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In today's technology buying environment, where only 10% of companies' IT budget is available for new product purchases, it's critically important for tech vendors to have an inside sales team that can create truly prequalified leads for their field sales forces and partners to convert to customers.
Earlier this year, while on the phone with a software company CEO, I asked him to comment on his most critical sales issues. He replied "We need more leads".
So I decided to investigate the problem, and interviewed a sample of inside sales managers, field sales managers, field salespeople and marketing managers, to help me evaluate the current state of high tech inside sales. Here's a brief assessment:
At most companies, Marketing generates interest in the company's offerings - hosting Webinars, offering downloadable white papers, product specs, and customer success stories.My concern about this approach to inside sales is that sellers aren't learning about the current situation that caused the prospect to inquire about the seller's company or offerings.
Sellers aren't asking about buyers' goals, needs or problems for which a potential new solution exists.
And sellers seem to be telling buyers about their products' features and benefits, and not helping prospects visualize how they could achieve their goal or solve their problems by using the sellers' offerings.
Most company sales leaders say they have a sales process - for their field sales force. But often, inside sales isn't part of the process. they are seen to be somewhere between sales and marketing, doing their best to "fill the top of the funnel".
The inside sales operation I've described may have made sense in the high growth 1990s, when technology buyers were upgrading everything–computers, servers, datacomm and software - every two to three years, and it was a seller's market.
But not today. In the current slow growth era, I believe that tech companies must develop and implement an inside sales process that front-ends the field sales process, as a seamless overall whole. It's now essential that the first person that a prospect talks with at your company be capable of doing a first rate qualifying job - to gain credibility with potential buyers and with their field sales counterparts.
Let's take another look at those A, B and C lead buckets. Is this the best way to categorize prospects? Are the A leads those with the highest sales potential?
Consider this. If an A prospect is making a near term decision, and your inside salesperson just now made initial contact, what's the likelihood that their buying cycle is underway, and a competitor is already influencing the solution specs?
And if this is the case, wouldn't your chances be better with a B prospect, who has assessed their problem, defined their objectives, but hasn't yet initiated a project?
And what about the C prospect? Aren't their goals, needs and issues the same as the A's and B's? Here, I'd recommend that your sellers ask the C prospect about their goals, needs and issues, learn about their current situation now, rather than wait six months until "they are ready", thus bringing the future into the present.
To change from the A, B and C bucket, active budgeted project way of selling to a more customer-centric selling approach, you will need an inside sales process - that you can teach, coach and manage.
Here are six components, from the CustomerCentric Selling® methodology, that can serve as a model for developing your inside sales process:
Bob Washburn helps high tech sales executives accelerate sales revenue by improving sales team performance. WashburnGroup is an affiliate of CustomerCentric Selling® (www.customercentricsystems.com).
Contact Bob at email@example.com or 508-366-0994.
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