Transformation on every level takes sustained focus and energy. The secret sauce to increasing sales revenue includes equal parts of leadership, commitment and guts. Best-in-class companies make improving sales outcomes a company-wide priority.
Learn how successful companies align their growth goals and move the needle on major sales initiatives.
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The secret sauce to increasing sales revenue includes equal parts of leadership, commitment and guts. Learn how best-in-class companies do it.
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If you’ve spent time in a sales organization, you know the deal. The stats, the trends, the pain points — they haven’t changed in decades. Individual sales leaders and entire sales organizations are struggling. All of them. No matter the geography, industry or company size.
Here’s a quick refresher, just in case you need it.
Only 53% of salespeople hit their quota in 2016, down from 63% in 2012.
Not only is sales productivity down, but it’s also taking longer for companies to get new sellers up to speed. Almost 50% of companies say that it takes longer than seven months for a new seller to contribute to revenue.1
We can’t even write about it anymore. Sigh. Tale as old as time. Why is that?
Well, for the most part, the reasons haven’t changed either. Companies often function in silos, with sales, marketing and operations working separately instead of together toward common goals. Company leaders — from the c-suite and down — often aren’t invested in what it takes to increase sales through true sales transformation. (Hint: It’s not a quick fix.) But most of all, very few have the guts to do it better.
The truth is the stats are never going to change, and most companies are never going to improve sales performance unless they transform themselves big time. We’re not talking a huge, shiny, one-time, Tony Robbins-style event. Too many firms have been there, done that and then moved on to the next shiny thing and changed nothing. Motivational speeches fizzle quickly.
Transformation is a new way of operating and doing business. It means everyone is working toward common, measurable goals. Everyone is held accountable. Everyone is literally speaking the same language. Everyone is skeptical of the status quo and the way things have always been done. Everyone is challenging themselves in new ways every day.
"Everyone is challenging themselves in new ways every day."
Transformation on every level takes sustained focus and energy. Everyone in the organization must be willing to do the hard work. You don’t lose 100 pounds overnight. You don’t get rich quick. You don’t become a stellar sales organization after a single two-hour training seminar.
Broadly speaking, the secret sauce to sales transformation comes down to organizational readiness for change and aligning around outcomes. More specifically, it requires a mindset that all areas of the company — sales, marketing, product development, operations, HR and so on — are aligned with and supportive of sales initiatives. Best-in-class companies make improving sales outcomes a company-wide priority.
Transformation also entails carefully planned and executed sales
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” —Mark Twain
Sales transformation begins before the sales training event even takes place. The discovery phase is especially important; what companies think they need is often just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Companies will say, “We need to ramp up our sales,” or “We need to shorten the sales cycle,” or “We need more superstar sellers.”
This can’t be accepted at face value. Your sales transformation and training partner must dig for more. Your outcomes are critical, but so is spending time planning how you’re going to get there. It’s important to define the key processes as well as the skills and behaviors that need to change in order to solve your issues and get your organization to the outcomes you want to achieve.
The key to improving sales skills is to identify the exact behaviors that need to be changed and ensure these are addressed in the training sessions. By the time the trainers are standing in the room, facing your sales org, the training material must be on point and consumable for your entire client-facing organization. Relevance and customization are critical. Your sales messaging framework should be “created by you and for you," because relevance and customization don’t come in pre-packaged, off-the-shelf content.
Companies have attributed their successes to this pre-work and planning. Take PrimeRevenue, which has seen its sales pipeline triple since it undertook its sales transformation. The hard work done up front gets the credit, says CEO P.J. Bain. “The prep time that went into preparing the program was unbelievable,” he said. “We spent time really digging into complex issues about delivering our message to clients in a way that buyers really understand our value.”
The customization of the materials and the cross-functional alignment that the methodology brought to the company created the foundation for success.
“Our pipeline has a great degree of certainty and confidence because our sales team has a framework that allows them to say no to deals that aren’t going to close. We have a language that allows us to get that certainty in the sales process,” Bain added.
This initial phase is also about setting expectations and getting buy-in from the C-suite and senior leaders across functions. How many times have you been to a sales training, and the leaders aren’t present or are in and out of the room, working on “other things?” Come on — this is the most important thing.
If leaders aren’t in the room — physically and mentally — nobody will take the sales training seriously. And why should they? Everyone in the organization follows the lead of the… well, leaders. The C-suite must lead from the front. The fact is you — as the leader — made the financial investment needed for increasing sales, and you owe it to your team to make the time and attention investment, too.
Transformation means doing the hard work. It means showing in words and actions that this effort is the company’s top priority. Walking the walk and talking the talk. And sometimes that means canceling meetings and turning off the cell phone. The most successful companies insist on dedication and involvement from the top down.
“I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.” — Estée Lauder.
Now we’re at the sales training event that everyone has been waiting for. OK, maybe not everyone; there will be skeptics. Events often open like this:
Experienced and vocal seller: “I’ve heard this all before. I don’t need this.”
Trainer (in our case a highly skilled former SVP of sales): “What makes you good at sales?”
Trainer: “It’s grit. You are good despite the lack of tools your company — until now — has provided you. You’ve had dumb luck, and it’s not repeatable. You’re hitting the target, but you’re not sure why. Today, we’re gonna start to slay the dragon in a different way.”
