Author Archives: Bonnie Rodden

About Bonnie Rodden

For the past 20 years, I’ve held sales management positions that allowed me the flexibility and authority to design inside sales/telesales programs.

Sales Meeting Effectiveness: What’s In YOUR Pipeline?

sales contractIf you’re like most companies, you have many contacts in your CRM system that haven’t budged from their sales cycle stage in months–or maybe even longer. In fact, many sales executives we talk to admit they are unclear how accurate their sales pipeline is, which puts its value into question.

For these and many other reasons, a pipeline assessment can go far as a way to gain an honest review of recent sales meetings and engagements, evaluate prospect status, and identify who may have dropped completely from the pipeline.

This type of assessment basically allows a sales organization to re-focus on the “low-hanging fruit” – the prospects with the highest, best opportunity to close.

Here at C-Level, we recently launched a new Sales Meeting Effectiveness program to help our clients do a little spring-cleaning where their pipelines are concerned. Whether you assess your prospect lists and sales meetings weekly, monthly or quarterly, here’s what we’ve found to be the 7 most valuable reasons to get it done:

  1. Enable new sales leadership: Often when new sales leadership enters a new environment, they are told that their pipeline is robust and loaded with impending new business. It’s always an “a-ha moment” when they come to realize the pipeline was not nearly as strong as they were led to believe. By being proactive about reviewing the pipeline early, however, these new leaders can gain a clear understanding of prospects’ positions in the sales cycle right from the start, and from there, can establish the optimal path towards focusing their sales team’s efforts going forward.
  1. Empower existing sales leadership: A sales effectiveness review is also valuable for longer-tenured, existing sales leadership who want to uncover deeper reasons or trends behind why prospects are not moving through the pipeline. Many times, the research discovers reporting errors, misunderstandings, or the proverbial “dropped ball” pointing to sales activities that are not matching reality. Sales leadership can then reassess their situation and recalibrate their efforts, whether at the start of a new month, quarter or year.
  1. Fix your message: By investigating your sales engagements and pipeline, you can discover where your message is resonating, and where it’s falling short. Often, a minor point can create a misinterpretation that can lead to an objection by the prospect. This minor point, possibly around benefits or pricing, might be easily fixed and the objections overcome, leading to instant new closes. 
  1. Gather competitive intelligence: Often, sales assessments discover that prospects should be dropped from the pipeline for a very good reason – they purchased with a competitor. A pipeline status check can not only uncover this, but also reveal intelligence about which competitor they went with, when, and why. This information can be quite valuable in repositioning your product or tweaking your messaging to better combat what the competition is doing or saying.
  1. Fix your contacts files: People change roles and companies constantly. Perhaps the reason a contact hasn’t closed is that she or he is no longer with the company, or another person is now in that role. By discovering this and fixing the CRM file, your sales team will spend less time chasing the wrong contacts, and more time with the right decision makers. Also worth noting: if your prospect did close a sale with you, or was about to, but then moved on to a new company, they may well be interested in implementing your product or service in their new organization. That’s why it’s important to stay in touch with your valuable contacts as they move through their careers.
  1. Re-energize your team: Internal sales team meetings with your entire staff can be considered time-intensive and costly, but these engagements present the ideal opportunity to re-energize and re-focus, using the insight gained from the Sales Meeting Effectiveness research. With a fresh, accurate assessment of the sales pipeline, sales leadership is prepared to review current issues and trends, revisit and reinforce the sales message, and get their team on the same page—and on the right path for success in the coming period.
  1. Optimize ROI: By identifying and focusing on the best opportunities, sales team efforts will be maximized, time to close will be shortened, and less energy will be spent chasing lost or “long-shot” prospects.

A good sales meeting effectiveness program involves the use of trained professionals who circle back with decision makers with whom your sales team has previously met. Simply put, their goal is to gather the insight needed to determine whether your prospects will be moving forward in the sales pipeline.

At the same time these experts can uncover gaps in your approach to pricing, sales personnel, messaging or sales proposals and presentations. You can then make the adjustments you need to win more customers and close more deals—fast.


