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Sales Processes Research 2020 – Something Old, Something New


Despite the huge growth in marketing and sales automation, along with the growing popularity and acceptance of self-service sales processes, reports of the death of the salesperson are greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain.

Higher value B2B sales still need a competent salesperson to close the deal. But how have the processes and techniques of salespeople changed in the modern world?

This was what CRM vendors Really Simple Systems set to find out in their 2020 Sales Professionals research project.

The audience

The global survey asked salespeople from the company’s own customer base of CRM users and augmented that list using the SurveyMonkey Audience tool, as well as inviting other sales professionals to participate through social media. This resulted in 168 people completing the survey, with over half of them having more than five years’ sales experience. The respondents were spread across 35 different business sectors, of which the technology sector made up the largest group at 16%.

Adapting to COVID-19

The research highlighted the rapid change experienced in the sales environment over recent years and how salespeople have needed to revise their approach. On top of this, in the last few months, it shows how traditional sales methods have become largely outdated and ineffective. The global pandemic has shaken up the market, and technology is influencing this change.

Here we look at some of the more surprising aspects of the research and what this might mean for sales in the future.

Prospecting for new leads in 2020 – the old and the new

The survey first looked at how salespeople prospected for new leads. The most popular technique was the old stalwart email marketing with 50% of respondents saying this was their preferred tool. Next was good old-fashioned referrals and networking, and then the newcomer LinkedIn, both through personal accounts and using Sales Navigator.

Perhaps surprising was the fact that many people were still cold calling and using telemarketing. Surprising because these activities were effectively outlawed by data protection legislation, such as GDPR, which was introduced in 2018 in Europe. Old school exhibitions and seminars together with direct mail were shown to be still unexpectedly popular, together with new techniques such as influencer reviews and social media.


Further questions in the survey were related to whether and how salespeople researched their prospects before they contacted them. Unsurprisingly, 90% said they did research their prospect first, although maybe we should be surprised that 10% did not.

Most people (77%) claimed they checked the company’s website in the first instance. Then 63% checked the individual’s LinkedIn profile, with 43% going on to check their social media activity, and 42% looking at the company’s registration record.

With the popularity of LinkedIn, both in primary lead generation and for researching prospects, businesses need to make sure that their company and individual profiles are up to snuff. It seems that sales prospects will invariably check them once they are contacted.

How do people respond to a new lead?

So when do you contact a new lead? If you reach out too soon, the prospect may be annoyed, but if you reach out too late, some other vendor may have already got in first. A lot depends upon the culture of the country you are operating in. In the US, an instant response may be expected, but this is not the case in Europe. Obviously, if the prospect has called in asking for information, an instant response is needed. Less so if they have signed up for a software trial and received an automated response.

The research showed that email was the preferred response mechanism with a traditional phone call as the next most popular. Certainly, a call (if you can get through) is the better sales approach as it allows the salesperson to build rapport, ask more questions, and qualify all at once. From experience, we know that in the UK and US it can be hard to get through to the prospect, but in Australia that’s not the case. The next question in the survey covered that point.

How persistently do salespeople follow up?

The number of times a salesperson will attempt to create conversation with the prospect depends upon various factors. It was no surprise that the value of the sale was of key importance, with the higher the value prompting greater resolve. However, other factors such as how many other – and possibly better – prospects they have may also have an influence.

Three attempts to call seemed to be the norm, but many people said they continued for more than six times.

What’s the best sales follow up?

This survey was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020 and shows that 38% preferred to follow up with a video call, as opposed to 46% face-to-face. Will that change when the pandemic is over? Probably, but having become used to video calls it is likely they will still be popular in the future. Meanwhile, email follow up is still the favored method, with 60% of salespeople preferring it.

A CRM system is best for managing leads

The research found that most people (63%) use a CRM system to manage their leads. However, a surprising 45% say that they are still using spreadsheets and/or other manual methods. Twenty percent of people were also using lead scoring.

As all the above add up to more than 100%, we can assume that many people are using a combination of these methods. That still leaves 37% not using a CRM system. This implies that a lot of businesses are not managing their leads in the most effective way, so they could be missing sales.

Sales survey summary and conclusions

The key takeaways from this research:

  • LinkedIn has grown to be a major tool for salespeople
  • Email still holds its own as the favorite communication method for both lead generation and follow-up
  • Video conferencing takes off for prospect meetings
  • Many businesses are still to adopt CRM software
  • Data protection legislations, such as GDPR, on cold calling and emailing are being ignored

With all these surprising facts, there is no doubt that we need to survey salespeople more often in order to find patterns that will help us improve sales tactics. If you’ve found this research helpful, share it with your colleagues to empower the greater sales community.

