When companies ask me how to accelerate sales or improve retention, I tell them a story. I needed to purchase a sign for my wife’s French pastry shop last week. I spoke with the front desk clerk who said that it would be around $90. A few days later, I got the final quote from the sales person - $265. And with that, I was out. The sales person lost the deal. But to their credit, they called me (instead of emailing me again). Within 5 minutes, the misunderstanding was resolved and the deal was closed.
Pre-Corona, reps gravitated towards email and/or Slack and/or text. Post-Corona, video conferencing is all the rage. But the reality is that savvy sales people will use a combination of all 3 mediums to move a prospect through the funnel to close.
So when do you use the phone vs email? There’s a couple of questions you should ask yourself:
1. What’s the point of the communication?
If it’s a quick clarification, email is probably best because its asynchronous nature allows your prospect to answer on their (busy) schedule. And if the response is truly quick, it will be easy for your prospect to quickly type a reply during or between meetings, while commuting or while standing in line for their favorite burrito.
If the point of the communication is to discuss a more complicated issue, or to understand more about the prospects BANT or (like in my example above) resolve a miscommunication, the phone is probably your best bet because it allows for the back-and-forth dialogue which is so critical to get you and your prospect aligned.
2. Who is your audience?
Really try and think about your prospect. Are they in meetings back-to-back, or do they travel a lot? If so, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get them at their desk and a call to their cell might be a little intrusive. In this situation, an email might be best. Or perhaps they have told you that they receive 100’s of emails a day. If that’s the case, they might welcome a phone call as a reprieve from their inbox assault.
Also remember that while video meetings are the hot trend right now, your prospect might not appreciate being forced to be on camera. I would recommend sticking with the phone instead of a video call, especially if you are in the early stages of building a relationship with the prospect.
3. Do you need a record of the conversation?
When you are in the deal, there are certain aspects that you want to record – for example the specific requirements that the prospect is providing. I have seen too many deals fall apart pre-sale or post-sale when there is disagreement about what was included in the package. Even if they were discussed on the phone, confirming those details via email is absolutely critical.
But if the conversation is more general – going over the capabilities of the product, the initial gathering of the requirements, doing more discovery around budget – those can be done effectively via phone. Of course, it would be best practice to have those phone calls recorded.
The summary of all this is to remember to use all the channels that are available to you. A deal will not progress or close through phone or email alone. We live in an age where there are multiple communication channels available to us, and we would be foolish to not use all of them.
In my role of helping executives and investors grow <$10M SaaS companies by building a scaleable sales and retention engine, one of the most common questions I am asked is “Should we deploy software platform X”. Who better to help me answer this question than Vinay Bhagat, CEO of Trust Radius, which is the industry leader in software reviews.
He and I collaborated together and came up with the following set of steps you can use to help identify the right software solution:
Step 1: Ask Yourself - Will a Tool Fix Your Problem?
Too often, people fall into the trap of thinking that software will solve their problem. But software only accelerates and automates the current processes. If the current process is broken, or non-existent, software will exacerbate the problem, not solve it. The first step should be to understand whether your current processes are correct, or if you need to focus on getting those right first.
Step 2: Gather Requirements
Assuming you are ready for a tool, the most important step is requirements gathering. That’s just a fancy way of saying “what do you need the tool to do”. Talk to a broad range of stakeholders in your organization, from individual contributors who will be the main users to managers who will likely be managing the individual contributors to executives who will expect to see tangible ROI from the investment. Capturing the requirements can be as simple as a list in a shared spreadsheet or it could be more comprehensive (a lot will depend upon the cost and the impact to the organization of deploying the software). Vinay also recommends using review platforms, even at this stage, to both identify potential solutions and read about the various use cases. Doing so will enlighten you about what’s possible and extend your thinking about the requirements that you can codify in-house today.
Step 3: Research what’s available.
Informal networks (peers, friends) are a great source, but so are trusted 3rd party sites like TrustRadius. You’ll quickly learn whether the pros and cons of the software, as well as come across other potential solutions that you were not even aware of.
