How to Enhance SaaS Sales Performance By Leveraging Key Data

I think we can all agree that efficiently using data is an asset. For perspective, McKinsey & Company reports that “data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times as likely to retain customers, and 19 times more likely to be profitable.” But what are some specific ways you can enhance SaaS sales performance by leveraging data?

That’s what I’ll tackle in this post so we can have a clear understanding of how to put SaaS sales data to use in a practical way. More specifically, I’ll cover core areas of SaaS sales that can be dramatically improved by leveraging key data.

Let’s jump in.

Audience Segmentation

Today’s customer is more sophisticated than ever, with most having incredibly high expectations. This is true in traditional e-commerce, and it’s especially true in SaaS.

One of the best ways to meet or exceed customer expectations is with audience segmentation, as it paves the way for personalization. For reference, “80% of audiences tend to do business with a brand that personalizes their experience with it,” and “80% of companies that use market segmentation report increased sales.”

For example, you could use SaaS sales data to break your audience down into different segments, such as demographics, purchase history, engagement level, product interest, and so on. From there, you could tailor your sales approach to address each segment’s unique needs, thus creating a more enjoyable lead experience and increasing your odds of converting.

Lead Scoring

Your SaaS sales team’s time is valuable. If they spend time pursuing the wrong leads with a low likelihood of converting, they waste time and money, often with nothing to show for it.

On the other hand, if they pursue the right leads — sales qualified leads — with a high interest in buying, your conversion rate can’t help but increase. And you can send leads that aren’t yet sales-ready to your marketing team to be nurtured.

But how do you quantify leads and know who’s sales qualified and who’s only marketing qualified? This can be done with lead scoring.

By assigning leads points based on behaviors like website pages visited, website interactions, and contact methods, you can assign each lead a score.

For instance, a lead that simply read a couple of your blog posts and visited your pricing page would receive a lower score than someone who visited your pricing page, signed up for your newsletter, downloaded a PDF, and contacted you through a web form.

Using lead scoring data like this can be invaluable for identifying which leads to prioritize, which to nurture, and in some cases, which leads will never close.

Customer Journey Analysis

Every customer journey consists of a series of touchpoints. From the very first time someone learns about your SaaS product to the moment they actually buy, there’s a customer journey that takes place in between.

The better you understand the customer journey, the smoother you can make it. In turn, this creates a better customer experience, which sets the tone for more SaaS sales. And in the grand scheme of things, this can factor into deeper customer loyalty because it creates a great first impression, which will make many customers want to stick around longer, renew their subscriptions, become brand ambassadors, and more.

Another key way to enhance SaaS sales performance with data is through customer journey analytics, which “is the process of identifying customer touchpoints and understanding how they affect customer experiences and business outcomes.”

Here’s an example of what that looks like using a customer journey analytics platform like Woopra.

Using data like this gives you a bird’s-eye view of each customer touchpoint end-to-end so you can understand the customer journey on a granular level. This brings us to our next point.

Identifying Friction Points That Lead to Drop-off

By having customer journey analysis data, you can see exactly where leads are dropping off in the sales process.

Say, for example, there’s a higher-than-average drop-off from the sales demo to the free trial signup. There’s a smooth transition from one touchpoint to another throughout the rest of the customer journey, but your data shows that not as many leads are signing up for your free trial as there should be.

This would signify that your sales demo could use improvement. As a result, you could zero in on your sales demo further to figure out what’s wrong and come up with a solution. Then, once you optimize your sales demo, this hiccup in the customer journey should be resolved, and an increase in conversions should occur.

Identifying Strengths in the Customer Journey

Besides spotting friction points, you can also use customer journey analysis data to determine what you’re doing right.

Say that a higher-than-average number of leads are moving from your pricing page to requesting a demo. This would indicate that the core elements of your pricing page like design, informational structure, layout, CTA, and so on are working well and leads are responding favorably.

In this case, you’d likely want to leave your pricing page alone, as it’s already getting results. Also, you could analyze your current pricing page so you can pinpoint precisely what’s working for future purposes.

For instance, you could take screenshots and share this information with new members of your sales team.

Using Key Data to Enhance SaaS Sales Performance

There’s no denying the impact that data can have on SaaS sales performance. Companies that use it intelligently have a much greater advantage over those that merely “rely on a hunch.”

By understanding tangible ways to put data to use and which areas to focus on, you should be able to get the most from your SaaS sales team and make everyone’s life easier, while simultaneously creating the best possible customer experience for the ultimate win-win.

To build an elite sales team, register with HireDNA today. This software uses cutting-edge, science-based technology to find the best of the best salespeople.

High-Performing SaaS Sales Teams Are 2.3x More Likely to Use This Technique

A term you’ll hear me use a lot on this blog is trusted advisor. In our modern era, leads no longer respond to high-pressure sales tactics where reps aggressively push products on them. 

It’s just not something most people will put up with. Rather, they respond positively when a rep assumes the role of trusted advisor, with 88% of leads saying they’re “only willing to buy” under this condition. 

And this brings me to the focus of this post. High-performing SaaS sales teams use one particular technique above all others to be seen as a trust advisor — guided selling.

Two Eye-Popping Stats

In her post 26 Sales Statistics That Prove Selling is Changing, Tiffany Bova of Salesforce drops two stats that I found incredibly interesting. 

First, “high-performing sales teams are 2.3x more likely than underperforming teams to use guided selling.” And second, “over the next three years, sales teams at all performance levels anticipate that guided selling and coaching capabilities will grow by 98%.”

Mic drop. 

The numbers speak for themselves here, and this data clearly shows the correlation between guided selling and sales teams performing at an elite level. Those that use this potent strategy outperform their non-guided selling counterparts by a wide margin. And all sales teams, regardless of performance level, expect guided selling to grow by a staggering 98% over the next three years. 

