How to Open (and Close) Your Sales Cycle

August 1st, 2013

I recently hosted a webinar called Kick Your Demand Gen Up a Notch with Lori Wizdo of Forrester Research and Janelle Johnson of Act-On Software. As the name of the presentation suggests, we discussed ways companies can enhance their revenue-producing efforts across the entire sales cycle. While I hope you will download the webinar recording to get the full scope of information we shared, I want to highlight two points that nicely bookend the sales cycle. The first will help you sharpen your efforts to target leads at the top of the funnel, and the second will help you surmount that last step—the coveted sale.

As we outlined in the webinar, sales and marketing today are about focus. To turn an anonymous lead into a closed sale, you have to be deliberate and measured. You have to think hard about who your target audience is. Then you have to figure out how to reach them. After you have determined which leads represent real revenue opportunities, your focus must shift toward systematically helping leads through their buying process with targeted, nurturing content. When you get them to the point of seriously considering a purchase, it’s time for engagement with a sales rep—who must have a hyper-focus on and a deep understanding of each individual lead.

So here’s question number one: Where do you begin? What is the basis for this focused approach?

Answer: Pick your battles. You can’t help everyone, and you can’t solve every problem. The key to a functioning sales funnel (or sales escalator, as Lori discusses in the webinar) is filling it with people who have a problem that your product can solve. I know this is tough, because everyone loves their product and wants to highlight every aspect of it—but you must force yourself to focus on just a handful (three to five) of your prospects’ high-probability pain points.

If you produce content and nurturing campaigns around carefully outlined buyer personas and pain points, you will have built a level of focus into your efforts that can only provide purchasing momentum. The more closely your content mirrors and speaks to the problem(s) a lead is trying to solve, the more that lead will engage with you, and the more trust you will build with your lead. If your content is all over the map, you risk losing their interest, and they will go elsewhere to find a solution.

So let’s say you take my advice, and you build three to five super-focused nurturing tracks. You get some great, really promising leads. They meet all of your criteria, they have the budget to make a purchase, and the time is right. Now all you have to do is let a sales rep seal the deal, right?

In reality, it’s not that easy—which brings me to question number two: How can you help your sales reps close the deal?

Answer: Give them the tools to maintain that focus. I’m sure you've read about the new buying paradigm, how by the time today’s buyers engage with sales, they have done so much research that they may understand the product and the market better than the rep does. Imagine how detrimental it would be if such a prospect, primed and ready to go, were contacted by a sales rep who did not have a full understanding of the prospect’s needs, which piece(s) of content the prospect had engaged with, and which aspects of your product would be most useful to the prospect.

It would kill the deal. And all too often, it does.

We solve this problem at Sales Engine by giving our sales reps playbooks that tell them everything they need to know about the sales-ready lead they’re about to engage with. These playbooks cover everything from the content the lead has used, to talking points the reps can employ, to ways they can allay concerns or objections the lead is likely to have. This, in the sales and marketing world, is what we call sales enablement.

By the time a lead gets to the bottom of the funnel, they’ve come a long way with you. It’s your duty to be just as informed about them as they are about you. It shows you care about their needs, it builds trust, and it may just help you close the deal. If you don’t arm your sales reps with enough information to properly engage each lead, all of your marketing effort will be lost.

Now that I've told you what to do at point A and at point Z, download the webinar recording to learn how to get from one to the other.


Happy selling,

Paul Rafferty
CEO, Sales Engine International