It doesn't matter what industry you're in, how long you've been in business, where you are or what you do. If I ask you what your number one goal is for 2018, you'll most likely say the same thing: "I want more customers!"
In the early days of our fledgling agency, I used to marvel at companies that seemed to effortlessly find, nurture and close leads on their way up the revenue ladder. On the contrary, it seemed like every piece of business we won had to be carefully swaddled like a baby tiger that was ready to either rip our heads off or take off running.
But now that we're a little older and a lot wiser, I'm beginning to understand how the sales machine works -- and why most companies are doing it wrong.
Want to sell more? You're probably trying too hard.
What does your company do? If you said "sales," then you don't need this article. If you said anything other than "sales," then pay attention to my story.
My agency is an absolute expert in providing integrated marketing and revenue growth for business-to-consumer companies. By comparison, we are terrible at providing the same results for business-to-business companies (if we were better at it, I assure you we would've been higher on this year's Inc. 5000 list).
In 2017, our big initiative was to go from high-growth to scale, so sales became the absolute focus, and we set about making assets, launching test campaigns, building decks and networking our proverbial butts off.
The only problem? We're not good at business-to-business sales! We knew this, and yet we ignored our own rules and tried to do it ourselves. A for effort; D for result.
If you're not a sales organization, then stop acting like one.
Since we came to this epiphany, we dismantled the sales process into its respective components: Generating awareness, gaining interest, and closing leads. It turns out we're quite good at hosting live strategy calls with prospects, and we're passionate and effective closers.
But we simply aren't good at filling the top of the funnel, and we're certainly too busy to properly nurture our leads. So, we outsourced the lead generation to a company that does -- wait for it -- business-to-business marketing, and we on-boarded a marketing automation software to do the lead nurturing for us.
It sounds simple, but across the countless companies I encounter, I can't tell you how many of them are trying to execute all kinds of strategies that they have no business doing in the first place.
That produces a drag on your resources, ineffective outcomes, worn-out employees and more.
Here's how to start analyzing your sales strategy in 2018 to see where you might want to make some changes:
- Write out your funnel. How do you define the top, the middle layers and the bottom? What does each layer require in terms of outreach, messaging, assets, distribution, lead nurturing, proposals and more?
- Be honest about what you're good at -- and what you're not. Don't be generous, here. Instead, be brutal about your strengths and weaknesses, and do this without any thought to your human resources. Otherwise, you may try to save John's function because you love John, when in reality your company shouldn't be doing John's function at all. Don't worry, though, you can always try to find a place for him later!
- Strategize your best partnerships. There are all kinds of companies that specialize in specific parts of the sales funnel. Calls with these folks are free, and over the course of my discovery work with a variety of companies, it became abundantly clear that they know what they're doing and that we had lots to learn.
- Ask yourself this one important question. If you could stay in your absolute best function -- whether it's writing proposals or closing or whatever -- how much more effective would you be? How much more would your company be able to sell, if you did ten or twenty times more of that one, key activity?
Remember, the best goal is simply to stay in your sweet spot and outsource the rest. The advice is classic, and yet sales is one place where I see people try to tough it out and do it on their own.
So sit back and do less, and tell people that I gave you permission. We'll see you on next year's list!