Keep in mind Bova wrote this post in January 2019, so the end of the three year span she mentioned will be in early 2022.

The bottom line is:

  • Using guide selling has been proven to get massive results
  • Most top sales teams currently use it, while most under-performers do not
  • The implementation of guided selling is growing like crazy

What Exactly is Guided Selling?

While you probably have a general idea of what guided selling is, it’s a technique that can be a little murky to some. Just so we’re totally clear, allow me to explain exactly what it is within a SaaS context.  

Simply put, guided selling is a process that helps SaaS leads find the optimal software product based on their specific needs. 

“In today’s completely saturated markets full of similar and competing products, combined with the mass amount of information freely available, buyers are easily and quickly overwhelmed with data,” explains revenue acceleration platform ringDNA. “This huge amount of information, which can be both honest and dishonest, may lead a buyer down a path towards a product that is not the best for them.”

And that’s where guided selling comes in. 

It “connects the buyer with a genuine consultant that delivers to them the products and services that are the best possible fit for their needs.”

Rather than sales reps offering SaaS products based on what they merely speculate the lead needs and using obnoxiously aggressive tactics, they take a consultative approach and work alongside the buyer to guide them to the right product that’s the best fit for their company. In other words, it’s about closely examining the buyer’s situation to help match them with the right SaaS product instead of just going for the “fast sale.”

The Essentials of Guided Selling

The practice of guided selling has evolved a lot over the years. This graphic from digital transformation brand Brillio provides a brief overview of how it’s gone from the pre-sales tool era where reps based their selling on the personal understanding of customers, to using basic sales tools, to using sales intelligence, to where it is today in the age of customer experience. 

Now there are incredibly sophisticated AI and ML-based tools that allow SaaS sales reps to provide a next-level personalized experience and match leads with the absolute best products for their business. 

But here’s the thing. Tools like these are nice and can have a big impact on your sales team’s performance, but I don’t personally believe they’re necessary for guided selling.

At the end of the day, being successful largely boils down to following three key tactics. 

  1.  Ensure Your Reps Know Their Stuff

Perhaps the most important part of guided selling is making sure your salespeople know your products inside and out. If there’s any confusion as to which SaaS product is best for which demographic in which circumstance, your reps are going to struggle. 

That’s why they need to be subject matter experts and understand how everything comes together in your sales ecosystem. Nailing that is half the battle.  

  1. Be Radically Transparent with Leads

As I said earlier, the whole purpose of guided selling is to create a process that enables a buyer to find the product that best suits their needs. And a big part of that is being transparent. 

Sales meeting scheduling app Chili Piper, for example, gives their leads a side-by-side comparison of their different products, along with specific features and integrations. 

That way leads can see firsthand if a lower priced product will be sufficient for their needs. Other brands even go so far as to offer a competitor’s product to provide a more thorough understanding — something that when executed correctly can be a major trust builder. 

  1. Give Leads What They Truly Need, Not What Necessarily Generates the Most Revenue

This may go against the fundamentals of best business practices, but hear me out. Guided selling is all about the long game where you build trust, which not only increases the odds of making an initial sale, but often leads to repeat sales, less churn, and deeper loyalty. 

So when you think of it like this, you see the value of pointing leads to the best product for them rather than what’s going to lead to the largest immediate sale. 

Aligning Your Sales Strategy With What Top Performing Teams Are Doing

Sales has evolved dramatically in the 21st century, with guided selling being one of the most undeniable trends. With high-performing SaaS sales teams being 2.3x more likely to use it than underperformers, it’s obviously worth your attention. Understanding the essentials of guided selling and adhering to a few core concepts should help you make the transition to this model more easily and position your sales team for success. 

Looking to build a stronger sales team from the ground up? See how HireDNA can help you attract and recruit A+ candidates and eliminate 96% of hiring mistakes. 

Top Skills Sales Managers Assess Based on In-Depth Data

In my last post, I discussed that having the ability to close was the number one skill top sales managers assessed in salespeople. This was the most important metric for 70% of sales managers. And it’s easy to see why given how critical closing deals is to profitability and the overall success of a company. 

I got my data from a survey conducted by digital learning and enablement platform Allego. Their data is incredibly robust, and while the ability to close was one of their main points of emphasis, there’s still a lot left to unpack. 

So for this post, I’d like to dive even deeper and go over all of the top skills sales managers assess, which is eight in total. Let’s jump right in. 

The 8 Top Sales Skills

In Allego’s survey, they determined which specific sales skills were most essential to sales managers, both when considering potential candidates for new hires, as well as assessing current team members. “We looked at the eight key aspects of sales competency including sales planning, prospecting, qualifying pipeline, pitching to prospects, negotiating contracts, closing deals, managing customers, and retaining customers,” they explain

As I mentioned in the intro, having the ability to close was the number one skill assessed by 70% of respondents. 

But just after that was the ability to prospect new opportunities at 69%. 

This indicates that the beginning and end of the sales process are the most critical areas of sales competency to measure. The best salespeople are able to effectively prospect new leads, move them efficiently through the sales cycle, and ultimately close. 

After that is the ability to retain existing clients at 59%. 

Churn is an inevitable part of running any type of business, especially a SaaS company. But it’s obviously something that needs to be kept in check, and sales managers will invariably want to seek out salespeople that help them retain the maximum number of customers. 

If you’re wondering, a retention rate of 35% over an eight-week period is considered elite for SaaS and e-commerce companies, so that’s a good number to shoot for. Here’s a graph that perfectly illustrates minimal churn (SaaS is the blue line and e-commerce is the orange line). 

Next is the ability to pitch a solution at 53%.  