The post Sales Processes Research 2020 – Something Old, Something New appeared first on Sales Hacker.


Sales Dashboards 101: Your Key to Becoming a More…


Imagine watching a basketball game without a scoreboard. It would be nearly impossible to understand what was happening or who was winning.

Now imagine playing in that game. It would be difficult to know how far behind or ahead you were, how much time was left, or what you needed to do to win.

That’s what selling without a sales dashboard is like.

But a sales dashboard is only useful if it’s done well.

What is a Sales Dashboard?

A sales dashboard gives your team a fast and efficient way to see all the data that is most important to doing their job effectively.

Most customer relationship management (CRM) tools have the built-in ability to create dashboards for your team. This can be convenient since the CRM is likely where most of your sales data already resides.

There are also 3rd party programs that integrate with your CRM, though. Some of these give you more customization options.

These are tools like:

  • Zoho Analytics
  • Klipfolio
  • TapClicks
  • Slemma

Why Use a Sales Dashboard?

You may be asking yourself, “if a dashboard is just pulling data from my CRM, why not just have your reps look at the CRM itself?”

CRM data can be difficult and time-consuming to sort through. This not only takes time away from selling, it can introduce a lot of opportunities for mistakes.

With a sales dashboard, though, your reps can quickly see where they are in relation to their goals and identify trends and opportunities that will help them close more deals faster.

Sales leaders can use a dashboard to understand the game their team is playing as they sell and identify where reps may need help or extra training.

Now, let me take you through a step-by-step process to build a great dashboard that can give you visibility and insights into your sales execution.

3 Steps to Set Up a Successful Sales Dashboard

#1 Decide What Metrics Matter

Every dashboard should be customized to your needs and unique to your organization. Your dashboard should consist of KPIs or metrics that define success for you and your team.

It should have input metrics as well as output metrics. It should have lead metrics (like activity) and lag metrics (like pipeline and closed-won). And you also need to incorporate double click metrics (DCMs) to give context to the number on the dashboard.

For example, our pipeline is at 125%, however, when we double-click that number, we see that we only have 30% of the opportunities we should have. This adds to the risk of the business as the pipeline is full of large deals that may swing either way.

Who is the dashboard for?

At the end of the day, the list of metrics you can include on your dashboard is nearly endless and will depend on your unique needs.

To begin figuring out what to include on your dashboard, identify who will be using the dashboard.

You need to make sure that everything they need on a daily basis is front and center and that nothing they don’t need is cluttering it up.

A dashboard for frontline reps will look very different than one for a sales manager, for example. The data a manager needs to effectively keep track of their team (like onboarding metrics) would only get in a sales rep’s way.

That being said, there are some metrics that you’ll find in almost every dashboard. So, let’s look at a few we should consider


This is the total amount of revenue booked in a measurable period. Most likely this will be measured by month, quarter, or year.

This metric is used to measure a sales team’s deliverables against a target set by the management team.

This metric is also used to pay out incentives to sales reps based on their individual or team quota achievement (this is likely the part your reps care about most).

Supporting the closed-won metric are some double-click metrics like:

  • Average Sales Cycle: The average time taken for a deal to close from the date it entered the sales pipeline.

This metric can be tracked to see the efficacy of the sales teams and/or maturity of the product-market fit.

  • Average Sales Price: The average value of a deal that closed in the system.

This metric allows you to predict the entry point for most customers and can also help in creating bundles.

  • Number of Deals: The total number of deals that contributed towards the close.

This metric is used to calculate risk in the business. If you have fewer clients, the risk of churn is higher than if you have a larger client base.


This is the total amount of opportunities that have a likely closure in the given time period.

This metric is used to predict if a team will be able to reach their closed-won targets.

Typically a team will use historical data to decide if the pipeline needs to be 2x, 4x, or even 8x that of the closed-won needed (often called Pipeline Coverage).

Supporting the pipeline metric are some double click metrics like:

  • Aging: The time a deal has been in the pipeline since inception. Aging can also focus on the time a deal has been in a particular sales stage.

For example, a deal has been 20 out of the 30 days in the demo stage (which is 4x longer than the 5 day average for this stage), what’s going on there?

This can be used to understand the health of a pipeline.

Having multiple deals in multiple stages is a good sales motion. For example, if every one of your prospects is in the contracting phase, that may overwhelm your legal team.

  • Average Sales Price: What’s the average sales price of the deals in the pipeline.

This metric allows you to gauge the confidence of a team or team member to sell big. Most under-confident reps and managers will have smaller deal sizes.

