The success of business development executives is directly related to the data they have at their fingertips and how it can be used to reach out to prospective customers. Seems easy to say, but the art of navigating these areas is complex. Actually, it’s getting even harder now with people working remotely more than they did just two years ago and with geographic borders becoming much less important. Popping in to see a prospect won’t cut it in many cases. That’s led to increased demand for tools to help facilitate the sales cycle. Here are some tools that savvy firms and business development executives are using to increase their effectiveness.
CRM is the Heart of Data
We’ve heard time and again that a good CRM (customer relationships management software) is the key to understanding prospects. More firms are beginning to jump on this bandwagon … finally. While adoption may still be sketchy in some firms, the reality is that it’s getting easier to prove the return on this needed investment.
“CRM becomes the heart, the ‘single source of truth’ for all sales and marketing functions,” Richards said. “In sales, data and math are not just vitally important, they are reassuringly reliable. By logging the data, lead sources, call volume, tickets, values, conversion ratios, etc., it helps to automatically put together the math of selling.”
Getting your CRM set up well to begin with and then being disciplined enough to keep it updated is imperative to your operations and strategy. Tie it into your other marketing, sales, and communications tools and you are able to track lead sources and calculate your marketing cost of acquisition and sales cost of acquisition.
“This data and the ratios around it will help you make more confident decisions on spending time and/or money as well as help you spot the stuff that you may want to stop or at least change,” he said.
Sales Navigator Opens New Doors
Being able to drill down and find major players within a type of business or LinkedIn profile in minutes, or seconds, is a tremendous asset to Gershenson. However, it’s the filtering capabilities within Sales Navigator that you wouldn’t get anywhere else that he loves the most.
In addition to basic information, “on the account side you can drill down by department to find out the department headcount of a company, the range of a department size, as well as the department or company headcount growth,” said Gershenson. “Based on how a company is growing or not, you can find out a whole lot about when to look at a particular opportunity.”
Learn more about how Gershenson uses Sales Navigator in this video.
For those using Sales Navigator, Snov.io is a great addition that ethically “rips” valid email addresses from targeted LinkedIn professionals and enables you to do your email marketing directly through that platform. It’s designed so that you don’t break any LinkedIn rules. This tool recently helped Nancy Fox, The Business Fox, add 300 very qualified prospects who all clicked on a new download to her mailing list.
Let’s say you were looking to find all the marketing directors on LinkedIn in the U.S. in the accounting profession. You’d run this search in Sales Navigator and save it. Then Snov.io finds all the valid emails of those people so you can create customized email campaigns to each of those people, seeing who is opening and who is clicking on live links.
“The open rate is much higher than on email marketing systems because they are going directly to inboxes,” Fox said. “This is fantastic for all professionals who are interested in qualified prospecting and communicating. It’s a way to list build to qualified new people without paid advertising.”
Fox believes this is a great tool to help marketers who want to send a series of emails for event invitations and for sales leaders who want to connect with qualified new prospects.
Live Chat Converts Visitors into Leads
Chatbots are popping up on websites everywhere. But how frustrating is it when no one is available when you want to talk or that you’re told it will be an hour or more [gasp!] for a response. Chatting with potential customers can be an important part of your firm’s customer journey or client service model, yet the bots aren’t for everyone. That’s why firms looking for a personal touch, like AdvanceTrack® Outsourcing, decided to utilize a live chat feature instead.
Both firm staff and customers have felt the benefits of real-time support that has streamlined the customer experience.
“We’ve seen an improvement in our sales cycle thanks to Live Chat,” said Sheth, “as appointments are being booked much faster and more efficiently.”
Whether outsourcing helps on a recurring or overflow basis, real people ensure no chat goes unanswered regardless of the time of day. And MoneyPenny stats say that 41% of chats result in new inquiries – what business developer wouldn’t want to talk to those leads.
Scheduling and Qualifying Intertwine
There are many scheduling apps out there all with different features to appeal to different users. Fox likes Actuity Scheduling because it allows her to categorize meeting types. For example, you could color code and block different amounts of time for client meetings, networking meetings, and prospect meetings.
“What I also love about Acuity is it comes with prep questionnaire forms available so you can qualify prospects, or disqualify them, by the answers they give,” Fox said. “The beauty of this is the questionnaire immediately follows the scheduling of the appointment. No need to click a link and go elsewhere to fill it out.”
The process works for Fox – her show-up rate improved by 35% – and the cost is similar to other apps without these features included.
Live Content Delivers Much Longer
If you’ve seen more people going “live” on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or on another social media platform, it’s because they are. Live content, whether actually live or pushed out as such, is bringing new eyeballs to highly targeted educational content.
Jody Padar, The Radical CPA, has been pushing live content out weekly to her social channels since April 2020 via Socialive. She is even part of the LinkedIn Creator Manager Program with her own creator manager contact.
“LinkedIn sends me tips and advice on how to be a better creator on their platform,” said Padar. “For example, they shared that their #accountingandaccountants hashtag had their largest following, so I started using it to help drive views.”
Direct ties to new business from live content are hard to measure as Padar views this sharing as more brand awareness and top of the sales funnel. However, she knows that engagement rates are higher both during the live show and for days after.
“I may only get 30 to 50 people live,” said Padar, “but views increase to 2,000 and some have been as high as 4,000 over the next week on LinkedIn alone. And I’ve had great messaging discussions with people afterward.”
Because the content comes up in searches, some interactions have developed long after the original air date. And the recorded content files in Socialive can be used for other marketing purposes, too, allowing for more creative repurposing of content.
AI Developed Copy is Here
Copy.ai is an AI-driven copywriting tool that Fox has used for LinkedIn posts and writing Facebook ads. It helps you write certain kinds of sales copy proven to have successful appeal and open rates. There is a free trial and no credit card is needed.
“You feed it what you want for blog posts, emails, web content, checklists, LinkedIn posts, and more, and it spits back numerous versions of copy for you to use,” said Fox. “The quality of the content is amazing. It will help any marketer speed up copywriting and add versatility.”
It’s great for website copy Fox notes, but it was helpful with a subject line that more than doubled Fox’s open rate for that message alone.
What Are You Using?
Do you have business development tools you use to make the process more successful? We would love to hear your success stories. Share them on the AAM Forum!
About Katie Tolin
Katie Tolin is the president and chief growth guide at CPA Growth Guides. She’s a former in-house marketer having spent time at regional, super-regional and national accounting firms. Today she helps CPA firms drive top-line revenue and profitability through data-driven marketing strategies. She’s a past president of AAM, a former marketer of the year and was inducted into the Accounting Marketing Hall of Fame.