Why 90% of Companies That Use a Guided Sales Process Are Top Performers

There’s a lot that goes into successful sales. And even the best, brightest, most talented reps can benefit from some type of standardized system. One that simplifies and streamlines sales to convert the maximum number of leads into customers. And that’s where a guided sales process comes in.

For this post, I’m going to provide some recent data that illustrates just how big of an impact a guided sales process can have and unpack the essentials that go into creating one.

A Jaw-Dropping Stat

Let’s cut to the chase. The Sales Management Association, a “global, cross-industry professional association for managers in sales force effectiveness,” conducted extensive research on the importance of a guided sales process. According to their findings, “90% of all companies that use a formal, guided sales process were ranked as the highest performing.”

That’s about as cut and dry as it gets. Sales teams that establish a formal system create a replicable framework that enables reps to take someone from being a prospective buyer in the early awareness stage to a converted customer efficiently with the least amount of friction. And like most areas of business, a guided sales process will evolve over time. As more and more data is accumulated, you gain more customer insights and a better understanding of their psychology, motives, pain points, and overall profile.

New ABM Approach - How to define an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) |  Smarketers

You also can spot flaws in your process and make the necessary adjustments to fine-tune them. So over time and with continual iterations, your guided sales process becomes hyper-efficient and allows your salespeople to operate at their absolute best. Besides that, having a winning formula helps accelerate ramp time so you can get new hires up to speed more quickly and hasten their development. That’s important considering it takes an average of 11 months for most reps to reach their full potential.

Other Insightful Stats

But it doesn’t stop there. For a deeper perspective, here are some other interesting stats curated by Super Human Prospecting that further illustrate the potency of having a guided sales process.

  • “Businesses with a standardized sales process see up to a 28% increase in revenue as compared to those that do not.”
  • “50% of high-performing sales organizations admit having ‘closely monitored, strictly enforced, or automated’ sales processes.”
  • Conversely, “48% of under-performing organizations have non-existent or informal sales processes.”

Now let’s unpack these stats a bit more. For starters, a 28% revenue increase instantly caught my attention. To think that a guided sales process can have this much of a direct correlation to significantly higher earnings is extremely compelling. The data, which comes from a Harvard Business Review study, found that this type of effective pipeline management can be massively beneficial for boosting revenue. And it makes sense. By providing salespeople with a standardized system to follow and reducing friction points for leads, increased sales should naturally follow.

The second stat about half of high-performing organizations closely monitoring, enforcing, or automating sales processes shows that another key part of winning in this area is ensuring salespeople follow the prescribed methodology. This doesn’t mean micromanaging or making the process overly forced, as elite reps will usually need some level of flexibility to “do their thing.” But it does suggest there needs to be a baseline for salespeople to stick to and that sales leaders should keep an eye on things, especially during initial implementation.

Lastly, the fact that 48% of underperforming organizations have either informal sales processes or none whatsoever shows that the opposite is true. Companies without a proper guided sales process lack structure, which, in turn, puts them at a disadvantage when compared to competitors with a formal system in place.

The Essentials of a Guided Sales Process

At this point, I think we can all agree that, when done right, a guided sales process can be a game-changer. But what exactly should it include?

While the sequence will vary somewhat from company to company, I like the outline Super Office provides, which consists of six key steps. This includes:

  • Prospecting
  • Preparation
  • Approach
  • Presentation
  • Handling objections
  • Closing and follow-up

Here’s a nice illustration of how that looks.

sales process cycle

Notice how it’s cyclical, and after the final stage of closing and follow-up, the process starts all over again through either repeat sales or referrals. Obviously, not all customers will result in repeat business or a referral. But this bears mentioning, as research from Small Business Trends found that “65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers.”

So besides simply streamlining the process of acquiring new customers, this system also makes it easier for salespeople to capitalize on opportunities with existing customers as well. For more info on the nuts and bolts of the actual guided sales process itself and how to construct one for your company, I recommend reading this post from Super Office.

Closing Thoughts

Most sales leaders won’t be surprised that having a guided sales process is advantageous. But I doubt many knew just how big of an impact it can have. And we’re not talking about hypotheticals here. Results will vary, but with concrete data finding that 90% of top-performing companies use guided selling, it’s clearly a strategy worth implementing.

And as I mentioned earlier, the benefits can be far-reaching. Besides just helping reps do their jobs better, it can improve onboarding for new hires and create more opportunities for repeat business and referrals. So if this is something you haven’t gotten around to yet, now is the perfect time to get started.

When it comes to filling your talent pipeline with high-level salespeople, HireDNA can help. This platform uses cutting-edge technology like intelligent matching and science-based assessments to find rockstar candidates that perfectly match your criteria. Learn more about how HireDNA works and its features here.

See Why 98% of SaaS Businesses See Positive Results with Dynamic Pricing

Businesses across all industries have evolved significantly over the course of the 21st century. But the evolution of SaaS has moved at an even greater speed.

Case in point — SaaS pricing. In recent years, there’s been a growing trend where more and more companies are using dynamic pricing, which, simply put “means that your customers see prices that are relevant to market and channel conditions at any given point in time.”

Rather than offering fixed pricing that never changes, dynamic pricing fluctuates and is tailored to each unique situation, allowing you to maximize revenue, while at the same time delivering value to your customers. 

