Forecasting will always be a challenge in business, but defining key processes will help maximize your team's effort and provide the most effect on ROI. In this episode, we are discussing how to implement the best-fit technology and how to utilize your existing sales team.
INTRO: Building a great company is a marathon not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and the team at TANK New Media take on growth challenges, explore technology, and interview business leaders that are always upping their game. If you're ready to build scalable systems to drive your business forward, this podcast is for you.
KRISTA: Welcome, everyone. Today we have David Appleby with us. He is a principal channel account manager at HubSpot. He's been working in sales and with sales teams for about the last seven years. Welcome, David.
DAVID: Hey, nice to see you, Krista. How's it going? Thanks for having me.
KRISTA: Yeah, absolutely. And today, we're going to be talking a lot about really maximizing your sales and trying to get the most out of your existing sales team. This is something that's probably pretty familiar to you, David.
DAVID: Absolutely. You know, I've worked as a sales manager. I've worked as a sales rep. And obviously, the more you can do with, the less you have, the better off you are.
KRISTA: Absolutely. Isn't that true for more than one thing? Well, why is this an important topic for us to think about as far as it's like really trying to hone the performance of our sales team?
DAVID: I mean, so I think that very often people look at a revenue problem. And one of the first things that comes to mind traditionally has been through more bodies at the problem. Right? If I've got a certain number of sales reps and they're closing a certain number of deals, if I add X more sales reps, I get X more deals. But, you know, I think that technology has evolved to the point where we can do a lot more and get a lot more out of those existing sales reps. You know, the term that we hear a lot is PPR (Productivity Per Rep) it's something we use a lot here every day at my job. And we always want to make sure that is moving up into the right because hires cost a lot, benefits cost a lot. But if we can make tweaks to the sales process to get more deals out of the same number of reps. Obviously that means a lot for margin.
KRISTA: Yeah, absolutely. Do you feel like that's something that just continues to improve over time?
DAVID: Absolutely. I think with a lot of the technology out there on the market today, reps are spending way less time than ever doing manual data entry, having to send e-mail, follow-ups, et cetera. A lot of that stuff is just sort of executing in the background behind the scenes.
KRISTA: So tell me, David, what do you feel like is the biggest difference between overall sales velocity and overall sales volume?
DAVID: Yeah, great question. I think what sales volume is essentially getting to, how much revenue are you generating? Right.
DAVID: I think this is it's interesting you talk about in this day of start-ups, where all they're focus on is revenue. Nobody's actually looking at how much money they're spending. Nobody's looking and how many bodies they're throwing at the problem is just is that top-line revenue number going up into the right?
DAVID: Right. Whereas sales velocity is a little bit more nuanced and it's a lot more focused on essentially how fast can you close deals? You know, shortening that sales cycle, which actually means a lot because it's almost a proxy for this concept of productivity per rep or PPR. If you can shorten your sales cycle, you get more dollars from each rep that you're working with, which allows you to do a lot more with what you already have. So basically your bottom line margin goes up.
KRISTA: Gotcha. So what-what do you feel like are the-the easiest ways or the easiest way to really start improving velocity?
DAVID: I would say it was really only a few ways that you can do that, right. One is by basically improving training and having better salespeople.
DAVID: Who are able to just move a deal through the pipeline faster. The other one that I think is a lot sort of lower hanging fruit is bringing some technology into your office. Right? Things that allow your reps to get significantly more done during their day by removing a lot of the sort of more mundane data entry type tasks that they might be spending their time on otherwise. You know, I used to work at an investment bank right out of college and all of the salespeople who were selling, I work with leverage loans. Right. They had a sales assistant so they would get on the phone, they'd make a sale, they'd hang up the phone and they were done. The sales assistant had been listening the whole time on the call on mute. And they were putting the order in and writing everything down and taking care of everything in the background. The idea here is rather than us having to hire a sales associate for every one of your salespeople, can we use technology to do that instead?
