“Silent Super-Salesman”? Or “Turnoff Time Bomb”? Make YOUR Website Make (the right) Noise!

Stop thinking of your corporate website as a “thing”. Start looking at it as your lead sales person, says Bryan Gray of Revenue Path Group. Is this a person you like? Or even respect? Are they effective or just also-rans? Keeping a website on the team that can’t do the job is one of the Five Great Threats to revenue growth through effective selling.

Close Encounters of the Sales Kind – 70% Now Happen Online

For sure, there is a lot of subjectivity around the often fraught issue of the company website. “Look and feel” is always going to be open to debate. It is rare that total consensus is achieved when design is under discussion. BUT … What simply cannot be ignored – or even debated – is the following hard fact: around 70 per cent of pre-sales research is now done online by your prospects before they even think about engaging with your sales team.

So your website is de facto your lead sales person. Handling the bulk of initial enquiries. Determining to a great, even frightening, extent whether a prospect takes the next vital steps to becoming a customer.

Where Does YOUR Website Sit in the Customer Persuasion Hierarchy?

Now in ANY organization, anyone who was guaranteed to have 70 per cent of all the initial close encounters of the sales kind would be the alpha, the silverback, the 700 pound gorilla who got everything from the best bamboo shoots to the bragging rights, every time and unchallenged.

The hard question to be asked therefore is this: is your website as it stands today, right now, a 700 pound roaring sales-making gorilla? Or is it something a little more modest? A shy lemur, perhaps? Or a timid little bush baby only appearing at night and frankly preferring to stay out of the limelight? Worst of all, is it a sloth? Happy to spend its days lazing in a tree? How can you tell?

“Sloth website” tendencies include the following: high bounce rates, indicating that visitors aren’t engaged by what they encounter and don’t stick around for long; lack of leads, proving that few visitors feel inspired to follow up and get in touch; low conversion rates confirming that prospects have little interest in becoming customers. These tendencies might, might, be easier to accept while you continue to think of your website as an inanimate object; a kind of techno-phenomenon that’s just too hard and too expensive to fix until you really run into trouble. But now try that trick of thinking of your website as a person and see how rapidly your attitude changes.

Sales Warrior? Or Lack-of-sales Worrier?

This guy is your lead sales warrior. Yet he is basically doing nothing! How long will you go on paying him? How quickly are you going to demand that he show you some radical improvement before you show him the door? If you could get rid of him right now, would you? And if you did cut him loose, would it make ANY real difference to your business?

If strong feelings are aroused by this process, that’s good. Anger is the precursor to action. But for an effective fight back, don’t (just) get mad. Get even better at selling through your number one sales person. Finally, make your website work for your business.

And here is where it gets a little more demanding. Now that you’re looking at your site as a human sales person, you can’t just roar at the guy for an hour and finally give him a month to shape up or ship out. That might make you feel better momentarily but it’s not a long-term answer. You have to look at your own role in the development of the current situation.

Did this ineffective sales person really know and understand what was expected of them? Did they have quotas? A personal development plan? Training and ongoing professional development? Sales aids and full marketing support? Or did you, being honest, equip them with the online equivalent of a sandwich board and an arrow on a stick reading “Golf Sale This Way”? Then did you plant them on the end of a virtual street and hope to catch some passing trade? If this was your approach, blaming the poor guy for not cutting it out there in a tough market seems a little harsh!

It’s Time to Equip for Success

From now on, things will need to be different. Your website will persist in being a truly horrible salesperson for just as long as you persist in giving them a horrible working environment: one of uncertainty, lack of support and absence of clear goals.

First base for positive change is defining what you want the poor guy to achieve. What does website-led success mean to your organization? How many initial sales meetings (visitor traffic) do you expect each month? What proportion of those visitors – as a minimum – do you expect to go further and convert into customers? How much money do you expect your head sales honcho to make for you?

Answering these questions will clarify the basic issues. You simply cannot succeed – or expect anybody else to succeed – if you can’t express quickly and clearly what success means. With the success parameters clearly defined, you can turn to the question of supporting your lead sales guy effectively. You have set them a series of expectations. That’s good. We know where we stand. How are you going to support them in achieving those expectations? (Not doing their work for them but making it possible for them to be effective in their own right.)

If you’re unsure how you’re going to support them. If you don’t really know what kinds of support are needed and what is going to be effective, it’s worth taking some advice and taking it quickly. After all, this virtual sales guy is directly handling 70 per cent of your prospects’ search for the stuff they want and the answers they need. So you can’t let him struggle on month after month, alone and ill equipped.

The Real Damage a Poor Website Does is to YOU

To sum up, if you have a website that’s the equivalent of an unprepossessing fellow with a clammy handshake – and who’s in acute need of a breath mint – then you also have a problem. It’s not your customers’ problem – they can simply say “not today thank you” and shut the virtual door. It’s not your shaky salesman’s problem because he isn’t actually a human being after all; ‘he’ is just a bunch of code on a server somewhere. It’s your problem.

