At a recent panel discussion, I was asked to share experiences in sales and marketing with an audience of Entrepreneurs’ Organization accelerator founders, along with fellow panelists Don Davis of Empire Automation Systems and Ron Valentine of ITX.
The speakers were asked to address topics including:
- Building your sales funnel
- Identifying and charting your sales process
- Calculating time needed for each step
- Ways to eliminate waste
- How to qualify prospects and get to “no” quicker
The active discussion covered attendees’ wide-ranging questions. As it often happens, we were privileged to learn as much as we shared. Here are some of our takeaways.
- Importance of a CRM: Process, technology, and people are intertwined. All the panelists agreed that the choice of tool is not nearly as importance of the use of the tool. A company without successful adoption of a CRM is missing out on a consistent, measurable sales process. Though we discussed Salesforce, HubSpot CRM, Insightly, and homegrown tools, , it all came down to defining and measuring your sales process.
- Red flags and green tails: We find that as you take on new initiatives, it’s just as important to define what you’ll stop One company referred to “red flags and green tails” in the sales process—identifying the signs of whether a prospect qualifies or fits, and what you are willing to commit to. These signs are important to define and agree upon as a team, to prevent disconnects between sales and delivery.
- Closing the file: As companies move from startup into second-stage growth, they begin to embrace the power of saying “no.” A “maybe” can cause confusion, drag out your sales cycle, and throw off your sales forecasts. Panelists discussed tactics they’ve used to focus on real opportunities. While the customer’s timeline is the only one that matters, phrases like “closing the file” can help you get a response and a true feel for the likelihood of sale. By putting the “no” on the table for the prospect, you help remove the awkwardness and their reluctance to say it.
- Customer profiles: We’ve advocated for customer personas for some time, and we were pleased to see that other companies with robust sales and marketing organizations also invested in defining their best customers. Some companies even created a DISC profile for personas to help them provide marketing and sales content to meet their needs.
- Marketing metrics: ITX has as large a marketing team as they do sales. As customer buying behavior changes, marketing serves a larger part of the sales funnel. All panelists knew their numbers—their marketing dashboards provide real-time data on the KPIs (key performance indicators) for marketing and sales.
A big thank you to EO, attendees, and fellow panelists for sharing their experiences in building organizations with scalable sales growth.
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