Sales: The Greatest Team Sport

by Amy Kohl

Marketing + Biz Dev + Sales = Closed Won Stories

When I was working with my last start up, every win resulted in team high-fives and company-wide email announcements. From building the product, driving awareness and closing a new logo, a win was a win for everyone in the company. In my role, I had the unique visibility to read all the data points to fully understand what it took to win that new customer. I started to bubble up some key data points to myself in a dashboard called “Closed Won Journey” so I could easily see and extract a very human story, in plain English, to share with the entire company.

A closed won story includes details of the lead nurturing led by marketing, the pivots and strategies executed in lead gen pioneered by the sales development team, the support of the engineering team to establish our tech as the solution of choice, and the measurement of persistence value selling entails from the sales org.

If you approach these necessities as base-hits, you know where you stand after writing up your first few Closed Won Stories. Is there a trend? Does it help when leadership comes into the sales process at a certain stage? Does an Enterprise Deal close faster when we have the CTO/SE demo with the rep? How much faster do we close Marketing generated deals compared to deals sourced by our AEs?  After all, your sales strategy cannot be “just hire a rockstar sales rep” – this is how we make our plays paint-by-numbers, scalable and repeatable.

So what does a Closed Won Journey typically look like for our clients at AK Ops? In this blog post, I’ll break down the process from marketing to sales development—and more sales—so you understand exactly what happens. But, refer to this blog for the more tactical data necessary to tell the full story.

Marketing Assists Sales: Serve first, then sell.

If we think about the top of the funnel as base hits, “interest” would be first base, “meeting” would be second base, “qualification” would be third base, and the close would be home.

Way too often, companies buy software, acquire a few lists of leads, then throw them at their reps, and yell “go!” Without establishing interest first, it’s like asking a runner to skip first base— the marketing nurture is like a baseline leading them to first. Without it, sales reps could run at their contacts in literally any direction.

However, if you nurture contacts with meaningful, relevant content regardless of whether they do business with us or not, prospects will feel much more comfortable when they start to hear from the sales team. Here at AK Ops, we have this motto to “Serve first, then sell.” That’s why marketing should own leads until they engage. We will run campaigns about, say, apples, bananas, and oranges in a very consultative nature for months before resting leads. How do leads not grow tired of our outreach? We have a discipline of “APV”: always provide value. This means that if you don’t have something of value to share with a lead,  you don’t deserve to be in their inbox. By always providing value in the inbox, we’re able to maintain very healthy deliverability and low unsubscribe rates. (Even in sales follow ups – you’re 3x more likely to get a response when you’re providing an asset of value with every “ask”.)

What does APV look like in practice? Provide a resource with every touch (this goes for reps too). Respect of the inbox is key here. If you do not have a meaningful campaign to deploy, send nothing. When you show up in someone’s inbox simply because your marketing calendar says you should send out an email newsletter that day, you’re not serving your customer base. You’re serving internally set goals. You will not win like this.

But what if you’re struggling to create content? If this is the case, take a deep breath and pause. Content development shouldn’t be too hard—this is your domain of expertise, after all. You can spitball to yourself on Zoom and put together audio clips that organize your thoughts. You can record a Zoom of you and a great customer talking shops for 10 minutes. You can write a blog or put together a montage of customer spotlight stories. These content pieces shouldn’t be academic, scholarly pieces–they need to be relatable, valuable, and actionable. Short, especially audible, content works best.

Marketing Closed-Won Story Data Points:

  • What blogs did they read?
  • How many times did they hit your website before booking a call (then, also all time)?
  • How many form fills or ad interactions occurred before they were even on sales’ radar?
  • Did they attend a webinar or event?
  • Are they a multi-channel engager (linkedin, paid, events, etc)

Now what happens when a lead engages with your content? The moment a lead expresses a predetermined level of interest in, say, apples (such as by downloading the content piece), automation should pull that lead into a warm nurture campaign about “apples” from a salesperson. Now, you have a sales rep in the mix with an engaged lead who knows who you are and the mission you serve. This puts the sales rep in a consultative and relevant position that makes it easy to ask for a meeting with the lead.

