Tag Archive for: revenue

How to Scale Your Sales Function

If you are responsible for establishing and growing your sales function, then I encourage you to buck convention. Do it differently and reap the rewards.

Conventional wisdom is to hire a salesperson, give them a laptop and a cell phone and have them go forth and sell. I recommend going against this conventional wisdom. When your sales function is in growth mode, simply adding salespeople won’t give you the revenue growth you desire. You need to fill each of your different player positions first before adding depth to your roster.

Start by hiring a business development professional. Have them take their first month and research the right CRM for you. If you’ve got one already, have them confirm or deny it’s the right one for you. There are many, many choices out there so have them do their homework. 

Next, give them four weeks to build out your lead outreach process so they can work systematically to fill both your marketing and sales funnel with viable leads and prospects. Only then should you hire on a sales professional to work through the sales process and close deals. 

Here’s why; the business development function is very different from the sales function. The person who gets joy from the business development function often does not get joy from the sales function and vice versa. In my role as a fractional VP of Sales, I often speak to business owners who have sales rep turnover issues. The root cause of this turnover is that sellers were brought on without a viable sales funnel. They had 90 days of business development work to do and then became frustrated and believed they had no path to sales success…so they left.

With your sales professional onboard, capture the process they will follow to turn prospective buyers into paying customers. Document this in your CRM in the form of your sales funnel.

With your business development and sales function now up and running as separate roles, take another eight weeks and refine both your business development and sales processes. The goal is to increase the deal size and the sales velocity. This is accomplished by looking for ways to be more effective and efficient in researching and activating leads and then running the resulting prospects through your sales process.

With this work done you can now determine where you should add depth to your roster. Is your sale/market/industry such that you need more business development resources and fewer sellers or is it the other way around? Is it that you need to add key account salespeople rather than local or regional salespeople?

There is of course a great deal of nuance to all the suggestions above [which is often why I play a fractional sales management role to support business leaders]. If you’d like to chat, I’d be happy to share my insights with you.

Top Reasons Why B2B Sales Prospecting Should be Outsourced

If increasing your close rate is not the path to revenue-generating success, then what is?

In my work as a sales consultant one of the least common problems I encounter is companies that have a hard time closing business. Generally, when an opportunity that is a good fit presents itself whoever is at the wheel of that sale manages to bring it home. The bigger challenge and root cause of not meeting revenue growth goals is when there is no “next deal” behind the one at hand. Regardless of whether or not a seller closes the deal in front of them the end result is the same – there is now a gap in their sales funnel.

Reaching of revenue growth goals is accomplished by managing the cycles of the sales funnel. As deals come in, they are worked and move through to their ultimate dispatch. Classically, salespeople love the act of closing business but are not so keen on the acts of lead development and business generation. Thus, your best closer may be left with nothing to work on after they close a deal. Maintaining a steady inbound flow to the top of your organization’s sales funnel will lead to both short and long-term revenue growth.

It used to be that salespeople would do their own prospecting and business development. That’s not best practice today.  There currently exists a wealth of service providers who make it illogical for you to put a highly paid sales resource toward top of funnel work. This work is typically noncomplex and can be readily done by an outsourced service. Further, it might in fact be better done by them. Your best closers might not be your best researchers. Your best relationship builders might not be your best data miners.

As recently as five years ago this tier of service providers did not exist. Today you can find lead research experts who will mine and create lead lists. You have firms that will take those lists, further refine, and vet them and begin email and social media outreach sequences.  Other firms will then take the results from those outreaches and set appointments for you. Some will even do all of the above. All of this for a monthly fee that is often 25% less than the cost of a full-time employee.

Using these services help you achieve revenue growth in many ways.  They…

  • Free up time in the day of your best salespeople to allow them to do what they do best, build relationships with customers and close business.
  • Eliminate peaks and valleys in your sales results. As your sellers sell, their funnel is constantly being backfilled for them, rather than the sales process halting as they do the filling themselves.
  • Increase sales velocity by having appointment set with the right decision makers upfront, rather than your salespeople having to go through trial and error to get there on their own.
  • Keep morale high within your sales team as each team member gets to focus on the thing they love doing more of the time and have more success doing it.

I have had direct working relationships with many such providers. Too many to mention here. If you would like to learn more about where to start looking, please let me know. Always happy to help.

 

The Most Under-Utilized Sales Leadership Tool

Appreciation is the most underutilized leadership tool. After working with literally 1000’s of employees as a fractional sales leader I’ve learned this first hand.  