KRISTA: Now, the thing that pops into my head, because I've had a few of these conversations with sales teams thinking about how can technology help me? What? What can we do here? You know, immediately they go to oh I'm gonna have to do a lot of work on my end to make this to make these things happen. I'm going to have to enter more data. I'm going to have to log all my emails and all-all of that good stuff. What would you kind of say to them to kind of get them excited about maybe utilizing technology to help improve their day-to-day?
DAVID: I would say there is a brand new world out there where you really don't need to do that. As a rep at my current company, moving away from the sort of process that I had in place at my last job I cannot tell you how much more productive I am day-to-day here.
DAVID: Absolutely. You know, we've just put a ton of automation in place so that I don't have to think about a lot of that stuff. Right? You know, data gets automatically pulled out of my emails and entered into the CRM for me, I don't need to manually log that stuff. My calls get manually logged, excuse me, get automatically logged. Those things add up, you know, because it's not just a matter of the time that you spend doing them. It's the time that you have to sort of switching costs. Right? Going from one task to another and sort of maybe losing sight of what you are working on for the moment and having to sort of refind yourself. I would say that adds up to at least an hour a day.
KRISTA: Yeah, absolutely. And what this particular podcast we're speaking a lot to the manufacturing group and you know, the cost of switching is something that they generally understand pretty well if they're having to switch their lines or switch their products out. You know, that's downtime that they have. You know, it's very similar with the sales team. It seems like if they're having to spend their time switching gears on what they're doing. That's just basically productivity down the drain.
DAVID: So we talk a lot about increasing velocity. And really that's just a fancy way of how do we close more deals faster. Right. And that's they're getting stuff out of the way of your reps.
KRISTA: Absolutely. What do you feel like? So if you're gonna give just like a quick little laundry list of some of the things that you've seen, you know, get in people's way, you know, what might you include?
DAVID: Obviously, the really big one is manual data entry. Right? Logging every phone call that they've had, potentially having to write notes that are duplicates of emails that they're already sending, writing notes of calls that could be recorded, that could be automatically transcribed and put into their CRM. But also a lot of time doing stuff like building quotes. You know, I think your target audience. Right. You work along with manufacturers. They're probably very familiar with the pain that could go into actually having to get a quote out the door. If you don't have a quote book on hand or a rep can just go in and say, I need X, Y and Z and these quantities and I need this discount and build that quote in under a minute. Whereas beforehand, they may have actually had to go into Microsoft Word and create an invoice.
KRISTA: Oh, yes.
DAVID: You know, we're talking hours of save time here.
KRISTA: Yeah, absolutely. I can't tell you how many, how many places we walked and where they're still creating all of their proposals and other quotes and word documents where there's so much room for manual error, not to mention all the manual effort that goes into producing each one of those. And then it's the send it out, you know, print it out, sign it, scan it, send it back. I mean, there's so much time lost there.
DAVID: Exactly. And that's really not where your salespeople should be spending their time. Right? They should be selling, not doing administrative tasks.
KRISTA: Absolutely. Absolutely. I'm sure most sales teams would agree with you there. That's where they'd like to be spending their time as well, hopefully. Yeah. Anyways, I know it can be a little bit of a, of a challenge kind of getting people engaged upfront when you start adding technology here. But it does really seem like once they get on board, once they have, you know, kind of get past that learning curve that, you know, it's something that can really kind of help improve their day-to-day.
DAVID: Yeah. And I think when we you talk about technology and sales, it doesn't just have to be improvements to CRM. Right. You know, I'm sure that a lot of folks are still using sort of like one sheeters or decks that need to be sent out. That should all be digitized.
DAVID: And that should be trackable. Right. So there you can get an idea for — you're not sort of taking a shot in the dark when you talk to somebody after you sent over some information. What's this stuff they were in? It would be really helpful to see which of the pages that they spent most of their time looking at. Right. So you could really center that conversation on what it is that they're focused on and then also having additional resources to be able to follow up with that. Okay, great, ok great you seem really interested in X, Y, and Z. I want to be able to provide you with A, B, and C, and then we can set some time to follow up and have a conversation and you can sort of remove time that you might have had to spend doing that education manually over the phone with somebody. People want to learn on their own these days. First thing everyone does is go on the Internet to look something up. So if you can give them the information that they need so they can come to your next call really well prepared, it could really, really shorten your sales cycle.
