No matter how detailed a sales plan may be, results are what matter. This is why Matt Sharrer wants his clients to do a little soul searching. He asks tough questions about executing the right strategies and the corresponding internal conversations that take place.
Sharers is a partner at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI) which is comprised of former sales and marketing leaders that help companies make the number.
For the last 15-plus years, Sharrers has worked with companies such as Ryder, Integrated Device Technology, Informatica, Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman to help fine-tune their sales strategies. We asked Sharrers to break down the five steps he believes help define a successful sales plan.
What are the most fundamental pillars of any sales strategy?
First, it should build on the insights from your market research. Second, it should align with your corporate strategy. And third, it should address exactly how your sales team will achieve its objectives with strategic support from your company’s other departments. For example, the product and marketing teams. With these three pillars in place, you can begin to craft a strategy that enables sales to stay focused on the right investments and grow sales revenue organically.
Walk us through the steps. Define the importance of planning.
You have to develop sales and data plans that allow your team to hit their goals. The whole process starts by creating a clear plan. Define KPIs and determine what data you need to help you make decisions. Determine what talent resources you need. Having a solid sales revenue plan enables your sales team to work in concert. It gives them a clear path to their goal.
How important is the engagement step?
Even supported by a winning marketing team, sales still must generate leads. The engagement step involves prospecting and defining a sales process. Here, you will determine how your sales team interacts with prospects and customers. Begin with prospecting to generate early-stage buyer interest. Next, deploy a sales process tailored to how buyers actually want to buy. This will improve win rates and deal sizes while shortening the sales cycle length.
How does the organizational part of the process work?
You have to figure out how to deploy the resources you secured in the planning phase. Set up the organizational structure so that the right people are in the right roles. They should be able to execute the processes defined in the engagement phase.
You set them up for success by placing them in well-defined territories. Create balanced territories by placing the right reps in the right places. Assign them the right quota and make sure the quota reflects each territory’s potential. Offer a compensation package that drives desired behaviors, but make sure it stays within the corporate budget. And always attract, retain and motivate top talent. To execute your strategy, you must source, hire, coach, train and develop talent.
Doesn’t it all come down to execution?
Yes. This phase is where the real work is done. It’s where you focus on sales enablement and pipeline/forecast management. Start by determining how you will drive adoption of new sales initiatives:
• What content does the sales team need?
• How do you communicate new sales enablement initiatives?
• How do you package the material into a playbook, and how do you make it available when it’s needed?
• What should your training program include to build the necessary sales skills? How do you reinforce that through coaching?
• How do you measure the effectiveness of your enablement investments?
Focus on getting the right content to the right people at the right time. But stay agile and incorporate lessons from successes and failures along the way.
Define the importance of analyzing the data.
The data requirements you determined in the planning phase should come alive through reporting. Forecasting issues can result in a loss of credibility. So think through your pipeline carefully:
• What pipeline/forecast management process do you need to drive accuracy?
• How should you train your team on this process?
• How should you account for big deals in your forecast?
Conduct quarterly business reviews that help the sales team make the number.
What’s the best way to support your team’s initiative?
Giving support is essential because it enables your sales team to be effective in perpetuity. It will also make the internal organization easier to do business with. Remove non-selling responsibilities and streamline responsibilities that can’t be delegated. Do that by:
1. Establishing defined sales operations roles to increase sales efficiency. This includes process, technology, metrics and best practices.
2. Finding a sales support team to make the organization easy to interact with. They will represent sales within the other corporate functional groups.
3. Constructing systems that automate the core business processes. This will remove the administrative burden and increase the productivity of the sales organization