Do you monitor the interactions your individual reps have with each prospect?
If the answer is “no,” why not?
Well, maybe you think that looks a lot like micromanaging. Maybe you’re worried it’ll create a negative culture. Maybe you think those sales metrics have little to do with the accuracy of your forecast. Or maybe all of the above!
Those are certainly valid points, but let’s look a little more closely:
Activity data was never meant to create a “big brother” situation, but rather to help make forecasting tools more accurate. And ironically, it has become one of the most trustworthy metrics to predict deal success during uncertain times.
Watch this video with Clari’s VP of Enterprise Revenue, Anthony Cessario, and top Sales Rep, Maya Connet, to learn why:
What Activity Signals Are Important?
The impact of the global pandemic was keenly felt by many sales teams, who went from having a true understanding of where their deals stood to not knowing which ones were still real anymore. Sales metrics that sales leaders have been using for most of their careers can’t be called trustworthy in the current environment.
"My number one indicator for whether a deal is going to close or not is activity signal," says Cessario. "Other than that, there are very few metrics I can look at right now to give me confidence."
“Activity signals” in this sense are the interactions that sales reps are having with prospects, such as:
- How many meeting are being scheduled
- How many meetings are actually taking place
- How many emails are going back and forth
- What stakeholders are involved
- The number of relationships being leveraged
“In this environment, if people are meeting with us, if we're sending files back and forth, if the email velocity is picking up, those are all indicators that our projects are still important to these companies right now and they're tracking towards getting a budget aligned to them,” Cessario explains. “So, that's really it. That's the main indicator I'm looking at right now to project confidence in my forecast.”
Clari’s Sales activity data is captures every action a rep takes to pursue an opportunity and also the level of engagement that each action ignites. For more information on that, click here.
How Sales Activity Helps Reps
Connet, echoes the importance of activity data, not just for sales leaders, but for every member of the sales team. Connet looks at her activity in relation to her peers to gain confidence in the number she is calling in her own forecast.
“I don't want to be at the bottom of my peer group in terms of how much work I’m putting into my deals,” she says. “I want to be towards the top, and I know that my activity is the one thing that I have control of in this really dynamic market and economic climate that we have right now. I can control what actions I'm taking, and so I’m looking at that leaderboard a couple of times a week to make sure I'm towards the top.”
As each of your reps look at their individual business, then roll that up to their managers, who roll it up to the executive staff, they need to define the activities that will instill the most confidence. The individual actions matter. A LOT.
Most of Connet’s best tactics for gaining revenue confidence as rep have a lot to do with activity data. Here are a few of her best pointers:
Look Ahead, Not Back
Some one-on-one sales meetings between managers and reps look and sound a lot like rehashing old stories that have little to do with the future. We call that “reporting the news” and find it to be a dull and ineffective exercise — especially in a day and age when we all have access to so much intelligent data.
If your team has one source of truth where all the information on each deal is automatically captured and stored in real-time, there’s no need for the rep to go over what happened last quarter. It’s all right there. That’s why Connet suggests always looking ahead.
With a complete data set that is automatically updated in real time, she can already see what's happening and what happened. “I already have that pulse on the ‘now,’ and I'm trying to work on what I can do in the next couple of weeks to really move the needle out quarter on my deal. I know that the activity that I have in the next few weeks here is going to make an impact in the next quarter, the quarter after that and even three quarters down the line, so that's a big piece,” she shares.
Ideating and sharing strategies for future quarters is the most productive activity that should happen in meetings with reps and their managers. Cessario collaborates closely with Connet, to ensure revenue confidence at the rep level up to the executive team.
“In past lives, when I've had to spend so much time in my direct interactions with reps, getting them to report the news, it gave me very little confidence in what was actually happening in the deals because I was always looking backwards,” says Cessario. “So, when you can set your sights ahead, that helps a lot.”
Now that Connet and Cessario don't have to spend time poring over data, they can strategize about relationships.
Sales 101: relationships are important to success. You can’t rush relationships; you have to constantly find new ways of nurturing them. That’s why relationship brainstorming (as Connet calls it) is so impactful.
“This isn't something that you can necessarily quantify or write down on paper,” she says. “But this is where we're really getting creative and trying to think how we can better leverage our contacts, our customer contacts, as well as make interesting connections that are relevant for the prospect and customers that we're working with, and really deepening that relationship so that it's a mutual partnership.”
Now is especially a great time to start and continue nurturing contacts that might not be ready to sign a contract with you right away, but will close very quickly as soon as budget freezes and regulations lift. Remember, you need to think about this quarter, but also three to four quarters in the future. Start laying the groundwork now. Just like the best partnerships don’t happen overnight, the best executive relationships don’t happen overnight either. They require trust, confidence and mutual action.
Creative Deal Strategies
COVID-19 has taught us that markets can change swiftly and therefore, creativity matters. There are so many companies running very unique programs to get the attention of their prospects. GrubHub picnics, Nintendo deliveries, kid’s story time hours, wine tastings - you name it, innovative sales teams are doing it.
So how will you stand out? By showing how you can deliver value immediately and uniquely, according to Connet. She calls it “Wow Them, Surprise Them.”
In their weekly one-on-one sales meetings, Connet and Cessario devote 20 minutes to how they can wow customers and prospects, which isn't possible if you spend the entire time looking at each deal one by one.
Sometimes this includes leveraging customer stories/perspectives in unique, unexpected ways or sending something that thematically ties to the business objectives they are looking to solve. The more outside of the box idea, the better!
For example, one time Connet and Cessario themed an entire 2-hour onsite meeting around a kids soccer game, after the prospect made an analogy about their business challenges being like kids clustering around a soccer ball.
The presentation deck, the meeting snacks, even the swag all stuck to the theme and the customer’s response was, “Well that was an unforgettable meeting!”
That kind of creativity causes your company to stand out from the crowd. Think about how you can create these moments for your prospects by listening to them and building out remarkable experiences.
Time to Get Active
At Clari, we have a Slack channel called “The Daily Win,” where we share what’s working. Team members use this to borrow great ideas or gain inspiration for their own unique activities.
As you deploy your own creative activities, track the response and share what’s working with your team. Then measure these activities constantly and enjoy watching how they contribute to the accuracy of your forecast. Good luck!