In my Cold Calling 2.0 system I recommend using email to set up calls, demos, and appointments. When I consult for my clients tweaking their email copy is something we spend a ton of time on. The importance of email subject lines is well documented. Email subject lines are critical in order to ensure your message actually gets read. But what should you focus on to get your prospect to take action?
- Emails should be simple to understand and easy to answer.
- Keep emails short. Less than 5 sentences.
- Ask simple questions about your prospect.
- Focus on the call-to-actions.
Here are 23 simple call-to-actions that will help you get your prospects to respond.
- Please let me know by [DATE + 3 DAYS] if you are ready to [XYZ].
- What are the next steps on your end?
- My CEO is riding me pretty hard in regards to our partnership. What should I tell him?
- How does this sound to you?
- Just to confirm your next action is [XYZ]?
- Can we make some magic together?
- What did you think of the [XYZ] I sent over?
- Realize you are swamped…should I chat with someone else on your team?
- Just to confirm your remaining action item is [XYZ]. Is that correct?
- What will it take to get 25 minutes on your calendar next week?
- Can you or someone on your team jump on a quick 14 minute call this week to explore?
- Are you still interested in [XYZ]?
- Sorry did I do something wrong or are you just super busy?
- Does teaming up with us make ANY sense for [COMPANY]?
- Whose name should I put on the paperwork?
- Can we please get this baby done by this Thursday?
- [NAME], what do you need from me to get this done?
- Just to confirm we are waiting on [XYZ]?
- All you need to do is [XYZ] and we are set. When can you get that done please?
- Will this work for you?
- What else do you need in order to make this work for you?
- Will you please email me on [DATE + 3 DAYS] to confirm [XYZ]?
- I will send you a calendar invite/reminder about finalizing that paperwork on [DATE + 3 DAYS]. Sound good?
Use these CTA’s to push opportunities from middle-of-funnel (MOFU) to bottom-of-funnel (BOFU). Simple calls-to-action keep the prospect engaged and keep you top of mind.
A killer use case for these CTA’s is in your automated outbound emails. Using tools like Yesware & ToutApp you can strategically place these calls-to-action in your drip sequence to increase response rate.
Below is an example where combining automated drip email outreach with CTA’s proved effective. In this example I combined a CTA with the Predictable Revenue Call Colding 2.0 approach. By cleary asking Brad if he or someone else can jump on a call I give myself 2 opportunities for a small win. Either Brad will be willing to do a quick call or he will pass the buck to another teammate (referral). Just like with the Call Colding 2.0 referral approach it is a very easy action for Brad to just pass me on to a teammate. And that is exactly what he does.
The best place to insert these CTAs is at the end of your email. As a rule of thumb if your email does not end with a CTA you are doing something wrong. Putting the CTA at the end of the email makes it very clear to the recipient what exactly their next action is.
Selling via email is like squirrel feeding – focus on getting a nibble. Keep the messages bite sized. Focus on easy wins like getting the emails opened and responded to. Save your novel for your best selling sales book ?
If you are interested in a pre-selected package of sales apps (like Yesware, Carb.io & Toofr) & email training courses from people like Aaron Ross, checkout The Predictable Revenue Bundle.
Editors Note: Guest Post by Matt Smith creator of The Predictable Revenue Bundle. The bundle offers anyone the tools and training of Silicon Valley’s best sales teams.
The sales funnel is at the core of everything we do in sales. Your sales reps are staring at their funnels all day, everyday. The sales pipeline/funnel is a visual representation of all your team’s open opportunities. The results of all the lead gen, calls, emails, meetings, and processes all come together to create the sales pipeline.
Mastering pipeline management is one of the most effective ways to increase revenue because it helps you find and improve areas of weakness. But what pipeline metrics are important? What can reps and managers due to improve their pipeline management skills?
1. Know Thy Numbers
Pipeline management is all about understanding the numbers and components of the sales funnel. If sales managers know the averages they are able to better predict and create predictable revenue. You must know:
- New leads created per month by source
- Conversion rate of leads to opportunities
- Conversion rate of opportunities to closed deals
- Average Won Deal Size
- Average Sales Cycle Length
- Win Rate
- Total # of Open Opportunities
The more accurate the data the better. Getting better data requires making sure reps are putting quality data in the CRM. Obviously sales managers need to make data quality a priority in order for it to occur. History, solid data, and previous trends will help you better predict future results.
Let’s look at an example using the Pipeline Velocity metric. This formula can be interpreted as dollars earned per day by the sales team. The key point with pipeline velocity is to focus on each input not the final output metric. The equation for Pipeline Velocity is:
Each of the 4 components of Pipeline Velocity is a lever that can be pulled to impact business results. Below is an example that illustrates how improving any 1 of the 4 metrics can lead to sales growth.
