12 Insider Tactics of the Best Sales Teams
Making sales for a brand new product can be challenging. You probably don’t have established processes or even a standard for what counts as “good” sales numbers. Despite that, you might be trying to hire salespeople, scale the entire business, or just win more of your deals.
Throughout years of working at startups and established businesses of many different sizes, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some incredibly successful sales organizations. I’ve also gotten to work on data science teams that analyze which sales tactics are or aren’t working and provide sales teams with valuable tools to help them succeed.
Below is my growing list of tactics that I’ve seen work, and how to get started with each one. Treat all these tactics as experiments, and closely monitor what works and what doesn’t. Every industry and business is different.
1. Make a Lead Prioritization Framework
Every lead should be prioritized based on at least one attribute. At the most basic level, you should have a rough idea of what informs lead quality and lead value.
For example, quality could be indicated by how close they are to your target profile and value could be employee count if your product is priced per user.
It’s better to have general guidance than no guidance, and I’d be willing to bet your experienced salespeople are already using a framework they’ve created over time. Talk to them, figure out what type of leads they value and why, and try to pass that knowledge on to the rest of the department.
Here’s a very simple example from Pepperland Marketing:
2. Allow Controlled Discounting
Discounting can be a powerful tool to close deals that are on the fence. Product purists will tell you product-market fit should be so good that you never need discounts, but for many early businesses, this simply isn’t true.
Discounting isn’t a compromise, it’s a tool to close deals. The important thing is that you limit the discounts and ensure customers transition to full pricing without churning.
Set a maximum discount in percentage or dollars, and/or a maximum discount timeline. For example “Up to 30% off, for up to 3 months.”
Before kicking off a discount, make sure you check with engineering to ensure your system allows salespeople to easily provide the discounts.
3. Use Targeted Annual Discounts
This is not the same thing as allowing controlled discounting. Annual discounts should be targeted at customer segments who can afford to pay up-front, and who may prefer it. At the moment, 10–30% is a standard range for an annual discount.
Annual discounts can be great for revenue and retention when used properly. But first, you have to answer a few questions:
- Which customers are already budgeting for my product annually?
- Does our price sound more or less appealing when shown annually?
- Which customer segments have the cash flow to pay up-front?
- Is the buyer a different role when selling annually?
4. Script Your Conversation Starters
Whether on the phone or in a chat window, it’s tempting to script sales or customer support responses as much as you can. But you have to remember that every customer is different, and scripting can remove your ability to meet the customer where they are.
At the start of a conversation with a lead or customer, no matter who it is, you might have a limited amount of information and the same set of questions to ask every time. You’re also battling to keep them on the line past the initial response. This is when it makes the most sense to optimize for whichever scripted start gets the best results.
5. Don’t Script Anything Else, Use Cheat Sheets
People are smart. Your sales and support reps are fully capable of learning what the customer needs and catering to it. Scripting out entire calls removes their ability to do that.
Instead, use cheat sheets. Cheat sheets are full of answers to questions, interesting stats about return on investment, bullet-point facts about the business, and anything else that can be quickly consumed or used ad-hoc by a rep.
You can continue to improve cheat sheets over time and have as many different ones as you need. This gives business leaders a platform to share ammunition with the reps, without scripting their independence away.
Here’s an example of a beautifully done cheatsheet, yours doesn’t have to be this well designed:
6. Pass On Deep Product Knowledge
You can’t sell a solution without properly understanding the customer’s problems, but it’s just as important to understand what your solution is capable of down to the minute details.
There may be a commonly-overlooked feature that would be especially appealing to some customers. These things don’t make it into a training curriculum because they’re too specific or too minor.
Deep product knowledge allows your sales team to target their messaging more specifically to the customer, and sell every aspect of your product rather than just the big-ticket items.
7. Evaluate Your Pricing Regularly and Be Ready to Change it
Few companies understand how important pricing is to their success. I could easily write a whole series just on this topic, but I mention it here because sometimes sales teams get blamed for not being able to sell when the issue is your pricing.
Pricing isn’t just about the price itself, it’s about the price model. Do you know your market’s willingness-to-pay? Do you know what your customer’s average budget is? Do they prefer annual or monthly pricing? What is the norm for your industry?
These are just a few of the questions you should have answers to, and you should be repeating that research and updating the answers regularly.
Here’s an example of the insight this research can give you:
If you aren’t sure how to execute this, Price Intelligently (the leader in pricing) has excellent resources on how to do all these things, and of course, they also offer to do it for you.
8. Share Knowledge of the Competitive Landscape
It’s never a good look to talk poorly about the competition. But you should be aware of who your competition is, what they’re offering, why they’re different, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Be honest! Some competitors will have strengths you don’t have, be comfortable saying so. It may even be wise to recommend a competitor for prospects who aren’t a good fit for you.
Your product people probably have some of this competitive knowledge already, try to set up processes for passing it on to your salespeople.
Next, put together or find a chart of the competitive landscape, like this one:
Once you have that, I’d recommend putting together a short bullet-point list of the strengths and weaknesses of your closest competitors. Share the chart and the bullet points among your sales team.
9. Create and Use an ROI Calculator
A Return On Investment calculator is a great way to quantify the value a potential customer could get by using your product.
Here’s an example of what this looks like for Hubspot:
And here’s what the results look like:
This makes the most sense for selling your most expensive plans or your biggest customers.
10. Use Testimonials in Your Email Signatures
Yahoo famously used email signature copy to rapidly grow its free email platform in the early web days. Email signatures are still underrated real-estate.
If you don’t have testimonials, go talk to your sales teams and get a shortlist of your best customers. Send them a quick email or make a call, and ask how your product has impacted them. Share these quotes with your whole sales organization, and add them to your cheatsheet.
Next, experiment with putting these quotes in your email signature along with a link to your pricing page or someplace where the customer can choose to close the sale.
11. Use Average ROI Calculator Results in Your Email Signatures
You can use Google Analytics for free, or a similar tool, to save every ROI calculator result. Both the results gathered directly by customers and the results calculated by salespeople on calls.
Take all the results (time or money saved, or % return on investment) and get the average. This average can be used as a powerful marketing and sales tool, and can easily be used in your email signatures.
For example: “Our customers get an average of 86% return on investment from using this product, click here to calculate yours.”
Use this signature to link to the calculator, and then treat your calculator as a funnel.
12. Re-evaluate Compensation
You’re probably already using metric-based compensation, but how long has it been since you looked at how that was designed?
Markets change, customers change, and your pricing should be evolving too. All of these things should cause you to take a second look at how you structure sales compensation.
Success isn’t just making sales, it’s making sales at the right time to the right customers. At this point, you should know who those customers are, so incentivize and enable your salespeople to target them.
The metrics that measure your company’s success should be directly related (or the same) as the ones that measure a salesperson's success.
Thanks for reading! I hope this list was useful to you, it’s not comprehensive but it’s a great place to start.
- Make a Lead Prioritization Framework
- Allow Controlled Discounting
- Use Targeted Annual Discounts
- Script Your Conversation Starters
- Don’t Script Anything Else, Use Cheat Sheets
- Pass On Deep Product Knowledge
- Evaluate Your Pricing Regularly and Be Ready to Change it
- Share Knowledge of the Competitive Landscape
- Create and Use an ROI Calculator
- Use Testimonials in Your Email Signatures
- Use Average ROI Calculator Results in Your Email Signatures
- Re-evaluate Compensation
If you liked this post you should check out this one on a similar topic: