Holistic revenue performance series IV: Sales operations

Sustainable revenue performance ensures your organization is meeting its goals and finding its success not just here and now but into the future. Yet achieving profitable revenue year after year is no simple task. There is no golden egg or one solution. You will time and again meet internal and external challenges.

Yet with a well-oiled revenue engine, any challenges you come up against will be mitigated or side-stepped altogether.

At Mereo, we have developed a unique approach to revenue performance that leverages the inherently interdependent operational disciplines of demand progress, solution marketing, solution management, sales operations and sales enablement.

We have touched on demand generation, solution marketing and solution management  these past weeks. This week in the holistic revenue performance series, we will dive into sales operations and learn the greatest pitfalls affecting B2B organizations, how to overcome these and how this piece of the Revenue Performance Blueprint™ will help you achieve an unfair share™ of the market.

 Common Sales Operations Pitfalls

Sales operations are not the glamorous side of selling, why most get into the business. The team running sales operations is focused on the nitty gritty, down and dirty details of your formal sales plan tailored around your overarching business strategy. With this in place, uniting your leadership and teams, go-to-market activities become more streamlined and successful, pursuing new territory or different markets becomes achievable. Honestly, with a solid sales operations foundation in place — along with the other key Blueprint pieces churning in sync with it — there is little stopping your sales teams from achieving their goals and then some.

Yet, you can guess it or perhaps you are living it: Many selling organizations lack formal sales operations. They allow different geographical locations to warrant different plans, despite having the same solutions and targets. There is miscommunication around goals and methods to reach them. There is frustration within the culture — a lack of drive or urgency to sell your solutions.

And when that happens, leadership is set up to face a number of hardships that keep the organization from reaching its goals and sustainable revenue performance.

Sales Methodologies Awry

There are many ways to sell, all that have varying benefits depending on who your buyer is and what solution(s) you have to serve your markets. Leadership can establish the “best-practice” sales methodology for your particular organization — but when this is not formalized or reinforced by the leadership team, the result is often a bedlam of miscommunication, missed opportunities and frustration for leadership and salespeople alike. This is not what is easiest for the individual salesperson but what is most successful for the united selling organization and those it seeks to serve.

Salespeople in all the Wrong Places

With too many salespeople assigned to a territory, you set your team up for missed individual quotas and an inundated market. Too few salespeople assigned a territory ripe for your solution, and you have a salesperson working 60- to 80-hour weeks, burning out and soon to look for something else, while opportunities fall through his or her overworked fingers. Sure, territory mapping and regular market analysis can be a tedious process, but without it, you suffer from dissatisfied salespeople set up to lose and potential missed opportunities — not to mention a drain from mismanaging your resources and their potential.

Incentives Salespeople Are Willing to Leave Behind

If your compensation plan is based on revenue acceleration and growth (increasing compensation based on increasing quota achievement) but your go-to-market engine operates differently (e.g. margin-driven), your salespeople will feel frustrated from an unachievable reward. While incentives are not everything in ensuring your talented salesforce remains with your selling organization, they are, arguably, the major factor. No one shows up day after day out of the goodness of their heart. They have goals, needs to serve, people to support. If your people believe their efforts are not being fairly compensated, you can be sure they will be quick to move on when the chance arrives.

No Urgency to Sell

All the talent, alignment and structure can exist in a sales organization, yet with no urgency salespeople will still be failing to meet quotas and scale goals. In too many companies, most sellers and their leaders confuse busyness with purposeful orchestration. Busyness often masquerades as activity. While activities are important — that is to say, no activity results in no sales — not all activities are equal.

Sales Operations Solutions to Win

Unified Sales Governance

Regardless if you think your sales teams across theaters compare as well as apples to cucumbers, you must make an effort to operate under the same foundation as one. Sales processes, sales cycles and sales operations frameworks cannot and do not need to line up 100% as long as there is sound and just reason. But there needs to be commonality in sales nomenclature, methodology, operational discipline and governance for the sake of your company culture and the buyers it serves.

Strategic Territory Alignment and Mapping

At Mereo, we help companies look closely at how, where and in which markets they are making their revenue. What territories do you sell to? What are the opportunities for selling in each of your territories — up-selling and cross-selling other solutions between markets? Are there better territories you have not yet explored? How many salespeople are truly needed to serve your different territories? Are there some that are struggling to make quotas due to over-commitments of resources? Finding success with sales territory requires a proper situation analysis and in-depth strategy to map out your future success.

Compelling Sales Compensation Strategy

A successful compensation strategy incentivizes and reinforces specific appropriate behaviors and results from all customer-facing professionals. These behaviors and results should help you achieve both short-term profitable revenue objectives — as well as feed into sustainable long-term growth. This is more than saying “We will just give everyone X amount of Christmas bonuses.” This is a strategic look at variables such as:

  • Your sales cycles (exponential growth / selling a product vs. sustainable operations / maintaining subscriptions).
  • Your buyer journeys.
  • Your short- and long-term organizational goals.
  • Small tweaks you can make now to review mid- or end-of-year to see their impacts.
  • Open dialogue with salespeople (what do they believe will help inspire them to sell better, sell more?)

Encourage a Culture of Urgency

Every company culture is distinctive. That is what makes it a culture. That is what makes it a good or bad fit for every salesperson. Regardless what your culture’s foundation is, every leader should be embracing the competitive nature of sellers. Lead with a “last can of soup in the cupboard” mentality balanced by steadiness and confidence. Leverage different levels and capabilities of sellers and orchestrate the collective activities of your sales team that are purposeful and not busy for the sake of busyness. Leadership can achieve this a number of ways, but the two easiest to start incorporating today are encouraging a culture of urgency through personal modeling as well as a structure of accountability.

An Operation Set up for Winning

As we have reached operational discipline No. 4 of the Mereo Blueprint™ series, let us take a step back to remember that all five of these elements work together to equip leadership and departments to take bold steps in engaging one another and working together to embrace interdependencies that exist in revenue performance.

While we gear up for Part V: Sales Enablement, we can appreciate that sales operations create a solid foundation for successful selling — yet there is more to winning or losing a sale at play here. Stay tuned for next week as we dive into sales enablement. In the meantime, please watch an interview with Selling Power’s Gerhard Gschwandtner where we discuss the key aspects at play in landing or losing sales.

What Makes a Winning versus Losing Sale