Article

6 proven ways to improve your sales process (with advice from Vidyard, Zendesk, and Metadata.io)

Sales leaders share their strategies and successes.

By Patrick Grieve

Published November 19, 2020
Last updated December 4, 2020

2020 was a year when “business as usual” wasn’t really an option. Many sales teams found that COVID had rendered parts of their usual approach ineffective. As companies adapted to the pandemic, they discovered that some changes were worth making permanent.

To get a sense of what is working nowadays, we talked to three sales leaders who are successfully weathering this tumultuous period. It turns out they’ve been using a lot of the same methodologies, tools, and on-the-fly adjustments to improve their sales process.

1. Adopt a MEDDPIC sales qualification framework

When Zendesk got its revenue forecasts to land within 1% of actual revenue, they didn’t credit the incredible accuracy to any data science team or AI tech. They talked about process.

“The first step of improving a sales process is having a sales process,” says Andrew Hansen, Director of Enterprise and Commercial Sales at Zendesk Sell. “It’s really important that all the reps understand the standard aspects that increase the likelihood of closing an opportunity.”

Andrew and other sales leaders we spoke with use the MEDDPIC sales methodology to qualify their potential B2B sales.

“MEDDPIC basically is a way for leadership to be able to look at opportunities and gauge the likelihood that they will convert on time,” explains Olivier L’Abbe, President of Metadata.io, an autonomous demand generation platform for B2B marketers.

MEDDPIC is an acronym for the seven elements you need to know about any company you’re attempting to sell to:

  • Metrics: The quantifiable measures of value that your solution will provide to the company, like the amount of money they would make (or save) by using your product
  • Economic Buyer: The ultimate decision-maker at the company, who you need to win over
  • Decision Criteria: The considerations the company will weigh when deciding whether to purchase – technical requirements, budgetary constraints, and ROI
  • Decision Process: How the company will reach their decision – who are the stakeholders involved, and what is their system for approving a deal
  • Paper Process: The contracts required and the steps needed to process and sign the order
  • Implications of Pain: The pain points for the company – what problems they need to solve, and what will happen if they can’t solve them
  • Champion: The person at the company who most strongly feels the pain points and will tirelessly advocate for your solution

The methodology was first developed as “MEDDIC” in the 1990s, but the “P” has subsequently proved to be a pivotal addition.

Dan Wardle, VP of Revenue at the online video platform Vidyard, says his team uses MEDDPIC because the paperwork process tends to be half the deal length.

“MEDDPIC’s really important to make sure you’re documenting all of that,” Dan explains. “So then, after three months of going through legal, you can go back to the stakeholders to remind them why they’re buying.”

2. Embrace remote work

Though a pandemic may have forced their hands, our experts are now recognizing the benefits of letting their teams work remotely.

Vidyard has recently announced that it’s going to be digital-first moving forward. Part of what’s made that possible is a willingness to be flexible with meetings.

When the sales teams first went remote, they’d have virtual morning huddles every day. But after a few weeks, some reps got tired of the meetings – which put them in the wrong mood for making sales calls.

Now Dan tells them, “If you don’t want to join the meeting, no problem. But send us a video showing that you’re ready to go.”

The majority of Dan’s reps are now able to make more calls than ever. And though distraction can be an issue, he says setting fast deadlines helps keep everyone productive and engaged.

Olivier told us that Metadata.io’s staff is now 90% remote – likely for good. His big takeaway has been learning to loosen up his management style.

“I used to be a pretty strict type of leader,” says Olivier. “I wanted people in the office, I wanted X amount of activities, I needed X amount of cause meetings.”

Now, he no longer feels the need to closely monitor each rep’s performance metrics. However, if someone on the team does start underperforming, he can still check their KPIs to see what’s up.

3. Get reps on board with a freemium sales model

Transitioning to a freemium model can be challenging, but it’s a great way to expand your reach.

Vidyard started off selling to enterprise organizations but transitioned to a freemium service a little over a year ago. When the pandemic hit, they started seeing quadruple numbers of free users.

“We offered even more free products to the market to help people get through all this,” Dan says.

Their generosity was rewarded when the spike in free users eventually translated to more sales.

“Now,” Dan says, “companies are reaching out and saying, ‘actually, you know what, I need this for all 500 of my reps – let’s talk more.”

