While many of us claim to regularly talk to customers and prospects, sometimes that is easier said than done. There are so many internal problems to solve when building a company: hiring people, retaining people, resolving disputes, building culture and managing your managers. It’s very easy to bury your head in the sand and not worry about the latest challenges your customers are facing, or the experience they are having with your product. If you fall into this trap, you will lose touch, fall behind your competitors and no matter how fast you can innovate, you may not be able to catch up.
Building a sales culture of transparency and accountability is a new concept for most sales teams. In an environment filled with strong personalities, this can be a difficult thing to accomplish. You may have hired a group of sales managers and salespeople who hold their cards firmly close to the chest. They bring home the big deals at the end of the quarter and don’t expect to account for their activities in the interim.
Designing a sales compensation plan requires a little bit of art and a little bit of science. I’ve seen sales compensation plans that were too complex for any salesperson to understand. And I’ve seen others that incentivized the wrong behavior. Regardless of whether you work in a startup or a large enterprise, here are some guiding principles for building compensation plans for Sales Development teams and Sales teams.
Getting your sales team into scaling mode is an exciting time with many new challenges. As a CEO, your leadership style needs to change to reflect this new phase. You can no longer make decisions on every aspect of the business and expect people to fall into line. You end up relying on setting the best example in your day-to-day activities so that each department follows that example in theirs. As teams form and leaders emerge, core values and culture make more of an impact than directives and mandates.
For companies building B2B software, there comes a time when the focus must shift from product mode to sales mode. Products don’t sell themselves, and you always anticipate the day you’ll have to hire top salespeople, sales engineers and sales management to push growth to the next level. When the time came for Datahug to make that shift, we had such an awesome product and strong initial traction that I assumed the transition would be seamless.
As a Sales Ops leader and Sales Optimizer, I’m a big believer in the modern consensus that sales performance should be data driven. By studying patterns in behavior of our reps and benchmarking them against success, we have the power to build the most highly optimized sales teams to hit the industry thus far. We can all achieve quota and we can build a repeatable sales process that enables our companies to scale. This approach has been popularized by modern inside sales experts, who champion the process of coaching with metrics as the best way to build a high-performance team.
One of the most exciting developments shaking up sales teams is the realization among sales leadership that Sales Operations can be so much more than a custodial, reporting role. We call it Sales Optimization.
I have been in sales for 22 years, and Sales Operations for 7. The practice has changed dramatically in that span, especially in the very recent past. For a long time, the main responsibility of Sales Operations was administration. They oversaw the systems that kept all the elements of the sales team plugged in together. They reported on the sales pipeline. They pulled the strings behind the scenes so that the organization stayed up and running.
Sales teams spend hours deliberating over whether each deal in their pipeline has a chance to close. Even for salespeople who don’t own a forecast, predicting the fate of a deal is a fact of life. Accurate foresight into whether a deal will close or fail is hugely valuable. But making that call is no easy task. Most companies don’t have full visibility into their sales pipeline, meaning these predictions get made based on incomplete information. You rely on instinct to fill in the gaps in their CRM data.
When your instinct tells you a deal is going to close, do you trust it? To see how well you’ve honed your senses, take Datahug’s latest quiz: Can You Call the Deal?
Running a sales team is a lot like launching a manned mission to space.