KRISTA: Absolutely. Are there other, you know, either technologies or areas that you see by adding a piece of technology that could really improve what people are doing?
DAVID: I think a big piece that people overlook is having a process in place, but then having guardrails around that so you're sort of forced into it. So the example that I would give is very often I get on the phone with a potential customer. We're talking about with their sales, he works and I say, do you have a defined outreach process? And they say, what does that mean? Right. I'd say if a new lead comes in that fits this criteria or comes from this lead source, you know, you know that everybody that fits that description is going to get, call it five emails and five phone calls over the next three weeks or whatever is the cadence that works for your industry and your team. Right. But having that defined, having that written out and then using software to automate that process so that, you know, it's sort of like fire and forget for your reps. You know, I use a tool here every day here at HubSpot where the new lead can come into my pipeline, can just drop them into my email. I press one button and in the days that they're supposed to get customized, personalized emails using data from the CRM, they automatically receive those for me. And on the days that I'm supposed to have a follow up call, it automatically drops into my task queue. And so I sit down in the morning, I press start queue and I'm able to just rip through all the calls that I need to make for that day one after another. System is smart enough to say, OK. David placed a call, call connected. It didn't connect whatever logged that call. Move on to the next person. So historically I might've spent significantly more time basically finding those templated e-mails and sending them. And then for the people that I need to call going and finding them in the CRM, whereas now I sit down, I open one screen and the software just loads up everybody that I need to reach out to that day without me having to think about it.
KRISTA: Wow. You're not even having to make like a to-do list at that point. It's just happening for you.
DAVID: It's happening completely for me in the background. I think some people are hesitant to give their team such a defined process. They feel like salespeople don't really like to be told what to do. I can tell you I've never been happier. Right. If you have some trust in your management that they know what they're doing, it makes my life so much easier. And the really nice thing is that it gives you data that you can work off of. Right. If you've got a big enough team's, is it going to apply to everybody? But if you've got, say, 10 reps, you can, if everyone's sending the same e-mails on the same cadence, you can then AB test those emails. You can say, hey, you know, this one's working really well at getting replies, this one's not. So you or you as a sales leader can go in and start making changes and it doesn't need to affect your team. They're pressing the same button every day. It's just a different e-mail that's now going out. And if it gets better replies, they're much happier about it.
KRISTA: Wow. And do you feel like it's really helpful for you to have sort of that data on what emails people are responding to? What aren't they? Is that something that you kind of take time and look at to try to optimize your process?
DAVID: Absolutely. That's really important to me. I definitely play with the template of e-mails that I send a lot. And when you find something that works, it's great. And stick with it. And again, maybe I'm spending an hour a week on that rather than trying to think through that stuff on the fly every single day. And again, just that switching costs, at least for me, is what really kills me. I get distracted. I wasn't a sort of in the zone where I was heads down making phone calls. And now it's an hour and a half later. And I've changed four words in one e-mail template.
KRISTA: Absolutely. I mean, do you feel like having the accessibility to-to all of this data has really helped shorten your sales cycle overall?
DAVID: Oh, tremendously. Right. If I know what works. If I can find an e-mail and it just happens to have been call it the fourth e-mail of the e-mails that I was sending, and that's the one that's getting all the replies. Maybe that should be my first e-mail. Maybe I should be my second e-mail. Right. No longer takes me two weeks to get that person on the phone. Maybe they talk to me the very next day.
KRISTA: Do you see, do you see much resistance from sales teams when you talk about implementing processes like this?
DAVID: Upfront... You know, certainly this is what we do all day. And ripping out a CRM and putting in a new one is very painful for an organization. There's really no way around that. But obviously, change management is really important. And if you can get in front of your sales team and say, I am going to show you how this is going to make you so much more successful, you are going to make much, you're going to make more money and you're gonna do less work or you're going to do less of the work that you didn't like to do. People listen to that.
