Creating A Culture Of Experimentation In Inside Sales
What is the importance of sales experiments and how can they help your business become successful? Find out here.
In this article:
- Why Are Sales Experiments Important?
- How to Create a Culture of Experimentation in Sales
- How to Conduct Sales Experiments: The Basics
- Sales Experiment: Subject Lines
- Sales Experiment: Short vs Long Copy
- Sales Experiment: Buyer Personas
- Sales Experiment: Channels
- Sales Experiment: SPIFs and Incentives
- Sales Experiment: Messaging
- Sales Experiment: Landing Pages
- How to Conduct Sales Experiments: Weekly Processes
- Add Experimentation to Your Weekly 1:1s
- Track Your Experiments: Experiment Boards
- How to Conduct Sales Experiments: Scaling and Killing Ideas
- Run Better Sales Experiments: More Resources
Impact of Sales Experiments on Your Business
Why Are Sales Experiments Important?
What comes to mind when you hear the word “experiments?” Perhaps you picture Emmett “Doc” Brown from Back to the Future, or maybe you see Beaker from The Muppets.
What you probably do not envision is cold calling, Grant Cardone, or a room filled with sales professionals. Experimentation is critical for optimizing all facets of the inside sales process, yet it isn’t always at the top of the priority list for marketing and sales.
The question is why? When not carried out appropriately, experimentation can be a waste of crucial time and money.
So, what’s the magical secret to successful experimentation? The answer is in the execution.
How to Create a Culture of Experimentation in Sales
The key to sales experimentation is to run scientifically rigorous tests designed to improve efficiency and results over time. This not only includes utilizing A/B testing, email subject lines, and buyer personas – but actually ingraining experimentation into the culture of the sales organization.
Sales luminaries such as Heather Morgan, author of great breakdowns on the basics of sales experimentation, have written in depth on the importance of these elements in experimentation.
The information below will delve deeper into the subject of sales experimentation, and how to inject it into your sales culture DNA.
How to Conduct Sales Experiments: The Basics
If you have never run a sales experiment before, familiarize yourself with the basics. The following are great starting points for sales experimentation.
Sales Experiment: Subject Lines
Keep them short, sweet, and personalized. Ask yourself, what subject lines resonate most highly with the target audience?
A/B test them to discover the answer. Invest in tools like XANT, which give you the ability to mass test A/B subject lines and see which ones produce better open rates.
Subject line experimentation is a vital part of discovering the secret sauce in what you’re selling. This video from former Zenefits CMO Matt Epstein and case study from SalesFolk CEO Heather Morgan highlight the benefits that one can reap from A/B testing email subject lines.
Sales Experiment: Short vs Long Copy
This is a simple yet important experiment to run with your cold email copy. Test short copy, test long copy, test all copies!
So which style do you use, short or long? This all comes down to the results of your sales experiments, and the response rate/meeting set percentage from sending these emails to your prospective clients.
The short copy versus long copy experiment extends to language (folksy versus professional). Again, we recommend using XANT or another sales acceleration tool to track and optimize your email copy.
Sales Experiment: Buyer Personas
Personas are a pivotal part of your sales experimentation process.
You might think you know your ideal buyer, but if you sell B2B, chances are you have multiple buyers with several different personas. You should not take your buyer personas for granted.
As former Zenefits CMO Matt Epstein notes in his presentation, the obvious persona may not, in fact, be the right one. Zenefits initially targeted human resources professionals as the key buyers for its Payroll, Benefits, and HR Software-as-a-Service platform.
Through persona testing, Epstein found that HR professionals were actually less likely than average to buy their software, whereas C-Level executives were most likely to buy it.
Sales Experiment: Channels
In today’s crowded digital landscape, you have to reach buyers via their preferred channel to achieve a high conversion rate. Email, phone, social media, and events are just a few examples of outreach channels where sales and marketing pros can engage buyers.
Time is limited, so it’s important to focus your sales outreach efforts on the channels where buyers are most likely to respond.
Channel experimentation should include multi-channel outreach methods. Phone, email, and social touches are all key components of a multi-channel outreach strategy.
You should also test time of day and days of the week during outreach to see what works best in terms of timing.
Again, sales acceleration technology like XANT is a perfect vehicle for conducting such efforts and tracking the results. If the phone is where the most successful initial contact is made, then triple down on that.
Sales Experiment: SPIFs and Incentives
Another opportunity for experimentation involves SPIFs (Sales Performance Incentive Funds). Experimenting with SPIF formats and incentives is a great way to try creative new approaches to motivating your sales team.
If you have been running the same cookie-cutter “Call Blitz”-style SPIFs with a boring gift card or basic monetary reward, this is a golden opportunity to try out new and exciting formats (such as team sales contests) and incentives.
