Story Time: Sales Strategy

Story Time: Sales Strategy

„How do we define ourselves as a company?”

This question was asked recently in our sales department. Answering is supposed to help define our sales strategy. It probably has some other fun and/or useful effects.

 

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I’m not a sales guy. I’m a data guy.

So how do you help answer this question with data?

I could try to predict what will our future customers look like. I could try to analyze market demands for similar software. I could look into searches in popular search engines. I could analyze social media buzz. All of those things sound cool, and would potentially involve even cooler, trendy terms, like machine learning, predictive analytics, who knows, maybe even big data, etc.

I won’t do any of those fancy things.

CrazyCall didn’t start yesterday. We have customers using our software every day, with usage ranging from a couple of calls a day, to hundreds of thousands. Why not try to see how they are using our software, and figure out who we are and what we do based on what people already do with the service?

„Well” – you might say – „your software makes phone calls using a browser. There you go, saved you time and effort, you’re welcome.”

That is fundamentally true. But let’s have a closer look.

There is a smallest possible unit of „thing” you work with in CrazyCall. You may call it „Lead”. I call it „Record”. It’s – at minimum – a phone number you want to call. It’s a prospective customer, or maybe a person you want to interview, or maybe a poll subject.

A lead starts its life by being imported into CrazyCall.

Then you start calling that lead, and these things may happen:

  • FAILED CONTACT – Typically happens when a number cannot be reached, or when you reach it but you get voice mail.
  • REFUSE – Your customer refuses your offer. Your poll subject declines participation. Someone doesn’t want to talk to you. You are friendzoned. Life is hard.
  • SCHEDULE – „Can you call me tomorrow? Or in two weeks?”
  • SUCCESS – You make a sale. Your conversation has a positive result. Good days ahead.

There are a couple of things that you can do without calling anyone. These are called ‚management actions’:

  • CANCEL SUCCESS – You marked your call as a success by mistake. This is how you correct it.
  • CLOSE RECORD – You shut down a lead. You don’t want to call there anymore. Or your company’s offer expired.
  • NOT A DECISION-MAKER – The person you reached is not in a position to make a decision with regards to whatever you are calling him about. Maybe you reached an assistant. Or maybe it’s just a typical husband. You now either get a new, direct number, or this lead will be closed.
  • OPEN RECORD – The record is closed, but you want to give it one more try.
  • RESCHEDULE FOR NOW – You have a weird feeling you should call these numbers now. These leads will be queued asap.

These are the most important actions you can take. So which of these happen most of the time?

What do our customers actually do?

 

[Graphics: Pie chart, event frequency]

 

[Graphics: So we have software for... not reaching people? - I prefer to think we're making software for scheduling contacts]

It turns out that most of the time our contacts are unreachable, don’t pick up, or you reach voice mail and CrazyCall automatically schedules leads to a new contact date.  To be precise, the breakdown of reasons for a failed contact looks like this:

 

[Graphics: Autoschedule reason breakdown]

So I could say we’re making call scheduling software. But are we really? Is that the reason people use it?

Well, of course not. If you use Gmail, you don’t call it a text editor. Most of the time you spend with it, you type, and only eventually push that ‚send’ button. But it is still an email client, not a word processor.

Our customers use our software to eventually make successful calls. So what is the path to a successful call?

Here are the most frequent paths to success, and how likely will a lead follow that path:

state transitions occurences (percent)
IMPORT -> SUCCESS 0.2505
IMPORT -> NOT VERIFIED -> SUCCESS 0.0809
IMPORT -> SCHEDULE -> SUCCESS 0.0750
IMPORT -> FAILED CONTACT -> SUCCESS 0.0633
IMPORT -> FAILED CONTACT -> SCHEDULE -> SUCCESS 0.0272

[Graphics: Paths to success]

Turns out the most frequent path (0.25% of all paths, so 1 in 400) is being successful right away. If records were humans, the answer to “How to be successful in life?” would be “You have to be destined for it”.

For comparison, let’s look at paths to failure:

state transitions occurences (percent)
IMPORT -> REFUSE 24.3813
IMPORT -> CLOSE RECORD 16.2776
IMPORT -> FAILED CONTACT -> REFUSE 6.5847
IMPORT -> FAILED CONTACT -> FAILED CONTACT -> FAILED CONTACT 6.2318
IMPORT -> SCHEDULE -> REFUSE 4.3657

[Graphics: Paths to failure]

It turns out that most of the time you make a call, you fail instantly. For every 1 instant success, there are approximately 100 instant failures.

It also leads to one of the most boring and overused sales charts ever:

[Graphics: Sales funnel]

To sum it up, I could say that, whatever are the reasons you are making business calls, you probably struggle. The path to success is long and bumpy. For each one big hit there are one hundred misses.

Our software tries to make this struggle as painless as possible. Yes, you will make a lot of unfruitful conversations. But you will make them fast, and you can make them from any place that has the Internet connection. And, eventually, you will get that one call that matters.

I’m not a good catchphrase inventor, but if I were to answer the question that we started with, I would probably go for “CrazyCall – shortening the path to success”.

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