OK, let’s slay it. During a sales training, there are three essential ingredients: relevance, emotional connection
Speak the same language
Practice, practice, practice
The training material must be relevant to your particular organization. You want to get everyone in your organization speaking the same language. We call it Command of the Message. Making it relevant varies by industry and company, but essentially, everyone in the company needs to get out of their silos and speak a common language about…well, everything. That’s everything from the organization’s culture and what drives it forward, to its mission and how it benefits customers, to its goals for the future.
Clients become well aware of why this is important. Take, in fact, WellAware, whose sales team doubled its opportunity-to-close ratio and quadrupled the size of its SaaS deals, increasing sales volume significantly.
“We now have a common vernacular, so everyone talks using the same language, not just in sales, but across the company,” said Jeremy Bingham, EVP of Sales. “As a startup, we have limited resources. We have to drive focus across the entire company on the key offerings that will solve big customer problems.”
Next up is making an emotional connection, and it’s the magic of the sales training. Training facilitators will make the connection that what you do matters — whether it’s selling security software, medical equipment, and technology or financial services. That’s done by spending time with the most essential questions that any seller or selling organization must answer:
What problems do you solve for your customers?
How specifically do you solve these problems?
How do you solve them differently or better than anyone else?
Where’s the proof?
Many sellers have never thought of the emotion behind their products and services. They are so busy selling or trying to sell, that they haven’t stopped to think about how they make the lives of customers’ — or their customers’ customers’ — better, easier, healthier, more profitable. Or they haven’t considered how they contribute to another company’s bottom line or business successes. The knowledge is there, locked inside their heads. But that knowledge needs to be unlocked and articulated. And that brings us to
Participants will be uneasy at first. Trainers know they will be met with radio silence and blank stares the moment they utter the words “role play” or “mock presentations.” No doubt someone will have to be coerced to go first. But soon everyone will be raising their hands, eager to practice what
For example, within the two weeks after training, team members should commit to executing the sales call they role played during the training and then review the conversation with their managers. It’s important to have these calls to action (CTAs) in place and agreed upon before the
However, the basic idea is that research shows that all employees feel better about their jobs and their performance when they know what is expected of them. Before they leave the training event, make sure team members know exactly what is expected of them moving forward.
And, remember, increasing sales and sales transformation require more than dumb luck. Take it from another client, Iverify. “It’s the end results; it’s the numbers; it’s the sales,” said CEO Jim Fanella. “It’s not that we are lucky. It’s the relationship we have with our clients and our ability to add more relevance and value to help their business. The right process and methodology allow us to do that.”
“Fortune favors the bold.” —Virgil
The sales training is over, and now it’s back to reality. New reality or old reality? It’s up to you.
If you are setting out on transformation, eventually you do have to transform. A decision not to transform means you’ll continue to accept your company’s status quo. That may mean lackluster, or worse, declining sales and a sales force that’s likely disjointed and disengaged. Your reps can revert to their old ways of selling and cling to the decades-old sales story. Or, you can become a transformed, unified selling machine. You can be a trend setter among sales organizations and blaze a new path that exceeds your wildest sales quota. Your call.
You have to work to sustain the magic of the sales training event and launch of your organization’s new sales mandate and mantra. You and everyone must invest in the program — lean in, stick with those commitments to action.
Leaders and front-line managers must hold themselves accountable to the program, to the tools, to the shared language and vision, to the transformation mindset. And then leaders and managers must hold everyone else in the organization accountable, too.
For example, a leader or manager should say:
If you want to squelch adoption of the new sales program, the surefire way to do it is to make it seem optional:
Goodness, this isn’t a buffet. There’s no choice. It’s all or nothing. It’s imperative. It’s urgent, and leaders must convey that sense of urgency.
Here are some great ways we’ve seen leaders and managers at client companies keep the new, transformative sales program top of mind among sellers:
Finally, it’s important to measure results and report them back to the organization. Be transparent, otherwise your big deal sales quota is a meaningless target. You can hire the best consultants that money can buy, but without 1) a plan that makes your efforts relevant, 2) a shared definition of success and a way to reinforce it and 3) a way to track your measurable results, you’ll be wasting your money for sure.
You could also hire the best consultants that money can buy, do the hard work alongside those partners and, in the process, transform your company. Like Actifio did.
“For any company to be successful, you have to be mission driven. In order to pull that off, you have to have organizational alignment,” said Jim Sullivan, president of Actifio, which has seen gains in profitability, gross margins and customer satisfaction. “The single biggest thing that this project allowed us to achieve was organizational alignment.”
Jim Sullivan, President, Actifio
Or Vertafore, which cut time to rep productivity in half and saw a 30 percent increase in selling activities. Plus, at the time of training, the team had 30 reps. Now, they have 75. Talk about improving sales productivity.
“The methodology gave us a way to inject reality into the sales process,” said Rich Park, vice president of agency, MGA
You know what we call the people at companies that have successfully transformed? Heroes. They treat sales transformation like a new, permanent way of doing business, not a fad diet. It’s something they focus on every day. There’s no option of going back. They are different now. They are transformed. They are part of a new sales trend. They are the heroes. They own it. They have the guts.
The sales data doesn’t have to stay the same year after year. Transformation is within reach. Heck, you could be a
Do you have the guts?
Remember, no guts, no glory.
1 2017 CSO Insights World-Class Sales Practices Report