By creating and optimizing the sales process which emphasizes customer satisfaction and usefulness of the SaaS solution in the free trial stage, we had gained a great conversion rate of our leads into loyal customers. Optimization brought efficiency, growth and more knowledge which led to great business results.
Every person in every aspect of their life consciously and unconsciously witnessed various business processes that can be characterized as cumulative applications of knowledge obtained through theory and practice. These processes are subjected to the goal that is certainly simple and prosaic: achieve the best possible results with as little resources (time, money, etc.) as possible.
As a student I worked in a telemarketing corporation in which even the smallest process was automated, and systematically monitored and measured. To me, a person with a small amount of life, let alone business, experience it all seemed logical and self-evident. I was not aware that every single minute of my and my colleagues’ working day was planned. I knew that it’s logical to have a day generally planned out, there was a time for morning meeting, calls, training, lunch, and of course more calls because I worked in a telemarketing center. What I did not know, is that such a planned business process is not self-explanatory. It was a result of constant improvement, trial and error, finding a solution whose implementation is first tested on a small scale, and then expanded to every call center, and then benchmarked, adjusted and consequently – perfected.
Call center telemarketing lessons
Entering a room where a call center is located can be a frightening experience to a casual observer. Call center resembles a beehive. At a first glance everything is chaotic, noisy and it seems that everything happens randomly and without a clearly visible pattern other than having a bunch of people talking to a bunch of other people on the phone. Of course, after a lengthy focused view of said beehive, the image of chaos is replaced by an image depicting multitude of processes that are organized to operate simultaneously and in cohesion.
A typical sales call in telemarketing is conducted through four phases:
- introduction/call exclusive
- call to action
In the call center, we sold a variety of household products, from kitchen pans to bed mattresses. The company I worked for had a huge base of consumers who purchased through catalogs, TV commercials, shops, web shops, etc. I worked in the outbound department, in which we called existing customers and tried to sell them new products.
This type of sales requires speed and efficiency. The goal of a call was to attract the interest of the buyer, present the product, and, after solving their complaints or their inability to reach a decision about the purchase, encourage them to buy the product with a call to action.
Apply what you learned and be open to new things in a Startup
In said company, everything moved the sales team towards being faster, more efficient, and doing the most important thing, talking to customers. All other actions have been automatised, so sales professional had more time to do what is the essence of their work: to sell.
A couple of years later, when I started working in a startup “Mediatoolkit“, I had to define the sales process together with the entire team. Everything was different now: sales were B2B oriented rather than B2C, there was no corporate marketing machinery standing beside us. As it is typical for a startup, we evolved our processes on a daily basis, every day getting a little smarter than the one before.
The goal was simple: to show that our media monitoring software can monetise. We have developed a software, which served us in a way that it should serve its future customers. One day, the whole team sat down together – CEOs, product managers, developers, designers and me, the Mediatoolkit Account Manager. Our goal was to see where we are, what we are, and how can we improve our software. We had a vision of a bunch of new features, ideas and processes that needed to be implemented. We also knew that we had a bunch of limitations: we were not known, and our marketing and PR resources were limited.
Understand your product and customers better instead of getting pushy with closing
The best thing we could do is to get out and see what people need and find useful, and then focus the entire development and sales teams towards proving the outstanding business uses of our software to our future customers. We have concluded that we’ll need to use inside sales in our SaaS process.
The plan was to attract potential users through online marketing channels to our site, where they could register for our two-week free trial. Within those two weeks we wanted our Account Manager to contact the users that registered, explain the optimal way to use Mediatoolkit and optimize the software to suit their needs, so that they’d express interest for the product themselves. Since I did the calling, I had to redefine the sales strategy, because the one I used in the telemarketing company was not adequate for the current situation. We did not know our customers and they did not know us.
Because of this, our first call served to learn the following from a potential client:
- What are his expectations?
- Which industry is he working in, and what are its specific features?
- What problem is bothering him and can our solution help?
- Is he or has he used a similar solution?
Once we got the answers to those questions, we learned the basics of our customer. For example, if the call was answered by a marketing professional, I’d ask him which brand or online campaign he wants to monitor. When I got the answers, I arranged a new interview in which I showed him the results. If the results were good, then I presented the features, and of course, explained their benefits which could be useful to that particular user. During the conversation, I listened to the customer to find out what he finds important and useful. When the user asked what happens after the expiration of the free trial, I would recommend the appropriate model of cooperation and present our prices.
Our sales pipeline looks roughly like this:
- Marketing lead comes to the Mediatoolkit website
- User leaves the phone number and independently enters the first keywords
- The first call in which we get to know the expectations
- Setup according to lead’s instructions
- Presentation call
- Sales call
- Ending: won or lost
Optimization: shorten any side actions and focus on the sale
Being the only Account Manager in the team, my time for calling and setting up was limited. Let’s say that I needed, in the best case scenario, 3 calls and 1 to 2 emails to make an offer and close the deal.
On average, I spent 30 minutes on calls and 6 minutes on emails. That’s 36 minutes that are needed to successfully process a lead, meaning that, if you had a 100% success rate, you could close 266 deals in a working month – but that means that a sale happened every time I picked up a phone. This ideal scenario is unfortunately unreachable, if it was otherwise my boss would have my picture next to the one of his children. :)
Okay, let’s get back to reality, let’s say that the average call lasts as any successful one. Following that logic, I can handle all 266 leads. But losses of time and resources happen everywhere – making calls, dialing numbers, having longer conversations than planned, failure to reply, live meetings with clients, lunch break etc. Each preliminary step before and during the call takes us further and further away from the ideal scenario.
In the end, my working day comes down to a dozen of longer calls and emails. There are more registered leads that I could process, and the goal was to process them while they’re ‘hot’.
How did we realize that we could use our time more efficiently?
First, making calls – I would first take a look at a contact form that the user filled out, and then I manually dialed a number. We solved it by implementing VOIP calls. Now I don’t have to hold the phone in my hands, and I can start writing a follow up at the same time.
I was losing time by manually writing offers, so we acquired a software to generate them according to a number of templates.
But I wasted most of the time between calls, on software setup, so that our users could get the relevant information about topics that interested them. We realized that we need a person who would be responsible for account setup and lead classification, so that I could dedicate my time exclusively to selling. We want to have a perfect relationship with our current and future clients, so we opened a Customer Success Manager position in the team. The task of the CSM was to make sure that the expectations presented by our new leads are met. CSM’s most important task was to enable our lead to use the full potential of Mediatoolkit.
By doing that we raised the total number of processed leads, and that ultimately led to better sales results. Optimization never ends, every day something improves, becomes more efficient, and that has a positive effect on the business results. How optimization affects final results is best seen in the picture of the entire sales process:
Optimizing any of the phases by even a couple of percent can result in significant rise of revenues in the final stage. We have learned to apply the principles and measurements of huge companies, and adapted them to fit our startup Mediatoolkit, but what we loved the most is that every little improvement we made cumulatively led us to our goal.
By optimizing the sales process we achieved several important goals:
- We developed a better software because we researched what our users needed
- We optimized our business processes to achieve higher internal and client satisfaction
- We got a free promotion from users who were surprised at how little time they had to wait for our assistance
You can experience all of this firsthand by registering on Mediatoolkit. You can expect a call from me that will introduce you to the magic of online media monitoring.
And if you think that you can do it better than me, take a look at our open position for a new Account Manager, and join our Mediatoolkit team. :)