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Testing as a Sales Process Through Experimentation

By March 1st, 2023Inside Sales, Insights
Testing as a Sales Process

Enablement tools and software now rule the market in B2B sales. They give businesses access to troves of data, workable insights and, if used right, huge opportunities to scale revenue.

The reality is that many companies don’t scale revenue with data. Even well-funded business analytics have layers and are hard to interpret, are subject to limitations or are too thin to gain useful insights from. For a more complete approach to sales analytics, we argue businesses should test their process and strategy constantly. It’s no longer a “nice to have” but a necessity in the modern B2B market.

In this article, we explore why you need to adopt a culture of experimenting to drive revenue success.

What is sales testing?

Sales testing is the process of running experiments driven by analytics to improve areas of your process or sales strategy. A “test” typically involves tracking data and applying research techniques to confirm theories about sales performance, with the aim of improving efficiency and results over time.

Testing measures, analyzes and validates your existing process. It keeps your strategy fresh and your data relevant. In terms of what a “test” looks like, it will be subjective and depends on your current processes.

In theory, a sales test could compare anything in your strategy. This could be small tweaks like email subject lines and call-to-actions (CTAs) or larger ones like A/B testing buyer personas and return-on-effort.

Why aren't more teams testing?

Testing is nothing new to the world of business. For marketing, it’s been a vital part of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) since the turn of the century. In fact, roughly 77% of US businesses conduct A/B testing on their website and 60% do on their landing page. Yet, when it comes to sales, teams across the globe remain behind the pace.

So why aren’t more sales teams adopting it? Many companies are hesitant to ‘mess’ with their revenue out of fear of failure. Some may be stubborn and unwilling to allocate resources because they worry it may impact quota-attainment and current revenue generation.

While sales programs yield ‘positive’ results, leadership may not see value in testing, even if there’s hidden, untapped opportunity. Those that fail to test continually face the risk of strategy saturation or even expiry. No matter how well-oiled, choreographed or even data-backed your process is, it can always benefit from continuous improvement. You don’t need to fix something that isn’t broken but there’s always room to boost returns or efficiencies.

Why testing is critical to your sales process

Testing helps your sales leaders and strategists keep up-to-date with your operations. It helps to proactively identify problem areas and new methods for enhanced revenue generation. It’s an advanced, business-level approach to avoiding saturation and keeping processes optimized and innovating.

Year-on-year sales and marketing strategies fall short to new demands, expectations and buyer behaviors. Without constant testing, businesses face an ever-growing risk of falling behind as market innovation increases. Given how intense market competition is, this isn’t just a threat to quota-attainment, but operational existence.

Without testing, once-successful sales techniques get passed down with no diagnosis of improvement. Processes get ingrained. They don’t move with the times. The end result is a drop in performance. Sellers are no longer selling for buyers, but based on what worked in the past. At its most basic level, testing removes this uncertainty, giving your leaders alternative routes to market. Routes based on real-time, tangible results, not assumptions or ancient data.

Meaningful sales analytics

One of the greatest limits on business intelligence data is that it can be one-dimensional, skewed or seasonal. Testing gives richer, deeper, cleaner data analytics. It stems from contrasting data sets and multiple channels, not just a single source. This means, when it comes to reviewing data, your analytics are far more complete, and so, more impactful. These insights take your data analysis from Descriptive and Diagnostic, to Predictive and Prescriptive.

Increased team effectiveness

Testing pushes leaders and teams to innovate and find more effective ways to generate leads and convert. 79% of marketing leads never convert to sales according to InvespCRO. This is especially due to the lack of relevant nurturing. By testing, teams can thoughtfully identify a prospect’s pains, challenges and behaviors. From this, they can establish a playbook of best practices. Companies with these playbooks are 33% more likely to perform higher.

Improved pipeline velocity

Sales testing can help improve pipeline velocity up to 30%, especially at top-of-funnel. Speed is the new currency of business. Buyers today demand a quick first response. It’s no longer a luxury but an expectation in the B2B landscape. Currently, only 37% of companies respond to inquiries within an hour. With an effective testing strategy, businesses can understand the best systems to hande and qualify leads. This reduces speed-to-lead, speed-to-qualification and improves meaningful conversations by 7x.

Better resource allocation

By grasping their processes in more detail, your leaders can understand the areas that generate the greatest ROI. This helps your operation align additional resources and capacity to where seller time is best spent. Companies successful at sales planning and resource allocation increase sales productivity by between 5% and 10%.

Stronger decision making

Alongside richer, cleaner data comes increased breadth for decision making. By pulling data from a variety of experiments, businesses can tap into “best practices” that improve ROE/ROI and share these team-wide. This data gives leaders and strategists the insight to drive more effective operational decisions backed by data. Doing this can reduce rep attrition at the same time.

How to conduct sales testing

Not every business has an environment conducive to successful testing. A culture of experimentation relies on inside sales reps that show curiosity and an urge to innovate. Of course, things like team agility, maturity, company culture and tech stack will impact this.

Most organizations will get the most value from simple business experiments. It can be simpler to draw conclusions with data generated from A/B tests than historical conversion data. First, managers need to embrace a test-and-learn approach, testing a single control group of prospects. You should interpret outcomes through the lens of Kaizen methodology, and contrast them with existing processes’ performance. This small-scale approach can yield huge improvements in engagement, though it only scratches the surface of testing potential.

For larger scale testing, there are two common methods, building an experimentation department or outsourcing.

Building an internal experimentation department

Internal testing starts by allocating headcount to a “sales lab”. This is a dedicated environment for trying alternate strategies. These Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) execute variations within touch patterns, appointment-setting, and the curation of buyer personas. These variations will be noticeably different from the current strategies deployed by the inside sales team. While effective, this approach can hamper quota attainment at first, reallocating physical selling time to testing, execution and ramp.

Outsourcing to a lab

A more efficient and proactive model is outsourcing to a Sales Lab. These companies apply their existing headcount and resources to your tests. This way you don’t have to reallocate members of your team. This model is extremely productive as it allows businesses to keep cycling leads with their current strategy and cadence. At the same time, the Sales Lab is testing externally to find new ways to optimize. Once analytics are received, they can then refocus on team-wide execution, with results based on tangible data.

Final thoughts

To stay competitive, your teams need to adapt. As we’ve touched on, the benchmark for performance keeps moving. Technology improves, business trends emerge, and new approaches to connect, influence and nurture are adopted.

At Harte Hanks, we unlock your business’ sales strategy potential. Without impacting your existing sales pipeline, Harte Hanks can plug right in to your outbound sales system. We work as your innovation team, providing a facility to test new practices, processes and strategies.

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