The overarching goal for most businesses that provide products or services to customers is to increase sales volume and return on investment. While easy to state in concept, it is often difficult to achieve increases in both of these in tandem. It is a continuing quest to more efficiently allocate time and resources, both human resources as well as dollar investment.
The sales cycle is often conceptualized with the analogy of a funnel, which starts at the top with advertising to a target market with prospects down the funnel until they become customers converting into actual sales. Sales acceleration, bringing a potential customer through the funnel more quickly, involves data visualization, sales automation, data management and predictive analysis. It is a proven strategy to achieve the dual goals of increased sales and return on investment. Sales acceleration software and platforms effectively allow companies to utilize data science and analytics to better analyze the information they have and they can gather to understand and tailor their approach to prospects in the various stages of the sales cycle and help them move forward.
Each business has unique characteristics and nuances with different challenges present in different industries, all of which must be taken into account to customize solutions. However, certain tactics, techniques, and tools for accelerating the sales cycle apply in general. Sales acceleration software and platforms now commonly offer data science and predictive analytics to identify the right targets and provide those targets with the right information in a timely manner. These techniques can be applied to each stage of the sales cycle funnel.
Advertising to the Target Market to Develop and Identify Prospects
Online and offline lead generation is essential to the beginning of the sales cycle and the creation of the prospect/customer database. Sales acceleration software tools can be used to track website visitors and repeat visitors; gather information on requests by a site visitor such as sign-ups to subscribe to a mailing list, newsletter or blog; or downloads for more information such as product specifications or white papers. The tools can also automatically log call activity and enter tracking information.
Turning Suspects into Prospects
Lead nurturing is the process of turning suspects into prospects by maintaining regular contact, creating trust, providing information, following up and helping the prospect advance through the funnel to the buying decision. Sellers should create profiles of prospects, and segment prospects into groups so that specific nurturing actions are channeled to the appropriate group, and continuously gather more information about the suspect/prospect so that the segmentation can be refined. For example, sellers might send automated periodic personalized email follow-ups with invitations to trade shows, seminars, or webinars, or links to white papers or case studies. These, in turn, prompt a prospect to provide more information when responding, enhancing the prospect’s profile.
Turning Prospects into Sales Qualified Prospects
Lead qualification is the process to try to determine how far along the prospect is in the sales cycle, which is often done by grading or scoring prospects with specific metrics and weighing different factors. Sellers can customize the metrics according to their particular business and experience. Examples include a number of visits to specific website pages which indicate an enhanced level of buying interest; requests for detailed technical product information; a request for a quotation; and most importantly, a request for a sales appointment.
Converting Sales Qualified Prospects into Customers and Sales
Sales appointments are generally necessary for conversion to a sale but are very time-consuming, particularly if done through in-person meetings. Highly qualified sales lead allow more efficient appointment setting and higher success rates in converting. If the lead qualification process has determined the prospect is an appropriate decision maker and far along in the sales cycle, the greater the likelihood that the sales appointment will result in a purchase decision and sale.
Each specific business will need to customize and refine the details of the tactics, tools, and techniques discussed above in order for sales acceleration to be the perfect strategy for its unique positioning. While these tools apply to each stage of the sales cycle, several key areas are automating the process of nurturing prospects and developing sophisticated metrics to effectively qualify prospects so that high-quality sales appointments will bring more success in conversions and higher sales.