As we discussed in our last CRO-focused article, the current landscape around sales is uncertain, and good insights are half the battle. But once you have that data, how can you get more from your sales organization? And how do you prioritize the most important steps for your organization? In this article, we focus on several things you can do to boost sales performance, focusing on process changes, shifts in your approach, and other things that can be done with a minimum of financial investment.
Configure your sales team appropriately.
If you’re seeing difficulties at any point in the sales process, one useful thing to consider is how your sales team is configured. While team structure will vary from company to company and industry to industry, there are three main models that most use: Island, Pod, and Assembly Line.
Island configuration is a model most sales professionals will be familiar with: Each sales rep is provided with limited support from the central office and otherwise left to fend for themselves, pitching to clients independently. This model keeps relationships between the customer and business clear and concise, and it puts individual reps on the hook to close deals, fast. However, some companies have found this model to be less scalable as a long-term model, and it also can create a mismatch in incentives between the rep succeeding in the short term and the company succeeding over the long term.
Other companies have adopted the pod configuration, where small teams work together to manage customer relationships through the sales cycle and beyond. This model often provides a more holistic experience for customers, since each pod member works closely with their pod-mates. On the other hand, the model can also hide poor performers or discourage advancement and ambition among sales staff.
In the assembly line configuration, specialization is the key. The company has a pool of talent focused on each stage of the process, with leads passed from reps to account executives to customer success managers. This configuration provides the most expertise possible in each area of the process, but most members of each team will only know the functions adjacent to them on the assembly line, leading to a siloed experience in the organization.
What’s the best model? It depends mostly on your needs, your challenges, and your size. The important thing is to think critically about the strengths and weaknesses of whichever you choose and work proactively to mitigate—or to adopt a new model as needed. And still more important are the individuals that make up your teams.
Make sure you’re recruiting high performers.
No matter the market, good sales talent will always be scarcer than you’d like it to be. Having a good GTM plan, optimized structure, and competitive pay will help attract a lot of candidates. But how do you hire well? Here are some tips:
- Create a top-notch job description. Be explicit in the specificities of the job and previous required experience. Try not to lean too heavily on buzzwords like “self-starter” or “scrappy,” or ask for vague personality traits like “empathetic.”
- Keep the interview process brief but meaningful. Just like a sales cycle, taking too long in the interview process is a great way to lose good leads. And yet just like in a sales cycle, there are some things that can’t be rushed. Make sure the interview process for your sellers is robust enough to determine a good fit without taking too long. It can help to break the process down into a culture interview (where you test for culture fit), skills (where you confirm they can do the job), and a final interview (where you confirm you have what you need to make your decision).
- Be explicit about the role. Is this job cross-functional? Will the seller need to play a significant role in marketing or delivery? Address these areas directly and consider asking any recent hires on your team how well the job description matched their role.
- Talk about goals. Good sellers thrive on clear communication. Make sure you’re sharing as much information as you can about how your company, your team, and your individual sellers are evaluated. And while you’re on the subject, be clear about what success means: any extra compensation or company perks.
- Sell your company. To get the best talent, you’ll need to make the case for your own organization. In each interview, be prepared to explain why your company is a good place to work and how you support your sales team.
Set your employees up to drive sales performance most efficiently.
Hiring skilled team members is an important step, but having the right people in the right places is critical. Misallocating members of your team or allowing job descriptions to creep larger not only prevents your talent from fulfilling their core responsibilities effectively, it also harms morale, increasing your seller turnover. If you’re seeing more and more work accumulating for your customer-facing sellers, consider these two questions:
- What activities can be performed centrally or by more junior individuals? A more supportive central office is one of the most common asks frontline sellers have of their companies—and every hour spent updating a PowerPoint deck or pulling reports is an hour your sellers are not spending in front of a client.
- Do all customers need the same coverage? Not every customer is going to lead to the same amount of revenue. While each customer should have as much support assigned to provide a good experience, it’s possible that a one-size-fits-all model is giving some smaller customers with more resources than they can benefit from while still not addressing the needs of the largest customers. Make sure your customer service approach is flexible.
Provide opportunities for continuous learning.
Sales enablement done right not only attracts top talent but retains it, and it can be integral to revenue-driving initiatives. Excellent salespeople are always learning, and it’s your business’s responsibility to support their professional development. Ongoing training, sales assets, and technology are all critical ways to support your team, with each resource tailored to the needs of the person who will use it. Support can take a variety of forms, including:
- Sales playbooks
- Talk tracks
- Service sheets
- Weekly tips for selling
- Internal sales rep-focused newsletters
- Quarterly “official” training
- Personal-based tips from managers
- Sales enablement technology
Every member of your team learns differently, so you’ll probably need a combination of these resources tailored to their needs. While it’s certainly a try-and-adjust practice, getting it right will yield excellent results. It’s also applicable to every level of your company: Your sales leaders need to be just as supported and enabled as anyone else, and they need their own resources.
Use your leaders as coaches.
Coaching your team is key to enabling your business, and the first step is coaching the leaders who will coach your team. Sales managers need to be as skilled in mentoring and coaching up-and-coming salespeople as they are at selling, able to earn their team’s trust, identify strengths and gaps, and guide their direct reports into selling like champs. This can take work—the skills of an excellent seller don’t directly translate to managing.
It’s crucial to provide sales managers with ongoing support and training so they can supply it for their own teams in turn. This can be as simple as showing them how to talk through problems with sales reps, actively applaud victories, and be able to break down sales calls to talk about both the great moments and areas for improvement. Most importantly, a good sales manager needs to know how to motivate each person on their team, making them feel confident in their abilities. With managers who can create excitement around closing deals and hitting goals, much less energy will need to be spent on performance management for individual sellers, and you can focus that much more on the work that directly drives revenue.
Give your team the right technology.
Lastly, make sure your team has the right technology to drive revenue. On top of sales enablement-specific technology, it’s important that your sales team has technological support through the sales cycle, an ecosystem that keeps them in-the-know on marketing efforts, data on customer relationships, and other resources to take their prospects from first contact to close and through retention.
When starting from a blank slate or converting from legacy programs, four necessary technologies that bolster performance include:
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software that allows you to track customer data, make plans for customer relationships, and manage the sales cycle for each account
- A contract lifecycle management (CLM) platform to streamline contracts and give you insights into your business relationships
- A business spend management (BSM) system to purchase necessary supplies and illuminate areas of potential efficiency in your spending
- A sales performance management (SPM) system to track your go-to-market strategy, including territories and quotas, measure your sellers’ performance, and establish compensation for
These technologies are important on their own but give you maximum value when they’re connected. For example, using Salesforce as your CRM, you can easily integrate DocuSign CLM to reduce times between approvals and eliminate confusion over where a contract is in the pipeline. Tacking on a BSM tool such as Coupa makes travel and expense management a breeze and can reduce supplier risk through improved buyer-supplier relationships and management—even more so when you connect it to your contracting system.
Having technology that all integrates is also key for leaders across the company, who can then see a single source of truth and make better business decisions faster.
Improve sales performance with Spaulding Ridge
CROs directly influence the future of the company. Pivotal to this role is constantly keeping an eye on how to improve sales performance, which requires getting multiple teams in alignment. At Spaulding Ridge, we help CROs develop an ideal tech stack to align departments, eliminate silos, and reveal data that lets you make better business decisions. If you’d like to learn more about how to take your company to its full sales performance potential, let’s talk.