What’s the key to converting a prospective lead into a customer? According to Kate Sterne, the global senior director of sales development and inside sales at cloud content management company Box, it’s all about response time.
“With every minute you don’t respond to a lead, the chance of converting that opportunity goes down something like 20%,” Sterne says.
That’s why Box’s sales pros rely on Slack channels—a single place to share messages and files—to organize communication, quickly respond to prospective customers, and keep good leads from slipping through the cracks.
It’s clear that Box, which offers cloud-based collaboration software for securely accessing and storing files, is getting a lot of things right: Its customer base includes more than 100,000 companies and 68% of the Fortune 500.
We were eager to hear how Box’s fleet of account executives and sales development representatives use Slack to grow their customer base, so we chatted with three senior leaders to learn how the sales teams move work forward in Slack.
“With Slack, our speed to lead is much faster. You still get lots of notifications, but instead of showing up as thousands of emails in your inbox, it just shows up as a red dot on your Slackbot.”
Converting MQLs to service-level agreements in 48 hours
Peter Vanderhaak is Box’s senior director of go-to-market process and systems. His team depends on Salesforce, the customer relationship management service, to track deals, quote approvals, sales wins and marketing qualified leads, also known as MQLs.
Salesforce alerts typically come as email notifications, which over time can become more and more difficult to keep organized. But with a custom Salesforce integration leveraging Workato, a workflow automation tool, Vanderhaak’s team can track and respond to leads much faster.
“No matter where you are, if you’re in marketing or if you’re on the account team, the owner gets that Slack notification, so you know who is on the ball to solve that action,” Vanderhaak says.
Teams receive MQL notifications in the Slack channels
#opportunities. In these channels, account executives can:
- Update MQL statuses
- Collaborate on and share sales quotes
- Disqualify false leads and remove them from the Salesforce queue
Before Box’s sales teams began working in Slack, the time between getting an MQL and crafting a service-level agreement, or SLA, was generally about two weeks. That’s because teams were assigning MQLs to individual people, rather than putting them in a queue for the next available account executive to take on. Thanks to Slack, they’ve now boiled down the turnaround time to two days.
“We’ve moved from a weeks-long SLA to a two-day SLA and are one step closer to a one-day SLA,” Vanderhaak says.
“When we relied primarily on email, nobody knew who took ownership. With Slack, we’ve dramatically increased our speed when it comes to converting MQLs from open status to working status.”
Strengthening teamwork to speed up the sales cycle
Sterne steers a team of nearly 80 inbound and outbound sales development professionals who work across the US, Canada, Australia and Europe. Her team of sales development representatives (SDRs) is responsible for vetting and converting MQLs into sales leads that can be pushed down the funnel to account executives.
“Before Slack, our team wasn’t alerted about new MQLs until they looked in Salesforce,” she says. “If we were lucky, the right person would see it within a minute, but on average we might not have seen it for two hours. And every minute you don’t respond, the chance of converting that opportunity goes down approximately 20%.”
Slack notifications changed everything, she says: “With Slack, our speed to lead is much faster. You still get lots of notifications, but instead of showing up as thousands of emails in your inbox, it just shows up as a red dot on your Slackbot.”
Slack channels also keep Sterne’s distributed global teammates in sync, especially now that everyone works remotely. For example, there’s:
#newbies, where new employees can ask their managers or “Box buddies” (onboarding cohorts) for assistance
#sdr, for those seeking assistance on customer inquiries or troubleshooting technical and logistical issues, such as credit card processing
#digital, which connects the digital and SDR teams, both of which are on the front lines interacting with potential customers. In the channel, SDRs can flag potential technical problems, such as reduced marketing leads from website traffic
Sterne says these channels have made the troubleshooting process less painful: “With Slack channels, we’re able to solve issues in real time that otherwise might not have been caught for a day or two, because we have a place to quickly connect with cross-functional partners. For example, if we notice a website glitch, we can use the mention feature to tag the web engineers and get an update in real time.”
Fueling dynamic communication with customers in Slack Connect
Jacob Rudolph, Box’s director of mid-market sales, says Slack channels improve relationships both internally—by keeping teammates connected—and externally, with customers via Slack Connect. With Slack Connect, teams can move all their conversations with external partners, clients and vendors into Slack channels.
“Using Slack Connect makes communication more dynamic, because most times people aren’t compelled to reply-all to emails or reply to email chains,” Rudolph says. “When you work within Slack, you get more active engagement.”
Slack Connect effectively replaces email and extends channel-based messaging to everyone an organization works with, inside and outside its walls, increasing visibility and alignment for all stakeholders.
“We get better response times when we engage with customers through Slack Connect. We’re also improving our customer relationships, because communication is more frequent than with email.”
For Box’s sales leaders, good communication is the key to closing deals and building strong relationships with customers. For the company, that’s meant creating a culture of strong internal communication and finding the right infrastructure to support its sales teams.
“Slack is the difference between us following up with our customers sometime today versus tomorrow,” Rudolph says. “This can make a huge difference when you are working against mutual deadlines.”