How we increased sales leads by 25% in 90 days
Do you know where your work comes from?
We didn’t. Well we thought we did, but in reality, we only ever had a general idea because we never sat down and analysed the effectiveness of our business development activity. Our team was doing plenty of work and we were generating good sales leads, but there was no clear visibility of where the new work was coming from and our return on investment.
In essence, we didn’t have a process for business development which meant it couldn’t be structured, formalised or improved. It also meant we couldn’t profitably scale our business.
So here is what we did to transform our business development function and increase qualified sales leads by 25% in just 90 days.
Step One: Work out where your work comes from
The first step was to look at all sales over the past 2 years and identify where it came from. By that, I mean from which sales channel did they originate. The types of channels will be different for each business, but for ours we had the following five:
- Existing relationships – customers we had already worked with
- Referrals – recommendations from our network of relationships
- Marketing – any business from inbound enquiries as a result of our different marketing activities (social media, website, public relations etc)
- Networking and events – business as a direct result of attending networking activity and other events
- Outbound – new business from direct contact we made to prospects via email and telephone
One of the first challenges we had was retrospectively assigning our work to these categories. For many projects there was no single source, and they were in fact a combination of channels. But for the sake of simplicity we allocated a ‘primary’ source.
We also made sure we categorised the project and not the customer. This is because after the first project, all future projects from that customer fell into the ‘existing relationships’ channel.
Once categorised we could start to analyse and measure the effectiveness of each channel in terms of number of projects; the value of those projects; the conversion rate; and the cost of acquisition. The results were not what we expected. We were spending a lot of time and money in areas that weren’t delivering results.
Step Two: Create a strategic plan for each channel
Armed with a clear understanding of how each channel was performing we then set about defining and implementing a strategic plan for each. The plans were no more than a couple of pages long and set out a structured approach that we could formalise and build a process around.
The rest of our business operates in 90 day cycles so each strategic plan followed this same timeline. We developed our own simple plan template which included the following sections:
- Vision: what we wanted to achieve (vison statement, channel objectives)
- Evidence: research and information to support our approach (market information, competitor behaviour, gap analysis)
- Strategy: how we will go about achieving the vision (narrative, value proposition, key messages)
- Tactical Plan: an initial list of tactical activity that we believed would achieve the objectives (specific actions, clear definitions of done)
- Impact: the measurable KPIs that we would use to track progress
Every channel had its own plan. Inevitably there was cross-over between the different channels, they do not operate in isolation. But the point of writing a strategic plan for each was to ensure we created a clear focus for our business development team and gave them a structure they could follow with measurable targets.
Key point: it is important not to make the tactical activity too prescriptive. You need to build in space to trial tactics, test their effectiveness and then either go again or try something different. This is the essence of Agile project management, and something we followed very closely. But to do this effectively you need a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve and a structured process that manages this cycle.
Step Three: Use CRM software to instil process
To effectively manage implementation of the tactical activity and to track our performance we needed CRM Software. But importantly we needed software that could be shaped and customised to match our workflow and process. And not the other way around.
Fortunately, we were able to do this using our Flight platform, and we created bespoke CRM software that matched our exact requirements.
The software was extremely powerful. Not only were we able to set up a consistent process that everyone could follow; it also allowed us to instantly interrogate each sales channel and pinpoint what was working.
We finally had full visibility of our business development process making our tactical activity far more effective, our people more accountable to the process and day to day operations more efficient.
For example, referrals are an excellent source of new business for us. Using the software, we identified our most effective referral partners over the last 3 years and made a concerted effort to reach out and work with them in a more structured way. We scheduled and tracked the activity in the software and reported in real time. As a result, our qualified leads from this channel grew by 10%.
Step Four: Disciplined monitoring, review and improvement
The most important piece of the puzzle was to continuously improve through regular monitoring and review.
We achieved this by breaking down our 90 day objectives into two week ‘sprints’. For each ‘sprint’ we set goals of what we wanted to achieve and how we were going to achieve it. At the end of the sprint we reviewed and measured performance against the KPIs. We would then tweak our plan for the different channels as required and go again for the next two week period.
It sounds time-consuming, but it is simple and extremely effective. In all cases our tactical activities for each sales channel changed in some way during the course of the 90 day period. This was either in response to them not working properly or if we wanted to capitalise on new opportunities that arose.
Having this balance between agility and a structured process meant our people were focused on what we set out to achieve, whilst also encouraging adaptability, creativity and continuous improvement.
Key point: from our experience there is no magic bullet (trust me, we looked). There was no single tactical activity that transformed our success overnight, instead we discovered that the combination of continually measuring and then improving our activity across all channels delivered the successful results we wanted.
In the first 90 days of implementing this process and adopting the CRM Software, the number of qualified, relevant sales leads we generated increased by 25%. Not a bad return.
But more significantly we now have a formal business development process that we can monitor, refine and scale. This has made our business more resilient, more profitable and more valuable. And with continuous improvement built into the process we will get better and better.
I would recommend this approach to any ambitious business looking to grow or to improve profitability.
Please get in touch if you would like to learn more about how we did it or if you would like more information on our software platform that builds bespoke CRM and Workflow Software aligned to the exact requirements of your business.