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Don’t let an inaccurate sales pipeline, or lack of deep insight into your sales program’s progress, stall your sales cycles. Get your spring-cleaning started now, and ask us about our new “Sales Meeting Effectiveness” program. Read more about the program here, or contact me, Bonnie Rodden, at  512.768.8571 or brodden@c-levelconnections.com.

 

 

When Registration Needs a Push: 8 Reasons Pre-Event Attendance Services Make Sense

business event“If you build it, they will come.”

This memorable line in the movie Field of Dreams was the message that inspired an Iowa farmer to construct a mystical baseball diamond in his cornfield. With the magical ability to attract visitors from the spirit world, the “field of dreams” eventually brought in a crush of traffic from the real world.

If only today’s business events generated such a crowd these days.

In fact, generating awareness, interest and action for important business events remains a steep challenge today. Customers and prospects are constantly bombarded with email invitations, electronic advertisements and other online offers vying for their time and attention.

So how do you rise above the digital noise and achieve the attendance numbers you desire for your webinars, conferences and meetings? There’s a movement underway to turn to the power of voice – the telephone – to put a personal touch back into event invitations. The advantages to this approach are numerous:

  1. An alternative to electronic overload: Telephoning event prospects is novel in that it makes use of non-digital communications in this day of electronic overload. A phone call gives the target a reason to consider an event invitation delivered by an actual person – what a concept! Tie a phone call in with other channels of communication for your pre-event outreach, and you’ll find that multiple touch points and mediums help build stronger results overall.
  1. Reach those who missed the message: Calling the target has the added benefit of reaching those who may not have seen or received the event invitation in the first place. In fact, many emails these days can get blocked by company spam filters, moved (either on-purpose or accidentally) to spam mailboxes, or just missed in the daily onslaught of messages. Ads can just as easily be blocked, missed or ignored – especially by emerging Generation Y, which has grown up generally disregarding mass-market advertising.
  1. Answer easy questions: Personal discussions enable those who may be considering the event to ask questions and receive a bit more information that may have been missing or omitted from the original communications. Often, such engagements prompt the target to take immediate action to register for the event.
  1. Discover common objections: By talking to targets, organizations might identify a common – and easily rectified – reason why they are not registering. Maybe the date is a lesser-known holiday or too close to (or competing with) another industry event, or the registration is deemed too expensive. (And if the latter is the case, try this marketing solution: create a discount, early-bird price or two-for-one offering.)
  1. Better quality attendees: Reaching out to targets via phone also lends an air of depth and quality to an event, as companies who add this aspect to their recruiting efforts appear to the target more invested in the event and committed to reaching the right, screened person matched for it. As a result, pre-event attendance campaigns tend to generate higher quality, more qualified and interested event attendees.
  1. Higher attendance rates: Those who register for an event have more mental commitment to actually showing up if they’ve made a verbal commitment to do so, as opposed to those who simply register online, and then blow off the event at the last minute as they think no one will care or notice.
  1. Uncover role changes: People change jobs and companies constantly. It’s possible the target that’s being emailed is in a different role, or left the company long ago, and another person is now in the position. Event calling services can uncover this circumstance when, at times, an unanswered email won’t. In addition, the conversation may identify previously unknown people within the company who also might be interested in the event.
  1. High ROI: What if a company invests significant dollars in a trade show or user group event, and nobody – or very few attendees – show up? It’s not uncommon in this day of budget crunches, travel restrictions and prospects just being too busy to miss email registration offers. But then sales and marketing teams are left holding the bag (or worse) in front of their superiors. That’s why many businesses often investigate attendance-calling services in the late stages of their pre-event campaigns — when their event registration is suffering. But efforts to rectify the situation at that point can be too little, too late.

Investing in these services up front is when the most ROI is achieved, and it can be more than justified when compared to the time, effort and high dollar amounts spent on events these days. As a result, experienced meeting planners are making pre-event attendance services a part of their overall event budgets right from the start. Doing so may not only save the event, but turn a good turnout into a great one.

Indeed, the reasons to augment electronic campaigns with pre-event attendance services anchored by phone calls are many, but the bottom line is the bottom line: it works to increase quality attendance.

