You’d be hard-pressed to find a small business that says it’s not aiming for more sales. Those first few years are crucial for companies just starting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 25 percent of new businesses make it to their fifteenth year. Sixty-five percent close within the first ten years, 45 percent in the first five, and 20 percent in the first two.
While some new companies become viral sensations, others need help to sell out their inventory or acquire new clients. Getting more sales starts with investing in sales intelligence, and the tools and techniques salespeople use to collect and analyze data on their prospects and market.
But is sales intelligence really necessary for a small business? After all, you may think that you can’t afford to divert resources away from direct selling as a new business with few employees.
Here’s why small businesses simply can’t ignore the role of sales intelligence in their operational planning:
Do you have a complete picture of your top competitors as a small business? A handful of big-name companies may come to mind. But what about the brands just beginning, just like you? Small businesses are generally defined as having fewer than 500 employees. Yet, according to the U.S. Census, only about 19,464 enterprises have more than 500 employees, compared to about 30.2 million small businesses.
Small businesses account for 54 percent of U.S. sales. A part of sales intelligence is keeping tabs on your market. Who is growing? What strategies are your competitors using to find leads? Can you use these insights in your processes?
With so many small businesses and more opening daily, keeping up-to-date information on your market is essential. First, retrain how you think about competition.
Though certainly unintentionally, your competitors may hold the key to helping your small business grow into an enterprise company.
When you’re developing a list of leads, you want to take the time to ensure they’re both high-quality and authentic. Finding potential clients is time-consuming, but it’s a process you don’t want to rush. Having a list of inauthentic contacts can hurt you in the long run.
Are you noticing that fewer and fewer of your emails are being opened? If your prospects never see your emails, how can you convert them to clients? First, consider looking into your sender's reputation score.
Every emailer receives a sender reputation score from their Internet Service Provider (ISP). That score can determine if your emails land in someone’s inbox or the dreaded spam folder. The higher your sender score, the more likely the intended recipient will see your email.
Many factors affect your sender score, including how often you send emails and how frequently your recipients mark you as spam. But one of the most significant determiners is your bounce rate. Every email has a bounce rate, which is made up of soft and hard bounces.
Soft bounces aren’t too concerning. They happen when an email can’t be delivered temporarily, like if someone is out of the office and their inbox is too full to continue receiving messages. In that case, the inbox can receive the email later when it’s no longer full.
Hard bounces are more concerning, as they happen when an email can never be delivered. For example, the intended recipient miswrote their email address, or you had a company email address, but that person is no longer with that business. The email address is then invalid, resulting in a hard bounce.
You can spare yourself from hard bounces, a high bounce rate, and a low sender score by frequently cleaning out your email subscriber list and eliminating invalid addresses. In addition, having a contact list with verified email addresses with information you gathered through sales intelligence efforts keeps your sales team from wasting time sending to the wrong places.
It also prevents you from lowering your sender score and keeping yourself out of the spam folder. Rather than manually verifying each address, you can use a tool to clean your contact list proactively.
Even if you’ve been in sales for years, you can’t simply rely on your knowledge to create a sales strategy. With new businesses arising each year, your market is constantly changing. So how you sold yesterday might not be how you should sell today.
Your sales strategy comprises all your actions and activities to reach your sales quota. What those processes look like varies based on many factors, from your team’s size to your product to your company’s location.
Should you prioritize inbound sales, meaning when potential customers reach out to you first, or outbound sales, which is when you reach out to them? You may have to test and reinvest in what works as a small business.
You may want to focus more on inbound sales because you have a small sales team. So you work with the marketing team to create a series of search-engine-optimized blog posts with the goal of potential customers finding your company through these posts when they search for specific keywords. You believe it’ll lead to inbound sales, so you focus less on outbound sales.
But what if it doesn’t work the way you think it will? A big part of owning a small business is knowing that you’re building something from nothing. You don’t have blueprints for building a business, so you must develop your own. To create such blueprints, you need to be willing to try new things and take learnings from each attempt.
Invest in tools that can help you collect and analyze your sales data. These analytics can help you see what’s working and what isn’t. Identify trends, find places to improve, and make changes as needed. A data-driven sales strategy allows you to keep learning, which helps you keep growing.
Collecting data on your strategy and prospects helps your sales team to refine their efforts, helping them reach their quotas faster and more efficiently. But the data you’ve collected isn’t just valuable for your salespeople.
Your marketing team can better develop buyer personas by analyzing your customers. These personas help your marketers create content that targets your ideal audience. Having a more well-defined buyer persona means having a more effective marketing strategy.
Your customer success team also benefits from your sales intelligence efforts. That data collection helps that team track what your customers wanted from their purchase and more details about who those customers are. This info allows them to better tailor the customer’s experience, making them less likely to churn as they’ll feel they’re getting more personalized service.
When you collect information throughout your selling cycle, you’re gathering sales intelligence. From data on your potential customers to info on your market and competitors, sales intelligence helps maximize your sales and grow your business.
But as a small business, small intelligence is more than beneficial. It’s vital. As you start your business, you must gather intelligence to create blueprints to help your company develop. This information lets you see what’s working and what isn’t, allowing you to refine your strategies. In time, you may find that you’ve outgrown the small business moniker and have become an enterprise.