For this post, I’m going to explain why this SaaS pricing strategy can be so effective and unpack the full logic behind it. I’ll also point you to helpful resources so you can make it work for your company.

What the Research Says

As always, one of the best ways to gain perspective is to look at concrete data. At the end of the day, what’s the true impact of using dynamic pricing?

A recent piece of research made some very promising findings. 

“Studies have shown that 98% of SaaS businesses earned positive results from making core changes to their pricing policy,” explains Phil Alves, CEO of DevSquad. “With tough competition, industry saturation, and the rapid evolution of SaaS platforms, many are starting to reinvent their pricing models according to the needs of their clients or customers.”

It’s hard to argue with 98%, and this stat clearly proves that, when done correctly, implementing a flexible SaaS pricing model like this helps the vast majority of brands capitalize on leads and land more deals. 

Alves also notes that an integral part of making effective pricing changes is basing decisions on business intelligence and analytics. “Responsive pricing methods based on analytical reports are the most successful models in SaaS companies,” he adds. 

In other words, this isn’t something that should be done on a hunch. Rather, you should continuously be capturing robust data to see:

  • What’s happening in the competitive landscape
  • How things are unfolding
  • What your customers are most responsive to
  • What works and what doesn’t

In turn, you can make smarter decisions that allow you to choose the optimal price point for each customer, helping maximize your revenue, while at the same time providing a positive customer experience. 

Dynamic Pricing is Already Used By Many Top SaaS Brands 

At first glance, it may seem like this pricing strategy is only used by a handful of uber innovative, adventurous SaaS companies. But it’s more common than you may think. 

Subscription management expert Anne Egdal makes a great point in this quote.  

“Think about it. How often do you look for a SaaS program, and when you reach the ‘Enterprise’ or ‘Corporate’ tier, you see a “Contact Us’ call to action rather than price? These businesses are likely to be using dynamic pricing, tailoring what they charge depending on the size of the client and the services they need.”

HubSpot is a great example. If you browse through the pricing page for their sales software, you’ll see their Enterprise plan “starts at” $1,200 per month, and their CTA says “Talk to Sales.”

And it’s the same story with marketing automation software Marketo. In fact, the first three options on their pricing page prompt leads to contact sales, and the “Enterprise” plan prompts them to “Request Information.”

So, they’re not featuring any static pricing, and instead funnel leads to a sales rep that can discuss pricing on an individual level. And if big name, ultra successful SaaS companies like these are using this type of pricing strategy, there’s probably something to it. 

This Model Also Helps Account for SaaS Price Increases

There’s one other massively important benefit of dynamic pricing to mention. By design, it provides a seamless framework for raising your SaaS prices without creating a lot of unnecessary friction. 

According to financing lender Lighter Capital, most large-scale SaaS companies increase their prices 5-7% each year. And if you’re not increasing your prices somewhere in this ballpark, you’re essentially leaving money on the table. 

While you obviously don’t want to use deceptive techniques to deliberately shroud how much your products cost, using dynamic pricing in a similar way as HubSpot and Marketo, where you direct leads to a sales rep to discuss deals, is a highly effective way to continually bump up costs up without rubbing leads the wrong way. 

On top of that, you don’t run the risk of alienating your existing customer base. 

Further Reading

Earlier I mentioned a quote from subscription management expert Anne Egdal. If you’re interested in learning more about the nuts and bolts of dynamic pricing, I highly recommend reading this post by her

In it, she discusses:

  • Different dynamic pricing models
  • How to implement dynamic pricing into your SaaS business
  • How to increase sales with it
  • How to avoid any complications when making the transition

Final Thoughts

Dynamic pricing is an emerging trend in the SaaS world that a growing number of brands have chosen to adopt. Although it won’t necessarily make sense 100% of the time, it’s definitely a pricing strategy to consider, especially if you’re selling to enterprise level customers. 

Doing so allows you to routinely make pricing changes based on market conditions, competition, trends, and general inflation. And with a staggering 98% of SaaS brands seeing positive results from dynamic pricing, there’s a good chance it can have an impact on your company as well. 

Looking to assemble an amazing team of rockstar salespeople using data and science? Learn how HireDNA can help by using elite talent sourcing, intelligent matching, and science-based assessments. 92% of candidates recommended through HireDNA are top-sellers within a year. 

Churn Rate and Contract Length: Finding the Sweet Spot for Your SaaS Product

Churn. It’s a word that keeps many SaaS business owners up at night. 

Although inevitable and unavoidable, churn is something you want to constantly monitor and keep in check. Otherwise, things can get out of control in a hurry, and before you know it you’ve got a full-blown mass exodus on your hands. 

There are countless factors that impact churn rate, including SaaS product quality, features, UX, pricing, and the competitive landscape. But hands down, one of the biggest is contract length. 

In this post, I’ll share with you some compelling data I’ve found that shows the correlation between contract length and churn rate. Then, I’ll offer some practical advice on how to find the sweet spot for your product’s contract length so you can retain more customers and improve their overall experience. 

Average Churn Rate

Let’s start from the top. What exactly is the average churn rate for today’s SaaS companies?

According to 2019 research from ProfitWell, it’s 13.2%. There’s a ton of other data out there, with some stats finding the average churn rate to be much higher and others pinpointing it as being much lower. But 13% is about the average. 