I’ve not encountered an employee who felt they got too much appreciation – and many who felt they didn’t get enough. Have you ever offered appreciation to someone and had them respond “please, enough of the platitudes. I know, I am wonderful!” I know I haven’t. I recall reading Keith Richard’s biography in which he talks about the relief and relaxation he felt after coming off the road, but that he had gotten used to 65,000 people per night chanting his name and came to miss it quite quickly! 

Quite recently I was dealing with a pervasive and thorny Accounts Receivable issue at one of my clients. Sales was upset at some customers being put on credit hold and others not getting credit approval to open accounts.  When I started asking around, I found that not only were these departments silo’ d, the walls were made of bricks. In speaking with the finance group I came to learn the challenges they were facing and quickly understood how critical their work was to the health of the company. They felt sales didn’t understand their pains.  I expressed my sincere gratitude and appreciation for their hard work on a tough task, and the lift in spirits and tone of the conversation was immediate and palpable. I came to learn that no one had ever given them such appreciation. 

In working with the marketing department at another client they were feeling down. The challenges they faced were significant and the amount of work on the plates was huge. They were very much struggling to keep their heads above water. As a sales group we decided to be overt in expressing our appreciation for their efforts.   The VP marketing responded with “thanks so much for your overt appreciation.  It’s great that my team knows how you feel!”.  She felt the power of appreciation.  Opening the door of appreciation was the start of a great collaborative relationship.

Overt expressions of sincere appreciation are often a surprise to the recipients because it is not often they get them. It lays the foundation for a positive working relationship and increases the likelihood that colleagues will extend themselves to help each other out. In these days of remote work and The Great Resignation having employees know that they are appreciated is nothing short of vital. Positive conversations in the hall or by the “watercooler” just aren’t possible anymore.  Leaders need to be purposeful in expressing appreciation wherever and whenever they can.

If as leaders we don’t openly and regularly model appreciative behaviour we are missing an opportunity to anchor this into our company’s culture.  Sincere displays of appreciation and gratitude seem to stimulate more of the same. It is an authentic and easy way to strengthen the fabric of any team.  Knowing that your work matters and is appreciated is one of the top influencers in employee engagement and job satisfaction, and an easy one for leaders to satisfy.  

If you’d like to discuss the power of appreciation further just let me know.  Always happy to help. Rob

Why hire a fractional VP Sales? 

Why hire a Fractional VP Sales instead of a full time one?  If you need serious sales horsepower to solve your revenue generation challenges but a] don’t have the resources to pay for a full-time senior executive or, b] feel that your leadership group isn’t ready for one or, c] both, then fractional might be an excellent alternative.

The gig economy and great resignation have combined to create an amazing pool of highly qualified fractional sales leadership talent for hire. For the uninitiated, fractional means that rather than being a full-time employee they act in a consulting capacity on a part time basis to help you maximize your company’s revenue growth potential.  In this relationship you get everything you need from a sales leader without having to take on a full-time employee.

Because fractional leaders work with other clients as well as you, they bring current “been there-done that” experience.  Often from multiple industries, countries and company sizes.  This can be applied to your situation towards maximizing your growth potential.  Rather than “here’s how we solved this challenge 20 years ago at my previous company…” their advice and direction for you will sound more like “here’s what’s working out there in today’s market with today’s conditions.  Let’s consider these options… ”  

Part of being a successful fractional leader is being easy to work with, even in challenging times.  They are adept at fitting in quickly and getting results.  As you’re likely looking for senior sales leadership because you are in rapid growth mode [or the opposite], this skill set is invaluable. Having someone who can come and integrate themselves into your team readily shortens your path to results.

Fractional sales leaders are often overqualified. They are authors, speakers and well tenured consultants with a strong track record of success. They can bring road tested and proven intellectual property and solutions that deliver value to you in the immediate and short-term, as well as the long term.  Setting the foundation for long-term revenue generation success while achieving short-term wins is a recipe for success.

Because of the fractional nature of their working relationship with you, their only interest is improving your condition. They are not looking to settle in, get comfortable and hit cruise control. They have no ulterior motive other than your mutual success.  Also, they don’t get mired in non-core job role minutia that typically distracts the full-time VP sales.  They, and the rest of your team are very clear that they are there for one reason only which is to increase sales.  Further, they bring objectivity and a fresh pair of eyes to your challenges as they did not grow up within your company [or maybe even your industry].