Let’s be honest. Pitching isn’t easy, and there’s a serious art to it. Although having detailed product knowledge and providing salespeople with a formula and script to go off is a huge help and something I personally recommend, some reps are naturally better at it than others. 

When it comes to cold, hard selling, I honestly believe there’s only so much you can teach a rep. That’s why I consider having innate selling skills to be more important than extensive industry/product experience. Anyone can learn a product, but few people are A+ rockstars. So, it’s not surprising that having the ability to pitch is such a coveted sales skill. 

After that is the ability to qualify new deals at 52%. 

A qualified prospect is someone “who has a high probability of becoming a customer,” Zorian Rotenberg of HubSpot writes. “An opportunity should have a pain point your product or service can solve and an interest in the offering. Salespeople should ensure the opportunity is a good-fit for what they’re selling.”

Otherwise, your rep is basically wasting their time, which is why this is another key skill sales managers assess. 

This is followed by the ability to negotiate and the ability to plan strategically, which are both at 50%. 

When it comes to negotiation, reps will often be placed in tricky situations where they may need to adjust pricing, features, etc., on the fly to successfully close deals while at the same time remaining within the accepted parameters of your company. Because this has such a strong impact on closing deals, it’s easy to see why it’s such a major metric for sales managers. 

As for the ability to plan strategically, it’s a competency that affects virtually every aspect of a rep’s sales approach. From determining how to effectively qualify leads to building a script for pitching products to communicating with customers post-sale, reps need to have a clear strategy in place at all times. 

Finally, there’s effective time management at 46%. 

You may have heard the stat that nearly 65% of an average rep’s time is spent on non-revenue generating activities, such as administrative tasks and downtime activities like checking social media. While I personally think that number may be a little inflated, it definitely illustrates the importance of effective time management, which is why this skill made the list. 

Let’s Recap

The top eight skills sales managers assess in reps breaks down like this:

  1. Ability to close – 70%
  2. Ability to prospect new opportunities – 69%
  3. Ability to retain existing clients – 59%
  4. Ability to pitch a solution – 53%
  5. Ability to qualify new deals – 52%
  6. Ability to negotiate – 50%
  7. Ability to plan strategically – 50%
  8. Effective time management – 46%

While there are a ton of factors that determine how likely a salesperson is to succeed, these eight skills are the ones top sales managers focus on the most. So, if you’re looking to identify the best of the best metrics for gauging candidates during the hiring process, or if you’re assessing the performance of current team members, these are excellent metrics to examine.

Looking for a surefire way to find elite level sales talent to close more deals and take your business to the next level? Check out HireDNA today. Brands that use HireDNA are able to eliminate 96% of hiring mistakes, and 92% of candidates recommended through it are top performers within their first year. 

Track the Most Important Aspects of Your SaaS Sales Team’s Performance with These Essential KPIs

Data is power in the SaaS sales world. It’s really that simple. 

“High performing sales teams (the top 24% of more than 2,900 sales professionals surveyed) are 1.5x more likely to base forecasts on data-driven insights,” explains Tiffani Bova of Salesforce. On the other hand, low performing sales teams are 1.7x more likely to base their decisions on intuition. 

To extract your SaaS sales team’s full potential and truly fire on all cylinders, you’ll want to be meticulous about tracking their performance. Here are the most essential KPIs to pay attention to. 

Average Lead Response Time

I think one of the most overlooked, yet vitally important metrics, is average lead response time. 

Here’s why.

78% of customers buy from the first SaaS company that reaches out to them. 

It’s not rocket science. The first vendor that initiates contact is the first company a lead seriously considers. They learn about the brand’s products, offerings, UVP, and so on, giving the company a chance to create valuable trust and rapport with the lead before anyone else does. 

Look at how lead conversion rates increase with the less amount of time that elapses before the first outreach attempt. 

Calling within an hour improves conversions by 36%, which is okay. 

But look what happens when you call within 30 minutes. It jumps to 62%. Call within 3 minutes, it climbs to 98%. Call within 2 minutes, and it’s 160%. 

And here’s the kicker. Call within 1 minute, and it’s a face melting 391%! 

This straight up shows the importance of A) knowing your sales team’s average lead response time and B) doing everything you can to increase it. For advice on how to do this, check out this previous post I wrote on how you can easily beat 55% of your competitors by improving your lead response time. 

Lead to Customer Conversion Rate

The SaaS customer journey can be broken down into two main phases. There’s the visitor to lead phase, which your marketing team is primarily responsible for. And there’s the lead to customer phase, which falls into the hands of your sales team. 

It’s the latter that we’re interested in here. One of the absolute most important metrics is what percentage of leads your SaaS sales team converts into customers. 

This is a reflection of:

  • How good they are at qualifying leads
  • The quality level of core sales activities like follow-up emails and phone calls
  • How well they give demos
  • Their ability to build trust and rapport
  • How good they are at moving leads efficiently through the sales funnel

To calculate lead to customer conversion rate, divide your number of conversions by your total number of leads and multiply that number by 100. If, for example, you had 100 leads and 5 ended up buying, your lead to customer conversion rate would be 5%. 

By the way, if you’re wondering, the typical SaaS conversion rate for most companies ranges from 3-5%, while top performing teams reach around 8%. 

Average Sales Cycle Length

Next, there’s how long it takes your SaaS sales team to close a deal. Needless to say, the quicker they’re able to move someone from being a lead to a paying customer, the better. Not only does this positively impact overall revenue, it means your reps can move onto other leads, and in turn, make ever more sales. 

So, you’ll want to monitor how long it takes, on average, for someone to go from being a lead to buying your product — a KPI known as average sales cycle length. 

