There’s no denying it—as buyers have become more and more empowered, sales has become more and more difficult. But, according to new research from HubSpot’s 2016 State of Inbound report, there are a few things salespeople can do to make their jobs easier, while also making the sales experience better for their potential buyers.
Here are four ways to make sales easier in 2017, all backed up by the latest data on the inbound revolution.
1. Overhaul the Prospecting Process
According to new data, the part of the sales process that salespeople are struggling with most is prospecting.
“What part of the sales process do reps struggle with the most?”
What makes prospecting so difficult? Sales reps say it’s the lack of knowledge that their leads have about their products and services. When a lead is clueless about what the salesperson is selling, the task of prospecting gets harder. That’s why it’s time for a prospecting overhaul—and that means no more cold calling.
Marketers can help alleviate the pain of prospecting and make the sales process easier by creating content that educates prospects and helps them learn more information. Research shows that buyers seek out information on their own when they’re looking to learn more about a new business, but when they’re actually ready to buy, they’ll connect with a sales rep. If reps take a proactive approach to prospecting, they can begin to actively qualify their own leads by sharing even more relevant information that helps the lead make a buying decision.
Educating prospects may even help elicit the elusive responses salespeople need in order to do their jobs—40% of reps say that getting a response from prospects is more difficult today than it was 2-3 years ago. That could be because of the disconnect between how sales reps say they approach buyers vs. how buyers say the sales rep actually acted during a bad sales experience.
Unfortunately, buyers don’t feel that salespeople are researching their company before making a prospecting call, trying to add value to their day, or even tailoring their pitch based on the prospect’s needs—but sales reps think they are doing these things. Most sales organizations need to overhaul their prospecting processes to focus on educating their audience and adding value to a prospect before attempting to pitch specific solutions or products.
- Tip to Start Today: Download the Sales Rep’s Step-By-Step Guide to Proactive Prospecting and practice reaching out to prospects to help rather than to sell.
2. Align Sales and Marketing
It can’t be said enough: sales and marketing alignment is critical to producing measurable results. In order to make sales easier in 2017, marketing and sales departments need to finally, once and for all, get on the same page. 82% of companies who say their marketing strategy is effective also say their sales and marketing relationship is tightly aligned. And, of course, the more effective the marketing strategy, the more—and better qualified—leads are fed to the sales team.
One of the most important parts of aligning sales and marketing is defining what a qualified lead looks like. Right now, marketers and sales reps seem to be on totally different pages when it comes to lead quality. Marketers believe that the highest quality leads are coming from inbound practices, while salespeople actually consider inbound to deliver the lowest quality leads.
Yikes; that’s a big disconnect. To make sales easier, it needs to be aligned with marketing.
- Tip to Start Today: Work with Marketing to define a “qualified lead” so Marketing can source the best-fit companies and Sales can capitalize on buyer interest as soon as they see it.
3. Adopt Better Sales Technology
With the myriad of sales technology available to make sales easier today, it’s pretty surprising that salespeople are still storing data the old-fashioned way. Yet 40% of salespeople still store lead and customer data informally, such as in an Excel spreadsheet or in Outlook. And—even more worrying—20% are still using physical files or folders.
“What tool or system does your organization use to store its lead and customer data?”
To make sales easier in 2017, it’s time for reps to adopt better sales technology that will not only help them keep better track of leads and customers, but will actually feed them information about their leads’ behaviors.
Unfortunately, while CRM adoption has made good progress in the last few years, reps are still struggling with using CRMs to help make their day-to-day job easier. Here are the biggest CRM challenges sales reps reported:
The difficulty of use and lack of integration that salespeople are experiencing with their CRMs may be leading some of them to revert back to the old days of spreadsheets and file folders. But there are tools and technology available today that can do everything your sales team needs it to do
- Tip to Start Today: Create an inventory of all of the capabilities your sales team needs out of a CRM. When you start researching options, be sure to include a CRM that automatically populates lead information and integrates with the tools your team uses every day, such as the HubSpot CRM.
4. Invest more in sales training
As you’ve probably noticed, sales has changed—and it will continue to go through radical changes. That’s why salespeople are making their own jobs more difficult if they don’t invest in training to understand today’s best practices and effective strategies.
The majority of organizations invest less than $5,000 in sales training. Yet reps need to be educated on the latest skills that will help them serve the modern buyer, such as social selling, proactive prospecting, and personalized messaging.
Not only will investing in more sales training help make the jobs of your sales reps easier, but it will also help your organization attract and retain top quality sales talent. 58% of salespeople say they consider opportunities for growth to be an important factor when looking for a new job.
- Tip to Start Today: Go through the (100% free!) Inbound Sales Training through HubSpot Academy and learn how to identify, connect, and advise today’s buyers.