Most of the current sales innovations are focused on scaling: getting more leads in, reaching out to more prospects, sending more follow-ups. A lot of great things have happened on that front, but somehow the question of what happens when a potential customer responds seems to be forgotten, let alone how the response could be improved.

From a technology standpoint, this is understandable. It is more straightforward to work with structured data like customer profiles or standardized email cadences than with unstructured email conversations or meetings. Nevertheless, I am left wondering if just generating more input for the same process is sustainable. Shouldn’t you also look at the actual interactions and improve performance there?

Understanding the hidden value

Having done more than 10 years of sales, I am aware of the ongoing pressure to get more results. The current market dynamic therefore is easy to follow: put more in the process and more results will come out on the other end. But what if I could improve the performance of this process by 20%? Then with the same resources, you would get 2 extra customers out of every 10 you are closing now. Just like that.

Many companies perceive the interactions as something “they pay their sales reps to do”. That makes sense to some extent; however, that also means that every sales rep finds his or her own way of becoming successful. And some ways will work better than others, which creates a difference in effectiveness between your sales reps. Wouldn’t you want every sales rep to be as good as your top performer?

If you want to improve the interactions, the first thing to realize is that even though communication is unstructured, it is (or should be) part of a process. The conversation is taking place somewhere in your sales cycle, and this is an important handhold for when you want to work on the performance. You can, for example, define what requirements have to be fulfilled to progress a lead to the next stage and derive the optimal communication style and messaging for this.

As you will see, every phase has a different dynamic. For example, when contact has just been established, keeping momentum is important. That means frequent communication, asking questions to understand the customer’s problems and communicating your value. Once you proceed to the next phase this will change. Understanding and defining this can provide guidance for your sales reps and give you more structure to measure and improve.

Getting the real value with technology

To really understand the influence of the emails that are being sent, you will have to use technology. The required analyses are too time-intensive and, to some extent, even impossible to do manually. Luckily, new technologies like Natural Language Processing have created a wide range of new possibilities.

Unfortunately, Salesforce isn’t much of a help here, since it still saves emails as tasks without the email headers or any possibility to relate them to each other. But there are other tools on the market, like Inside Sales and, who have started to use these more advanced technologies to help your sales reps get more out of their conversations.

At my company, Thrive for Email, we provide insights on your sales reps’ email conversations from any device. The big difference to existing solutions is that we don’t require a change in the way you work. Our aim is to provide insights on the way you currently work, without introducing a new tool, and help you improve.

Figuring out who gets the best results is not hard – you just look at the closed deals. But understanding why this person is better than others and transferring this knowledge to your other team members… that’s where the real challenge lays. The next time you consider adding more leads to your cadence, it’s worth considering if there might be other ways to increase sales, like improving on your interactions.

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