Vinay adds “Use filters to find products for your specific use case, and to find reviews from people similar to you or see how the products perform on dimensions like support and ROI realized”
Step 4: Take Some Demos
This is one of Vinay’s favorites because it means that you get to be customer (instead of the other way around!). He suggests documenting all the questions you have based upon your requirements document, and your research.
Once you have this, reach out to your short-list of vendors for a demonstration of the product. Ideally, you’ll do a 30 minute high level demo just to confirm that it can do what you want it to do. And then ideally, a follow up demo to see exactly how it will handle your specific requirements.
Don’t be afraid to push the vendor to have them show you exactly what you what, and ask tough questions. Don’t get distracted by them showing things they have but you don’t necessarily want.
Step 5: Get the Right Resources
Make sure that you have the internal resources and management alignment to make the deployment successful. “Peers are a great resource,” says Vinay. “Ask them about their real-life experience - what worked, what didn’t and what would they do differently if they had the opportunity to implement again”.
Step 6: Negotiate, buy and deploy
The right tool, deployed well and used effectively can dramatically improve efficiency and effectiveness of your demand gen, sales and customer success organizations. It may not be ultimate solution to all your challenges but it can definitely accelerate your growth.
We have 20+ years of experiencing in helping companies use software and process improvements to achieve exponential growth. If you’d like to learn how we can help your company grow from <$10M to $50M+ please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Building a Bike Reminded Me of The Importance of Scaling
Last week, my daughter turned 4 and I found myself, late at night, trying to build her new birthday bike. The task would have been made easier if the instructions were decent, but unfortunately, they were written poorly so I ended up just trying to figure it out myself. What should have been one hour project ended up consuming 3 hours of my time, as well as most of my patience and sanity (why would part A connect to part F – doesn’t it make sense for A to connect to B?!?)
As I struggled with the joining the “G-Connector Bracket” to the “U-Slide” but making sure that the “Circle Washer” was in the right place, I realized how this same struggle applies to the workplace. When someone is faced with doing something for the first time, we oftentimes do not set them up for success – instead, we let them either figure it out on their own or rely upon the dissemination of tribal knowledge (i.e. they ask one of their peers who gives them verbal guidance on how to do that particular task).
What struck me was how inefficient and ineffective this method is. It’s inefficient because so much time is wasted, either from the employee who wastes time trying to reinvent the wheel from scratch or from the knowledgeable employee that must train over and over again. And it’s ineffective, because there are the best practices within your organization, and it seems silly for someone to not use it.
So how do you solve for this? Process and documentation. First, you need to document some of your best practices, especially for situations that come up commonly. For example, have your Sales Team list out the 5 most common objections they get, and then prepare best practice responses for each of those. Or look at your most common Customer Support tickets and and make sure that you have macros (in Zendesk) or templates (other ticketing systems) created that can be easily used.
The next is process, and there are 3 parts to this. Firstly, make sure there is a good process to identify when a standard document should be created. Maybe it’s when the team tells you, or you see, a lot of similar situations occurring. Or maybe you put 1 person in charge of creating a new template each week.
The second is to make sure that everyone understands how to find the template. Don’t get caught up in trying to find the perfect technology (Google Docs, Sharepoint, macros or 3rd part apps like Guru) – ultimately the technology doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it is easy to use, and everyone knows how to use it.
The last is to make sure that people are actually using the templates, and if not, find out why not. Typically, you’ll hear the response that either they didn’t know a template existed, or they didn’t know how to find it, or it was just easier to write up the response themselves rather than search for the template. Those are all problems that can be solved. For example, incorporate a template review in your weekly stand-ups to reinforce awareness of the templates and make it part of the team’s workflow.
With the right documentation and process in place, you’ll find the team performing better, more consistently and more efficiently. And when that occurs, congrats because you have started on the journey of scaling.
We have 20+ years of experiencing in helping companies scale . If you would like to discuss how we can help you achieve cost-efficient and effective growth, please contact us at email@example.com.
Azim Nagree is an ex-Bain consultant with 20+ years in leading strategy, growth and operations transformations.