2. Execute Regular Pipeline Reviews
At Predictable Revenue, we constantly see that the best way to increase Pipeline Velocity is through increasing the number of qualified, open opportunities. This is partially due to the fact that the lead generation system, once well-defined, can be scaled rather easily. While increasing the win rate requires focusing on a variety of interrelated factors and activities that can be harder to systemize and improve.
Every Sales Manager conducts regular forecast meetings. Unfortunately, like most things in sales, forecast meetings only focus on opportunities that are expected to close by the following week. Although forecast meetings can be helpful, Pipeline Reviews are more beneficial. Pipeline Reviews focus on opportunities that are at the top and in the middle of the funnel. In Pipeline Reviews:
- Sales teams can review the quality of opportunities recently added to the funnel
- Sales managers can have a greater influence on the outcome because these are newer opportunities
- Sales reps and managers have a more comprehensive view of the entire pipeline
According to Aaron Ross author of Predictable Revenue, “in pipeline reviews or one-on-one coaching sessions, be merciless.” Grill your reps on the quality of their opps, the decision makers involved, and their pipeline management processes.
3. Focus On Small Improvements at Each Stage of The Funnel
As you may have heard :), sales is a numbers game, and teams using a Predictable Revenue system have high volumes of leads to take advantage of. This often causes reps to focus less on quality opportunities.
Limited focus on quality opportunities can be detrimental to their pipelines. Small improvements in pipeline management by funnel stage can lead to some promising results:
4. Keep Those Pipes Clean
If reps increase conversion rates by 5% in 2 macro funnel stages, there is a potential 50% increase in the number of won deals. Just like with a marketing funnel, a sales funnel must be optimized and measured. The evolution of the SaaS Sales Stack is making sales more like marketing each day. Know the apps, know the funnel metrics, and keep an eye on the pipeline conversion funnel.
Use Pipeline Reviews as an opportunity to eliminate weak sales opportunities. Salespeople are inherently optimistic which can cause them to waste time on TOFU opportunities because they truly believe these new opportunities are “definitely in our strike zone.”
The reality is a percentage of the opportunities in your team’s funnel are WAY outside of your strike zone. According to Aaron Ross, “every month, go in and clear your pipeline clutter to create space for new, high quality opportunities.”
Predictable Revenue ensures steady lead flow. Steady lead flow allows your salespeople to focus on the best qualified opps that are in line with your ideal customer profile and strike zone.
5. Create a Formalized Pipeline Management Operations Manual
Create case studies of specific opportunities from open to close. Give reps scripts and specific activities to do at each stage of the funnel. Sales Managers should ask themselves:
What does the buyer journey look like?
If an opp gets stuck in a specific stage what is the rep supposed to do? What has worked in the past?
What is the average conversion rate by each funnel stage?
All Sales Managers can do a better job of helping their salespeople manage their pipelines. Each sales team member plays a crucial role in building sales pipeline. Sales Development Reps are responsible for the number of opportunities, Account Executives are responsible for win rates, but it is up to the sales manager to manage the machine that is creating the pipeline. Don’t work in the system, work on the system to create a Predictable Revenue pipeline machine.
To understand where you are going you need to understand where you have been.
***Special Offer: Predictable Revenue subscribers receive the Full Stack Sales 1.0 Bundle for 50% off: 10 elearning courses & 4 ebooks to make you a bonafide predrev rockstar for $49***
While researching this post I was shocked about how little is written about this topic. Clearly academia continues to discount the sales profession. The lack of hard academic research and formal university sales curriculums further highlights this “player hating.” Is it because professional sales people are still seen as snake oil salesmen? Or is there just a lack of interest in professional selling? My prediction is that sales is still not considered a hard skill or discipline like marketing or finance. Well that is about to change.
The goal of this post is to educate today’s professional sales person. As Steve Jobs said “you can’t connect the dots looking forward.” Hopefully you can connect the historical dots here in order to extrapolate what the future of sales may look like.
1870 – Insurance Begins Role Specialization with Hunters & Farmers
Obviously sales has been around since we were bartering as cavemen. Let’s pick up the story of professional selling in 1752: the year “Benjamin Franklin founded America’s oldest, continuously active insurance company.” At this time insurance and many household goods were subscription products. A sales rep would close the opportunity and then make regular in-person visits to collect monthly payment.
Eventually, the successful sales reps had no time to prospect or sell because all their time was spent collecting monthly payments (sound familiar?). To solve this misallocation of time and resources, the insurance industry developed role specialization from an Account Executive/Hunter and Account Manager/Farmer perspective. “The terms ‘hunter’ and ‘farmer’ were coined by the insurance industry in the 1870s to describe ‘producers’ (those who wrote new business) and ‘collectors’ (those who collected the weekly premiums).”
This new sales structure was an instant success and quickly spread to other industries outside of insurance. Role specialization and process improvement become the first major advancements in the history of professional selling.