Note that the average sales cycle length gets longer with the pricier a SaaS product is. According to SaaS Metrics, benchmarks break down like this:

  • Deals ~$2,000 typically close within 14 days
  • Deals ~$5,000 close within 30 days
  • Deals ~$25,000 close within 90 days

Monthly Recurring Revenue

At first glance, monthly recurring revenue (MRR) may not seem all that relevant to a SaaS sales team’s performance. After all, MRR doesn’t kick in until after customers hang around a while. 

But it’s an extremely vital metric for the simple fact that it shows what your sales team’s long-term progress looks like. If there’s a noticeable increase in your MRR, for example, it shows your reps are nailing it and reaching or exceeding their quotas. Otherwise, if your MRR flatlines or declines, it’s tangible proof that adjustments need to be made. 

In terms of factors that contribute to MRR, some of the biggest are your number of new customers and how adept your reps are at upselling and cross-selling. Along with that, it can provide insight on how strong their relationship-building skills are because the churn rate and number of referrals contribute to MRR as well. 

And this metric is super easy to calculate. Just multiply your total number of active customers by the average amount billed. 

Note that most experts consider 10% month-over-month MRR to be strong. But if you can hit 15-20% for six months or longer, then you can pretty much bet that you’ve got a winning sales process on your hands. 

Taking Your SaaS Sales Team’s Performance to the Next Level

Like I said earlier, top tier SaaS sales teams rely on data-driven insights to continually improve and refine their strategies. Low performing sales teams rely on a hunch. 

With a wealth of data available, it’s possible to track virtually every aspect of your team’s performance. The specific KPIs I suggest focusing on are:

  • Average lead response time
  • Lead to customer conversion rate
  • Average sales cycle length
  • Monthly recurring revenue

This should give you a bird’s eye view of what their current performance is like and help you identify precise areas for improvement so everyone can collectively level up. 

Looking to recruit the best of the best SaaS salespeople in your industry? Learn how HireDNA can help you build a stronger sales team using a verified network of sales recruitment experts, along with science-based assessments and intelligent matching. 

Tips to Cut New Sales Rep Ramp Time by 50%

How Long Does it Take the Average Sales Rep to Reach Their Maximum Potential?

Sales rep development can be both costly and time-consuming. Training alone costs an average of nearly $1,900 per salesperson for companies with less than 500 employees. 

And when you factor in the time spent recruiting, onboarding, and ongoing development, it’s clear that getting a new sales rep up to speed can be quite onerous. So, a common question many companies have is, “How long does it take the average sales rep to reach their maximum potential?”

Let’s find out by synthesizing the findings from a few different studies. 

Looking to the Data

One study by independent research firm, CSO Insights, found that it takes a minimum of seven months for salespeople to reach full productivity. Of the businesses surveyed, 61% said it takes at least this long for investments they make in reps to pay off. 

A second study by the Sales Management Association (SMA) found that it takes a bit longer at just over 11 months for a new sales rep to become fully productive. 

And a third study from sales training and consulting firm, RAIN Group, found that it’s even longer and takes more like 15 months. Although it takes around 9 months for a new sales rep to become “competent to perform,” it takes well over a year before they hit their full stride. 

Ask different experts and you’ll get different answers, but after crunching the numbers, we can surmise that it takes around 11 months or so for the average sales rep to reach their maximum potential. 

11 Months? That’s a While!

I was personally a little surprised that it takes this long, and I’m sure many other companies feel the same. But it makes sense when you consider all of the steps a new salesperson has to go through to get in the groove. 

They have to:

  • Not only learn your industry and product but eventually master it
  • Understand the greater context of how your product fits in with the needs of prospects
  • Learn your brand’s core values and philosophy
  • Master the product demo
  • Build initial rapport with your customers
  • Nurture relationships
  • And so on

When you unpack everything, it’s easy to see why it takes nearly a year for the average sales rep to reach their full potential. 

How to Accelerate Sales Rep Development

So, what can you do to hasten the process and get a salesperson firing on all cylinders more quickly? 

Mike Schultz, president of RAIN Group, boils it down to focusing on two main things — strengthening your onboarding and sales enablement. 

“With a strong onboarding and sales enablement process, this timeframe can be shortened considerably,” Schultz writes. “We’ve seen ramp-up time cut by greater than 50% when companies hone in on improving in this area, increasing seller effectiveness, and correlating turnover of sellers for whom getting up to speed was taking too long.”

In terms of specific actions, you’ll want to first identify the skills that are most essential to your sales team’s success and make those focal points during onboarding and continually reinforce them during the subsequent phases of a rep’s development. Schultz also suggests systematically teaching additional skills as a rep becomes more comfortable in their position. This allows you to effectively distill foundational knowledge and gradually build upon it over time. 

Finally, Schultz emphasizes the importance of holding sales reps accountable when using those skills. One of the best ways to do this is to use tangible metrics such as a leaderboard like this that shows performance.

This creates a high level of transparency, while at the same time creating some friendly competition — something many reps thrive on. In fact, research found that 55% of salespeople enjoy a competitive environment. 

“A well-built curriculum not only shortens ramp-up time,” Schultz says, “but also transforms sellers into top performers.”

Besides developing a strong onboarding and sales enablement process, there’s one last thing I’d like to suggest, which I’ve personally had a lot of success with. And that’s hiring sales candidates with amazing selling skills over those who simply possess a wealth of industry knowledge. 

From my experience, I’ve found that most people can be trained on products, but very few people have naturally outstanding sales talent. Unfortunately, many companies hinder the growth of their sales team because they zero in solely on finding candidates with X years of industry knowledge. 

Like I said in a previous post, as long as someone knows how to sell and will sell, their skills are usually transferable, and they’re likely to thrive in less time than it would take if you have to teach someone to sell from scratch. 

So, this is definitely something to keep in mind. 

