Congratulations are in order when you reach this stage.
Now you are ready to raise the “market scale” round of financing and grow out your sales, channels and marketing teams.
These are the 7 key elements necessary for scaling your sales team for the global market.
We’ll touch on each of these in this blog and then cover each independently in depth in future blogs.
1. Disciplined Hiring
Many sales managers look to hire people like themselves and do not have an established hiring discipline.
What typically happens is a sales manager interviews too few qualified candidates, they pass on the first few, the search gets “tired” and then they settle on someone because they think the person is good enough even though they do not excel in the established criteria. How do you avoid this?
- First, discipline requires an accurate job description that identifies the key criteria you want in your sales team: cold-calling, executive relationships, large account experience, small/medium account experience, vertical expertise, technical expertise, etc. Be clear on what you need and nobody is perfect in everything.
- Second, identify the key questions you want answered during the interview: consistent track record of overachievement, cold-calling skills, executive presence, cultural fit, what they have to prove in this next role, career progression, etc.
- Next, establish a panel of people who will perform the interviews and provide feedback and make sure you listen carefully to the feedback to identify any inconsistencies.
- Lastly, call the references to really determine if this candidate is truly an exceptional salesperson or did they just get lucky in their previous role. Most references are positive so dig through the comments and press on certain areas. Also make sure you do your own “back-door” references – these are far more valuable.
2. Extensive Sales Enablement Training
If you’ve developed good hiring practices, your first 10 salespeople will be truly gifted “A” players. Your next hires are still good Pioneers, but not the true self-starters your initial hires are. You need to identify what makes the initial salespeople exceptional and TRAIN the next set of hires to achieve the same level.
This means developing a training program to teach the new salespeople and system engineers the following: required technical training, sales process training, forecast methodology, customer use cases, sales presentation. This program should be a week of valuable training. A good practice here is to have each of your salespeople and system engineers stand in front of the entire group and present the sales presentation until they get it right – if they cannot do it in front of their peers, then they will not be successful in front of the customer.
3. Established Sales Methodology
You need an established methodology for handling Territory Management, Account Management and Opportunity Management. Territory Management is the definition of your target market, how many sales people you need to cover it, the territories they cover and the productivity you expect. Account Management is how you research an account, land an account, grow an account, renew that account and overall customer success in that account. MEDDIC is a common and proven Account Management methodology.
4. Reliable Sales Forecasting Process
Opportunity Management is how you move an opportunity through the pipeline to close and your definitions of each phase of the sales cycle. Salesforce.com is the predominant way to track and measure Opportunity Management. Your sales forecast will be highly unpredictable unless you have clear criteria for what it takes to move an opportunity from Pipeline to Best Case to Commit to Close. It is amazing how much power there is in the word Commit. Your first line sales managers are incredibly critical for establishing your monthly/quarterly forecast and then ensuring they hit that number.
5. Experienced Sales Leadership:
Now is the time to promote or hire the long term VP of Sales.
This person is certainly responsible for achieving the top-line Operating Plan. More importantly, they need proven capabilities in ALL the areas listed in this blog to ensure success. The two most important roles in your sales organization are your pre-sales engineers and your first-line sales managers. The VP of Sales needs proven capabilities in building and managing these teams.
There is a misperception that all sales leaders need to be assholes – people you don’t want to hang out with but get the job done. The reality is you can build a high-performance sales culture through exceptional hiring, deep training, disciplined process, strong teamwork, unwavering accountability AND you don’t need to be an asshole to accomplish this. A poor sales leader will drive short-term performance but will experience high turnover of your good people when the going gets rough – and the market or competitors make it rough at some point in every company.
6. Integrated Field Sales Engineer and Product Management Feedback Loop:
Your pre-sales engineers are responsible for establishing the technical win in your prospects. During their customer interactions, such as demos or Proof of Concepts, they will uncover the flaws and the gaps in your product. This is critical information to build into your product roadmap.
The Product Management team should want this information so they can prioritize the features for your upcoming product releases. Ignoring this information will result in a future state where you find yourselves losing new customers, losing renewals, missing a major market trend or getting disintermediated by a competitor – none of these are fun. Make sure these two teams respect each other and have a consistent communications plan.
7. Measurable Sales Metrics
As a CEO, you need an e-staff level dashboard to identify your sales forecast, sales productivity and when you should hire more sales teams. This dashboard will give you leading indicators on your operating plan achievement by tracking pipeline progression from leads all the way to closed deals. The number of opportunities in each stage and the time spent in each stage are valuable clues to your sales cycle and how to improve it. Sales productivity is the key measure for determining the viability of your future operating plan. Don’t ignore this data – too many executives believe they can out-execute against what the market is clearing telling them.
AccelG2M helps companies identify and address issues in all phases of a company’s lifecycle with detailed operational and strategic steps. Follow the blog for more of our proven tactics on how to build successful go-to-market strategies. In upcoming posts we’ll address partner/channels and marketing during all 3 stages of growth.
Herb Cunitz & Mitch Ferguson