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Insights Into Prioritizing Sales Productivity Strategies

  • by Elay Cohen
  • January 31, 2013

Insights Into Prioritizing Sales Productivity Strategies

There is surely no “one size fits all” approach to sales productivity.  Over the years, I’ve learned that there are some leading indicators that can guide executives on how to accelerate sales results with the right mix of sales productivity programs.  You have levers and it’s important to identify what those levers are.  This blog post will give you the tools to self-identify.

Depending on the size of your company and specifically the number of sales people (and partners), along with the complexity of your sales cycle, the sales productivity strategy best suited for you will differ.   I’ve met many companies around the world of all sizes, listened to their challenges and priorities and recommended what to focus on given where they are as a company. I’ve thought about how to frame the sales productivity conversation and how to coach peers on what to focus on, and when.

Here is a framework you can use to prioritize your resources.  Use the number of sales employees (including partners) as a foundation to define your strategy and investment.  It’s important to note that the framework is additive julst like in grade school when you learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Ultimately, you need all the circles/strategies on the chart below to be alive in your company.  The question is when will you be ready to absorb them.

Productivity-Priorities

# of Sales People: 0 to 100

The goal of this company is one of growth. Normally there isn’t a lot of defined process and training is pretty ad hoc.  For example, a new sales hire will start their career with a visit to headquarters and a set of meetings and 1:1s with executives and peers. The new hire onboarding will tailored to each and every new hire.

As best as you can, document your new hire onboarding process and try and get as close to a new hire getting started guide as you can. Product training is almost always already in play.  Your sales managers are ultimately your coaches so make sure this is part of your culture and you have set up your sales managers for success.

It is best to start by building out your company’s sales values and supporting sales process.  I met a couple young startup companies this week and after I shared the importance and benefits of sales values, they quickly realized that they should focus on codifying their sales values and sales process. Most often than not in small start up companies, there are a few sales people that get it and already have a playbook.  Interview them.  Document what they do.  Get them in front of a video camera.  Crowdsource their ideas. Share their best practices.  Train the rest of your sales team and partners on their best practices. Make it part of everything you do and every conversation with your sales teams.  Empower your sales managers with tools to coach their sales people on the sales values.

Sales tools are created as needed.  Recruiting and hiring is becoming a priority and some programatic thinking needs to be become part of the DNA of the company.

# of Sales People: 100 to 1000

With this type of company, the focus now shifts to scale in all sales productivity disciplines across sales process, onboarding, training, coaching and sales tools.  More team selling will require better alignment.  The sales values and sales process become even more important and need to be reinforced but most likely don’t need to change as the values have a long lifespan since they are rooted in your core selling process and company culture.

The new hire training program should mature to incorporate sales skills training like discovery, storytelling, value selling and maybe even negotations.

A formal product certification program should be introduced that matures the product training by adding in verfication of knowledge.  Sales playbooks will become very useful to provide sales teams with the tools but also to align resources and tools developed across the sales operations, marketing and product departments.

# of Sales People: 1000 to 5000

Companies in this category are looking for massive scale and sustained growth.  Coaching extends beyond the manager to peer to peer feedback.  Social performance management is a great new culture building change to introduce and make happen.  Tools like work.com help drive this.

The sales process is augemented with deal desks to support functions like sales references, request for proposals (RFP), business cases, presentation assistance and anything that can accelerate the sales cycle and remove administrative work from the sales person’s weekly to do list.  Deal desks also serves as a way to scale best practice sharing across sales teams and deals.

Training should evolve to include learning paths by role. The product certification is now coupled with a sales certification program that begins to drive compliance and knowledge checks across the sales process, objection handling, sales skills and closing.

# of Sales People: 5000+

With companies this size, the productivity programs tend to start becoming more specialized by role, division, segment and product. The key is to continue to drive agility, innovation but with massive scale.

Sales processes are more complex and keeping one consolidated forecast becomes a top challenge.  If it’s not in the Salesforce Sales Cloud product then remember it didn’t happen. A core value that emerged at the beginning becomes critical to continue to keep alive.

Learning becomes more social with training coming from marketing and products but training now comes from sales people and sales managers. It’s easy to self-publish training thta is reviewed, approved and shared.  A university is born to officiate all the the training and drive more scale, verification and relevance. Sales people are now asking about career planning and it’s time (if you haven’t done so already) to get formalized career paths documented and shared across the organization. If you don’t, you risk losing your sales people.

It’s important to respect where you are in the cycle of company growth and appreciate what is most imporant to implement and when to implement it.  There is a lot more one can do in each category but in the context of sales productivity these are the basics that will have a material impact on your business.

If there is only one takeaway from this blog post, it is that you should make sure you have your sales values documented and shared across your sales organization as early as you can in your company’s history.

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About the Author
Elay Cohen

Elay Cohen

Elay Cohen is the author of SalesHood: How Winning Sales Managers Inspire Sales Teams to Succeed and the co-founder of SalesHood, a SaaS sales enablement platform and community for sales professionals. Elay is the former Senior Vice President of Sales Productivity at Salesforce. Recognized as the company's "2011 Top Executive", and credited for creating and executing all of Salesforce's sales productivity programs that accelerated its growth from $300M to $3B+ in revenue. The sales training and sales support innovations delivered over these years by Elay and his team to thousands of sales reps resulted in unprecedented hypergrowth. He also created the Partner Relationship Management (PRM) category.

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