Finally, a Fractional VP sales gives you a depth and breadth of experience you perhaps otherwise couldn’t afford.  Their total Target annual compensation is generally speaking less than what you would pay for a full-time employee with the same credentials. As self-employed contractors they also don’t bring any benefits costs burden to your payroll.

A Fractional sales leader is of course not for everyone or every situation. Sometimes your challenges call for someone who will live within your 4 walls day in and day out.  Despite being a fractional sales leader myself I have counselled business owners to hire a full-timer.  If you are curious to learn if a fractional sales leader is right for you just let me know. I’m always happy to chat.

 

Choosing Your Sales Tools

For business owners, hiring sales overachievers is only part of the revenue generation success equation.  The other part is the toolkit you provide those folks to excel and maximize revenue.

Building a sale is just like building a physical product. Done the right way it is an efficient and effective process with defined inputs and construction methods that result in a consistent outcome. If building a physical product you gave your workers inferior tools you know what will happen to both the process and the outcome. It’s the same with sales.

This is not about giving your team the “best tools that money can buy”. It’s about giving them the right tools at the right time. From lead generation data mining tools to CRM to marketing enablement software the sales tech stack space is so crowded it is difficult to know where to begin to start tooling up your team.

Starting at the top of the sales funnel your team needs a place to source leads, a way to find their contact information, a repeatable way to reach out to buyers, a defined process by which they move leads through the sales funnel, a value-based sales method to follow to conduct buyer facing interactions and finally a way[s] to measure all of these activities along the way.

Top of funnel management is the space where I’ve seen the greatest proliferation of options over the course of the last few years.  At the far end of easy are outsourced lead and appointment generation services. They have significantly evolved in that they now use structured outreach and contact protocols to warm up leads prior to contacting them to ask for meetings. This significantly increases the quality of the meetings that are generated.  

At the other end is the plethora of do-it-yourself tools that exist.  In fact, if you use an outsourced business development service these are the tools their folks will be using. At its most basic LinkedIn is the place to find your Ideal customer. A web scraping tool like zoom info [expensive] will give you all the information you need to know about that person and where to reach them.  Tools like hunter.io [relatively inexpensive] will get you bits and pieces of contact information, likely enough to conduct an initial outreach.

Moving down in the funnel your team needs a templated way to conduct an email outreach campaign to warm up contacts before calling them. At its simplest this is a series of emails sent to potential buyers explaining who you are, what you do and how you might be able to help them. Also included would be informational content of value for the recipients to click on to learn more about you and your offering. Creating effective emails is both an art and a science and is an iterative process. Hubspot has great content about how to construct such sequences and track their effectiveness at converting leads into meetings and ultimately paying customers.

Once an opportunity is secured your team needs a sales funnel process map they can follow to move leads through the sales funnel from the 1st diagnosis of needs meeting to Closed Won.  Basically this is an inventory of all seller activities and buyer commitments required along the way in order for a sales opportunity to be converted into a paying customer. Skipping steps or doing them in the wrong order will result in poor sales performance, unhappy customers or both. Working with your team to plot this path will ensure everyone can check the boxes along the way and ensure that when a sale is made it is sturdy enough to last.

Having a value-based sales methodology for your team helps ensure that they are selling the value your products and services bring to their buyers rather than simply the features and benefits. Customers buy value. If your team diagnosis buyer needs 1st, then talks about how your solutions will meet those needs and wrap up with the value [in business terms] your solutions will bring they will significantly increase their sales conversion rate.  There are many, many sales methods out there [I happen to have written a book explaining mine, “Sell More by Selling Less-Mastering the Conversational Sales Method” https://robmalec.com/the-book/].  Pick the best fit for you and your sale and you will be golden.

CRM is the place where you measure all of your sales inputs and outcomes. Doing so allows you to course correct your sales process towards maximizing revenue generation success. CRM is another extremely crowded space. It’s been my experience that company size/scale and how much of your marketing function you want to integrate into it are the primary drivers for selecting your CRM. Do your homework here. For smaller companies buying into an expensive CRM with many functions that they never end up using is a common mistake [Zoho is great for small enterprise].  For midsize companies the trap seems to be buying into a CRM that is not an exact fit for the needs and ultimately having to pay expensive configuration consultant fees. I’ve seen that large organizations will buy and build out a CRM platform that is so robust it becomes non-user-friendly. 

Choosing the toolkit for your sales team is no small task. I’m happy to chat if you would like some help.