Considering, however, that most experts say a “good” or “acceptable” churn rate is significantly lower than that at 7% or less, it shows that many SaaS companies could use some improvement in this area.

And a good place to start is with contract length. 

The Correlation Between Contract Length and Churn

One of the best studies I’ve found about how contract length impacts churn rate is this one from Finances Online

According to their findings, longer SaaS contracts equal lower churn, while shorter SaaS contracts equal higher churn. 

Those, for example, that are less than a year have an average churn rate of 16.7%.

Those that are between 1 year to 1.5 years have an average churn rate of 15%.

And those that are at 2.5 to 3 years have an average churn rate of only 8.5%. 

So, a quick look at this data and it’s easy to see that extending SaaS contract length helps reduce churn. The only caveat from this study is that month-to-month contracts actually have a slightly lower churn rate of 14% than 1 to 1.5 year contracts of 15%. 

But the difference is only marginal, and we can safely surmise that customers will hang around longer when they have longer contracts. After all, they can’t help but do so.

So, Should You Make Customer Contracts Super Long?

After absorbing this data, the logical conclusion would be to increase the lengths of customer contracts. But is that always the best approach?

Not always.

SaaS strategist Natalie Roy makes a great point about the potential pitfalls of doing so. 

“Let’s say you’ve locked a customer into a three-year contract. This is great, right? The likelihood of churn is statistically low, and you have ample time to recuperate customer acquisition costs and turn a healthy profit.

There’s a downside though. If you’re using a traditional pricing structure it means you won’t be able to increase the price of your product for three years.”

Considering that SaaS prices increase 5-7% annually, this can take a toll on your profitability in the long run. 

Besides that, you may lose out to competitors. If, for example, a customer doesn’t want to be tethered to a long-term contract and instead only wants a year max, they may go elsewhere if you only have a 3 year option. 

This is extremely important to keep in mind. While having a contract length of 2.5 years or longer has nearly half the churn rate of one that’s less than a year, there are some inherent drawbacks that could potentially hurt your overall revenue. 

Finding the Sweet Spot

Like many areas of business (and life in general), the optimal path is often in the middle of two extremes. When it comes to determining the ideal contract length, I suggest looking for the sweet spot — one that allows you to get your churn to the absolute minimum, but without diminishing your revenue or compromising the customer experience. 

But where exactly is the sweet spot?

That’ll vary from company to company, and there is no one-size-fits-all game plan. Usually finding it requires some trial and error where you experiment with different contract lengths to see what works best. 

Many SaaS brands start at year simply because that’s what a lot of other brands do. If this is where you’re currently at but you’re unhappy with your churn rate, I suggest lengthening it to see if it has any noticeable impact. 

Because the average churn rate for contract lengths of 1 year and 1.5 years are exactly the same at 15%, you’ll probably want to go ahead and make the shift to 2 years. If you’re happy with the results, you can just stick with that. 

Otherwise, if you think you could do better, you could extend the contract length further to 2.5 years or even 3. As you gather more data, you’ll be able to figure out what’s best for your brand. 

Keeping Your Churn Rate in Check

The churn rate for most SaaS companies is somewhere around 13%. 7%, however, is a more acceptable number, and the lower the better. 

There are numerous factors that contribute to churn, but contract length is one of the most obvious. Research indicates that extending a SaaS contract length from less than a year to 2.5 years or more can nearly slash your churn rate in half. 

Doing so, however, requires a careful, calculated approach where you test the waters rather than jumping in head first. But with the right experimentation, you can find your contract length sweet spot for minimal churn and maximum revenue. 

Want to land your dream salesperson? See how HireDNA can help by sourcing top talent and using intelligent matching along with science-based assessments. 

Should You Require Free SaaS Users to Provide Their Credit Card Info? Here’s What the Data Says.

Offering a free trial has basically become the norm for SaaS companies these days. In fact, roughly three-quarters use this tactic to generate leads, with the hopes of ultimately turning many into paying customers. 

And for the most part, it’s really effective. More than 50% of new business comes from free trials for 16% of SaaS companies. But there’s one key question you have to ask yourself when using this strategy. 

Should you require free SaaS users to provide their credit card info?

Let’s Look at the Data

As you probably know by now, I don’t like speculating on whether something works or not, or simply going on a hunch. I prefer to crunch the numbers and analyze cold, hard, objective data.

According to one of the top studies conducted on this topic from Invesp, it’s pretty clear. You’re way better off not requiring credit card info from free SaaS users.

More specifically, they found, “SaaS companies that allow sign-ups without a credit card generate twice as many paying customers from their free trial.”

This stat shows us point blank that not asking for credit card info is the best choice and results in double the paying customers long-term. For the rest of this post, I’m going to fully unpack this data and figure out the precise logic behind it. 

Why Eliminating the Card Info Barrier is the Best Choice

It’s pretty simple. Having this barrier creates friction during the free trial sign up process. 

Put yourself in the shoes of your average lead for a second. 

They’ve found your SaaS product, have gone over the features and benefits, and think it may be the perfect fit for their business. They then see that you offer a free trial and are excited to test it out. 

They fill out their contact info and are chomping at the bit to take your product out for a spin. But then…wham…they’re hit with the dreaded credit card barrier. 

