How do you manage to predictable sales results in the middle of a turnaround?

Sales Executives, Blog, Sales Operations

Clinton McDaniel, Enterprise Business Development and Channel Sales Leader at GENBAND, posted this article on LinkedIn on January 28th, and gracisouly gave us permission to post it on our blog.

I have recently joined a new company as a part of an effort to transform flat sales into a growth posture. A lot of our strategy involves going to market with our portfolio and solutions, and after about six months, we are seeing strongsuccess with YoY growth in the 200% range, and a pipeline that will support strong growth for the foreseeable future.

Thats a great story in and of itself, but in the middle of this transformation (and as a part of shaking off some of the rust) we encountered two problems: 1) the flat sales trend had produced a lot of slow moving opportunities in the pipeline that were now being intermingled with faster paced growth initiatives and 2) the visibility into the sales process and pipeline from a management perspective was a "manual effort" that gated our ability to scale. We needed to fix this in order to drive growth, and we needed to increase our velocity while improving our visibility. So here is what we did....

Step one involved a tremendous amount of data collection - mostly around mapping the buyers journey and the sales journey for our pipeline. This effort was accomplished through the use of account reviews and pipeline analysis.

Step two involved defining a detailed sales journey for our opportunities - with milestones, critical success factors, and an overall set of data points that would better enable us to assess the progress and health of an opportunity

Step three was the fun one - we had to figure out a way to implement this sales journey tracking within our Sales Force Automation. We use Salesforce.com at my company, and our team is a small group focused on a market that is adjacent to the main focus of the firm - so we couldn't walk in and change SFDC dramatically - we needed to do things in such a way that we accommodated the needs of the broader sales community. We also wanted to ensure that we maximized the time spent selling with our team, and not dilute our sales investments with a bunch of administrative work. So we ended up looking at three options: 1) figuring out a low impact way to use SFDC to collect data from reps and implement some reporting and analytics, 2) using a some of the collection templates that we used for account reviews as a permanent process that was parallel to SFDC, and 3) third party tools. We found that the SFDC option wasn't going to work for us, and that the parallel process was too labor intensive to use - so we turned to option 3 and started talking to a firm with which I have had some previous experience - TopOpps.

TopOpps is a SaaS pipeline tool that is basically middleware for SFDC. We were able to build a sales workflow with all of the milestones and critical success factors that TopOpps would then score and present to us as health metrics for deals, coupled with a smooth interface that makes it easy for reps to manage pipeline. TopOpps has an alert engine that makes it easy to flag deals that need attention, and then best of all, the solution has an analytics engine that makes forecasting easy and capturing trends and insights to bring to our attention with a minimum of effort.

Step four involved integrating TopOpps with SFDC and setting it up. Basically, some of the existing fields were brought into TopOpps, and then we created hidden custom fields for the rest. We then set up some scoring algorithms and some alerts. Once this was completed, we were able to arrange our sales journey in the TopOpps interface and give reps easy to use GUI elements - thumb buttons, thumbs up, drop downs, etc to mark the progression of a deal through the pipeline from their desktops or from a mobile app.

We are now operating in a state where we get hygiene, visibility, analytics, and predictability. the best thing about the tool - and this is a benefit for managers AND reps - is that things requiring actions are now brought to our attention and we don't have to spend a lot of time surfing and digging to find them - so these benefits have come with an even bigger one - we are spending less time administratively on the team across all roles.

When you are trying to grow - you have two choices: you can add sales people, or you can make the ones you have more efficient. This process that we have implemented is giving us the ability to increase our efficiency - as measured by Operating Income per Headcount. This stuff really works, and we are quite happy with what we have done.