It’s difficult to deny that the sales environment is changing. Buyers are evolving, competition is increasing, and organizations are finding it more difficult to differentiate their products and services. The result is exactly what you would expect in this environment—a large number of sales reps missing quota each year.
I have learned that the solution to this challenge is complex, and there is no silver bullet. However, there are some tactics and strategies that are common among organizations that routinely outperform their competitors. I have been fortunate in that our organization, Sales For Life, has over 300 client engagements (mostly enterprise) in the tech space, and I have been working with senior leaders to tackle some of these challenges with them.
We have found several commonalities the top organizations shared that have helped them hit revenue goals more frequently.
Here are the five that stand out.
1. Marketing Is Aligned with Sales
I can sum up this point in one sentence—there is a mind shift among leaders that prevents marketing and sales to operate as separate silos. This mind shift is not simply about working together, it is more significant than that. Marketing relies on sales to have a deep understanding of what reps are facing “in the trenches” and uses this understanding to generate better assets to support buyer conversations. In return, sales reps more actively use the content produced for them, and the two departments work together closely to generate the right type of leads rather than defaulting to more volume.
Jamie Shanks (CEO of Sales For Life) explains that both departments have different responsibilities, but the mindset should be that both are on “team revenue.”
2. Unrelenting Determination to Find & Groom Sales Talent
If you have ever had a top producer recruited away from you, it may very well have been from one of these “top shops.” Imagine for a moment that you were going into battle—wouldn’t you want the fiercest warriors on your team?
Sales leaders at these top organizations have that exact mindset. They are not just concerned with this year’s quota but look further ahead at the skill set and tool set required to be successful in the years to come. In short, they focus on short-term quota goal attainment, but they plan long term to build the skills and competencies required for the team’s future performance.
3. Implement a Formal Sales Process
Perhaps the best research I have seen on this topic comes from CSO Insights, which derives data from organizations it surveys each year. I recommend that you visit this site and read the reports yourself.
In short, CSO Insights has found that organizations that implement a formal sales process for their teams outperform organizations that allow sales professionals to follow their own methodologies. Our client experiences lead us to the same conclusion.
4. Sales Leaders Play a Significant Role in Enablement
Leaders’ involvement in sales enablement varies across the organizations we have worked with; however, there are a few best practices that we can directly tie to ROI.
Sales leaders who are unrelenting about building a team that can attain future quota requirements are more involved in the planning and training program roll out than those at other organizations. We have seen almost immediate ROI when leadership is involved in the selection of the training organization and are very specific about outcomes they want to achieve. Specifically, these sales leaders can quantify how the behaviour change they seek is directly tied to their sales objectives. Further, these organizations have put in place a mechanism for tracking post-training behaviour and the effect it has on sales KPIs. Where there is little progress, they continue to reinforce.
Perhaps the most important lesson here is accountability. Trainers must be held accountable for the training but leaders must also hold themselves and their teams accountable to the program completion as well. If your training is outsourced, ensure that your team’s learning behaviour is tracked and provided to you. This insight will tell you who is willing to evolve and who is not.
5. Adapt & Evolve
One thing that jumped out at me about the sales leaders at these top-performing organizations was their willingness to change and adapt. These leaders readily embrace the notion that growth requires change, and they (and their teams) must evolve. This belief becomes ingrained in their sales culture.
These leaders devote time to learn about new tools or skills that may provide a competitive advantage for their teams, and they remain fixed on any trends that may affect their ability to succeed.
I recall a piece of advice I was given early in my career: “Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” In today’s environment, I am not so sure this is true anymore. It seems that more effort is required just to keep up, while some organizations have figured out a few best practices that have helped reverse this trend for them. Perhaps the rest of us can emulate them and get some of the benefits as well.