When Vidyard first made the switch, though, the biggest hurdle was sales reps’ mentality. Not only were reps worried about users just sticking with the free version, but they also had to rewire their sales process.

“That was the biggest part, just overcoming this sales rep fear that it was going to kill their deals or slow their deals down,” Dan says. “But now, 85% of our pipeline is coming from free users.”

Dan’s sales reps are now showing off the paid version of the product earlier on, since free users already have some familiarity with the service.

“In a traditional enterprise, you won’t even demo in the first call, right?” Dan says. “Then, after you do a demo, you won’t give them pricing until they join the next call. But we’ve flipped that now.”

And since users have already seen pricing details on Vidyard’s website, the reps are discussing discounts and deals sooner than ever before.

4. Show some contract flexibility

Even if you can’t go full freemium, there are other ways to broaden your product’s appeal. Offering shorter contracts is another adjustment that may seem scary but can ultimately pay big dividends.

Most SaaS companies stick to 12-month contracts because they rely so heavily on annual recurring revenue (ARR). But because Metadata.io was focused on revenue growth at the start of 2020, they gave account executives the ability to offer six-month pilots.

“Based on what was happening with COVID, and based on the fact that we were trying to penetrate as many accounts as quickly as possible, a six month proof of concept was a really easy way to get that approved,” Olivier explains.

The approach was successful in generating new customers – so much so that they’re reaching the limit for onboarding new accounts. In response, they’re moving back toward longer contracts and finding ways to generate more revenue from existing customers.

“We’re looking at 12-month contracts, and we are increasing the amount of required ad spend that customers now do with us, because we are moving up market,” Olivier says. “And those are the new metrics that we are trying to achieve.”

Metadata.io’s story shows the advantages of taking an agile approach to your sales process. Once they’d accomplished their initial goal, they were able to pivot their focus from shorter contracts to more lucrative relationships.

5. Add value with every follow-up

The key to getting and keeping a prospect’s attention is demonstrating value - so don’t stop demonstrating it.

Build out economic business cases for every key opportunity. Following the MEDDPIC framework, calculate the ROI for the prospect’s company and show them the metrics.

“If you can’t point to a return on investment or show what financial change is occurring by them making a purchase, the likelihood of closing that opportunity decreases significantly,” Andrew warns.

Emphasize the economic benefits up front. With every subsequent interaction with a prospect, continue to find ways to show them your brand’s value. Instead of sending a rote follow-up email, you might share a relevant article in your message. Be sure to always relate the resource back to one of their goals.

“Once you’re engaging with them, I think the big thing is bringing value to every conversation,” Olivier says. “I’ve been in sales cycles where I don't feel the account executive is bringing much value, because he keeps following up with me, saying, ‘Just following up over here.’”

It’s easy to ignore every “just following up over here” email you get. But a “this article reminded me of what you’re trying to accomplish this quarter” email has some value to it.

6. Improve your sales process with targeted tools

The leaders we spoke to have streamlined their sales processes by leveraging both their own SaaS products and additional software solutions.

Of course, a CRM is pretty essential to any sales operation. Andrew says the Sell CRM is particularly well-suited to the MEDDPIC framework because it captures activities, labels, and notes for each account.

“As a manager, it’s very easy for me to dive in and understand from a MEDDPIC perspective where that opportunity is,” Andrew explains. “The activity tracker makes it very easy to understand the qualification of each opportunity.”

Similarly, Dan says Vidyard uses its own video platform to condense the sales process as much as possible.

“Instead of having a proposal meeting where you don’t show the pricing until the last slide, send that as a video, and see who watches it,” Dan recommends. “Did the CFO even watch it? If not, then this deal is not going anywhere.”

Vidyard reps also use the platform to book meetings, since folks are less likely to bail on an appointment if they receive a personalized video.

Dan says his team has also started using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find phone numbers, many of which changed when everyone went remote.

Solidify your sales process – then prepare to adjust

Every organization needs a standardized sales process for reps to follow. But as 2020 has reminded us, every organization also needs to be ready to adapt that process if and when conditions change.

With a CRM like Sell, you can actively manage your sales process, track and convert leads, and monitor your sales pipelines. Sell also allows you to leverage the MEDDPIC methodology by qualifying each opportunity in your CRM. Start to improve your sales process with a free trial of Zendesk Sell.