Sales veteran Jim Lochry is the senior vice president for corporate development at ConnectLeader, which offers software solutions to improve inside sales and B2B sales productivity.
We recently checked in with Jim to get his take on how today’s sales teams can be more efficient and more effective. Here’s what he had to say:
Can you tell us a little bit about your background in sales?
After completing my MBA and having spent three years as an analyst in financial operations for a large computer company, I moved into sales as a junior account manager in their banking and financial services vertical. I began learning the art of understanding a customer’s problem, mapping their need to a solution we could provide and then demonstrating how we could deliver a tangible ROI.
I moved forward in my sales career by embracing a philosophy and methodology that had a consultative approach and focused on large, complex sales that required significant account knowledge and strategy. I soon became a huge disciple of a book written by Miller Heiman called Strategic Selling, and felt it gave me a major competitive advantage over my competition that often operated without a strategic account focus/plan.
As my career advanced and grew into executive sales leadership roles from large organizations like Oracle to successful startups such as Versant, Extricity and Peace Software, I carried forward the foundational concepts of understanding client needs and selling value to clients with a strategic account based approach.
How has sales evolved since you started your career?
Sales is evolving through the better use of technology to more effectively target the best prospects, improve ways to message a value proposition to customers and provide more productive ways for sales to communicate with prospects utilizing a multi-channel approach that goes beyond just email.
What have you found are the biggest obstacles in the typical sales process? What tends to drag the process out?
The biggest obstacles that affect the sales process are basically the same as they have always been. The key challenge is the inability of sales reps (regardless of whether their role is business development, inside sales or field sales) to have more engagements or connections with their prospects.
Customers have surrounded themselves with walls such as IVRs, voicemail, gate keepers, email blocks, etc. The need for sales people to utilize technology to better reach their prospects so they can understand their needs, put forward the right solution with an associated ROI, and build a trusted relationship are still the key objectives.
Why is time management so essential to the effectiveness of a sales team?
At the end of the day the most important asset any sales person has is their time. The ability to maximize the amount of time that they spend engaging with their prospects to fill the top of the funnel, then advancing them through the sales process to closure will determine their success over time. The more conversations they have that convert to more meetings that lead to more proposals equals a bigger pipeline and more revenue. The old adage about sales being a numbers game still applies, the difference today is that the effective deployment of sales acceleration technologies, such as those from ConnectLeader, will lead to successfully meeting and exceeding sales objectives consistently over time.
How can sales teams operate more efficiently and effectively?
They can make more productive use of their time, utilize technology to increase the amount of interactions they have with customers and prospects, and expand their network through social networking via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Increasing networks is an extremely effective and proactive way to having more contacts that can provide warm introductions that turn into new opportunities.
What are some of your favorite methods for generating leads?
As I mentioned above, expanding networks can get you to the key players in the accounts you are targeting. The best leads you will ever get are the ones you obtain yourself, not ones bought or from RFP’s you receive. The ability to reach a potential buyer before they decide who they are going to include in their selection process and their key criteria is also critical. The first one in is often the winner because they have the ability to educate, build trust and influence the eventual outcome. Don’t make the mistake of waiting for marketing to deliver you the ultimate sales qualified lead. Take control of your own success and don’t be dependent on great opportunities to magically fall in your lap. Doing your own prospecting can be a grind, but it can really pay off through both expanding your network and better use of technology.
What are some of the challenges sales teams are facing in lead generation?
In many cases, there is a lack of communication between marketing and sales in identifying the best prospective targets. Sales lives in the world of day-to-day execution, feedback and results. Marketing has the ability to plan, be more data driven and not worry about short-term result measurement. It is incumbent that sales organizations provide real-time feedback to marketing on lead quality, messaging effectiveness, competitive insight and real market demand. This communication improvement and lead quality is directly impacted by the amount of engagements and dialogue sales is having with the marketplace. I recommend increasing the amount of conversations sales people have with prospective clients through technologies that deliver multi-channel communication, along with data enrichment capabilities and predictive sales analytics, to prioritize who the best prospects are and the best time to reach them.
How should teams be using data to find leads and boost sales?
Unquestionably, sales and marketing teams need to leverage the data that resides in the CRM, the system of record. The CRM on its own doesn’t really deliver significant productivity improvement. Studies show CRMs in general provide around 17 percent improvement in sales productivity due to being the repository of customer and prospect data. The ability to leverage this data and prioritize opportunities based upon a predictive sales intelligence engine, like ConnectLeader’s Adaptilytics, allows marketing and sales to set up a lead scoring solution based upon a unique vertical or even sales territory or upon how the key targeting profile is weighted. Additionally, the ability to keep the data updated, enriched and accurate on a timely basis is critical as well.
What news or trends in sales are you following today? Why?
Some people would say that trends like “account-based selling” and “account-based marketing” are new trends. I view these as sales strategies that have gone by other names such as “target account selling” and “solution and vertical-based marketing”.
The real trend, as I see it, is arming sales and marketing teams with more effective technologies to communicate with their customers. In marketing you have seen “marketing automation” systems as an area of major investment by companies to go along with their CRM. Now I’m seeing a real focus on giving sales people better tools, through sales acceleration technologies, to reduce sales cycles, increase top line revenue and bottom line profitability.
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