Sales has become increasingly complex. Educated customers expect solution expertise, and new technologies are changing the buying process. Everyone in sales has to meet new demands — from the sales leaders to account executives and sales strategists. All this change begs the question: What hasn’t changed in sales? Well, the answer is this: hitting your quota — it always has been — and will continue to be — a top priority.
Working in sales strategy and operations here at Salesforce, I’ve learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work in driving growth for a business — and the secret weapon to making sure a growing business can make their numbers? Aligned strategy. The challenge is using all the available information and data you have to target the right audience, at the right time.
Sales operations is typically the person (or persons) in your business who best understand where the pockets of growth are. They are responsible for understanding your business as a whole, but particularly how to make sales more effective. This can include everything from setting up systems and processes that enable sales to close more deals, to testing and iterating on the right customer experience in post-sales interactions. If sales and strategy aren’t in sync, it’s going to be tough to reach or exceed your goals.
Selling is a balance of relationship building and analyzing data. Here’s are three steps to create a winning partnership:
1. Get aligned
Set short and long-term priorities together. Key discussions might include compensation, renewals versus new business, territory planning, key performance indicators (KPIs) and expected growth. For example, small sales teams need to be dynamic as they constantly adjust their processes. So when the sales motion changes, the sales playbook — everything from training, tools, and analytics — also needs to adapt to it. A good question to start any planning session with is: What’s the challenge we’re trying to solve? At Salesforce, we have a process for staying aligned that’s known as ‘‘V2MOM” — it stands for Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures. It’s easy to remember and it keeps us in sync at Salesforce. (Learn how to build your V2MOM in our Trailhead module.)
2. Identify the gaps
Each step of the sales process is open to improvement, whether it be recruiting, gathering competitive intelligence, conducting quarterly business reviews or annual planning. Even the sales process itself — how you’re engaging with customers — is an opportunity to improve. When discussing the gaps, provide the strategy team with context and be transparent about your needs. Ask for details. Your team’s metrics should include more than closed deals. Consider tracking metrics from all stages of the sales cycle, such as:
- Inputs and effort: Are your reps putting in the effort to build pipeline by connecting with multiple stakeholders within a company?
- Pipeline: Are your reps building their own pipeline or was it sourced by marketing? What is the velocity of that pipeline?
- Closed Bookings: Are your reps order-taking or creating strategic projects with their customers by selling the full product suite?
An important factor to keep in mind is that pipeline and bookings are output metrics. A mistake that most small businesses make when starting out is that they focus on these output metrics; these are results that tell you how business did in the past, but you can’t control them. The sales ops team should also be paying attention to upstream metrics — these are inputs and efforts of the top of sales funnel activities like lead generation or even rep activity — which can actually drive those output metrics like bookings that businesses are traditionally measured on.
3. Use data to drive action
This is crucial no matter what you are selling! Don’t lose sight of what the data tells you about the market, the customer, and even the opportunity itself. It can only make your job easier and help you to connect with the right opportunities. As soon as the team begins to refine their sales process and adjust these stages in their CRM, you can roll that into reporting and immediately have actionable insights from that new data point. The out-of-the-box reporting from Salesforce can actually help set the stage for sales operations. These automated reports take the complexity and diagnostics out of initial data tracking and help get to the deeper metrics, such as conversion rates. They provide a great first step towards building a data-driven sales process and a foundation for looking at your business.
Although it may add another layer to your sales process, working with your “data guru” to parse out the data you need will improve sales cycle and help you make the strongest case for a potential relationship with a customer. Remember, an aligned team crushes goals and succeeds!