I once worked with the CEO of a $6M SaaS company to turn-around their sales organization. The company had a payments platform and their target was Property Managers who managed commercial and multi-tenant buildings. However, Property Managers are very busy individuals. They are tasked daily with providing support to tenants, maintaining their properties, ensuring that vendors are paid on time, and keeping the books in order. The overarching objectives are to keep tenants happy and make a profit. The challenge for my client was that once a demo was done, they were out-of-sight and out-of-mind to their prospects. This issue negatively impacted the closing ratios for my client where, on average, the sales cycle was over 24-months.
My client had a large number of deals in the Sales Funnel (almost 12X the revenue objective) but the sales team never hit their assigned revenue targets. My job was to change that and within the first quarter of implementing the ideas below, we significantly improved closing ratios and brought the company within 10% of the quarterly target.
The 3 Segments of the Sales Funnel
The way I look at it, the Sales Funnel has 3 distinct segments. These segments include:
- Discover: This is the top of the Sales Funnel. Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) that meet the established qualification criteria and have been confirmed as “valid” by sales are added to the top of the sales funnel. In this segment, the job of the sales team is to develop prospect pain and educate them on the solution. The conversion rate of deals in the “Discover” segment is lower than the other segments, which demonstrates why the top of the funnel is the largest segment.
- Pipeline: This is the middle section of the Sales Funnel. The pipeline segment is where the prospect is given a deeper overview of the solution and how it will benefit them. Typically, this is where a product demo occurs. If well managed, more deals will move to the next segment.
- Forecast: This is the bottom segment of the Sales Funnel. The forecast segment contains deals that are in the final stages of being closed. There tends to be fewer deals in this section, as many prospects will fall out of the Sales Funnel as they move through the other 2 segments.
Most of the time, marketing is focused on ensuring that there is enough demand for their solution. They spend their time generating leads for the Sales team, attending shows, creating content, etc. In my experience, my clients spent very little time marketing to prospects in the Sales Funnel. It was the job of the Sales team to stay engaged with their prospects. On the other hand, Sales Reps tend to focus on deals that are in the final stages of closing. They have pressure to meet their numbers every month and every quarter and tend to get to the Discover and Pipeline segments only as time allows. Sales Reps are not interested in making multiple phone calls and sending multiple emails to keep this greater number of prospects engaged. Which is where marketing needs to step in! When marketing takes the responsibility for keeping prospects engaged, prospect interest level increases and deals close faster. When marketing builds prospect engagement tools for sales, the prospect stays engaged throughout the entire Sales Funnel. In this case, sales can focus on what they do best: closing deals.
Prospect Engagement Tools
A Prospect Engagement Tool is any information given to a prospect, which requires them to do something in return to demonstrate their continued interest. When a prospect doesn’t utilize your Engagement Tools, it may be an indication that they are not viable. As a Sales Manager, you may want to drill down into these prospects to fully understand their needs and timing. At some point, after a lack of participation, you may determine that the prospect needs to come out of your Sales Funnel. At that point, put them into a nurture program and re-qualify them at some later date. The more engaged a prospect is, the more likely they will make a purchase. These tools will help you to discern interest levels, while keeping your Sales Funnel healthy with worthwhile opportunities. The following are some examples of Prospect Engagement Tools that I have used to keep prospects engaged throughout the Sales Funnel and improve closing ratios:
At the end of the Teleprospecting process (when a Teleprospector has identified an interested prospect who meets the pre-determined qualification criteria) when the prospect enters the Sales Funnel, I recommend that the Teleprospector send an introduction email which introduces the prospect to her sales rep. The email should also contain a link to a 5-8 minute corporate overview video, highlighting the desired aspects of your company and solution. Put this video behind a landing page so when the prospect fills out the required information (name, company, email, for example), you’ll know that the prospect has also reviewed the video. Alternatively, you can send the email via a marketing automation tool that will automatically track who clicked on the video download link.
Another example of a prospect engagement tool is a brief online survey. Survey questions help you gather information and provide a further understanding of your prospect’s needs and timing. As a reward for completing the survey, the prospect may receive a small honorarium or have access to special content that you provide on a limited basis.
A great engagement tool in this segment is a ROI calculator because the prospect must take time to think about their business and how your solution will save them time and money. Prospects who receive a ROI calculator will have a tool that is easy to use and will enable them to look at the part of their business that your solution supports. They are engaged because they are tasked with adding-in current rates and numbers, which gives them their current costs which they’ll be able to compare to the rates and numbers that your solution provides. If the numbers are good and in your favor, they will stay engaged.
Another Engagement Tool is a product demo. Most of my clients gave demos, however, they failed to provide prospects with a pre-demo survey. The pre-demo survey turns a passive prospect into an active prospect because they have to think about the demo’s outcome. It is also a place where you can further quantify the prospect’s needs and interest. In the pre-demo survey, ask the following questions:
- Who will be attending the demo?
- What did they learn from the ROI calculator and is there any additional proof they want to see conveyed in the demo?
- What issues and concerns do they have regarding ease of use or implementation?
- What aspects of the solution do they want to see greater detail?
- If the demo meets their requirements, what will the next steps be?
The demo is a proof of concept. Once you have proven the concept and the prospect believes that his needs will be solved, the prospect should be ready to make a purchase commitment.
During both the “Discover and Pipeline” segments, prospects should also receive papers and information that will increase their interest and help inform them to make a decision. This content should be a valuable aid discussing issues and trends that align with your solution. These tools help build trust with your prospects and the more your prospects trust your company, the more likely they will purchase your solution.
In the Forecast segment, I use a tool which I call “A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)”. This is a document that outlines the steps the prospect has taken with your company and the benefits your solution will provide. In this document, the cost of the solution is outlined and the committed dates for your prospect’s sign-off (commitment to purchase) are included. The prospect reviews the document and signs it. When the MOU is returned, there should be no surprises as to when the deal will close.
These are just a few examples of prospect engagement tools that I have successfully used to increase closing ratios. To review, the objectives of prospect engagement tools are to:
- Keep the prospect engaged throughout the transitions through the Sales Funnel
- Provide thought-leadership on industry trends and issues, making your company an industry expert in the eyes of your prospect
- Develop prospect need and review the benefits your solution offers
- Get prospect commitment for when the deal will close
As the Acting Head of Sales for the SaaS Company above, I had 90 days to significantly impact revenue. Utilizing the SOMAmetrics Sales Best Practices (which included Prospect Engagement Tools), the Sales team came within 10% of its Q4 revenue objective. That was the closest it had been to making its numbers in over 4 years, which demonstrates the effectiveness of the tools. The prospect engagement tools helped re-engage many prospects who had lost interest and were stalled and sitting in the sales funnel.
Sales and Marketing, working together, can build a viable set of Prospect Engagement Tools for each segment of your Sales Funnel. They should be tested and improved over time, remaining dynamic based on your business need. Reigniting prospect interest was one of the key elements that helped us close more deals within the 90-day time-frame I was given to turn-around the sales team. I strongly believe that implementing these tools will work for your company too.