Building a Framework to Help Sales Reps Succeed

Although the findings vary somewhat from study to study, research suggests that it takes most sales reps somewhere around 11 months to really get going. And that’s longer than what I think most sales leaders would prefer. 

That’s why it’s important to consciously look for ways to expedite that process — something that can usually be done through a strong onboarding and sales enablement process. That alone has the potential to cut salesperson development time in half. 

Also, don’t get so fixated on industry knowledge that you pass up A+ salespeople with transferable experience. These types of reps should be able to climb the ranks faster and have a much higher ceiling than their counterparts who simply possess a ton of industry knowledge but are only mediocre at selling. 

sales rep ramp time

A great way to do that and find the best of the best is by using a hiring tool like HireDNA. It uses science-based assessments based on 21 core selling competencies and intelligent matching that analyzes 20 key data points to help you filter through the candidate pool and find high-level salespeople, while saving you a ton of time.

How to Onboard New Salespeople 100% Virtually

Largely fueled by COVID-19, a growing number of companies are making the shift to a fully remote workforce. According to a recent Willis Towers Watson report, “Employers expect 19% of their workforce to be full-time employees working from home post-COVID-19” — nearly three times what it was in 2019 at just 7%.

Just like with any other type of position, new salespeople who will be working remotely need effective onboarding. Here’s how to tackle this process 100% virtually and set your salespeople up for success

Start By Amassing the Right Combination of Tools

The success and efficiency of your digital onboarding largely hinges upon the tools you use. Therefore, you need to find the right combination and make adjustments along the way. 

One of the best platforms for creating a streamlined onboarding process is Kissflow. It allows you to easily manage every aspect of onboarding and make it systematized for a homogeneous experience for all of your reps. 

Or as they put it, “Keep the onboarding process paperless and free from human intervention with online onboarding and workflows.”

Among its many features, there’s an employee self-service area where new salespeople can submit documents, find information, speak with other team members, and more. 

For basic communication, there’s Slack which allows you to conveniently send messages, share files, and keep new salespeople in the loop. Create different channels and ensure new reps are on the same page with your sales leaders every step of the way. 

And for all of your video conferencing needs, there’s Zoom, which is the most popular option with nearly 43% of the market share as of mid-2020. This is the perfect platform for holding video calls during the onboarding process and building strong rapport (something we’ll discuss in more detail later on). 

For an exhaustive list of other tools you can use to facilitate smoother virtual onboarding, check out this resource from Time Doctor

Send Out a “What to Expect” Email

Since there will never be any in-person interaction, it’s easy for miscommunications to happen. So, soon after a new salesperson has officially been hired, send them an email welcoming them to the team along with a detailed outline of what to expect from that point until they’re actually selling. 

For instance, you’ll want to include the exact date and time onboarding will begin. And you’ll want to provide an outline of what will happen throughout each day of onboarding. Here’s a quick example of how LinkedIn approaches their virtual program.

You may also want to mention the technology you’ll be using, both for onboarding and for day-to-day activities, along with login information so new salespeople can get familiar with it ahead of time. The more transparent you are, the smoother the onboarding should go and the less potential for glitches there will be. 

Create a Robust Online Learning Hub

Another essential part of providing streamlined onboarding is developing a robust online educational resource that’s available 24/7 to answer a new rep’s questions and direct them to helpful content. This is a growing trend where “many of today’s leading cloud-based companies, such as Uber, Shopify, Airbnb, Salesforce, and HubSpot, are strengthening their businesses with effective online learning resource centers,” explains Dan Westmoreland of eLearning Industry

Some common types of content that are featured in these hubs include:

  • Sales courses
  • Educational videos 
  • Webinars
  • Media files
  • Blog posts
  • eBooks
  • Answers to FAQs

Some companies even have discussion boards and forums where salespeople can share their experiences with one another and sales leaders can offer insights.

So, how do you get an online resource hub like this set up? Use a learning management system like TalentLMS or LearnUpon to create a fully customized library. 

Break Down Training Sessions Over the Course of a Week

Most experts agree that trying to jam a ton of in-depth training into a single day is ineffective, especially when it’s online. If possible, it’s much better to break down your virtual training into multiple sessions throughout the week. 

“Spreading the process over a longer period of time enables hiring managers to address issues and make improvements if something is not working,” says Vicki Chabot of The Enterprisers Project. “It also reduces the stress that a new hire might feel working from home, especially if they are juggling responsibilities with children, partners, and pets while also attempting to absorb new information.”

You might, for example, spend the first day going over the basics like a salesperson’s role, job description, and your company culture. From there, you could move on to more advanced topics like the products you sell, the specific sales techniques your company uses, and so on. 

Have Sales Leaders Speak Regularly with New Salespeople Through Video

Earlier, we touched briefly on using Zoom as a platform for video conferencing. While email and messaging apps like Slack are generally fine for basic communication, experts recommend making it a point to have sales leaders maintain contact with new reps via video throughout the duration of the onboarding process.

That’s because “using video can improve engagement during calls and helps managers/trainers pick up on non-verbal cues (i.e. facial expressions and body language) which is important throughout training and gauging comprehension,” writes Angela Hughes of Acceleration Partners

Onboarding in a Remote Sales World

With nearly a fifth of all salespeople being fully remote in 2021 — and no doubt more in the future — many sales leaders need to make some radical changes to the way they onboard. And often that means making the onboarding process 100% virtual. 

Doing so effectively requires sales leaders to use the right combination of technology, set clear expectations right from the start, provide new salespeople with comprehensive online resources, spread out training sessions, and use video to stay in close contact with reps.

See how HireDNA can help you build a stronger sales team by using cutting-edge technology to find ultra talented reps. Book a demo today

An Employer’s Step-By-Step Guide to Developing a Sales Performance Improvement Plan

When a sales rep is noticeably underperforming, you have two choices. 

