Updated: Mar 23
Growing a company in today's world is not as simple as hiring more sales people. You need a high-performing sales team with updated processes in the new digital world.
“If you want more Sales, just hire more Salespeople, right”?
I have heard that said in the recent past. The process has changed so much in the last 5 years or so that traditional thinking like that will no longer achieve growth. The buyer’s journey has changed significantly, and you must change with it to sustain your company, much less grow.
For a small to medium sized company, let’s discuss fundamentals and some best practices for growth.
Open disclosure – I have run Sales departments, but my perspective is from an Executive running the company, not a Sales team member.
Sales process – All Aboard!
It is imperative that you have a standard Sales process and well-trained team members. I like Sandler myself but there are others out there too. If it is not documented and every member of your team is not trained and well versed, get training help now. They must be on the same page. Incorporate it into their DNA.
The reason for this is that a well-run Sales department is highly metric driven and process oriented. This will be key for rapid growth. You may be fortunate to have a few rainmakers today but that is not a growth plan. The process identifies the following types of questions that are key for leading the prospect successfully through the buyer’s journey.
● What type of lead?
● Where did it come from?
● Do they have a budget?
● What is their timeframe?
● Who is the buyer?
● What pain are they trying to solve?
Once you have a process and metrics, you begin to better understand the buyer’s journey and what works (and does not work) from a Sales perspective. You can then start providing feedback to the Marketing team so they can tweak their content, campaigns, and nurturing efforts to better qualify the leads. You do not want your valuable Sales team members’ time focused on nurturing until the prospect is ready.
Assuming you have a process in place and tight integration with Marketing, let’s look at the Sales team itself.
Important Factors for a High-Performing Sales Team
Make it easy to buy! – There is nothing worse to a buyer that wants to move forward than an arduous purchase process.
● Is the pricing model easy to understand and relevant to the buyer’s needs?
● Are the contracts mutually supportive of both party’s needs or are they too one-sided? Legal dictates contracts but Sales team members have a powerful voice in the process.
● Answer questions before they are asked.
● Establish a positive relationship before negotiations so difficult discussions do not become personal.
Make it as easy a process as possible to buy from you.
Leverage a CRM – If Marketing is using a product like HubSpot to capture and nurture leads, they can directly pass those leads along to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) product like Salesforce. CRM’s have enormous capabilities to help understand performance, sales process, which leads are most successful, and more. Traditional Sales processes use concepts like the funnel, forecasting methods, etc. Most CRM’s can support the processes and provide valuable insight. Have someone within the company trained on the CRM from an operations perspective. They can tweak and customize reports, workflows, etc. to meet your needs.
Biggest challenge – getting Salespeople to effectively use a CRM. They are typically very social people and not admin oriented. They must use it to get the data out of it. Some companies use positive incentives and others use punitive methods. Either way, it is only as good as the data going into it.
Positive attitude wins! – Always try to keep your Sales team upbeat with a positive attitude. If there are problems with the product(s) or organization, they will be reluctant to sell. As a Sales leader, try and control the messaging that makes it to the team. Many within the organization may complain about a product or an issue that is causing them pain but is insignificant to the end buyer. Negativity will kill a Sales team. Try to shelter them from negativity and portray a positive environment. You do not have to invite a salesperson to operations meetings.
Celebrate Success, Learn from Loss – Everyone wants positive feedback and encouragement, especially during tough times. If a Salesperson makes quota, closes a deal, gets a renewal, give them a pat on the back, a nice note, or even lunch. Keep in mind, most Salespeople are driven by monetary incentives so be careful not to confuse celebration with compensation or it will become expected.
If they are not hitting their goals, try to understand why and help. Is it training? Something beyond their control (i.e. prospect wants unrealistic pricing)? Are they making enough contacts? Help them learn and hold them accountable in a positive and encouraging way.
Be Aware of Marketing Communications – What was it that generated the interest? How do you replicate it? What is the pain and what did they see that attracted them to you? Why is this important? I cannot tell you the number of times I have interacted with Salespeople that had no idea of what was being said in the digital world. They focused on what they wanted to sell me rather than where I came from and what my needs/pains were. Always be aware.
Anticipate Growth and Plan for It!
Now that you have a repeatable and scalable Sales team and process, take the time to review and analyze what will happen when significant growth occurs.
● Will you need a stronger Sales support staff?
● Who will manage your CRM/Salesforce?
● Are you willing to customize a product for a larger client or stay with a standardized product? If so, who will work with the client and what is the opportunity cost for doing so?
● Will growth change your compensation plan?
● How does your pricing compare to the perceived value? Is there an opportunity to raise prices or provide a higher-valued product at a premium price?
● How do you know if you are growing too fast and can the company support the Sales you are bringing in?
Assuming the Sales department executes on the practices outlined above, we need to turn our focus on the organization to assume it can support the growth in a fiscally responsible way without burning out employees and burning through cash.