Just like that, their enthusiasm takes a nosedive, and their day just had an injection of friction added to it.

Some leads will still go through with it, begrudgingly pulling out their credit card. Many others, however, will simply back out and look to other competitors. While it’s by no means a dealbreaker for everyone, you can’t deny that requiring credit card info for a free trial is disruptive. 

I know I personally get turned off when I have to fork over my info. When given the choice between a no strings attached sign up and one requiring a credit card, I always prefer the former. And that seems to be the sentiment across the board with nearly all SaaS customers. 

At the end of the day, it’s just another hassle that adds an unnecessary complication to their day. 

The Trust Issue

There’s one other vital detail to point out, which involves trust (or the lack thereof). We’re living in an age where cyber crime has reached epic proportions. Just look at this graph of the monetary damage caused by cyber crime during the 21st century. 

It’s off the charts. 

Understandably, many people aren’t super comfortable with the idea of whipping out their credit card and forking over sensitive payment information. Even big name, well known SaaS companies like HubSpot and Salesforce run into issues stemming from trust.

So just imagine how problematic it can be for smaller SaaS businesses that don’t have a ton of brand equity. And remember, at this stage of the buying journey, your brand is still unproven in the eyes of many leads.

Once they actually use your product for a while and you have a chance to build rapport, they’ll warm up to you. But when they’re signing up for a free trial, you just don’t have that level of trust, which is another huge reason why credit card barriers are so problematic. 

What an Expert Has to Say About It

To wrap up, I’d like to share with you the opinion of one of the top voices on this subject matter. 

Lincoln Murphy is a customer-centric growth expert and founder of SaaS consulting firm Sixteen Ventures. He wrote a fascinating article about the great credit card info debate, and I think this quote summarizes everything perfectly. 

“Asking for a credit card up front (an “opt-out SaaS free trial”) does little to help conversions and this is backed up by the fact that I routinely see SaaS vendors with < 20% conversion rates that ask for a credit card up front,” explains Murphy. “The only thing I can guarantee with an opt-out SaaS free trial is that you’ll get less prospective customers into your free trial than if you didn’t require a credit card to start. 

Murphy admits that requiring credit card info might increase your overall conversion rate in the sense that a higher percentage of leads who provide it may eventually become customers. But you’ll get far less actual customers from the traffic you generate. 

The Bottom Line

To say that no SaaS companies should ever require credit card info from free users would be a misstatement. There are some cases when this is the better option — mainly for well established businesses with huge brand equity that are looking to increase their lead quality. 

But generally speaking, the data clearly shows that this is ill-advised for most SaaS companies. Not asking for credit card info helps you capitalize on a larger percentage of your traffic and generate twice as many paying customers. 

So it’s a no-brainer. 

Need to find high level salespeople to convert more of your SaaS leads? Check out HireDNA. 92% of reps suggested through it reach the top of their sales force within a year, and brands that use it see 33% less turnover. 

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. 

Average SaaS Salespeople Ask Leads 6 or Less Questions. Top Performers Ask 11-14: Why Discovery Call Questions Are Essential

In a previous post, I mentioned that 88% of today’s leads are only willing to buy when they see the salesperson as a trusted advisor. I also pointed out that hyper-aggressive sales tactics often turn leads off and can be potential deal-breakers. 

One of the best ways to assume the role of trusted advisor is for SaaS salespeople to ask plenty of questions during the discovery call. And this number is higher than you may think. 

Here’s what you need to know to equip your reps for success. 

Top Performers Ask 11-14 Discovery Call Questions

Revenue intelligence software, Gong.io, has built an amazing reputation for their original research. They’ve conducted a ton of in-depth studies to pinpoint the exact reasons why salespeople succeed or fail. 

One particular study I found fascinating was this one on discovery calls

“We analyzed 519,000 recorded discovery calls with AI to understand what drives successful outcomes,” explains Chris Orlob, director of sales at Gong.io. “These discovery calls were recorded on web conferencing platforms with Gong.io, transcribed, and analyzed with unsupervised machine learning to identify the discovery call questions and techniques that drive revenue.”

In this study, they examined the number of target questions SaaS salespeople aimed for per discovery call and found:

  • Reps that only asked 1-6 discovery call questions had a 46% success rate (the lowest by far)
  • Reps that asked 7-10 questions had a 66% success rate
  • Reps that asked 15-18 questions had a 67% success rate

But here’s the kicker. Reps that asked 11-14 discovery call questions had a 74% success rate — considerably higher than the other reps that asked fewer or more questions. This graph illustrates this trend perfectly. 

Finding the Sweet Spot

According to this study, the trick is to ask enough questions so SaaS salespeople can figure out a lead’s precise pain points, needs, goals, and so on. This is what allows reps to not only optimize their offerings so they’re perfectly tailored to each lead, but also helps them build trust and rapport along the way. But at the same time, SaaS salespeople don’t want to ask too many questions because that can create friction as well. 

Looking at this data, it’s clear that 11-14 questions is the sweet spot. 

“Less than that and your discovery call may not be robust enough,” writes Orlob. “More than that, and it will likely start to feel like an interrogation, rather than a natural conversation.”

Asking the Right Discovery Call Questions

But there’s something very important I need to point out. Having successful discovery calls isn’t just about asking 11-14 questions. It’s about SaaS salespeople asking the right questions. 

