Walk through any sales floor these days and you'll be stunned by the deafening silence that has plagued sales environments. There are several reasons (or excuses) for this, but the reality is your closers have too many gaps in their calendars. In other words, they are not talking to enough buyers per day. Sure, there is a time and a place to throw in your Dre Beats and spend time sourcing new target accounts, emailing prospects and doing research but the real cause of sales floor silence is calendar gap, and calendar gap will kill your start-up. How can we fix this? First, let's discuss some leading contributors to calendar gap and then in Calendar Gap Part 2 I'll offer some suggestions for filling calendar gaps and getting your closers in front of more buyers.
Calendar Gap Reason #1: Your demand generation engine is broken or worse, non existent. The #1 leading indicator of calendar gap is a broken demand generation engine or one that doesn't even exist. I am always shocked when start-ups hire sales people before they've proven whether or not they generate a sales lead. What is the point or hiring a sales person, whose primary role is to close news business, if this person is going to spend 80% of their day prospecting? Your sales organization needs to achieve balance and balance comes from a demand generation engine that works. If your marketing team can contribute 40% of your sales appointments, you're well on your way to achieving balance, and better yet filling some of your sales reps calendar gaps.
Calendar Gap Reason #2: Your company hired a sales team before they had marketing nailed down. What is the point of hiring sales people if your business hasn't demonstrated the consistent ability to generate a lead? You need marketing traction in order to better access the market opportunity. Simply running a TAM analysis isn't enough. We all know the problem(s) our solutions fix and the people we want to pitch to. However, our perceived version of one's pain may not be a reality. In fact, the only way to validate this is for marketing to run campaigns against the hypothetical problem we believe we solve for. Let your marketers run keyword search testing to identify if people are actually looking for help. YOUR HELP. Allow marketing to conduct surveys with your ICP's (Ideal Customer Profiles) to better assess the focal points of pain to align them with marketing language content. I wrote an article back in August 2016 which discusses the importance of putting marketing in front of your sales efforts. You'll also read about some my own personal struggles as I ramped up a start-up of my own.
Calendar Gap Reason #3: You haven't hired a sales leader or the co-founders are leading sales efforts. So many co-founders hire sales people before hiring someone who can train and mentor them. Most co-founders are great at selling their vision, telling their company story and may even bring in the companies first 10-20 deals. However, in order to scale the business (and after you've figured out marketing), you will need to hire a sales leader who can tell your company story just as good as the founders. A great sales leader will know how to eliminate calendar gap by creating demand for your products and services through ABM (Account Based Marketing) techniques, framing your ideal hiring profile and putting in place a repeatable prospecting model. Whenever I take on a leadership role or provide consulting, I always advise on nailing down marketing first then hiring sales development reps shortly after. I'd rather have the problem of people waiting in line to talk to me, rather than paying a bloated sales organization with no one to sell to.
Ryan Lallier is a proven sales leader and builder of high velocity sales machines.