This metric also allows you to differentiate between your team being truly productive or just plain busy.

  • Pipeline by Source/Product: The source of your pipeline generation and the product for which the pipeline is being created.


The number of sales activities your team is participating in is a great way to understand the overall productivity of your team and how the pipeline will develop.

Email, inMails, and Calls are the biggest source of meetings and must be tracked at an individual sales rep level.

This allows you to see exactly which reps are succeeding or struggling at exactly what activities. And this, cross-referenced with some of the other data on your dashboard cna give you a good indicator for where you may be winning or losing deals.

Cross-departmental metrics:

Consider including metrics that are owned by other functions that still affect sales.

These could be metrics like expense ratio that you share with finance, churn with customer success, and MQLs with marketing.

#2 Consider the Design and Flow Carefully

The design and flow of your sales dashboard is incredibly important. You could set it up to just show a bunch of important numbers, randomly scattered about, but you’d be missing out on the real benefits of a dashboard.

By making things visual, and organizing the data carefully on screen, you make it easier for reps to read and you can guide users across various metrics to make diagnosing issues and identifying trends much easier.

For instance, bar charts are great, but when we use stacked charts we can break down the components that make up the bar chart. And if we add colors to the mix we can illustrate whether the metrics meet our goals or not.

Using colors like green for meeting goals and red for missing goals can give numbers meaning on a dashboard. It also makes it much easier for your reps to see at a glance how well they’re doing.


When considering the flow of your dashboard, one good rule is to keep lag metrics on top. The downward flow will allow you to troubleshoot or co-relate the performance of the lead metrics below based on the lag metric above.

For example, if you have closed-won on top, you may have a pipeline chart below it, and an activities chart below that. This way, if we miss our closed-won numbers, we look at the corresponding pipeline and then corresponding activities.

Put any extra details you have in a report rather than a dashboard. This allows for diagnosis-deep-dives in case of a performance drop or increase without cluttering the dashboard itself.

Let’s look at some of the charts we can use to add these metrics to the dashboard

Stacked charts:

These are used to break quarterly numbers down into monthly numbers to understand the pacing of the team.

It allows you to see which months are skewing the performance so you can see where you need to direct your focus.

For example, in the example below, Q4 is clearly the largest contributor to the business given it is the year-end.


Just using numbers may seem simple, but there is a lot you can do with them to make them more visual and pack even more information into them.

Numbers on their own are often not very helpful. It can be easy to get lost in a sea of them.

Give the numbers context by coloring them depending on whether the performance is good, acceptable or bad. And organize them next to related numbers and charts, so it’s easy for your reps to see at a glance where they stand and how each metric affects those around it.

For example, below, the average deal size is healthy however it has taken a toll on the sales velocity and increased the average sales cycle.

Donut charts:

These are used to breakdown the contributions of various teams, products, and lead sources to understand the complete picture.

You can also align this to the selling cycle to understand what the health of the pipeline is.

For example, below we can see if your pipeline has been created by a single rep or a shared responsibility of the team. It also shows whether you are creating more pipeline for your high-margin products or low-margin ones.

Stack rankings:

are great for gamification and help create healthy competition between teams and individuals.

This information can also be used as a coaching tool. You can use it to see if reps are comfortable sending emails versus picking up the phone or track the behavior of your top reps, so you can use it as a model for others.

Gamification can be an important part of your toolkit as it allows you to direct your reps’ focus.

For instance, if you want your reps to focus more on cold-calling, you can make that metric a scoreboard that is always visible.

#3 Connect it to Your Data

Your dashboard is only as good as the data that supplies it.

If you are building a dashboard inside your CRM or if you’re using a dashboard platform that integrates with your CRM, keeping your dashboard itself updated is relatively easy and requires little to no work.

If you use excel or something else to store your data, or if you’re using a tool that doesn’t integrate with your CRM, you will likely have to manually transfer the data.

That’s why the real power of dashboards is unlocked when you use APIs to automatically pull data into your CRM so you can eliminate any manual data processing which can be slow and faulty.

An Example Sales Dashboard

Let’s take a look at a sample dashboard for Michael Scott, Regional Sales Manager at the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company Inc.

As you can see, the dashboard has a distinct flow. It has sections for lag indicators on top and lead indicators below.

It also looks at other metrics that are important to building a healthy business.

Every component of your sales dashboard should contribute to the overall understanding of your business and how the different metrics affect each other.

Finally: Be Flexible

The goal is to create a tool that helps your reps be fast, agile, and data-driven. But you may not get it perfect on your first attempt.

