I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
The sales pipeline is the lifeblood of any business. It’s a well-known fact: organizations live and die by the numbers, regardless of the product, service or solution. So, the defining question for any company is: Is your sales engine working?
There are consultants, managers, technologies and teams of sales reps already at work in your organization. So, it’s time to take a moment to take a fresh look at how everything’s actually coming together.
How do you do that? Start with four straightforward questions to pinpoint inefficiencies. If you answer, “yes” to any one of these questions, your sales process could be broken and ineffective:
Is my technology dated? If you’re using Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, or Excel spreadsheets to directly communicate with your prospects, you could be losing valuable time, as well as failing to capture the full conversation. Often, Word documents can’t capture all the information that was discussed during a sales meeting or a presentation, nor does a single Word document hold all the various versions of a proposal or contract. On the other hand, they can very easily overwhelm by providing too much of the wrong kind of information.
Am I unsure which documents are the most current version with the up-to-date content? One of the most important parts of the sales process is keeping up-to-date content in front of your prospect. With a distributed sales force and a large amount of marketing and sales content, file management can become a nightmare. The last thing you need is a team member using a 5-year-old corporate overview or the case study from a former client. You need to have confidence that your team has the most current content, that everything you deliver is consistent with your brand, and that you have control over the sales message. If you don’t, not only does it make you look disorganized, but you could have a serious liability issue when the wrong messages are being sold to your clients.
Am I managing important conversations and documentation through email? Email is not a sufficient way to store important conversations about deals and negotiations. While it’s useful to easily communicate during a deal, emails can get jumbled or taken out of context and lead to miscommunication. The worst part about utilizing email to keep track of conversation history is that, more often than not, you are only corresponding with one or two of the people negotiating the deal, rather than all decision-makers involved. How can you be sure all important parties and stakeholders are aware of the conversation? Further, how can you be sure you’ve heard the opinions of everyone?
Do I lack visibility in the lifecycle of our sales documents? Collaborating with an internal team to build your presentations and proposals can lead to version-control chaos, wasting countless hours of your team’s time. Once delivered to your prospect, the back-and-forth nature of proposal and contract negotiation creates opportunity for human error and unnecessary delays in the sales process. Your team needs to be able to collaborate in real-time with each other throughout the sale, and you owe it to your clients to implement a system that makes it easy for you to do business with.
New tools and technologies are available today that allow you to gain more visibility into how prospects are interacting with your documents. Knowing if and when a prospect views your contract and what they spend the most time looking at can impact the direction of every conversation to follow.
When it comes down to it, understanding the current state of your sales enablement strategy is key to managing a well-oiled sales engine. It also makes it easy to see why your proposals may not be converting. What sales teams need today isn’t able to be achieved with archaic processes and 20th century tools.
Consider implementing a sales enablement software solution to help you track presentation, proposal and contract activity, versions and collaborative processes. This will get you on track to being able to answer “no” to the questions above, resulting in a more organized and efficient sales process. Sales and marketing engines that stand the test of time are those that keep up with the influences that technology has on our already fast-paced business environment.
Dustin Sapp is Co-Founder and President of TinderBox, a web-based platform designed to manage and streamline the creation, delivery, and tracking of sales proposals, contracts, and business communications.