Or as Orlob puts it, “Asking a generic line of questioning is likely to get you kicked in the teeth. Your best bet for discovery call success is asking questions about key business problems or goals the customer is trying to solve.”

Specificity is critical here. And as I mentioned earlier, the questions a rep asks need to focus on a lead’s unique needs, pain points, challenges, and goals. 

Here are some examples of questions one of our reps might ask at HireDNA when attempting to identify the needs of a lead who needs help with their technology sales recruiting:

  • What are some areas you’re currently struggling at with your recruiting?
  • What are some of the core competencies you look at when hiring reps?
  • What percentage of reps currently hit their sales quota? What number would you like to be at?
  • What’s your current salesperson retention rate? How much higher would you like that to be?

Notice how all of these questions are designed to instantly get the ball rolling so we can identify key business problems/goals and gain a solid understanding of the lead. This brings me to my final point. 

Getting Leads Talking

There’s one final piece of the puzzle I need to mention. You want your reps to get leads talking and encourage them to give long responses — not merely yes or no answers. Why?

Getting leads to talk interrupted for a long period correlates to a thorough response. That way SaaS salespeople can really wrap their head around the situation, which ultimately means they can optimize their offerings and increase their chances of closing the deal. 

Orlob mentions some specific ways to phrase questions to encourage a long response:

  • “Can you help me understand…”
  • “Can you walk me through…”
  • “Talk to me about…”

Let’s Recap

These days leads aren’t receptive to pushy, aggressive sales tactics. Rather, they prefer dealing with reps that take the role of a trusted advisor and base their offerings on the lead’s unique needs, pain points, and goals. 

In other words, SaaS salespeople need to be adept at creating meaningful dialogue, which is illustrated by this graph that highlights the question frequency used by top performers versus average ones. 

One of the best ways to do this is by asking the right number of questions during discovery calls — 11-14 to be exact, as this is considered the sweet spot and what yields the highest success rate. 

Besides hitting the right number of questions, reps also need to ask the right questions involving key business problems or goals the lead is trying to solve and using phrases to get leads talking. By following this formula, it helps reps fire on cylinders, allowing them to quickly establish trust, figure out what solutions to offer, and ultimately convert. 

Looking to assemble a team of ultra talented SaaS salespeople? Find out how HireDNA can help you do this by using cutting-edge technology to source top talent using intelligent matching and science-based assessments. HireDNA can cut your hiring time in half and eliminate 96% of hiring mistakes. 

88% of Leads Buy When a Salesperson Assumes the Role of Trusted Advisor: How to Capitalize on This Stat

There are certain professions that people are inherently wary of. Car salesmen, real estate agents, and lawyers are just a few that come to mind. 

But it turns out that there’s also a growing distrust of salespeople these days. One study found that just 32% of buyers view sales as a “trustworthy profession,” while another study says only a paltry 3% consider salespeople to be trustworthy. 

Whatever data you go by, there’s clearly a negative perception of salespeople and something they need to overcome. So, how exactly can they go about that?

It’s simple. Assume the role of a “trusted advisor.” 

An Age of Unprecedented Customer Empowerment

We live in a new era where people are more empowered than ever when it comes to making purchases — something that’s largely due to the internet. Having access to an unending supply of information where buyers can search for literally anything in seconds means they’re highly informed.

Or as Gigi Peccolo, Content Manager of conversational AI platform OneReach, puts it, “The information gap between companies and customers is slowly being closed as the empowered learn what they’re capable of. It’s no longer a monopoly, it’s a duopoly, and it’s shifting in customers’ favor.”

This means most people have very little patience for fast talking, back slapping salespeople trying to separate them from their money. And if they sense the least bit of dishonesty or sleaziness, they’re quick to walk away and look elsewhere. That’s especially true for B2B buyers who often have a strong familiarity with inside sales tactics that your average consumer does not. 

Closing the Trust Gap

And this collective distrust of salespeople is a big problem. Without a basic sense of trust, you can’t even expect B2B buyers to listen to a sales pitch, let alone make a major purchase that could potentially make or break their company. No matter how rock solid your sales funnel is, it’s going to be an uphill battle if you can’t close the trust gap. 

The key to doing this is to modify your approach where instead of your team taking the role of traditional salespeople, they instead strive to be trusted advisors. Considering that 88% of people are only willing to buy when they view a salesperson as a trusted advisor, this can be your ticket to not just getting immediate sales, but paving the way for repeat business as well as referrals.

In fact, “79% of business buyers say it’s absolutely critical or very important to interact with a salesperson who is a trusted advisor — not just a sales rep — who adds value to their business.”

How to Make the Shift to Trusted Advisor

For starters, it requires that your sales team collectively adopts a different mindset than what they’re probably used to in terms of interacting with buyers. And the key to doing that is having your salespeople treat it like they’re merely helping leads find the right solution and supplying them with information to make an informed choice rather than straight up “selling.”

Sean Callahan, Senior Manager of Content Marketing at LinkedIn, says it well with this quote. “People need to feel like they’re making an informed decision about a purchase without background sales pressure. Don’t think of it as selling: think of it as providing the information, benefits, and value so the customer can sell themselves.”

In other words, it’s about shifting from sales to solutions. That should be the initial catalyst for making the transition. 