And that’s a home run in any ballpark.


page2-img4-hoverAt C-Level Connections, we’re experts at pre-event sales programs, and our experienced team understands the art of successful phone call campaigns that achieve better event attendance results. To learn more and receive a complimentary sales consultation, contact me, Bonnie Rodden, at 512.768.8571 or brodden@c-levelconnections.com.

 

7 Things to Consider When Choosing an Appointment Setting Partner

sales teamAt some point, when considering an emerging task or initiative, almost every company leader will ask, “should we outsource this?” Many fast-growth companies find that outsourcing allows them to better focus on core competencies and strengthen their competitive advantages. It’s therefore no surprise that global outsourced services is an $88 billion dollar market and has grown over the last dozen years or so.

The sales function is a natural one to benefit from this outsourcing trend. Companies of all sizes, and across a broad cross-section of industries, are finding success by augmenting their business development efforts with the help of an appointment setting firm. These outside prospecting experts serve as extensions of internal sales teams, allowing organizations to free up their inside staffs to focus on driving business with key accounts, delivering a better customer experience, and more.

But finding the right outsourced sales partner shouldn’t be left to chance, and awarding your business to a low-cost vendor will only leave you disappointed (or worse). Here are the top seven things companies should look for when considering an appointment setting firm:

  1. Employees – not contractors. We’ve all received calls, in business and in our personal lives, from mega-call centers, perhaps located overseas. Such calls are so pervasive, they’re instantly recognizable. They almost always go wrong—right from the start—and most often yield little or no interest. This type of an encounter is the calling card of the contract sales employee. On the other hand, an appointment setting firm that has gone through the effort of screening and hiring qualified representatives will deliver much higher quality engagements and ongoing results for your business.
  1. Investments in training. The firm’s representatives should be sales career-focused; possess four-year degrees; be able to think on their feet; and have outstanding organizational, interpersonal and written communication skills. Most importantly, they should be trained on successful sales engagement processes spanning the sales lifecycle, starting with the pre-sales phase. Other must-have skills include the ability to rank and qualify prospects and follow an overall metrics-driven, process-oriented sales methodology. Experience with salesforce.com and other CRM and sales platforms is also key. Training across all of these areas will not only deliver optimal results, but also align with the ongoing reporting needed to keep everyone on track.
  1. Deep experience. Your best bet for success is to work with a firm whose executives and team members boast deep industry and sales experience, and who take the time to understand and speak fluently about your business needs, market and offerings. Unfortunately, these days, many sales outsourcing firms focus on high-volume and low-cost operations, and despite their claims to the contrary, offer very little experience. This not only comes through in their messaging, but can also derail a sale. Besides losing the sale, a negative experience can also damage your brand and reputation permanently.
  1. Augments your sales message. Your sales messages are critical to your success. That’s why it’s important to ensure that the sales partners you select use a systematic approach to reinforcing those messages, with both tailored emails and voicemails that hit the mark. Equally important, when speaking on the phone with prospects, they should be able to discuss your offerings intelligently, leveraging their seasoned experience in combination with an understanding of your target market and the value proposition of your solutions. Don’t hesitate to test their calling skills and ability to deliver your message before they get started. One final note: the sales message should also be tailored according to where the prospect is positioned within the sales pipeline, and your outsourced firm should have a pulse on delivering the right message at the right time to these prospects as they move forward in the sales cycle.
  1. Experts at targeting. Every sales leader has an ideal customer in mind. An experienced appointment setting firm will not only know where to find these prospects, using proven resources that continue to produce results, but also how to best communicate with them. Before embarking on a project, make sure the partner you choose will take the time to zero in on the right targets and avoid the temptation to blindly pitch anyone with a phone number or email address. Don’t hesitate to ask your outsourced sales firm about the methods they use to find and communicate with prospects, and make sure these methods protect your brand.
  1. References. In business, references are essential. It’s critical to ensure that the firm you select to handle your all-important sales initiatives has a proven track record, along with high-quality references who will vouch for their success.
  1. An honest partnership. To achieve your sales goals with an outside firm, you should be looking to form a long-term business partnership. Such a partner will serve as your trusted advisor, and their value to your business will only grow with time. From letting you know what is working well, to providing guidance on improving your approach and message, their ongoing feedback can be invaluable. Quick, one-off project relationships with less expensive—and less experienced—sales outfits, with their revolving door, contract employees, will only leave you disappointed.

