You are in trouble if you’re trying to hack sales — unless you lay a foundation first.
When we say hacking, we mean trying to figure out loopholes and tricks and ways around doing the hard work. The hard work that every company and every sales leader needs to do cannot be hacked. Sure, you can buy some tools and lead lists and send out thousands of emails, but that won’t get you very far.
Stop looking for tips and tricks and learn the foundations that every sales leader and company needs. Instead, we’ll break down the three most important things every company needs to have to “hack sales” the right way.
But if you know these three things, you won’t even need to “hack” sales. You’ll know who to target with what messaging at the right time and be able to guide them to purchase.
No more convincing them to buy. No high-pressure sales. No spray and pray. No treating the customer like a pawn. And you and your team won’t waste your time working on bad opportunities.
These are the three things you must know in order to build a great sales organization:
- The difference between a lead and an opportunity
- Ideal customer profile (ICP)
- The buyer’s process and map to a sales process
Time is a sales team’s best friend, but too often it is spent on the wrong opportunities.
1. The difference between a lead and an opportunity
This is one of the most common places that sales reps make mistakes. If you’re unable to define the difference between leads and opportunities, how do you know what to focus on?
Your reps will end up spinning their wheels on unqualified leads that they should not be working. They will spend their time on the wrong things and their quota and commission, along with their energy will suffer.
Instead of hacking together a slick proposal or negotiating trick, focus on qualifying your opportunities and be super disciplined about it.
Want to increase your close rates and get better predictability in your forecasting? Qualify your opportunities better. Qualification is not a one-call activity either. It is constant throughout your sales process.
Instead of trying to hack an automated solution together to get your opportunities to close, spend the time diving into your prospects’ problems, their questions, and what they are trying or hoping to achieve and you will crush all of your sales teams’ revenue goals.
2. Define your ideal customer profiles (ICP)
The first question sales leaders and their teams need to answer is: who is our customer?
The answers dictate the type of sales organization that exists and the maturity of the playbook.
Answers will range all over. If you hear “we think it is small businesses” or “CEOs in the XYZ industry” that is a sign the company has no idea how to describe their customer and likely unsure of who their customer is.
That is a major problem. If you cannot describe your customer, how are you going to prospect for them? How are you going to know you found them, and when you do, how will you speak with them intelligently? And how are you going to know what they care about if you don’t know who they are?
This is not just a major problem – it’s the only problem. If you don’t know your customers, you still struggle to generate sales.
Marketing cannot create awareness and attract them to you. The product cannot build a solution to solve their problems. Engineering will build something they don’t need. And sales won’t sell anything.
Instead, describe the pains and problems your ideal customer deals with (that your company solves). Break it down at the company level and the individual level.
For example, Outreach.io solves problems at a business level: unpredictable results, but it also solves problems for sales leaders providing them insight into what their team is doing and the success of that activity.
Write down all the pains your ideal company deals with – and get specific. If you stay too high-level, the pain could be misinterpreted by your team and the rest of the organization. You want to be able to explain why that pain is important to the company, too. Then, write down all the pains the people internal to your ideal customer (who would likely have a say in or use your solution) struggle with.
Think about what these individuals get frustrated with during the week: What keeps them up at night? What are they banging their heads against the wall about?
Next, write down the business characteristics to describe the ideal customer. Not the only customer, but the ideal customer. If you have customers, look at them. Write down searchable and non-searchable characteristics.
Searchable characteristics are those that you can find on LinkedIn, Zoominfo, etc. There are industry, size, geography, titles, headcount, and whatever else is publicly available.
Next, write down the non-searchable characteristics that you would not be able to know unless you spoke to someone at the company. If the characteristics were true, then you would know you have a better chance of finding your ideal customer.
Here’s an example:
If your customers are planning on expanding to a new market and that’s a great sign for you, then that is a non-searchable characteristic. You likely would not know this unless you spoke to someone internally, assuming it was not announced publicly.
Next, write down the titles who are a part of the decision-making process. Not solely the internal champion, but those involved in the buying process.
Make a chart like this and list out the pains they deal with, what they are responsible for, and what they care about. Also, describe them as best you can: male/female, age range, city or suburbs, etc.
The more descriptive you can be, the better. When you can picture exactly who you are looking for, then you can prospect specifically for them and you will know when you find them.
Next, map both the business and individual pains to the value props you provide. You may have multiple pains to one value prop or multiple value props to one pain. Finally, combine them all together. You likely have multiple ideal customer profiles.
So make columns and identify the searchable and non-searchable ideal characteristics that describe your customer. Each column can represent a different profile of a customer you are targeting.
Underneath, add the pains and value props for each customer profile. You now have your ideal customer profiles defined. Share them with everyone in the company, and rally around these.
Update these as you learn more about your customers. Some of the characteristics may not matter. Or maybe you learn a new one that you didn’t know before.
Remember these are ideal customer profiles, not the only customer profile. But if given a chance, when you find a prospect with a make up of these characteristics and these pain points, you have a great chance to win the business.
3. The buyer’s process and map to a sales process
No one’s ever said, “Thank you for putting me into your sales process.” Why? Because no one cares about your sales process except you and your team. So create a buyer’s process first.
What are all the steps from not aware of the pain to let’s sign the contract? Typically, from a buyer’s perspective, there’s: awareness, consideration, and decision.
But think through the process steps along the way that a person needs to become aware, then consider, and then decide.
Take buying a house, for example. You’re not going to immediately ask what the price is, and based on that make your decision. Your buyer isn’t, either.
They are going to ask questions like:
- What type of residence do you want? Should we buy or rent?
- Where should we buy?
- How big of a place do we want?
- What other things are must-haves? A basement? Garage?
You get the point.
There are a ton of questions that a buyer has before jumping into the price. Your prospect buys in the same way. They all have questions early on. And when those questions are answered, new questions pop up. You are the expert that has helped buyers along the way and solved problems. Guide them to purchase. Don’t convince them to buy.
Navigate the journey with them, and help them with questions they should think about and what are they not thinking about? Help them. This is how you provide value.
There is no selling here – it’s just you helping someone make an informed purchase. Through this process, you’ll guide them to purchase from you, and they will love you for it.
Continue through to the post-sale process. What does implementation and them seeing impact look like? Now THAT is some serious value. Then, take those steps and map them to sales process steps.
Make all the sales process steps in past tense. Describe what needs to happen in those steps in order to move to the next step. Your sales team will love you because the process is clear, straightforward and there is no room for interpretation.
Your buyers will love you because you will be guiding them through a process they care about.
Here’s a recommended format for your process to get you started:
Don’t hack your process. Don’t try to skip steps. And certainly don’t force your buyers to do anything they don’t want to do. Once you get this down, you can scale revenue and grow your team as needed.
Then you can hack sales all you want.
Better yet, don’t hack sales at all. Just figure it out.
Love this…on the money!
Thanks Mark (@mgallen). Appreciate the kind words