Develop the Core Qualities of a Trusted Advisor

Next, your salespeople need to focus on developing the core qualities that B2B are seeking.

These include:

  • Fully researching each buyer to understand their industry, needs, pain points, goals, etc.
  • Demonstrating competency by knowing the ins and outs of different product solutions and how they relate to the buyer’s specific needs 
  • Improving question asking skills to show genuine interest in a buyer’s business and provide the optimal level of service
  • Being transparent and honest every step of the way during interactions
  • Acting with integrity and not offering products a buyer doesn’t truly need
  • Keeping a collaborative tone with buyers, letting them know the salesperson is working to come up with the best possible solutions 
  • Developing real chemistry with the buyer and striving to achieve a certain sense of “likability”

Follow a Customer Focused Problem Solving Process

Finally, there’s a particular problem solving process that Nick Frank, Managing Partner at Si2 Partners outlines that is helpful for achieving the role of trusted advisor. 

It involves six steps, which break down as follows:

It’s all about identifying what each individual buyer’s unique pain point is, figuring out what’s causing the problem, and determining what specific product your company offers that can solve it. From there, it’s a matter of implementing the solution and maintaining close contact afterward to ensure everything goes smoothly and addressing any issues that may arise.

It’s not about shoving some random product down a buyer’s throat and leaving them on their own after that. Rather, a salesperson should act as a buyer’s own personal advisor who sticks with them every step of the way. 

Appealing to 88% of Leads

We’re living in a new age where old school, and quite frankly raunchy sales tactics that are ultra aggressive no longer cut it. The vast majority of B2B buyers are not only unreceptive to this type of approach, they’re completely turned off of it. And most can sniff out any sleaziness from a mile away. 

But what they are receptive to is dealing with salespeople who they view as trusted advisors. Helping your sales team transition to this role is critical moving forward and can be instrumental in converting more leads and generating bigger profits. 

Looking to hire top sales talent who “get it?” HireDNA can help you do that while using powerful recruiting technology and science-based sales assessments to eliminate 96% of hiring mistakes. Get your demo today

Increase Productivity By 38% and Profits By 27% With an Employee Engagement Strategy

Employee engagement is one of the hottest topics in the business world right now and something nearly all companies are trying to increase. And for good reason. 

“Organizations with higher than average levels of employee engagement realized 27% higher profits, 50% higher sales, 50% higher customer loyalty levels, and 38% above-average productivity.”

It’s hard to argue with those numbers. But how can you increase sales rep motivation in a practical, concrete manner?

It’s simple. Create an employee engagement strategy. 

The Impact an Employee Engagement Strategy Can Have

Before we dive in too far, let’s discuss just how big of an impact this can have. To put things into perspective, we must first understand how prevalent employee disengagement currently is. 

According to research, 45% of the workforce is not engaged, and 26% of employees are actively disengaged. That’s a huge problem and means that less than a third (29%) of employees are actively engaged.

Further, “disengaged workers cost the economy $300 billion or more per year,” mainly because they’re only there for the paycheck and do the bare minimum to not get fired. This scene featuring Peter Gibbons in the movie Office Space summarizes this trend perfectly. 

But having an official employee engagement strategy in place is arguably the best way to slash through disengagement. Not only does it help boost productivity and profits, it tends to make the workplace a more pleasant place and naturally enhances the collective culture. 

Besides that, companies with high employee engagement have a 41% lower absenteeism rate. And having a positive company culture results in 4x the revenue. One study even found that 90% of business leaders believe an employee engagement strategy could yield positive results for their company. 

How to Create an Employee Engagement Strategy

Now let’s get down to brass tacks. Here’s how to develop a winning employee engagement strategy for your business. 

Step 1 – Pinpoint Your Specific Goals

Of course you’ll want to increase productivity and boost profitability. Those are givens. 

But the first step to shaping your strategy is to look deeper and pinpoint a handful of specific goals you want to accomplish with your employee engagement strategy. 

Some examples can include:

  • Raising collective employee satisfaction levels
  • Reducing turnover
  • Motivating employees to stay with your company longer
  • Creating a more positive, collaborative culture 

Once you’ve got these nailed down, it’s time for step two. 

Step 2 – Build an Action Plan Based on the 10 Key Engagement Drivers

When you break it all down, there are 10 main factors that contribute most heavily to employee engagement and overall satisfaction. Here they are. 

Therefore, these are the primary areas to focus on and will help shape your approach. The trick is to analyze each of these factors and prioritize them in the order of the most importance. 

For example, your top three engagement drivers may be:

  1. Recognition and rewards
  2. Wellness and balance
  3. Career growth

Those would be the top three you would want to focus on, and have everything else come after that.  

Step 3 – Identify Actionable Ways to Improve Top Engagement Drivers

Once you’ve identified your top engagement drivers, you need to devise actionable strategies to improve them. 

If, for instance, recognition and rewards was your number one priority, you might encourage managers and higher ups to continually praise employees and thank them for a job well done. “70% of employees say that motivation and morale would improve ‘massively’ with managers saying thank you more,” according to a Reward Gateway study.

You might create a rewards program, where employees receive things like bonuses, paid time off, gift cards, and so on, for exceeding expectations. Here are some more ideas on this. 