So make it personal. Make fixing your web site issues an immediate priority. Start taking your share of the mighty 70 per cent of the enquiry process that’s happening out there right now. Because, if you don’t and your lead sales guy stays pallid instead of pushy, there are thousands of others out there who will get their foot in the door. And customers who could potentially be yours will open right up to your competition.

 

Is Your Sales Pipeline A True Business Lifeline? Or Does It Risk Going Flatline?

Even a regular flow of orders is NOT the same as a true pipeline, argues Bryan Gray of Revenue Path Group. A pipeline that in reality is only at best a dotted line – with serious underlying business health issues – is one of the Five Great Threats to revenue growth through effective selling.

Don’t let fear of what you might find out become a barrier to accessing the knowledge you need.

Many people – and men are by far the worse offenders – would rather stay out of the doctor’s office at any cost than go anywhere near a check up. The thinking – or rather the subconscious fear led denial – goes like this:

“I feel ok. Maybe not super great. But not terrible either. If I let medics poke me around, they’re sure to find something. And when they do, the fact that I get to know about it will permanently jinx my health. Even if there is plenty I can still do to change my habits and prolong my active life. So I’ll carry on as I am, thank you for your concern.”

Yes it’s irrational. Crazy even. But in daily life we tend to derive a great deal of comfort from letting things be and not waking a sleeping dog. And we do the same in business, particularly when it comes to the sales pipeline.

We’re doing ok? Well aren’t we?

Just as we often let fear rule over the rational realization that having our blood vessels checked out at sensible intervals would be a good thing, we leave the vital business artery that is the sales pipeline un-scanned and unattended. We interpret superficial indicators – such as the fact that we are still in business and that the cash comes in – as proof positive of good underlying sales health. And when the ultimate shock of system failure comes, we are genuinely surprised.

BUT … this fear led and comfort oriented approach is no longer good enough. Too many of our competitors are now taking too much good care of their own sales pipeline health for us to be able to ignore ours and still sleep soundly at night. So it’s time to get that good ol’ pipeline on the treadmill and subject it to some stress testing. (By the way, it’s much better to do this in a controlled environment, with supportive intervention at hand, than be left to pick up the pieces after a collapse in the real world.)

If your best customer goes, does your business go with them?

Let’s get started by asking a simple question: What would happen to your pipeline of sales if your best customer today dropped out of it tomorrow? Would the impact be noticeable, but you’d still do just fine? (Because your healthy system is always delivering alternative revenue sources and one of those will quickly grow to compensate for the loss.) Would the business take a knock but carry on, although in a weakened state? Would the blow be terminal?

Time out. How are you feeling about this test? Confident? A little breathless? Somewhat anxious but you’re ok to carry on? Good, then we’ll continue. Now ask yourself what shape your pipeline would be in if you lost your best customer AND your second best customer AND your third best customer. All in rapid fire order. All unexpectedly. You’re looking pale. Very pale. The monitors show that your pipeline is flatlining. Code Red here!!

Happily, we are still in a controlled environment. We can stop this virtual test any time and start to learn from its lessons. The first key learning is that we need a benchmark, a definition of “healthy” for the sales pipeline that we can use to compare with our own situation. Clearly, no two businesses are identical and there will never be a single “ideal”. But there will be common indicators of basic health we can all profitably become aware of.

What are the vital signs of true pipeline vitality?

First and foremost, a properly functioning sales pipeline will carry a healthy mix of business. There won’t be over-dependency on a small number of existing customers. Contrast this with a so-called “pipeline” that only delivers repeat business. This is not a pipeline in any true sense. It’s an order calendar. It’s completely under your customers’ control, not yours.

Of course it’s tempting to look at this situation as the ideal. Generations of sales wisdom tells us that a diet of regular customers is the healthiest possible. They cost far less, or even nothing, to support in terms of sales operation. Their revenues are predictable. Their margins are respectable. But they also carry as much high, and hidden, risk to the sales pipeline as heavy cream does to the arteries. In both cases, with over consumption, the pipe becomes inflexible, hardened and narrowed. Any sudden stress and …

A sales pipeline with real vigor will enable healthy growth and not just in new business, but even among the longest-established accounts. There will be fresh activity, signs of new life and evidence that the sales operation is still capable of teaching old customer dogs new ordering tricks, instead of just letting them lie.

A sound sales pipeline will – just like a three-dimensional pipe – have real physical integrity. In plain terms, there won’t be any holes. There will be a continuous flow, from effective new business prospecting at the top, to a steady flow of revenue-boosting orders at the bottom.

Steady is the key word here. A jerky or spiky supply of business – with long gaps between orders and sudden spurts and floods – suggests a worrying underlying pathology. In layman’s terms, you have not so much a sales pipeline as a sales dotted line. Irregular. Not fully joined up. This in turn makes true business planning impossible, given the absence of predictability. And a business that can’t plan can’t grow on its own terms. It can only react.

Finally, a healthy sales pipeline will be just like a healthy blood vessel: flexible, open and rapidly responsive to changing conditions. It won’t depend on old and slow techniques; approaches that are already far outpaced by the technology and cultural impact of online based, social media influenced selling.   

