KPI:s before the sales process starts

In my last Blog post The Death of the Cold Call I described a trend that has become more obvious the recent year; the customer buying process has been ongoing for quite a while before the sales process starts. The consequense is that you cannot influence that much you could before, because of much more informed customers. The customers put you on their short list, not you. The phases Lead and Qualification are becoming obsolete very quickly having no registered sales activities.

SInce we cannot control it anymore, should Sales then hand-over this part of the process to Marketing? Well, it depends. The discussions in the forums are there and people’s opinions deviates which is the most suitable. Marketing is good at communication of the brand and what it stands for. Promoting the brand in these phases is really important, but could you just exchange Lead or Qualification activities with more marketing?

I’m not sure. I think it’s still Sales responsibility to refine and qualify a Lead, even if there are no obvious sales activities. But if ordinary sales activities are gone, what comes instead?

Let’s suppose the definition of Lead and Qualification are like “sort of need any of the companies in our target segments have and the activities to clear out if it’s something for us”. Typical sales activities to create (or catch) and Qualify such Lead would have been:

  • Prospect calls in
  • You call the prospect (cold call)
  • Prospect leave interest on your website
  • A trade show
  • Timeframe within …
  • Budget allocated
  • Decision maker identified
  • Product fit

Now. If most of these activities aren’t visible anymore, how and what can you do instead to survive the early phases so you will be one of the short list members? And how can you construct a KPI that drives you there? It’s about communication – and what types are relevant for your company. A simple method constructing a new KPI is using the PDCA: Plan, Do, Check, Act.

Plan-Do-Chack-Act based on a solid communication plattfolm.
Plan-Do-Chack-Act based on a solid communication plattfolm.

Then consider what new types of “sales activities” would be replacements for the above ones. Here’s some examples:

  • Investigating and register for X forums or discussion groups in your industry
  • Growing the number of connections in target networks
  • The number of comments or likes in discussions
  • How many started threads within your product range
  • The number of discussion threads (within your business area of course!) started by you
  • The number of blog posts per month
  • Referrals to your comment or Blog post
  • Number of net followers
  • Number of decsion makers taking part in your discussions or comment on your input.

As you may see, it’s not easy. But mostly it’s not easy because we aren’t used to it. Our experience is not covering what is a relevant target figure – what would be enough? And how can we measure hitrate? I think you can’t direcly, but if you measure some of the above and compare the result over time, you can have the trend for sure.

After all, it’s just surviving.

Good luck! Stefan

Checkout the Sales Scenario app for iPad, thanks.



The death of the Cold Call

I’m sooo tired of sales persons calling me. A completely unknown person steals my time. Since it’s working time it’s my most valuable asset! The cold call itself is a one-directional intention of contact. There are no possibilities knowing if there are mutual interests before the rep calls. How can those companies authorize the destroying of their own brand year after year? Are there more clever and modern tools to connect with prospects early in their buying process? The phone was invented over hundred years ago. It seems that using it as the major tool in prospecting has come to an end.

Dating for its own sake? 
Several years ago I met a client that told me they would totally focus on the “dating” part of the sales process. By the “dating part” he meant to segment a suitable number in the CRM database every Monday and book sales meetings for the coming week. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were field days performing those sales meetings. Friday was the reporting day to management. And so the pace went on and on, for weeks, months and years.

At first, it was enough with 6 meetings a week for a rep to perform, but after a while the pressure from management and owners pushed the number up to the levels of 7, 8 or even 9 meetings per rep. Last time a spoke to them every rep has to perform 12 sales meetings every week to be on the gold side. The consequense is that the prospects are flooded by more and more stressed sales people just trying to keep the pace of booked meetings, not stressed helping you.

Getting first touch too late
Recent reports and my blog post Early Customer Buying Process… tell us the customer buying process has been ongoing much longer before the sales process even is started. That’s mean your sales process starts when the prospect already has done the major part of their homework before they get in touch with a sales rep.

Buying-Sales processes

The thing is: You don’t call the prospect; they call you. Or not. In other words; if they have found you, if they believe you’ve got an interesting product, if your brand is strong, if you already have any relationships and so on.

The risk not being contacted at all is huge. Can you afford that risk? And even if you would be one of the chosen ones, the only part left to shape would be negotiation of price and terms.

The new generation way of connecting
I sat down with my son last week. He studies international marketing and he needed my help filling in a form to the authorities. He smiled about the fact the form was in paper, not a web service on the net. It was so old-fashioned he told me all the time. When the form was filled in, he was roaring with laughter. The paper form must be put in an envelope, with a by hand written address (approximately in the right position of the front side of the envelope), he had to buy a stamp and, finally, he had to wait several days until he would get any feedback!

You may laugh, but this was the first time ever he posted an ordinary letter. You may think he’s too young or that my parental education is a joke? Well, think of the fact in just three years from now he would be influencing some decisions related to your business. Even using e-mail for communication is too old-fashioned in his mind. Instant action and reaction is essential for the new generation way of connecting. They are grown up with internet, fed with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in mother’s milk, are online-alltime and never installs a local program on their computer – they don’t own any. Softwares are services and they like to try instead of buy. They know exactly what products you sell, your weaknesses compared to your competitors and even got referrals long before you would ask to send your case studies of your most loyal customers to them.

First thing is to stop destroying your own brand. Discontinue using the phone as a tool if you don’t know the recipient. Second; start take part in industry forums, blogs and social networks. Try not to sell, try to help. Even if the buying process would be invisible you will increase the possiblility they will contact you later on. And last, but not least; be prepared of people like my son soon will be the decision maker of your deals.

Would you make a cold call to him? You’d rather wait…

Please download the Sales Scenario app for iPad, thanks.

Take care / Stefan