At first, my goal was to develop a resource geared strictly towards communication tactics, but this really wound up morphing into more of a holistic, end-to-end revenue operations strategy, considering how these communicative tactics can be plugged in to every interaction with your clients from first contact to close to onboarding to renewal.
So, marketing generates leads, passes them to sales, and then some go on to close but a lot don’t and no one really knows what happens for a large percentage of them. I’ve observed this problem at multiple organizations now, and I believe this problem should be maddening at every level (individual / team / organization).
And then, further on down the line, there are done deals that have less-than-stellar onboarding experiences, and we all know how rocky starts to post-sale relationships negatively impact the chances of renewal and expansion opportunities.
So where do we begin?
I think that data itself is just data, but there are trends and patterns in the data, and that’s what tells the real story.
Also, I believe Einstein said something along the lines of how “you can’t solve problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” You have to rise above, get the big picture view, connect the dots on how the different teams’ actions affect each other—and then you can map out a realistic, executable revenue operations strategy.
SO NOW IT’S TIME TO PUT EVERYTHING IN ACTION
- Reverse engineer the “ideal buying experience” from first contact-to-close-to-renewal, from the customer’s perspective, and map out these interactions (goals & mindsets)
- Hone in & capitalize on nailing those interactions by having a communication strategy that provides seamless & optimized experience from team-to-team, end-to-end
- Once you get this down, measure the conversion rates that align with the interactions
- measuring these conversion rates will help you benchmark & establish acceptable ranges
- Once you have acceptable conversion rate ranges for interactions, you’ll be able to see who’s doing really well & why
- You’ll also be able to see who isn’t doing so well & why, and now you have a solid starting point for helping them improve
Executing on this strategy will help you to identify what really works and what doesn’t so you can do more of “this” and less of “that” until you get it all honed down to a science. It’ll take time to develop and benchmark, but doing this will help your organization to generate massive amounts of revenue in a predictable and replicable manner by tweaking something that’s entirely in your control:
THE EXPERIENCE THAT YOU PROVIDE
A solid framework that maps out each interaction and the goals you’re looking to accomplish at each touchpoint will help you to psychologically-drive your potential clients’ decision-making process and keep them moving forward, which ultimately gives your potential clients what they really want:
A PAINLESS & AS-HASSLE-FREE-AS-POSSIBLE BUYING EXPERIENCE
The Tip of the Spear
You see, on this ideal buying journey, it all starts lead qualification—the SDR team is the tip of the spear for your organization. Clients will base their decision to pursue the relationship further or not based on how that initial interaction goes, so that’s Interaction One in this strategy.
INTERACTION 1: the Qualification Call. Get in, get out, leave them wanting more, one shot, one kill—no messing around. Be pro, set an amazing first impression for the organization, and set the power dynamic in your organization’s favor.
The handoff to sales goes smooth and now it’s time for your organization’s potential client to have the Interaction Two with one of its humans.
INTERACTION 2: the Discovery Call. At this point in the strategy, there should be a scheduled time to speak. The potential client and your account executive both know what to expect and have the time set aside, so now it’s time to just absolutely crush. The stage has been set.
Use the P.L.A.T.E. Framework, open the call like a pro, let them speak but guide the call like an expert using strategically-sequenced questions, then transition to what comes next and end the call with the potential client looking forward to Interaction Three: demo presentation. For this to work, you have to have your teams on the same sheet of music.
My wife and I were sitting in the pool talking about work stuff this past weekend, and even though she knows most of what I’ve shared throughout all of this pretty well by now, even she can be a bit skeptical. I know a lot of this sounds like voodoo at first.
Anyways, she asked me something along the lines of:
“Is it really systematic? Can you really replicate authentic experience … on command, basically … and teach others to do it?”
“Yes. Yes I can. And here’s how you can tell …”
As the manager of my team, I don’t have to make calls and speak with leads or do anything client-facing, really, but I do. I actually get a kick out of doing the job and using these tactics, and making at least a few calls per week or so helps me to stay sharp with all this stuff.
When I make calls, I never tell the potential clients that I’m the manager or give any indication that I should be taken more seriously than one of my reps because of my title or anything like that. I simply follow the process that I’ve laid out here, and get this:
IT PRODUCES THE SAME RESULT EVERY SINGLE TIME
I’m not kidding; every call produces the same result, which is either the creation of an “ideal lead” for one of our account executives, or I turn it away if it isn’t. Sometimes, with everything going on as a manager, it can be a couple of days or even a week or two between calls of mine, but they still go the same way every time: consistency!
INTERACTION 3: the Demo. If the first and second interaction were made following this strategy, then the potential clients will be excited and looking forward to the demo, and if they perceive you as an expert who represents an organization that they can trust, then they’ll be very receptive and appreciative of the recommendations that you make on during the demo.
When this step is complete, they’ll have interacted with you and your organization at least three separate times, either over the phones or in person (or a combination of both), so they won’t feel rushed or pressured or anything like that. At the end of this interaction, they should have all the information they need in order to make a very comfortable (and quick) YES or NO decision, which is INTERACTION 4: Decision to Purchase.
Now, on the other hand, if they perceive you as a novice? Then they’ll go into the demo presentation emotionally kicking and screaming by asking tons of sharp-shooting, hyper-critical questions and raising smokescreen objections along the way in an effort to mask their uncertainty.