What is SPIF? This is a cash incentive or rebate given to salespeople when they sell products or items. It can also be viewed as a bonus for reaching a goal in selling.
Sales Experiment: Messaging
A great way to expand the scope of your messaging testing is to let reps get creative with a portion of their email outreach.
Want to include GIFs in 20% of your cold emails? Make it a sales experiment and track the results and its effectiveness.
Want to drastically change the copy and positioning of your pitch? Let a rep try it out as a sales experiment and track the results.
Encouraging creative new messaging approaches as a form of sales experiments does a few things. It can do the following:
- Widens the scope of testing on your messaging and overall pitch.
- Allows reps to get creative and feel a sense of ownership in the sales process.
- Builds creativity into your sales process in a structured and controlled way.
It’s important to differentiate this experiment from the ones listed above, such as Short Copy Vs Long Copy. The point of this experiment is to encourage as much creativity as possible.
Go beyond buyer personas, subject lines, and so forth, and try to find your breakout messaging.
Sales Experiment: Landing Pages
Landing pages are great places to experiment with messaging, copy, and calls-to-action. If you sell a product or service, it’s pivotal to find the best elevator pitch that resonates with buyers.
A great way to discover the winning elevator pitch is to A/B test landing page messaging using Unbounce, Optimizely, or Google Optimize. All of these services let you create multiple variations of a specific landing page and track which one drives the best conversion rate.
How to Conduct Sales Experiments: Weekly Processes
Creating a culture of sales experimentation should extend beyond the basics described above. It’s critical to create opportunities for experimentation throughout your sales force to foster creativity and expedite growth.
As much as sales experimentation gets associated with a bloodless, numbers-driven process, it’s really much more than that. It’s about creating a culture that unlocks rep potential, inspires your workforce, induces collaboration, and expedites the overall growth of your sales organization.
For that reason, we advise implementing the following into your weekly processes:
Add Experimentation to Your Weekly 1:1s
During your weekly 1:1s, add a section about experimentation.
Where in the past week have you experimented with something new? What has worked and what hasn’t?
Having these types of conversations in your weekly 1:1s will ensure your salespeople know the importance of constant experimentation.
In addition, hearing your reps talk through why they are experimenting and how they are experimenting really helps you understand where they are in their maturity as an inside salesperson. You will find that your top reps are almost always better at creating smart experiments to test.
Track Your Experiments: Experiment Boards
Experiment boards are an easy way to keep track of the team’s experiments.
You don’t need to use anything fancy. Excel or Google Sheets are sufficient.
If you want to step your game up try Asana or Trello.
The process is simple, you set up an excel sheet like the one shown below. This sheet will track key items such as campaign name, owner, list name, launch date, buyer target, list size, success criteria, meetings set, decision date, and scale/kill.
Your inside sales team will use this shared document to track ongoing experiments. As a team, you get together once a week and review existing experiments (how are they going, are we killing them or scaling them) and create a queue of new sales experiments.
This meeting accomplishes a few important things – first, the team has a great discussion about what is and what isn’t working. It’s very common for inside sales teams to work in silos, and these meetings generate critical group conversations.
Second, it gets the inside sales team thinking about what success looks like.
One of the great outcomes of experiment boards is the inside salesperson has to “call their shot” about why they are experimenting, who they are experimenting on, and what success looks like (meeting percentage rate, number of replies, etc.).
Randomly experimenting can waste precious time. Setting goals for major experiments will help keep the team focused.
How to Conduct Sales Experiments: Scaling and Killing Ideas
Integrating the use of experiment boards and having a weekly meeting on experiments will help create a culture of experimentation. As mentioned earlier, it also saves precious time, especially for businesses doing retail sales.
It’s important to adhere to agile and lean startup principles by scaling or killing the idea rapidly depending on its success (or lack thereof). The important thing to remember is that speed of response time is your ultimate goal.
If an experiment is clearly working, then you should extend it and amplify it across your organization. If an experiment is failing, then you need to kill it before you waste unnecessary rep time on a futile effort.
Wasted time is the enemy of inside sales teams. Killing bad campaigns quickly and scaling good campaigns is one of the easiest ways to combat wasted time.
Run Better Sales Experiments: More Resources
The more sales experiments you run in your sales organization, the faster you will level up in your targeting, messaging, engagement methodology, and closing speed.
Use the experiments and implementation strategies discussed above to jumpstart your sales team, and create a culture of sales experimentation within your organization.
Do you run sales experiments in your business? Share your successful test procedures in the comments section below!
Blake Johnston, CEO of OutboundView:
Blake Johnston is the CEO of OutboundView, a sales and marketing consultancy based in Nashville, TN focused on designing and implementing outbound and inbound marketing strategies.