?”
This kind of specificity with each prospect is a little more work up front, but hammering out those details before the meeting takes place will lead to a much better conversion rate.
Becoming the Essential Part of the Business
Joseph Diliberto, President of Sandler Training, pointed out that it’s not only about tailoring the sales process to meet the needs of these “essential businesses,” it’s about becoming more of a partner.
“I think this puts us all in a position to become more of a strategic partner, by changing our messaging to be more of the essential part of their business,” he says. “This is an example of where collaboration between a CRO and a CFO sitting down to build that message together can be really beneficial.”
Yes. This is where the CRO and CFO get together to discuss what new programs and prices can be run for your prospects to maximize your potential partnership, while aligning with your own key business objectives.
Find those win/win scenarios, and don’t skimp on the number crunching. It’s a common mistake to give away the kitchen sink in an effort to make the sale — a mistake that can be avoided with early and often meetings with your CFO.
Use the Downtime to Raise Your Game
Once you improve your team’s focus, set a strategy, and settle into it, you may find that you have a little bit of extra time. No one’s traveling and you’re not spinning your wheels by putting a bunch of effort into the wrong leads, after all. Talend’s CRO, Ann-Christel Graham, suggests using that extra time wisely by preparing for busier times.
“Take the opportunity during this time to put a little due diligence around some areas of managing the business. During times with more risk like this, you get really good at working your deals, moving them through the progression of stages, owning the process a little bit more, and becoming generally a little more diligent about data hygiene.”
Remember that the economy is not going to be like this forever. Eventually things are going to pick up and when they do, taking time now to refine your sales process will reap rewards. So, identify those activities you’ve been neglecting in busier times and set a plan for addressing them one by one.
Join the Masters of Revenue
Masters of Revenue will be addressing more pressing topics in the weeks ahead and we’d love for you to join the conversation.