Testing as a Sales Process: Driving Results Through Experimentation
Over the past decade, sales leaders have awakened to the power of analytics.
Enablement tools and softwares now rule the market in B2B sales – giving businesses access to rich troves of data, actionable insights and, consequently, huge opportunities to scale revenue, when used in the right way.
The reality is that many organizations don’t scale revenue with data. Even well-funded business analytics are layered and difficult to interpret, subject to limitations or too thin to draw actionable insights from. For a more comprehensive, richer and cleaner approach to sales analytics, we argue that organizations need to continually test their process and strategy, no longer a “nice to have” but a necessity in the modern B2B market.
In this article, we’ll explore why you need to adopt a culture of testing and experimentation to drive revenue success forward.
What is Sales Testing?
Sales testing is the process of running analytically-driven experiments to improve specific areas of your process or sales strategy. A “test” typically involves tracking data and applying research techniques to validate assumptions relating to sales performance, with the intention of improving efficiency and results over time.
Testing puts your existing process through measurement, validation and continual analysis. It keeps your strategy fresh and your data relevant. In terms of what a “test” actually looks like, it will be subjective and dependent on your existing processes.
In theory, a sales test could compare anything in your strategy, from small messaging tweaks like email subject lines or call-to-actions (CTAs) to cadence tweaks like A/B testing buyer personas or return-on-effort.
Why Aren't More Teams Testing?
Testing is nothing new to the world of business. For marketing, it’s been an ingrained part of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) since the turn of the century. In fact, an estimated 77% of US organizations conduct A/B testing on their website and 60% 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 set in their ways and unwilling to allocate headcount or resources over concern that it may impact quota-attainment and current revenue generation.
When existing sales programs are yielding ‘positive’ results, leadership may not see the value in testing, even if there is a hidden, untapped opportunity there. Though, 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’s still prone to continuous improvement. You don’t need to fix something that isn’t broken but there’s always potential room to achieve greater returns or efficiencies.
Why Testing is Critical to your Sales Process
Testing enables your sales leaders and strategists to keep a finger on the pulse of your operations. It empowers a proactive approach to diagnosing problem areas and identifying newer methodologies for enhanced revenue generation. It’s a sophisticated, business-level approach to avoiding saturation and keeping processes fresh, optimized and moving with the speed of innovation, which moves at an incredible pace.
Year-on-year sales and marketing strategies fall short to new demands, new expectations and new buyer behaviors. With the state of innovation increasing as it is, without continual testing, businesses face an ever-growing risk of falling behind. Given the intensity of modern market competition, this is a threat not just to quota-attainment, but to operational existence entirely.
Without testing, legacy sales techniques that may have worked in the past get passed down without any identification for improvement. Processes become hereditary. They don’t move with the times. The end-result is a downturn in performance as sellers are no longer selling for your buyers, but instead selling based on what’s been practised traditionally. At its most basic level, testing essentially removes this uncertainty, serving your leaders with alternative routes to market, based on real-time, tangible results rather than assumptions or prehistoric data.
More Meaningful Sales Analytics
One of the greatest limitations to business intelligence data is that it can be one-dimensional, biased, skewed or seasonal. Testing gives you richer, deeper and cleaner data analytics, stemming from contrasting data sets and multiple channels, rather than a single source. This means, when it comes to tracking and reviewing data, your analytics are far more comprehensive, making them more meaningful and impactful. These insights help you take your data analysis from Descriptive and Diagnostic, to Predictive and Prescriptive.
Increased Effectiveness & Performance
Testing pushes leaders and teams to continually innovate and find ways to generate leads and convert more effectively. 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales according to InvespCRO, especially due to the lack of relevant nurturing. By testing, teams can strategically identify your prospect’s pains, challenges and behaviors more effectively and establish a playbook of best practices. Companies who have such playbooks are 33% more likely to perform higher.
Improved Pipeline Velocity
Sales testing can help you improve pipeline velocity, especially at the top-of-funnel, up to 30%. Speed is the new currency of business. Buyers now 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 methodologies to lead handling and qualification, reducing speed-to-lead, speed-to-qualification and improving meaningful conversations by 7x.
Better Resource Allocation
By understanding their processes in greater detail, your leaders can understand the areas that generate the greatest ROI. This enables your marketing and sales operations to effectively align additional resources and capacity to where seller time is best spent. Companies that are 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 and tests, organizations are able to tap into “best practices” that generate increased ROE/ROI and share these team-wide. This data equips leaders and strategists with the insight to drive more effective operational decisions that are backed by data, reducing rep apprehension or attrition at the same time.
How to Conduct Sales Testing
Not every business will have an environment that is conducive to successful testing. A culture of experimentation relies on inside sales reps that actively demonstrate curiosity and an inclination to learn, adapt and innovate. Naturally, this can be impacted by internal factors like team agility, maturity, company culture and critically, tech stack.
Most organizations will get the most value from simple business experiments. It can be simpler to draw conclusions using data generated from A/B tests than historical conversion data. First, managers need to embrace a test-and-learn approach, applying a test to a single control group of prospects. The outcomes should be interpreted through the lens of Kaizen methodology, and should be contrasted with the performance of existing processes. This small-scale approach to testing can yield dramatic improvements in engagement, though it is only scratching the surface in terms of testing potential.
For testing on a bigger scale, there are two common methods, building an experimentation department or outsourcing.
Building an Internal Experimentation Department
Internal testing and experimentation starts by allocating headcount to a “sales lab”, a dedicated environment for trying alternative strategies and processes. These SDRs execute variations within their touch patterns, appointment-setting, and the curation of buyer personas that are identifiably different from the current strategies deployed by the inside sales team. While effective, this approach can significantly hamper existing quota attainment upon initial deployment, reallocating physical selling time to testing, execution and ramp.
Outsourcing to a Lab
A more efficient and proactive model for testing is outsourcing to a Sales Lab. These organizations apply their existing headcount and resources to service the requirements of your tests, rather than taking away from your existing, internal team. In terms of business continuity, this model is extremely productive as it enables businesses to continue cycling leads through their current strategy and cadence, all while experimenting externally to discover new ways to optimize. Once analytics are received, they can then refocus their efforts on team-wide execution, with provable results based on tangible data.
To stay competitive, your teams need to constantly adapt. As established in this article, the goalposts for performance continue to move alongside technology innovation, emerging business trends, and new approaches to connect, influence and nurture.
At InsideOut, we can support your organization in unlocking the potential of its sales strategy. With no negative impact on your existing sales pipeline, InsideOut can plug directly into your outbound sales organization. We operate as your innovation team, providing a facility to test and experiment with new practices, processes and strategy initiatives.
As a Forbes Under 30 entrepreneur/consultant, Sercan had the fortune of practicing innovative business models and behavioral operations management for productivity in business development with Google Exchange, Hult Prize IXL Center, MassChallenge, MIT Media Lab, and InsideOut PlayOps. Being a Turkish-American who was lucky enough to live in 4 countries and travel to 27 across Europe, North Africa, and the United States.