1) Let them go and find a replacement, or 2) create a sales performance improvement plan (PIP) to help them get back on track. 

Considering the average cost of hiring a new sales rep is about $15,000, plus $20,000 in training, choosing the latter option is often the best choice, especially when a person shows promise.

Here’s an actionable, step-by-step guide to developing a rock solid sales PIP to maximize a rep’s potential, help them boost their confidence, and coach them into a sales powerhouse. 

Step 1 – Examine Their Sales Funnel

In some cases, the main reason for underperformance is simply a leak in their sales funnel. If there’s a particular stage where a large number of leads are dropping out, you’ll want to identify it. 

Maybe, for example, you find that after providing a demo, the rep’s leads aren’t converting like they should. When done correctly, “a demo video can increase conversions by 85%.” But if it’s not hitting the mark and is low quality, doesn’t fully explain the benefits of your product, or is too long, it can result in leads backing out prematurely. 

Research has found that nearly 40% of leads lose interest once a video hits two minutes in length. 

So, the first step is to get a bird’s eye view of your sales funnel and see if there are any changes you can make to put your rep in a better position to succeed. 

Step 2 – Look at Lost Opportunities

Next, you can gain insight by analyzing key opportunities a rep has lost in the past. Examine at least five situations, and patterns should emerge. 

For instance, maybe there’s a trend where using a particular sales technique, like being too pushy and trying to force the sale, is turning leads off. 

Step 3 – Get to the Root of the Problem

The data gathered on lost opportunities combined with leaks in the sales funnel should provide you with a clear vantage point on the exact cause behind a sales rep’s low performance. 

Beyond that, you’ll want to see if there are any other factors behind it, such as:

  • The rep is experiencing personal issues that are negatively impacting their performance
  • They didn’t receive adequate training and coaching
  • They don’t have the right incentive to operate at their best 
  • Their confidence was shaken after losing a major deal 

To streamline the evaluation of your sales team, you can use a tool like HireDNA to identify weaknesses and generate concrete data for crystal clear insights. 

Then, put all of this information together to get to the root of the problem, as this will shape the specific path you take with the rest of your sales PIP. 

Step 4 – Set Quantifiable Goals

At this point, you’ll want to clearly state where your rep is currently at in terms of their sales performance and where they need to be. To do this effectively, you’ll need to set quantifiable goals so a rep knows what your expectations are. 

Here’s a simple example. Say that the rep has a volume-based sales quota, which is measured by the number of products they sell or the total revenue they generate for a particular period. They’re currently only selling an average of 30 products each month, but they need to sell 40. 

This would mean they’re only hitting 75% of their quota, so they need to increase their sales by 25%. Having a clear number like this shows a rep exactly how much they need to improve, which eliminates any ambiguities or confusion. To make this process more manageable, it’s wise to break large goals into smaller sub-goals.

Here are some examples:

  • Connect with at least 35 leads per week — 7 per day 
  • Show at least 10 demos per week — 2 per day
  • Spend at least 3 hours each day speaking with leads over the phone or on video conferencing software 

Step 5 – Provide Reps With the Right Tools and Resources

Once you’ve outlined the level a rep needs to get to, it’s up to you to help them get there. For instance, you could provide them with continuous sales training by assigning them a mentor and giving them access to an online education portal. This alone, can result in up to 50% higher net sales per employee. 

Or, you could give them a cutting-edge sales tool, such as a mobile CRM, that helps reps manage leads more efficiently, so they can spend less time on redundant tasks like data entry and more time selling. Research has found that for companies that use a mobile CRM, 65% of reps hit their sales quotas, whereas only 22% of reps reach their target without one. 

Step 6 – Motivate

Another integral part of the process is figuring out how to effectively motivate each rep. At the end of the day, much of their output hinges upon motivation, so you need to know what they’ll truly respond to.

According to The Harvard Business Review, here are some specific motivation strategies that work best:

  • Don’t place a cap on commissions – A study found that this keeps most salespeople motivated and increases revenue by around 9%. 
  • Offer quarterly bonuses rather than annual ones – “They help laggards contribute to the bottom line without detracting from the performance of other groups.”
  • Make employee recognition part of your company cultureNearly 70% of reps say they would work harder if they felt more appreciated. 

Step 7 – Measure

And finally, track their progress at logical intervals. For example, look at KPIs two weeks after implementing the sales PIP, after one month, after two months, and so on. 

This will let you know precisely how much progress a rep has made and if additional improvements are necessary. 

Developing a Winning Sales PIP

Firing a rep for underperforming is seldom a recipe for success, and is both costly and time-consuming. Instead, it often makes more sense to enhance a rep’s performance by creating a sales PIP. 

In many cases, this not only gets them up to par with the rest of your team, it allows you to extract their full potential, which improves your company’s bottom line. 

HireDNA is a platform that’s designed to optimize recruiting and build a stronger sales team. Learn how HireDNA’s assessment tools can help you perform individual performance evaluations, while taking a science-based approach.

Easily Beat 55% of Your Competitors By Accelerating Your Lead Response Time

What if there was a surefire way to beat more than half of your competitors?

Better yet, what if it didn’t involve making any major changes to your product or brand, or a massive overhaul to your website?

There is, and it’s dead simple. Accelerate your lead response time. 

A Competitive Snapshot

According to Vendasta, 55% of companies take 5+ days to respond to a lead. Of those 55%, 12% never respond at all. 

Talk about letting opportunities slip through your fingers. This lax approach means the majority of companies end up shooting themselves in the foot. 

But that’s good news if you’re a brand that focuses on increasing your speed to lead time. 

Theoretically, responding to a lead in 4 days or less means you’ll reach out to leads quicker than over half of your competitors. That alone leaves you much better positioned to close more deals. 