Or, you might even go so far as to hold an annual event where you pass out awards to your team and acknowledge areas where they’ve excelled. Think Dunder Mifflin’s “Dundies” awards from The Office. 

Step 4 – Determine How to Measure Outcomes 

Quantifying your results is absolutely essential. Without having an effective means of analyzing the impact, it’s hard to gain any real progress. So, you’ll want to figure out which KPIs to look at and be diligent about keeping tabs on the numbers. 

One of the most straightforward KPIs is your turnover rate before implementing an employee engagement strategy and after. 

Say your turnover rate hovered around the average of 17.8% before developing an employee engagement strategy. But after a year of having it in place, you were able to drop it to just 10% — a good number experts say to aim for

That would mean you were able to lower your turnover rate by roughly 8%, which would indicate that your efforts were definitely paying off.

Step 5 – Set a Realistic Budget 

While some aspects of an employee engagement strategy are basically free (e.g. having managers thank employees for doing quality work), others like bonuses and gift cards require an investment.

So, you need to come up with a realistic budget that allows you to get the results you’re looking for without killing your profits margins. At the end of the day, it’s about getting the best return on your investment. 

This begs the question. Just how much should you spend on an employee engagement strategy?

A 2016 study found that around 1% of payroll is a good number to shoot for. “When companies make this level of investment, they are nearly three times as likely to rate their program as excellent, compared to companies that invest less.”

Taking Employee Engagement from So-So to Stellar

Although employee engagement has risen slightly over the past decade, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Hands down, one of the best ways to attack this problem is by developing an employee engagement strategy. And with only a quarter of businesses having one in place, this should put you ahead of much of the competition. 

A big part of having a highly engaged workforce is choosing the right employees from the get-go. See how HireDNA can help refine your recruiting through powerful technology and science-based sales assessments. 

5 Ways Sales Teams Can Thrive During Challenging Times

As we’re all rapidly discovering, there’s nothing like a global pandemic to shift the way the world does business. The spread of the coronavirus has forced companies at all levels to implement changes they may not have wanted, and few were prepared to take on – at least on this kind of scale. Many organizations are scrambling to cope.

But amid the concerns and trepidations, new opportunities are arising. While some organizations are panicking and scaling back on budgets and staff, others are finding their services to be in greater demand, and their pipelines more robust than ever. The difference, in large part, comes down to sales leadership.

In a recent report on preparing for coronavirus-related disruptions, Gartner, Inc. suggested, “How CSOs lead now will set the tone and pace for a powerful and career-making experience for everyone in the sales function.”

As a leader responsible for the prosperity of your sales team, what can you do to ensure your organization’s success in this time of crisis?

Taking Action Right Now

1. Don’t Panic – This is always first and foremost, no matter what the circumstances are. The crisis won’t last forever. History is full of major economic turmoil and each time, the crisis has eventually passed. In its wake are stronger people and organizations, who emerge with a new perspective, more experience, and better tools to deal with the next eventual crisis.

The more ominous the headlines get, the more important it is to keep calm and remember that your best option is to focus on the things you can control, and let go of the things you can’t.

2. Stay Client-Focused – The heart of sales is helping clients succeed. In uncertain times like these, it’s important to remember that although we may change the way we do business, we shouldn’t forget the why we do it. As you look for opportunities to continue to grow your organization, don’t let your own concerns about your metrics, commissions, and goals cloud your judgment when it comes to how you serve your clients. Clients can sniff this out from miles away, and they’ll be quick to turn their back on it.

Take a moment to assess your clients’ concerns and their planned responses to the pandemic. Most clients are focused on employee and customer safety, and they may be experiencing immediate challenges like operational interruptions and cash flow declines. Reengineer your selling points to frame your solutions around your clients’ most urgent concerns.

3. Go Virtual – As entire countries are locked down under strict quarantine orders, virtual operations are a critical part of keeping business moving forward. While many companies were already starting to favor digital communications over in-person meetings, the current pandemic has pressed the fast-forward button on those plans.

If you haven’t already, move your face-to-face meetings to videoconferencing tools like Skype or Zoom, or stick with basic voice calls if that’s what your clients prefer. Expand the range of instant messengers your team uses, and use them to give your clients and prospects greater accessibility to your reps. Replace live events with creative digital solutions, like webinars, virtual office tours, and live demos using remote access tools or videos showing your product in action.

Moving Forward in the Upcoming Months

4. Reflect and Act – Change is always a good catalyst for reflection on what’s working, what’s not and what’s needed going forward. As sales leaders, we know that the key to improving our win rate – regardless of the current economic climate – is maximizing the effectiveness of our sales force. Once the immediate needs of the moment are addressed, the next step is to look at what that means for our specific organization.

A basic SWOT analysis can be a good place to start, to gain a better understanding of your overall business and how it now fits in the changing environment. From there, a more thorough sales team evaluation can provide a detailed look at your sales force and help you identify the weaknesses and skill gaps that are limiting your sales results. Those insights will allow you to develop an effective action plan for resolving them and ensuring your team’s ongoing success.

This kind of assessment is particularly important now, when the labor pool is about to expand as other companies cut budgets and workforce. Talented sales reps will become available, and savvy sales leaders are preparing themselves to make smart hires that will shore up skill gaps and create a well-rounded sales team.