What’s really under YOUR comfort blanket?       

The comfort of assumptions is an illusion. So stop assuming that your sales pipeline is in the state it ought to be for optimal performance. Get it on the treadmill and model the impact of a few tough scenarios. Don’t accept the status quo. Taking action today will save you from reaching for the statins tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Great Threats to Revenue Growth Today

Have you read this blog post?

Seven Great Reasons To Do Three Things You Never Thought Of To Achieve One Guaranteed Result: NOTHING!

Blogging lists suck hard, usually being no more than a way to peddle a tool, technique or service. But there are key themes worth thinking about if you want your business to succeed. In fact, (spoiler alert “list” coming – but it’s a good one) argues Bryan Gray, CEO Revenue Path Group, there are FIVE GREAT THREATS to revenue growth through effective selling. You can choose to ignore them. They will be unlikely to return the favor.

Okay, we’ve opened this blog by deriding those endless lists of things you must avoid/embrace/do now/never do again/make a priority/put to the bottom of your priorities. That could be a high risk strategy, since you might already have concluded our thinking falls into the same instantly ignorable category as all those other attempts to hook you in. Trust me, it doesn’t.

In this introduction to our series on The 5 Great Threats To Revenue Growth Through Effective Selling, we promise you won’t find ANY lists! (You won’t see any in the individual articles either.) This is time for grown ups. We know that life in business isn’t simple. If the path to sales led revenue growth were a gentle downhill stroll through a flower filled glade, we wouldn’t have founded Revenue Path Group. It’s tough out there.

To succeed by design rather than accident, it helps to have some accurate coordinates. And that’s what we’re offering: a set of key coordinates to help identify what really matters. We’re not claiming to have all the answers in advance: that would be impertinent as well as dumb. We are stating, based on the strong foundation of successful experience, that if your business depends for its growth on revenue generated by sales, there are five very focused and practical areas you need to take a close look at.

Think of them as the key function checks a pilot would carry out during flight. You don’t have to be in a tail spin already to do them. But they will reward you with information and improvements that make for a smoother trip. And yes, occasionally, they will help to head off disaster. What are they?

The five “instruments” we monitor on our sales led revenue growth dashboard relate to:

  1. Your Sales Pipeline
  2. Your Website
  3. Your Sales Cycle
  4. Your Sales Message
  5. Your Sales Offer

We said we’re not in the lists business – and we really aren’t. But we cannot see how any business where sales matter can ignore these five key areas. If you don’t have the instrumentation to monitor them, or if you just don’t bother to check your readings, then at best you are missing out on a bunch of key data and insight. And at worst? Well you could be flying through fog at 400 miles an hour towards a mountain.

Let’s look at each instrument in a little more detail.

Your Sales Pipeline The sales pipeline is the aorta of your business circulatory system. So what kind of shape is it in? Strong, flexible and healthy? Is it pumping a variety of new and regular business into your organization? Or is it perhaps a little more sluggish than you would ideally like? Are you fundamentally fearful of what a detailed examination might reveal? Overcome that fear. You really need to know what you’re dealing with, so that you can take informed and effective action.

 

Your Website Is your website doing all it could and should be doing to help grow your business? To make the question more personal, imagine your site is a human member of your sales team. Is this guy appealing, hard working and a star player? The best possible ambassador your business could have out there in the market? Or, if you could, would you put him on a month’s notice? Or fire him today? And how much are you doing to ensure he knows what is expected of him and then to help him succeed?

 

Your Sales Cycle Are your sales cycles typically a straight arrow’s path from initial engagement to deal closed and long-term relationship initiated? Or do they more closely resemble a roller coaster, with steep dips, side loops, sudden mid-air halts and multiple twists and turns before you’re deposited back where you started? If you’re regularly taking that roller coaster, you may want to consider what it’s costing you in terms of sales time, misdirected effort and lost opportunities for an easier ride.

 

Your Sales Message Do your customers get yours? Do you?! Who owns what you say to your key targets? Do you have a “magnetic” message? Does it pull prospects towards your business? Does it give your sales team a single platform to operate from? Is it making sure your marketing is crisp, consistent and convincing? Or is there as much variation in voice as there are people doing the talking? One message: the strongest. One owner: you. Anything less and you risk problems down the line.

 

Your Sales Offer A great sales message won’t work (for very long) without a great offer to support it. So how great is yours today? Is it surviving commoditization and pressure from customers to pay the least they can? Or is it stand-out, commanding a premium on quality? Either way, you need to know. And then you need to act accordingly, with clear action to overcome customer indecision, cut through the noise and make the sale (or disengage before you waste resources and weaken your reputation).
At Revenue Path Group, we believe that keeping an eagle eye on these five areas will reward you with the insights you need to take timely and effective action. Of course, there are numerous other areas that impact wider business performance, ranging from product quality to innovation to the price of gasoline. But when you focus in on sales – and the effective selling you need to do in order to ensure revenue and growth – it’s hard to see how any of the issues we have identified can be ignored safely … or for long.