To be clear, this isn’t rocket science or some secret code that we’ve cracked. But the logic and organization of the data flow on the contact record with the campaign enrollment is somewhat challenging. This is where the savviest companies lean on automation so they can seamlessly transition leads from marketing to sales without jeopardizing their message or their sales reps’ opportunities to work leads. Illustrating this handoff is key for closed won stories—it’s a victory and should be celebrated as such!

Sales Development & Sales Closes:

Measuring What It Really Takes

At some organizations, passing leads from marketing to sales means that for each lead, there is only one person from the sales team working that lead from start to finish. Clients of AK Ops, however, have seen more success by creating specific roles within your sales team so you can encourage teamwork and create a scalable sales process. One specific role can be your BDR, SDR, or Lead Gen Partner, who is then responsible for prospecting through email, calls, and more. The other role can be your Account Executive, with their responsibilities covering running meetings, working the pipeline, and closing deals. Through specialization, we’ve seen the number of leads increase by tenfold, resulting in an average of 10% more booked meetings and 25% more qualified deals – read more in this blog.

While the marketing team continues to generate leads by always providing value, the sales development reps should be working a stocked pond of engagers. That means your SDRs are automatically nurturing the leads with emails while looking for prompts when a prospect engages with their emails about “apples.”  Like the hunters they are, the SDRs have called the lead 2, 3, 4+ times, qualified them, and either via email or on the phone, gotten a meeting on the books. The SDR’s mission for this lead is complete – they’ve created pipeline!

Now, the SDR hands the lead off to the Account Executive, who should focus on closing the deal. The deal is officially a “real opportunity” in the pipeline and now the consensus building, pain discovery, solution alignment, pricing agreement. and negotiation happens. When people think “sales” this is where they first jump to, but let’s not forget all the work that has happened to get us here, starting with all of the marketing team’s hard work.

Sales Closed-Won Story  Data Points:

  • Number of Touches to First Meeting Booked (number of marketing engaged campaigns + number of sales touches)
  • Number of Sales Activities to a Close (Calls, emails, meetings)
  • Number of times contacted (how many times did our reps reach out the them to get the deal closed)
  • Days till Closed
  • Deal Source

What can this tell us? Are some reps able to close deals faster with more meetings? Are some reps not aggressive enough in their follow up? Are the reps providing value in the follow up emails? Are some reps faster at closing their own deals vs marketing influenced pipeline? Are our reps working all deals the same – rep hunted or SDR generated? Are we neglecting deals in the middle of the funnel?

Getting in the practice of measuring closed won stories will also help you identify rep trends.  For example, which rep closes with the least discounting, the fastest, with the fewest meetings, with these titles, with these industries, with these channels, and more. Keeping track of these data points are invaluable and can help you pivot during crucial times. For example, if certain campaigns to certain audience segments can pull in fast-moving opportunities, can you do some scrappy push campaigns mid-quarter to help pad your forecast?

Overall, keeping an eye over your closed won journeys is not just for Big Brother accountability– it allows your entire team to see everyone’s hustle as well as surface opportunities to improve the process so we can all win more efficiently. Although competitive in nature, sales has to be a team sport.One of my favorite sales leaders always preached to our reps not to suffer in silence but rather call the cavalry. As he would say, “Badnews early isn’t bad news.”  I loved this and always saw the impact we had on a deal going south by simply acknowledging it was at risk. Calling the cavalry was an excellent way to save the deal, lean on your team and win the business.

Secure More Closed Won Deals with Automation and a Dream Partner

The AK Ops Mission is to operationalize the CRM by connecting marketing and sales campaigns that enable demand gen programs on autopilot. Our program is adoptable and scalable while providing the insights leaders need to drive their businesses forward. Our discipline ultimately builds more pipeline with better conversion rates.

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