That’s ok.

You don’t need to know everything your dashboard needs before you start. It is a living document. You can update it and change it as you identify gaps and as your team develops.

So, start somewhere, and be flexible.

The post Sales Dashboards 101: Your Key to Becoming a More Data-Driven Sales Team appeared first on Sales Hacker.


How to Use a 10-K Report to Find Gold…


If you’ve yet to add the 10-K to your sales arsenal, you’re missing out.

A 10-K is a document filed annually by public companies that outlines their financial performance. This report is more detailed than an annual report and is required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

It’s all there. Financial reports, mergers, acquisitions, risks, deals, and more. And for that reason, it might just be your most valuable research tool.

Below, I dive into the four main areas of a 10-K and how you can read and use each one to your advantage.

1. Business Section

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about sales over the years, it’s this — it’s a front-loaded effort.

The work that you put in upfront will pay off in the long run.

Early in my sales career, I was more of an in the moment sales professional. I assumed that knowledge of my product and a prospect list was all I needed to succeed.

But as the years went by, I came to find that the more I knew about the customer, their situation, and their people, the easier it was to sell to them.

That’s where the business section of a 10-K comes into play.

Knowledge is power, and that’s exactly what you get when you carefully review this section.

I like to think of it as the distilled version of what a company does. It’s super concise, direct, and it focuses on the foundation on which the company is built.

A white paper or company’s about page won’t give you nearly as much useful information as the business section of a 10-K.

It’ll help you answer questions such as:

  • What does the company do?
  • Do you have any customers like them?
  • What industry or industries are they a part of?
  • How many business units does it have?

Once you have this information, you can put yourself in position for success by identifying where you fit into their strategy.

2. Risk Factors

There’s no such thing as a company with no risk. And that’s especially true of public companies that are in the spotlight.

Fortunately, you don’t have to guess as to the risk factors associated with a particular company.

Companies don’t normally like to talk about risks, but the SEC requires that every company filing a 10-K includes a section on risk factors. And for that reason, you can gain insight into the company’s primary concerns, which may lead you to the perfect solution for them.

As you work this into the sales process, consider who you’re speaking with. An executive? Middle management? Someone who understands the finer details of the problem?

Once you know your audience, you know what they can cover. And when you know what they can cover, you know which approach to take.

Start with a basic question regarding the risk factor to get the ball rolling. As you proceed, focus on questions that land and quickly move past those that don’t have the potential to move the conversation forward.

This person may not be the decision-maker, but every question you ask and every conversation you have will move you closer to the person who has the power to make decisions that address the risk factors included in the 10-K.

3. Management Discussion

Yes, this section is long. And no, you won’t understand everything. However, don’t make the mistake of passing over this section because of its size. This is where you’ll learn more about how the management team thinks, which is invaluable to a salesperson.

Review this section with the idea of answering questions such as:

  • What’s happening in the company’s industry?
  • What approach is the company taking to stay relevant?
  • How does the company stack up against the competition?
  • How is the company performing as compared to projections?

The management team won’t include everything in this section, as there are things they don’t want to share with customers and competitors, but it will include a thorough breakdown of what the executive team wants the public to know.

I urge you to overcome the wall of text and carefully move through every line of the management discussion.

When you know what the management team is thinking, you can craft your sales pitch to appeal to those decision makers.

4. Financial Statements and Analyst Calls

Knowing the company’s financial condition provides insight into how they do business, their stability, and their willingness to invest in new products and services. This is vital to identifying strong opportunities.

You don’t want to waste too much time on the complex numbers in a 10-K, but they definitely deserve a strong look.

If you really want to find relevant numbers, spend some time reviewing analyst calls.

These calls are my go-to because this is where you’ll find numbers regarding the revenue for each business unit.

You can find some of this information within the financial statements, but for more detailed numbers, it’s the analyst calls that’ll satisfy you.

Get into the habit of listening to as many analyst calls as time allows. Combine this information with what you find in the 10-K, and use all of it to improve your sales strategy.

Take, for example, a company that’s showing strong growth within the business unit you want to target. Cash flow and revenue are on the rise, giving you a reason to believe they have money to spend on new products and services.

You don’t know what’ll happen until you reach out, but you can be confident that you’re chasing a qualified lead.

Keep Digging, and You’ll Find Gold

All 10-Ks are structured the same way, but not all 10-Ks are created equal.

Some of them use a lot of words to say virtually nothing, but others are packed full of useful information.

Put in the work to dig through them, and you’ll eventually find gold.

The post How to Use a 10-K Report to Find Gold and Make More Sales appeared first on Sales Hacker.

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