I know I mentioned this earlier, but remember this: your potential clients will go into the demo with either a good or bad instinctive feeling of whether or not they’re going to do business with you, and this is regardless of what information you present or say during the demo.
Emotionally-speaking, the decision has been pretty much already made; so logically-speaking, keep the demos brief, pro, to the point, interesting, and treat it as more of a formality that you have to get through in order to close, and run through it like it’s no-big-deal.
Our attention spans are limited as is, and plenty of sources indicate that people check out after about 20-minutes anyways, so if I could recommend anything here, have 13- to 18-minutes’ worth of information prepared, tops. Schedule an hour for this third interaction, sure, but have a laser-focused, dialed-in, professionally orchestrated and well-rehearsed short presentation, and this will leave plenty of time for discussion afterwards.
I’ve ranted quite a few times at a few different organizations now about how you don’t need more leads to get more deals; you need to be smarter with the leads you get. Implement this strategy and watch what happens!
You’ll have increased conversion rates for each interaction, shorter sales cycles, more business with the right types of clients who view you and your team as trusted advisors instead of typical salespeople—and this is all behavioral / communication-based. Anyone can do this regardless of language, cultural backgrounds and personalities.
INTERACTION 5: Onboarding. Alright, so the deal is done, purchase order’s signed, everyone’s excited and getting ready to get started, so now it’s time to officially kick things off. In this strategy, account executives notify account managers when they’re about to close deals so they can prep for their welcome calls. I recommend using the same personalized introduction email handoff strategy, which keeps things clean and consistent.
Last year when I got involved with the account management department, some AMs would make welcome calls, some would try to do everything through email, so it was a bit of the wild, wild west, and I basically helped them establish some law and order:
- No more cold, unexpected calls—use the introduction email to schedule the welcome call
- Send a calendar invite with an agenda
- Let them know to set aside 30-minutes for this, but have 15-minutes’ or so worth of information prepared to walk them through (with visuals)
- Walk through a presentation using Go-to Meeting or Zoom
- Be a laser-focused pro and take charge of the post-sale relationship
It’s imperative to keep lines of communication open with your new clients in the post-sale relationship, and doing all this for your first post-sale interaction will set the tone and help your new clients to take the account managers seriously instead of dodging their calls and emails further on down the line. Account managers manage accounts, yes, but they’re really relationship managers, and effective relationship management means practicing the art of not giving your clients a reason to look at other options.
A big part of the training I gave last year had to do with influencing our clients’ views of the organization to shift away from a “typical vendor” type relationship to a more “trusted advisor” type relationship. You do this by showing that you care, by looking out and keeping lines of communication open, and by being laser-focused pros who deliver value at every touchpoint, and it all starts with how the account managers came across on their welcome calls.
I helped them develop a framework to follow that was very similar to P.L.A.T.E. in its simplicity, but it was more directing versus asking questions. When I was in Austin, Texas, working with the account management team there, I remember one of them suppressing laughter when walking them through this part.
“You’re laughing,” I said, and she felt bad. “No, go ahead, laugh! This is simple, isn’t it? Like, duh! Right?”
So, the welcome calls are a bit fluid as far as what’s covered because there are different product lines and services and everything, but they now have a solid strategy and framework:
- Schedule the welcome call
- Use a Purposeful Greeting, Intro & Agenda Statement that takes charge without being abrasive
- After the opening: “Now, I know we scheduled 30-minutes for this, but if we go ahead and get flying, I can have you off the phone and back to your day in right about 18-minutes?”
- this is a command: buckle up, let’s get moving, I’m driving this bus, and this is music to the ears of a busy, executive-level leader & it will keep them from asking crazy questions
- Have information prepared ahead of time, such as:
- a few statements on what your role is and how you serve to support the success of the client
- what to expect while working with you, map out the touchpoints for the near-term future
- set up the first 30-day check-in while on the phone
- Be disarmingly honest, with statements like:
“I don’t know everything, but I know where to go to get answers, so don’t be afraid to ask … I am the liaison between your company and ours, and your success is our success, so it’s my job to make sure that you’re fully supported.”
“You’ll experience issues along the way with us, and that’s okay … I’m here at our headquarters with access to everything you’ll need, support-wise, so if you’re experiencing an issue, I better be the first to know because I can’t help to fix problems that I don’t know about.”
DO NOT CALL AND WING IT
Also, no cold calling or winging it for the check-ins, which are the 6th INTERACTION: Scheduled Check-ins. Things should be modified for your business from here (some businesses need weekly check-ins, some need monthly or quarterly), but basically, don’t do all the work that it takes to get married and then stop caring once you both exchange vows. Typical vendors will sell a bunch of things, set’em and forget’em, and then hope that their clients renew at the end of their contracts, so being proactive and executing on strategies like this is how you show that you care.
Realistically, this strategy makes it to where the natural thing to do at the end of the contract is to renew and keep moving forward, which is INTERACTION 7: Decisions to Renew / Expand.
Think about it—if your organization is:
- providing a solution that helps fix the problem that they came to you with in the first place, and
- doing it within a budget-range that they can afford, and
- treating them like this throughout the relationship
Then what your organization is doing, realistically, is:
PRACTICING THE ART OF NOT GIVING YOUR CLIENTS A REASON TO LOOK AT OTHER OPTIONS