KRISTA: Absolutely. And I'm seeing a stat here, actually from Salesforce that says CRM applications can help increase sales by up to 29%, sales productivity by 34%, and sales forecast accuracy by 42%. You know, so it sounds like having some of these systems systems in place and really you utilizing them can make a dramatic difference for a company from a sales standpoint.
DAVID: Yeah, I mean, even follow-ups. I worked a job a few years ago and it was very early stage startup and we didn't really have a CRM. Everything was kept in Google Sheets and it meant that everything fell through the cracks. Whatever was not directly in front of reps. Something that needed to be dealt with immediately. Just basically didn't exist. And when we moved to having a CRM where it was clear every single day. What you're... who you needed to be following up with and what you needed to be doing. Our PPR, our productivity per rep, went through the roof. I mean, it was very easy to see. We could see it on every chart that we were looking at and it made a huge difference to bottom-line revenue.
KRISTA: Wow, that's amazing. It's funny how some of these little changes can really just add up.
DAVID: Absolutely. You know, I think it is sort of in the same vein along technology. Right. We talked about sort of automated follow-ups and having CRM. It does a lot of the work for you. One of the things that we're also really pretty excited about and I love, I actually piloted an initiative to do this at my last job is live chat and chatbots on the Website. Oh, yeah. Yeah, we're seeing a lot more of these. I have found that people are far less threatened to talk to somebody over a, over live chat. The problem that you can run into is that you get a lot of, a lot of interest and maybe you've only got the ability to have one person staffed on that.
DAVID: Right. The solution has been chatbots. It's an opportunity to qualify leads before you hand them over to your sales team. So they're actually talking to somebody who could be a potential buyer, not somebody who's looking to find out who it is in H.R., what they need to talk to you about getting a reference for somebody.
KRISTA: Sure. Absolutely. And have you seen a pretty good response from companies implementing these?
DAVID: Yes. Everybody is very happy with them. I think sometimes it can feel very overwhelming. Yeah. You know, you go and you interact with the chatbot on a Website using, gosh, I am a computer programmer, must have developed that. Very often that's not the case. You know, if they have somebody inside internally who's call it more strategically minded and has a decent grasp of technology, they can probably do that. More often than not, though that's the sort of work that we do see get outsourced to an agency or something like that. If they don't have a large marketing team in place, just because the ROI there is spectacular. Right. If you can just find one more — what's the word I'm looking for — avenue or channel four high quality leads to make it to your sales team. You know, unless you're selling T-shirts, that pays for itself very quickly.
KRISTA: Yeah, absolutely. Now, we've talked quite a bit about kind of the upfront sales process and how, you know, technology can really kind of improve velocity in that portion of the sales process. Are there other aspects where technology can really assist as well in speeding things up.
DAVID: I could see some of the big ones are going to be. You touched on forecasting. Right. You know, I've worked at positions before where the joke was that forecasting was sort of more of an art than a science.
KRISTA: Oh yes. I was just working on an article that was like, it's not an exact science.
DAVID: You know. I don't know if anybody on this who's listening to us has ever had to step into a position where maybe somebody else at the company usually does the forecasting and they're out for a week. And now you go and try to get them to sort of explain their methodology. And they're like, well, you know, David historically doesn't put his deals into the CRM, but they're usually good for this. And, you know, this other person has terrible happy years and they're going to overestimate their pipeline by about 300 percent. And if you can take some of the guesswork out of the process. Right. And we can use data to overtime say, when a deal makes it to this deal stage, there's a 70% chance that that's going to become revenue. Right. And just do simple math. The forecasting gets tremendously more accurate and it's timely. It's no longer a multiple hour process at the end of the month, at the end of the week, at the end of the quarter. It's you can go and look at a dashboard all day, every day and see exactly how you're tracking towards your goals.
KRISTA: Absolutely. And something like forecasting leads really well from manufacturing perspective into overall capacity planning. You know, how much product do you need? How much inventory should you have really helping them? You know, better forecast the other parts of their business as well. So that's definitely something that if they can get a little bit closer handle on, that would really be beneficial for a lot of them.
DAVID: Yeah. I mean, the other piece is, of course, hiring, right? If you can see, gosh, we're going to have a lot more clients in three months.