1924 – IBM & Professional Selling
From 1849 to 1882, 180,000 Chinese immigrants arrived in America to help build the intercontinental railroad. And with these Chinese workers came a game changing product called snake oil! ? Clark Stanley (the original snake oil salesman), doctors and traveling salesmen began to aggressively and deceptively sell “magic remedies” across America. This stigma is still something we deal with today when discussing the public’s perception of the sales profession.
During the early 1900s because of snake oil salesmen, the sales profession was seen as an occupation for the unethical and unprofessional. Luckily for the profession, a hotshot salesman by the name of Thomas J. Watson Sr. had just landed a new gig. Thomas looked to make his newly named company, International Business Machines, a sales powerhouse.
The major insights Thomas understood were: 1) as competition increases, a sales force becomes a competitive advantage 2) the more well-trained, educated and professional the sales force, the more sustainable the competitive advantage. Thomas and IBM helped push the sales profession forward by:
- Implementing formal sales training programs
- Focusing on sales force motivation through songs, contests, and innovative commission structures
- Focusing on recruiting the best and brightest right out of college
Thanks to IBM, sales had become a professional and respectable occupation for the educated.
1925 – 1936: The Psychology of Selling & Dale Carnegie (Tactical Selling)
In July 1925, E.K. Strong published The Psychology of Selling. Strong developed a myriad of lasting sales principles such as features and benefits, objection handling, and question type. He showed that sales was a hard skill that could be taught, learned, and studied.
The success of IBM’s sales force and the findings in The Psychology of Selling led to a
renewed interest in the sales profession by corporations, entrepreneurs, and authors. One of these entrepreneurs was Dale Carnegie. Dale Carnegie became a best selling author and business trainer. He helped moved the sales profession forward through his concepts like AIDCA, which “shows how the seller works through the five steps to secure a buying commitment.” AIDCA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Conviction, and Action.
E.K. Strong and Dale Carnegie helped move the sales profession forward by:
- Concluding sales was a repeatable process
- Showing that sales was a skill set that could be learned, studied, and mastered
- Using research to solidify and articulate unclear sales concepts
- Developing the tactical and relationship selling playbook
1988: SPIN Selling & Solution Selling
SPIN Selling took tactical concepts, like open-ended questions, to the next level: Solution Selling or Consultative Selling. The key premise of SPIN Selling is “customers will only be motivated to buy something if they identify there’s a need. And because there are times when prospects are not even aware there’s a problem, the questions you ask are key. This book describes a powerful sales process that reveals four types of questions that when asked in sequence, will significantly increase the likelihood of a lead translating into a sale.”
Solution Selling introduced an advanced sales model that worked very well for selling complex products and services. Instead of the sales rep forcing the product down the customer’s throat regardless of need, the rep would ask a series of questions in order to identify if there is a fit.
SPIN Selling brought us into the solution sales era and helped us understand how to maneuver complex sales processes.
2011: Predictable Revenue
While at Salesforce.com, Aaron Ross saw that further role specialization was needed in the sales profession. 141 years earlier, insurance companies specialized sales roles because of process inefficiencies. Aaron saw similar inefficiencies: Account Executives/Closers spending disproportionate amounts of time prospecting for leads instead of closing new business. This insight was followed by the creation of the additional specialized sales role, the Sales Development Rep (SDR).
The 3 key components of this sales process (Lead Generation, Closing, and Account Management) each have 1 specialized rep focusing on that piece of the process. Aaron moved the sales profession forward by helping us understand that sales growth comes from qualified lead growth. And qualified lead growth comes from a Sales Development Rep 100% focused on finding and qualifying leads.
2015: The SaaS Sales Stack & Sales Hackers
It is a very exciting time in the sales profession with SaaS prospecting automation companies raising major financing rounds and beginning to really scale their footprint. The number of tools in the modern sales rep’s tool box has exploded in recent years. With the SaaS Sales Stack, now reps have specialized cloud sales apps for each of their workflow processes. Apps for lead generation, CRM, email automation, contract management etc etc. The more app’s your team has mastered the more successful they will be. All the apps connect which means the customer data has never been so robust. Automation of key processes like logging sales activities means reps can spend more of their time actually selling.
The top performers are now those that have learned to master the new sales technology AND the best practices. We call these top performers “sales hackers.” These sales hackers understand the importance of the right tools and the right training in combination. The Sales SaaS Stack will become so powerful over the coming years that it will inevitably leave a significant percentage of “old school” sales reps in the dust. The SaaS Sales Stack and its proponents like Max Altschuler helped move the profession forward by giving sales reps a ridiculous amount of new impactful sales tools.
Sales has evolved more slowly over the last 145 years than other disciplines like finance and marketing. But we are now in a sales renaissance. Innovations and new insights will continue to come at an increasing rate. The future looks very bright for those who understand the history, study best practices, and master the new tools of the trade. The combination of the right tools and the right training will power a new generation of tech savvy sales nerds (like myself).