5. Build Your Go-Forward Plan – When the dust eventually settles and we’re all allowed back out in public, we know that not everything will go back to the way it was before the pandemic hit. Activities like digital meetings and virtual sales training will continue to be used in greater scale after the crisis.

Companies may have been forced to switch to virtual options as a short-term solution, but reports have shown that virtual sales training can double sales reps’ confidence and increase pipeline creation by 23.2%, compared to reps who participated in live classroom training.

Partner with an Expert Team for Long-Term Success

Developing top sales talent is an ongoing need, regardless of the current sales climate. Using comprehensive, science-based sales performance assessments, HireDNA’s experts can help you identify both immediate and long-term opportunities for growth, and uncover skill gaps that may be holding your team back. We partner closely with you to create a high-performance sales culture, with a clear picture of what it will take to improve your people, processes, and systems.

HireDNA was also 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.

How To Improve B2B Cold Calling Success Rates

Cold calling has been one of the major selling tactics over the years, requiring reps to approach complete strangers and win them over through excellent interpersonal skills that persuade the prospect to covert. Cold calling can be very challenging, but there are some tactics that could help improve your success. Here are some thoughts on how to improve B2B cold calling success rates.

At HireDNA, our sales evaluation and training systems are the results of 20 years of experience. Get in touch to learn more about how we can help to improve your sales team. Talk to an HireDNA expert.

How to Improve Cold Calling Success Rates

If done effectively, cold calling can yield great success. Take the technological giant Uber for example. Did you know what laid down the foundation of Uber and ultimately the entire trend of the sharing economy? A cold call.

According to founder, Travis Kalanick, he dialed a number of people he found on Google when searching for ‘San Francisco chauffeur’ out of which three replied. The rest, as they say, is history.

With so many organizations deriving great returns from their cold calling strategy, if it’s not working for you, chances are that you may need to tweak your strategy. Don’t worry! This article will offer tips that can help enhance your cold calling success:

Improve The Quality Of Your Data

62% of organizations rely on prospect data that can be inaccurate or incomplete by as much as 40%. Not only does this result in wasted effort, it also costs your business valuable resources. According to a report by Harvard Business Review, ‘bad’ data costs businesses more than $3 trillion each year in the United States alone.

As consumers become increasingly aware of sales tactics, they tend to only respond to products and services that are tailored according to their needs. If your sales reps are reaching out to prospects based on incorrect, inaccurate, or incomplete data, you are bound to get underwhelming results.

Consider investing in solutions like SalesIntel that allow you to analyze your database and identify any lacking information that adversely affects your quality. Additionally, optimize your prospect data collection strategy. Adding relevant questions to your forms and allowing prospects to express their answers in detail can significantly improve the quality of your data.

Talk Less, Ask More

The art of converting prospects through cold calls is heavily dependent on what you do after the prospect picks up. You can have the most suitable product that can solve your consumer’s problems, but if you don’t have the right tone, chances are you might not close the deal.

The number of questions and the relevancy of your posed questions also play a big part. An extensive survey that analyzed 519,000 cold calls found a directly proportional relationship between the number of questions posed by the sales rep and the percentage of closed deals. To put it simply, it was found that asking 11-14 questions over the course of your call significantly increases the chances of your success.

However, be careful to not overdo it. Sales reps who asked 15+ questions only fared marginally better than sales reps that asked 7-10 questions.

HireDNA offers advanced training tools and customized content-based training methods to enhance your sales performance. Learn More.

Take Rejection As A Learning Opportunity

Regardless of how much value your product can add to your prospect’s business, the fact remains that cold calls often result in rejection. And over time, rejections can become demoralizing. The hallmark of a successful sales representative, however, is their ability to take these things as part of the business and continue to tweak their sales strategy to counter such rejections.

If you are giving up too easily, then cold calling will never bear fruit. You need to be motivated to pick up the phone with a defined purpose every time. Whenever a prospect hangs up on you, ask yourself, would it be any different if you hadn’t tried calling them?

Focus on the key takeaway: why did they hang up? Did your opening statement fail to catch their attention? Did you not address their pain points adequately? By learning from such challenges, you can quickly turn such prospects into paying consumers.

Explore our blog on How to Motivate Your Sales Team When Sales are Down for strategies to inspire your team even in the face of defeat.

Hire Top Talent

Beyond training your existing reps, bringing in highly skilled sales reps can be a quick and easy way to improve your team’s overall B2B cold call success rate. When you hire top talent, they will often have a track record of success. If cold calling is a priority for your business, be sure to make that known in the hiring process, and consider including interview questions or posing scenarios centered around cold calling when vetting candidates.

HireDNA predictive sales candidate assessments allow you to predict success before hiring with proven data and science, not impressions and instincts. Learn more.

Train Your Sales Reps For Unprecedented Success

Cold calling is far from dead. But many organizations need to work on their strategies to enhance their effectiveness. That’s where HireDNA comes in.

We offer sales performance evaluations to uncover skills gaps in your team, and we deliver advanced training through a customizable cloud-based learning platform to improve performance. Not only do we customize our learning offerings according to the skill gaps found in each individual salesperson, but our interactive approach ensures your team absorbs every bit of it with quizzes, role play scenarios, guides, and action plans.

Get in touch to learn more about our sales recruiting, evaluation, and training offerings. Create your winning sales team today!