Skip the School of Hard Knocks

You likely learned a ton about how to run your business by attending the School of Hard Knocks. You are likely [and justifiably] proud of making it through not only intact but looking pretty good! When it comes to the sales function however, skip school this time. If sales aren’t your passion, your results aren’t great, or you already have 1000 other things to focus on, bring on someone to steer the sales function for you and you’ll be ecstatic with the results. Here’s why…

You are Human – not a machine. Running a business is tough enough without piling on another departmental leadership function on top of that.

Revenue is the Life Blood of Your Company – If you are bootstrapping, Cash is King. If you are funded, revenue lengthens your runway. If your sales results aren’t great, that should be addressed.

Sales is Way Harder Than It Looks – Look at those guys and gals over their blabbing on the phone closing deals. What could be easier? Trying to optimize and implement a sales process requires a lot of bandwidth.

The Sales Cliff Sucks – If the sales wheel isn’t continually turned, funnels dry up quickly, and revenue falls off fast.

Your Options:

Your first and most obvious option is to hire a Sales Manager, or the like. This works if you a) have the money and b) are at a growth point at which this makes sense.

If you are at 2-3 sales people and revenues are trending up, then hiring this person is an investment that will likely have a great ROI. Also, hiring this person lets you work more “on” your business rather than “in” it. If, however, revenue is light at the moment it may not make financial sense to spend the dough on an FTE. The time to payback may be longer than you are willing or comfortable to wait. In this case there is another option.

That other option is to hire a consultant – just as you would for any other business function. There are sales consultancies of all stripes. Some are awesome at pumping up your team with motivational speeches. Others are great at teaching your team how to conduct highly productive sales conversations with buyers. Some work with you to optimize the steps of your sales process to increase sales velocity and deal size. On the upside whatever your need it’s likely you can get it addressed by a credible expert for far less than the cost of an FTE. On the downside if your team needs hourly/daily leading, then a consultant by design can’t fulfill this.

If Sales is a passion for you and you have the bandwidth to tend to the team and run your business as well, by all means, keep managing the sales team. Otherwise, take action now and hand the reins to an individual who can focus squarely on the task at hand and drive your revenue results.

Will Your Sales Approach Support Your Growth Goals?

How much revenue will your sales team close 90 days from now? If you can’t answer this question with any level of confidence you are not alone. Many leaders I chat with struggle to predict their sales team’s revenue even 30 days out. If you aren’t all over tracking your leading sales indicators, it’s next to impossible to know if how your team is selling will sustain your business’s growth goals. By rigorously measuring the rate at which those “things that cause sales to happen” occur you will quickly get to reliable forecasting and an optimized sales process.

Off the hop let me identify the magic ingredient that makes any dashboarding work – rigour. Sounds almost redundant but I bring up rigor because its the number one challenge in implementing and leveraging dashboards. If your data is inaccurate or incomplete due to lack of rigour you will make poor decisions based on what your dashboards are telling you.

To clarify rigour, I mean accurate recording by your team of their sales activities every day, as they perform them. No “I’ll wait until Friday afternoon to enter in all my CRM stuff” approaches allowed. Who has the energy on a Friday afternoon to enter a whole week’s worth of sales activity micro-data? No one, that’s who!

Moving on, here are the core sales activities that will serve as your leading indicators.

Diagnosis Meetings: Interactions with Sales Leads, the purpose of which is to Diagnose their Pains and determine if they are a Viable Sales Opportunity. Not enough of these each week means a dry sales funnel in no time.

Demo Meetings: Meetings with Viable Sales Opportunities to demonstrate your product or service. Not enough of these weekly leads to a longer closing cycle as buyers often need to see what your product can do before saying yes to paying for it.

Solution Meetings: Interactions with Viable Sales Opportunities, the purpose of which is to finalize the version of your solution they’d like and allow you to solidify price.

Number of Proposals Presented: This value of this one’s pretty obvious.

As far as the goal quantity for each of the above, that varies widely from industry to industry and product/service to product/service. Generally, lower price point sales that are decided upon by a single buying influence require many more of each interaction type per week than high priced multi-buying influence ones.

The thing about sales activity goals is this – have one, for each activity. Work with your team to a) decide which things that cause sales to happen at your company should be measured, b) set the bar, c) adjust it over time until you discover the optimal amount of each activity required for reps to hit sales target. This continual optimization process is the path to confidence that your current sales process will support reaching your business’s growth goals.