These days, especially with the advancements in artificial intelligence in business software, it’s easier than ever to accurately predict the flow of leads. However, every organization needs to be prepared for the inevitable ebb and flow ingrained in the process.
No matter how many people you have on your sales team, they all have to be ready for both of these situations. They need to be able to adapt quickly to maximize value for the organization depending upon the circumstances. It’s up to sales leaders to equip them well enough so they can succeed.
The periods when your pipeline overflows are not the best times to debate your analytical measures for hiring. These criteria should already be well established so you can put them to good use when you need to evaluate potential new hires in a compressed time frame.
It’s important to note that a growing lead pipeline does not always demand an increase in sales staff. Many times, it may be a better strategic move to maintain your pre-existing headcount and instead restructure their duties and support systems to make more efficient use of your resources.
Of course, there are situations when it makes sense to bring on one or more new salespeople to service your clients more effectively. In those cases, your goal should be to hire sales associates with a consistent skill set who can step in and contribute as soon as their training period is complete. Some leaders like to emphasize the importance of instinct when it comes to hiring, but there is obviously no way to measure this factor consistently.
What you can do is evaluate your potential hires according to the specific skills you are looking for, and assign quantitative values to these categories. You can then make quick decisions based on actual data that will yield new team members with proven skill sets.
When new sales trainees are added to the team, the effectiveness of the training modules they complete will be a crucial factor on the impact they have on your sales program. One important step is to allow new associates to shadow established salespeople, but do not make that the only training mechanism.
Provide consistent, interactive learning opportunities that have measurable results. Make sure your trainees get hands-on time with your products and services before they learn how to sell them. This puts them in your customers’ shoes, and provides them with empathy and understanding about situations your customers face every day. The context enables trainees to internalize the end user’s pain points.
Once they have studied the organizational knowledge, product knowledge, and customer experience that are central to your value proposition, test this knowledge before letting new salespeople actively manage leads and sell your product. All hires should be able to pass a comprehensive exam that allows them to demonstrate a working knowledge of these concepts. This is the best way to know they have a foundation that will allow them to step in quickly and make an impact.
One of the main reasons why vaccines are popular after they are developed is because of how simple they are. The treatment of diseases such as polio, influenza, and smallpox is a risky, uncertain medical process that is filled with variables doctors can’t always prepare for. Conversely, giving someone a simple injection that will reduce or eliminate the chance of contracting a disease is much more controllable than the alternative.
The same is true when it comes to lead management. Eliminating problems related to sales and marketing alignment is more effective than treating the symptoms of those problems. Despite your best efforts, you will still experience fluctuations in your lead pipeline. So while you can’t prepare for everything, you can minimize the disruptions and stabilize the sales pipeline more frequently when you master sales and marketing alignment.
It’s true that sales and marketing alignment is a complex subject. However, it begins and ends with collaboration. When the two units operate in a vacuum, sales reps may not understand the problem of lead insufficiency, despite the fact that marketers list generating leads as one of their top marketing challenges. When representatives from each team are deeply involved in the processes and strategy-building sessions of the other, they can develop shared goals and test solutions to achieve them.
Listen to the data to manage your resources.
Effective resource allocation is vital when you prepare your organization for the inherent fluctuations of a lead pipeline. Your sales reps need access to all of the necessary tools as soon as possible to capitalize on an overflow of leads, which means you have to be ready to shift resources at a moment’s notice to support them.
The anticipation of these scenarios can be tricky, but thankfully you have an ally on your side: data. Your territory analytics and sales team data are available to guide you and help you put your people and processes to use where they will have the greatest impact.
Not all leads are created equal, so you have to use sales territory analytics to discover where your lead conversions yield the most profit. When you need to shift sales reps from one area to another and increase the budget for that territory to better engage with those leads, you must act. You have to strike while the iron is hot, and it will likely be more cost effective than hiring and training completely new salespeople to accommodate that human resource need.
Every organization has flaws in its business technology ecosystem. After all, technology changes rapidly in today’s contemporary business landscape. These flaws start to cause problems when you aren’t aware of them. They can create roadblocks for sales opportunities at inconvenient times when you need to quickly ramp up your sales effort.
You have to regularly perform a thorough assessment of your technological infrastructure to get an accurate overview of where you stand. When you are honest about your tech limitations, you can devise a strategy that will facilitate improvements in your technology stack. If certain processes become too difficult for you to complete with your current in-house resources, consider outsourcing. Many successful hardware and software vendors excel at working with companies that enter unexpected growth periods, and they can provide you with enhanced tools and improve your technological capabilities in short order.
Your salespeople must be ready to engage and communicate the company’s value when lead overflow periods occur, and they need technological tools that help them streamline these actions and processes.
Take advantage of slow periods by running diagnostic tests on tech products. You may be able to identify potential issues now that could reduce productivity later when you have a glut of leads and prospects to work with. Also, you can use this time to make sure your sales reps are properly trained on any new systems, and shore up their training on existing tech solutions.
It sounds contradictory, but try to prepare your sales team and your organization for the unpredictable. This is actually a helpful way to think about the task you have been handed. As a sales leader, you are expected to be an expert in products, people, and markets. However, you also have to become an expert at change facilitation and management.
While that may sound daunting, the reality is that you simply need to rely on the skills you already use daily. Create adaptable processes and structures throughout your unit. Recognize when members of your sales team need to make adjustments, and help them find a new path forward. Most of all, remind yourself to be patient. Sales operations aren’t scaled from a headcount of one to 100 in a day, and the more you can trust the systems you put in place, the simpler the process of change will be for everyone.
Sometimes, sales can feel like a rollercoaster when leads come in slow one week but arrive like an avalanche the next. To effectively manage the ups and downs of lead management, your business needs to hire strategically, institute reliable training programs, leverage marketing and sales alignment, carefully analyze and review data, improve technological capabilities, resolve tech issues, and ensure your sales reps are adaptable. Change happens quickly, but you can enable your staff to consistently be ahead of it.
Learn more about how data will drive sales in our ebook, “The Future of Intelligent Selling: How Data Will Drive Sales.”