DAVID: And we need, you know, anybody who's sort of along the way, there's so many places where that system can break down in a business if there's not enough body or technology to make up for that client growth. At least now if you can tell three months out, you have some time to make an informed decision about is that something that we solve with the technology is that somebody is at a higher that we need to make. So it doesn't creep up on you, right?
KRISTA: Absolutely. So I've talked quite a bit about just technology kind of in general. Are there specific tools, you know, that you would recommend for some of these things that we can kind of let our listeners know about?
DAVID: Yeah, I mean, it's hard for me not to talk, but our own tools, obviously I work here at HubSpot and our free CRM is incredibly powerful. I recommend it to lots of friends who are starting their own small businesses, working at startups, etc.. I like the fact that it starts at free and you know, it can scale to be big enough to run a company the size of HubSpot. We're a publicly-traded company — sixty-seven billion dollar market cap — we run on our own product. Within that, the sort of tool that I referenced earlier around putting a process around your outreach. If you do have an organization where you are going to be doing outbound sales, the sequences tool, and there are other people to make something similar. I think outreach is a provider of a very similar tool. These sort of what we call sales acceleration tools, meetings links, you know, being able to not have the back and forth about when are we going to schedule this podcast, Krista? You can just see my schedule and put time right on my calendar. That works for us.
KRISTA: We did use that for this full disclosure.
DAVID: I think that those are some really quick wins. Right. Obviously, for the sequences piece, you've got to do the sort of thinking behind that. Right. What is the right cadence for the outreach for me and my team? But once you have that defined going and setting that up and getting a new rep ready to go takes basically no time at all. You get a new hire, right? You realize you do need that additional salesperson. You guys are growing like gangbusters. You can sit them down in their seat and say, OK, if a lead pops up here, you click these three buttons and on the days are supposed to get to make a phone call. They make a phone call. And on the days this was that an email, email gets fired off in the background. So I think that's probably the single most impactful tool that I use day-to-day. But again, also, anything that you can automate, you know, and a lot of CRM will allow some degree of automation these days. So even something as similar... Excuse me, as simple as if you're a sales leader and you have a good understanding of how long on average a deal should sit in a deal stage. Right. Building and automation that says, hey, this deal has been sitting in this deal stage for five days longer than a deal does on average. Let me ping the rep and figure out should this you'll be in closed lost. Should this will be moved forward in the pipeline? You know, there's a lot of sort of quick wins like that that are available with stuff that's on the market today that can just take a lot of that sort of pressure off of your team and off of your management.
KRISTA: Yeah, absolutely. So quick recap, I think highlights here that we've kind of talked about today. First one would be, make sure you have kind of that sales process in place. You know what people are supposed to be doing when follow-ups should be happening. Having all of that sort of documented upfront seems like that's something I would really help improve overall-overall velocity as well as implementing a CRM and making sure that your employees are actually using those to their fullest extent, capitalizing on technology to really help move everything through. Seems like that's where you're going to see a lot of gain here overall. And then, you know, making sure that you're, you're using some of those tools to update your forecasting, updating your hiring, really using that information to your to the fullest extent.
DAVID: And I would echo what you said at the beginning that none of this matters without the process. If you don't have the process defined ahead of time, get all the tools in the world. It's not going to be very helpful.
KRISTA: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, thank you so much. David, I appreciate your time today.
DAVID: Yeah, no problem. Thank you so much for having me.
KRISTA: You got it. For more information on this episode, visit manufacturinggrowth.com.
Co-founder & VP, Client Services
Krista also has more than a decade of professional experience under her belt. Her expertise lies in graphic design, project management, and digital marketing for both high-profile and growing businesses. Currently, she functions as the VP of Client Services and lead strategist.
Building a great company is a marathon, not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and her team at TANK New Media take on growth challenges, explore technology, and interview business leaders dedicated to growing better through continuous improvement. If you’re ready to build repeatable and scalable systems to drive your business forward, this podcast is for you.
Wanna know when a new episode is published? Interested in getting additional resources on systematic growth? To stay in the loop and gain access to a ton of valuable resources, subscribe to our email.