Being the First to Respond

Beating out 55% of your competitors is a good start and should have a noticeable impact on conversions. But what about the remaining 45%?

To truly be at the top of your industry, you need your response time to be lightning fast — ideally being the first company to respond. After all, a study by Lead Connect found, “78% of customers buy from the company that responds to their inquiry first.”

It’s simple mathematics. 

Even the slightest bit of sluggishness can have disastrous consequences, and this is a big reason why brands that are slow to respond have such a hard time gaining traction. If, however, you fine-tune your lead response process so that a sales rep makes contact before any other brands do, you’re instantly in a position to thrive

The Golden Window

But let’s take it one step further and look at some specific data to better understand the correlation between response time and lead qualification. 

A study from Lead Simple found that responding within 5 minutes is the ideal timeframe and can have a dramatic impact on the number of leads you’re able to qualify. This is known as “the golden window.”

Wait 10 minutes, and that number drops significantly by 80%. Wait 15 minutes or longer, and that number continues to decline. This graph really helps put things into perspective. 

Making the effort to respond within 5 minutes gives you an immense advantage over the competition. And if you can respond within a minute, sales conversions spike by a staggering 391%!

Although this is easier said than done, these statistics illustrate the impact of accelerating your lead response time. Even if you can reach out within 5 hours, this is still 40% more effective than waiting 24 hours. 

Developing a Realistic Formula 

At this point, we’ve established the importance of a fast lead response time and that keeping it under 5 minutes is optimal. In a perfect world, your sales team could do this with no sweat, and you’d have someone available around the clock to reach out whenever a lead expresses even the least bit of interest. 

But that isn’t always realistic, especially for smaller companies with limited manpower. Fortunately, there are tools available that allow you to contact a lead automatically to schedule a meeting. 

One of the best examples is inbound lead conversion and scheduling app, Chili Piper. Whenever a lead initiates a trigger action, like requesting a demo, they can select a meeting time that’s convenient for them. 

Chili Piper then routes the lead to the appropriate sales rep based on customizable rules, instantly adding the meeting to their calendar. From there, the rep can reach out later to provide a product demonstration, answer questions, and fully engage the lead. 

You can even schedule auto-reminders so a lead remembers the upcoming meeting and has time to prepare, which greatly reduces the odds of a no-show. 

Or, if the lead is ready to talk right away and a sales rep is available, you can use Chili Piper to route a live call to the correct rep. It integrates with major video conferencing platforms like Zoom and GoToMeeting, so reps can have video chats as well. 

Another option is free online scheduling software, Calendly

It automates scheduling through your pipeline by instantly sending a scheduling link to a lead when they complete an action, such as filling out a web form. Again, the lead can choose a time that works best for them, while getting key info, like how long the meeting will last, what platform you’ll be using, and so on. 

This is done right from within your website, allowing you to automatically route the lead to a qualified sales rep without any friction. That way hot leads aren’t left hanging, and you can quickly get them to where they need to go. 

So, even if you don’t have a rep available to have a call right away, you can still schedule a meeting to strike while iron is hot and ensure qualified leads don’t get off the line. 

A Recap 

If you’re able to respond to a lead in under 5 days, you’re already ahead of the game and will have the edge on 55% of your competitors. But if you get your lead response time down to 5 minutes or less, you’ll be at the head of the pack.

While it may not always be possible to have a rep on standby at all times, using the right tools allows you to schedule meetings with leads at a time that’s convenient for them. This results in a better overall experience for leads and helps keep your response time to an absolute minimum. 

Looking to build a high-performance sales team? Learn how HireDNA can help, source, screen, and qualify candidates using science and data so you can make better hiring decisions, faster.

Better Sales Coaching Creates Measurable Results

Sales coaching is often listed as one of the top three priorities for sales managers – and with good reason. Sales coaching is an effective way to increase sales, retain employees, and create measurable positive changes for any organization. Coaching also offers managers an opportunity to not only get a firsthand look at the issues their reps are facing in the field, but also to share best practices that will assist reps in improving their performance. 

But despite the major benefits coaching can offer, research has shown that the majority of sales managers fail to provide effective coaching to their sales reps. In this post, we’ll highlight the impact of effective sales coaching, and show you how you can improve your own organization’s coaching efforts to maximize your sales team’s success. 

Better Sales Coaching Raises Sales Percentiles by 28% – 49%

While it seems fairly obvious that better coaching creates better results, research suggests that the potential for improvement may be significantly higher than many sales managers expect. 

In an evaluation of almost 2 million salespeople and sales managers, Objective Management Group (OMG) found that sales percentile scores were 28% higher for sales reps whose managers devoted at least 50% of their time to coaching. Reps who received coaching also showed higher scores in key sales competencies: 13% better in Qualifying and 24% better in Closing, compared to reps whose managers rarely provided coaching.

Interestingly, these numbers only factor in the time spent coaching – not the quality of the coaching itself. In a follow-up evaluation, OMG discovered that managers who spent extensive time coaching and have great coaching skills can increase their reps’ sales percentile scores by as much as 49%, compared to managers with weak skills who spent minimal time coaching.

More Than Half of Sales Managers Are Not Good Coaches

Unfortunately, further OMG research has indicated that the majority of sales managers do not possess the coaching skills needed to create this level of positive impact. According to OMG, 63% of all sales managers fall into the weak category and 24% of all sales managers fall into the serviceable category – leaving only 13% of sales managers with “strong” or “elite” coaching skills.

