The Single Most Important Element of Sales (and No One is Talking About It)

Follow-up is what drives revenue at EVERY stage of the sales pipeline.

Reps cannot close deals without following up on each and every opportunity. They cannot generate nor motivate these opportunities without following up on leads, no matter how ‘qualified’ they are. Taking these fundamental components as imperatives, you could therefore emphatically state that timely, relevant, and credible follow-up is what moves deals through the sales pipeline. Follow-up is the single most important element of all sales cycle activity.

If you use Salesforce CRM, you have more than likely invested a great deal of time, money, sweat and tears intending (or hoping) for it to serve as the primary, indispensible, must-have platform necessary for great follow-up performance. is great as a platform. But it doesn’t do anywhere near enough to help reps manage or manipulate the follow-up process itself. Since it can take up to 10 touches per prospect, and reps then have to navigate through the cumulative list of follow-up activities, this less-than-streamlined process becomes nothing short of problematic. If excellent follow-up is at the heart of quota attainment, then having a poor process is immensely counterproductive.

Hunting and pecking through contact, task, activity and opportunity records just to piece together what is needed for each new touch is a grossly inefficient utilization of sales resources. Add to that, the impossible task of managing hundreds of moving follow-up activities and you’ve got yourself a major, and perhaps insurmountable, barrier to increasing sales. And never mind, for the moment, how it affects your rep’s attitude, motivation, and in the long run, their performance against quota.

It requires discipline and experience to juggle follow-up when deals are at different stages, with diverse requirements and interests, that each require customized solutions to some extent, and which also must be tailored to a multitude of varying types of companies or prospect profiles.

As you can see from the diagram, there are several common inflection points that require reps to make decisions that will ultimately determine whether they have fully optimized the revenue from their territories.

1.         Who should I contact and in what order?

2.         What do I need to know before I contact?

3.         How should contact be made?

4.         What should I say?

5.         What should I do next?

6.         How do I keep track of what happened?

For reps to excel at their job, these questions must be asked, weighed, prioritized, and evaluated each day, for every prospect, based on potential and degree of opportunity.

It is not hard to visualize why reps have a hard time keeping their heads above this complex flow of objectives, which certainly demonstrates why you have little ‘visibility’ into the pipeline.

Our solution, Incite2, runs on top of Salesforce CRM, and is designed as a high-performance, flow-injected, sales follow-up engine. If you have yet to familiarize yourself with the extraordinary potential of Incite2, here are important questions you can ask to learn whether your reps are optimizing their follow-up process.

  • How do reps prioritize their contacts currently? Do they check for unopened leads first? How do they judge the urgency? How many records (screens) does it take for reps to get the information they need to make their decisions? How can you know if they are making the right choices? Is there a way to shorten or streamline the process?
  • What information do your reps currently look up before they make their next contact?Where do they get the information? How long does it take them? Can these information sources be more readily available or easier to access?
  • What email and voicemail attempts do reps make?
    What is the combination of emails and voicemails that solicits the best results? How many contact attempts should be made before there are diminishing results?
  • Are reps using templates to speed the process? Have email content or voicemail scripts been created for specific buyer personas or sales-cycle stages? Do reps create emails from scratch, or leverage pre-designed text blocks and links? What content gets the best results with each buyer type?
  • How long does it take reps to schedule their next tasks in the system? Are they leveraging automated follow-up campaigns? Is there a sales process or playbook to guide them?
  • Are reps consistently logging call outcomes? Is there a method for standardizing the way information is captured?

One sure-fire way to increase revenue is to optimize the follow-up process. Reps will need to perform more of the right tasks, execute more of them at the right time, and undertake accurate, insightful preparation. It means constructing an accessible sequence of objectives that simplifies and streamlines the flow of a rep’s productive energies.

An inefficient pipeline follow-up process will needlessly slow each sales-cycle, and clearly limit the number of deals that can be managed at one time. Reps need to execute on their activities better, and they will if the pipeline is designed with a minimum of restrictions and obstacles. Salesforce CRM is a great platform. But you’ll need to look for ways to build upon this platform to streamline the follow-up process for reps if you want to optimize revenue.

Jim Banks is CEO of ShadeTree Technology. Jim founded ShadeTree specifically to address the lack of adoption by sales professionals due to shortcomings of CRM offerings. From 1987-1993, Jim drove revenue for Oracle Corporation in various senior management roles. Jim was VP of Sales at Integrated Project Systems until 1996. He went on to become one of Siebel Systems early employees and held key senior sales and management roles before founding ShadeTree.

Incite: to stir up or provoke to action