Imagine a sales person who was just hired for a B2B sales position. What type of sales organization will she be joining? Will she be treated to a full introduction program and learning the ropes from top performers? Will her sales manager assign realistic goals and dedicate time to coach her? Will she receive a steady flow of marketing qualified leads where there is already promising customer engagement?
Perhaps she’ll have the opposite experience? She’s met by an overworked sales manager stressing the importance of cold calling and high activity levels, overusing the expression “it’s a numbers game”. There are no documented best practices, but lots of administration. There is no coaching program, only generic 1-day training courses that she may or may not be able to attend. Her “leads” include a long list of unengaged prospects to cold call.
I have spoken to large companies with immature sales organizations and small companies with mature teams. In this blog post, I’d like to outline a simple “sales team maturity ladder” and provide a future state to strive for. Due to space limitations, I will focus on a few key components within the larger areas of culture, leadership and sales infrastructure. Please feel free to chip in with your feedback!
In ad hoc sales organizations, new hires quickly discover that sales results are completely dependent on individual best efforts. Sharing of information and knowledge within the team is virtually non-existent, further inhibited by the lack of enabling tools and technology. There is no defined sales process or methodology to follow, meaning success and failure is random; there is no way of knowing what works and what does not.
New sales reps are normally assigned an arbitrary quota, where time to productivity has not been taken into consideration. No supporting goals are put in place to help them make their numbers. Instead of being coached, they find themselves micro managed on basic efficiency metrics - the speed and volume of their activities.
There is no customer segmentation or structured on-boarding process and, given the absence of any reliable data, sales analytics is not utilized. Sales management is a responsibility that has fallen on the top sales performers, who may not be suited for the role and may have individual sales targets to reach. The level of accountability is very low.
Rather than planning ahead, focus is on chasing enough deals to survive the next quarter. The pipeline regularly consists of unqualified and stalled deals. Prospecting efforts are far from consistent, with no guidelines on what qualifying questions to ask and what answers to uncover in this process. Marketing is isolated from the lead generation process and the work required from sales to generate new opportunities is only acted upon when a sense of urgency sets in.
Needless to say, this structure produces unreliable forecasts and unpredictable results, often resulting in high staff turnover, missed targets and failed on-boarding programs.
In this type of sales organization, sales process and methodologies are being reviewed. However, discipline is lacking and there is limited accountability, meaning sales people often divert from best practices. While sharing of information and knowledge is officially encouraged, it is not consistent and while sales tools are available, they lack the sophistication to facilitate best-practices. Some time is set aside to manage and coach, but the person in charge usually lacks the skills and expertise needed to do it well. The lack of formalized process, methodology and workflows makes sales management difficult and further compounds the situation.
The outline for an on-boarding program exists, however the structure for delivery is still a work in progress. Quotas, goals and KPIs are more thoroughly developed,
but new sales people still struggle to understand how they best go about their days to reach their goals. Small steps have been taken to create the right circumstances for executing on sales strategy, but other pressing matters continuously stall progress.
Realizing the potential of new hires take longer than expected, despite the good intentions and best efforts of managers and team members. Subsequently, forecasting accuracy and overall results vary and failed hires and high staff turnover remains a concern.
Sales operations processes and best practices are in place, but still needs improvement to increase insights and minimize manual work. There is a sales process and established methodology, which to some extent is represented in the sales platform utilized. Discipline has been reinforced, with management holding their direct reports accountable to clearly articulated goals and activities. Activities, priorities and resources are coordinated. New sales hires quickly understand what they are expected to deliver and there is a structure in place to facilitate the process. Cross-function alignment with marketing and other departments is underway, but there is still some confusion around roles and responsibilities. The culture is performance-focused and people seek out improvements to workflows and share information for the benefit of all.
While the on-boarding process is supportive, there is still some way to go in terms of implementing regular and consistent coaching and utilizing sales analytics to better target ideal customers and take advantage of upselling opportunities.
Performing sales teams are on top of sales process, methodology and terminology; best practices are engrained in daily operations and visually represented in their sales platform of choice. Goals are clearly defined as business results, leading indicators and supporting activities, with new hires quickly understanding what their goals are and how to go about reaching them. Skills gaps are addressed through continuous coaching sessions as well as training programs and additional resources. Micro-management has been automated and sales analytics are constantly reviewed to better understand where sales and marketing resources should be directed. Forecasts are accurate, results can be predicted with a high level of certainty and low probability deals are quickly disqualified from the pipeline. The corporate culture is open-minded and sharing-oriented, focused on realizing the full potential of sales people and utilizing technological infrastructure to promote growth.
Sales organizations at this level evolve from the performing stage naturally by continuously improving its people, processes, methodology, best practices, skills and culture. The iterations are embedded in the sales infrastructure and create a long-term competitive advantage. To get from ad-hoc to excellence, one fundamental building block is to map out your sales process.
Download our whitepaper 7 REASONS TO MAP OUT YOUR SALES PROCESS to learn why having a sales process is important to create sustainable sales growth.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills and processes.
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