Poor coaching among sales managers may be attributed  to factors such as: 

  • Competing priorities – A sales manager’s role includes a number of varying responsibilities, and while coaching is often named as a key objective, few organizations reflect that prioritization in management KPIs. For many sales managers, personal sales and commissions may also outweigh management compensation, and influence the manager’s motivation to devote their time and energy to coaching.
  • Poor definition – Sales managers may also have a poor definition of what “coaching” involves. Some managers may believe that coaching is simply a matter of telling a sales rep what to do, or helping them with basic tasks such as lead identification or pricing. Others feel that listening to a sales call or observing a client visit in the field constitutes coaching. However, these activities require additional learning and engagement elements in order to be effective.
  • Inability to execute – In other cases, a sales manager may understand the various factors that go into effective coaching, but are unable to effectively implement them. In particular, many sales managers falter when it comes to role-playing activities – often considered one of the most important and effective elements of sales coaching.

What Makes Sales Coaching “Good”?

There are a number of ways to develop and implement successful sales coaching programs, but the most effective programs share the same basic qualities. In general, good coaching programs: 

  • Are individualized to the sales reps’ unique skills and learning preferences
  • Promote trust by creating a non-judgmental environment and allowing open discussion of challenges
  • Encourage self-evaluation that allows the sales rep to build self-awareness and guide the coaching discussion
  • Use the Socratic method, with effective questions that stimulate thinking and allow sales reps to have ownership in creating the solution
  • Focus on improving one area at a time versus addressing multiple points and potentially overwhelming the sales rep
  • Focus on improving skills and techniques rather than specific sales numbers

Improve Your Coaching Skills with HireDNA

The sales training and coaching experts at HireDNA can help you improve your sales coaching skills, develop an effective coaching and training program, and deliver high-quality sales training that works within the workflow of your sales team.

HireDNA was recently recognized as an emerging leader in corporate training and coaching. Our experts can assist with any questions about building first-in-class, on-demand sales training tailored specifically for remote sales forces.

3 Keys to Boosting the Productivity of Remote Sales Teams

One of the biggest complaints we’re seeing from clients in the middle of this global pandemic is that the myriad interruptions to business operations are disrupting sales momentum. While day-to-day sales activities may be continuing, progress toward sales goals is often stalling.

But for savvy sales leaders, the global quarantine lockdown does not have to translate into a sales slowdown. While business interactions may be limited, creativity is not. For every obstacle that emerges, there exists a creative workaround to ensure your team can continue to work productively.

In previous discussions of what it takes for sales teams to thrive in a crisis, our experts highlighted steps like staying client-focused and taking your sales conversations online. In this week’s post, we’ll take a look at how successful remote sales teams can use the right tools and techniques to boost their overall productivity.

1.  Go Virtual

Virtual interactions have become a requirement thanks to the current coronavirus pandemic. While some companies have struggled to adapt their business models to remote operations, smart leaders are finding that virtual tools have allowed their teams to actually reach higher levels of productivity. This is a crucial discovery, because even when the global lockdown lifts, virtual business operations are likely to become part of the “new normal” for many organizations.

In our latest white paper on prospering during a crisis, we explained how can go on the offensive and take a proactive approach to managing the impact of a global crisis. With travel bans and quarantines forcing a shift to remote operations, this tactic includes the need to develop creative virtual sales presentations to present your solutions and demonstrate their value. This could include solutions like webinars, virtual office tours, or live product demonstrations using remote access tools or videos showing your product or team in action.

“Going virtual” can also apply beyond direct sales interactions. Virtual sales training has been a growing trend, well before the pandemic hit, with companies discovering a wealth of benefits to taking their training operations online. Virtual training has been shown to increase reps’ effectiveness, and outperform live classroom training in areas like increased pipeline and greater rep confidence.

2. Create Effective Sales Playbooks

A huge productivity killer is a daunting “to do” list that amounts to little more than a jumble of disparate tasks waiting for the next action. Reps get busy, actions slip into the “do it later” pile, and all the valuable time spent on prospecting is lost because they didn’t follow up in a timely manner. Having an effective sales playbook can help eliminate this common problem.

Playbooks are one of the most powerful tools in your sales team’s arsenal. They clearly outline your sales process, and arm your reps with all the content and strategies they need to navigate the sales cycle and close a deal. Operating without a well-defined playbook puts your team at a disadvantage, and can encourage a chaotic sales process that greatly reduces your ability to improve and scale your operations.

A playbook helps give your rep a comprehensive understanding of the entire sales journey, and allows your reps to clearly see the appropriate next action to take at every stage. This can help eliminate decision fatigue and ensure that your reps are making the right moves, at the right times, to move their sales conversations forward.

This is especially important in a remote sales environment when sales managers are not able to stand over their rep’s shoulder listening to calls and demos, and helping them take the appropriate steps to close the deal.

3. Use the Right Platforms and Tools

Rather than operating as a standalone tool, an effective playbook should be integrated with your CRM system and productivity tools, to help further automate your sales process and improve your team’s efficiency.

An effective CRM allows sales teams to automate tasks like meeting invites, email follow ups, and prospect monitoring. This is a key step in ensuring the next action dictated by your playbook is executed effectively.

Industry-leading CRM platforms, like HubSpot or Salesforce, also include productivity-boosting features like task sequencing, communication tools and templates, and call planning. These systems can be integrated with other productivity apps – including calendars, and prospecting tools – to create seamless sales operations and allow your team to operate at peak levels.

CRMs also offer remote dialer tools that will allow reps to automate the process of logging call notes, recording calls, and tracking their call activities, providing managers with full visibility into their team’s productivity despite being remote.

Expert Insights Help Move Your Team Forward

At HireDNA, we offer a range of solutions and services for businesses looking to scale their sales organizations. From sales performance evaluations and virtual training, to playbook development and CRM integrations, our team of experts can help you propel your business to success and accelerate your growth.

Contact our experts to learn how we can help you equip your sales force with the tools they need to improve their productivity and achieve peak performance.