Finding and reaching qualified decision makers is key for any company to create new business opportunities. But it takes a systematic sales process undertaken by dedicated, experienced professionals to deliver the best results. Selecting the right sales partner will accelerate the sales cycle, increase revenue and set your business up for success in the long term. So choose wisely, and you’ll be able to optimize your chances for success right from the start.

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page2-img4-hoverIs your business looking to enter new markets in 2016? Or are you simply in need of an added sales boost to meet quota this quarter or this year? C-Level Connections can deliver the results you need, allowing you to take advantage of the proven skills of our seasoned appointment setters. To learn more and receive a complimentary sales consultation, contact me, Bonnie Rodden, at 512.768.8571 or brodden@c-levelconnections.com.

 

 

Image copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_dolgachov’>dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

3 Key Insights Management Can Learn from an Inside Sales Team

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Posted by Bonnie Rodden

In my 20+ years of managing Inside Sales teams, I am still amazed at the amount of critical information that inside sales teams can provide to management. After all, the inside sales people are on the front line, communicating with prospects, customers and field sales representatives on a daily basis. The managers, who understand the value of this up-to-date information that inside sales teams can provide, are often rewarded with professional success and significant incentive payouts. I’ve seen managers use this critical information to successfully change their sales and marketing strategies including their product strategy, target market, and messaging. Following is an example of how an Inside Sales Team helped a medical software company refocus their sales and marketing strategy to be more successful.

A medical software company in business for 10 years had recently begun to experience high turnover rates in their salesforce. The departing sales people pointed out the lack of promised sales leads that never materialized. The company’s VP of Sales decided that outsourcing their lead generation and appointment setting efforts would remedy the situation.

The outsourced Inside Sales Team was instructed to focus on introducing modules 1 and 2 of the company’s software into hospitals, and not to bother with modules 3 or 4 unless asked. This same strategy had been used for years. After a month of thousands of calls and emails to the VP of Operations target prospects, it became apparent that this target was not remotely interested in modules 1 and 2 and deflected the sales calls, claiming that they were not the appropriate people to talk to about this software. The Inside Sales Team became frustrated by their lack of success and the VP of Sales began to doubt the Inside Sales Team’s capabilities and his decision to hire them.

Insight #1: Product Strategy

The manager of the outsourced Inside Sales Team was determined to discover a way to make the team successful and began asking relevant questions to decision makers at the hospitals. She discovered that most hospitals had already implemented software that provided the functionality of modules 1 and 2 during the past few years, as the functionality had been mandated by recent government regulations. However, these hospitals had not yet found a solution for a different problem that modules 3 and 4 solved.

Insight # 2: Target Market Focus

The Inside Sales Team manager also discovered that the appropriate decision makers for modules 3 and 4 were not in operations, but in finance. These decision makers were not only interested in learning more about this software, but had been actively looking for a solution that these modules provided.

The Inside Sales Team changed their product focus and went to work introducing modules 3 and 4 to finance executives in hospitals. The VP Sales and VP Marketing were thrilled with the number of qualified meetings that were now being scheduled for their sales team. The Inside Sales Team was proud of their meetings scheduled and were anxious to listen in on the phone meetings and product demonstrations.

Insight # 3: Messaging

Very quickly though, it became apparent that there was another disconnect. During every meeting, the company’s sales people who were accustomed to pitching modules 1 and 2, and continued to do so on “auto-pilot”, often not hearing the needs of the finance executives and their interest in modules 3 and 4. As highly trained sales professionals, the Inside Sales Team was able to objectively observe and provide feedback and insights to help retrain the sales people and change the focus of their message to introduce modules 3 and 4 to the appropriate decision makers.

This valuable feedback from the outsourced Inside Sales Team enabled the sales representatives to conduct phone meetings and product demonstrations which quickly led to follow-on meetings and exponentially increased sales revenue.