All leadership says the same thing to their salespeople: “We want you to be successful.” Because when salespeople are successful, a company realizes that success through predictable revenue streams and increased profits.
Leaders want to help their salespeople achieve goals but many leaders either don’t invest enough time up front or they don’t know how to do so in a manner that will pave the way for the most success.
Let’s flash back almost two decades now. JD Edwards, then one of the top three or four providers of enterprise software, was reaching a critical juncture. The previous 18 months had seen investments in lead generation stop, all existing leads dry up and revenue drop by $200M. Something needed to change.
Through what we labeled the “Revenue Delivery System,” JD Edwards sales and marketing leadership invested in a strategic approach to drive demand generation and equip the sales team to effectively sell to targeted markets.
Market Segmentation and Past Sales Success Laid a Framework for Demand Generation
The intersection of where the company had success and where the market was headed determined where JD Edwards wanted to focus product investment, demand generation and sales enablement.
Led by the product and industry marketing teams, we ranked these two elements:
- Where have we had success in the past? (What products into what industries/market segments in what geographies?)
- Where are specific market segments headed, and where can we dominate (or at least win more than our fair share)?
The challenge we (and many businesses) had was falling into the trap of “sell anything you can to anyone” (and assume sales will continue to grow). The analogy we used was fishing. You can troll the lake hoping something bites, or you can fish in the part of the lake where the fish like your bait. The first fisherman goes hungry; the second succeeds.
The same holds true for sales. Just because you sold it once — good salespeople can sell anything once — does not mean you can sell it again. And in the software business, once you sell it once, your operational cost for building and maintaining the features that the otherwise untargeted customer in that untargeted industry requires is expensive — very expensive.
Also, it is important to focus your sales and marketing teams on generating leads and selling to customers in specific regions, in specific industry segments within those regions, and with problems your products specifically solve. For example, if you live in Houston, you are better served to invest most of your time generating leads and selling in the oil and gas industry, not consumer package goods.
Sales and Marketing Alignment
Once we understood our markets, industries and geographies — and the competitive advantage we had in each — we got busy implementing an aggressive demand generation program.
We used a simple three-step process to help integrate sales and marketing:
- Marketing created demand around targeted customer pain points to generate interest in our offering
- Marketing qualified leads through a lead-nurture process to make sure it was real and worth our sellers’ time
- Sales reviewed each lead and turned it into a sales-qualified lead, subsequently adding the lead into their pipeline commitment
Once sales learned that marketing were highly targeting customers and were pre-qualifying leads to ensure it was worth their time — they got on board.
Three months after implementing the Revenue Delivery System, sales converted 54% of marketing leads to sales qualified leads, meaning they believed the lead was good enough to put in their pipeline. The 54% is beyond industry best practice, which at the time hovered around 15% to 20%.
Sales Enablement Completes the System
While we spent countless hours and a lot of strategy and research dollars to generate high-quality leads, the strategy depended on the sellers’ follow-through.
We made sure sales was equipped to execute the strategy by implementing some critical sales enablement processes:
- Identifying and prepping sales with specific buyer problems (by buyer role or persona) and explaining how our specific product solutions met those specific needs
- Providing the sales team with industry-specific language that would resonate with the buyer (and in many cases, regionally different language across Europe, Asia, Latin American and Africa)
- Practicing strategies for discovering pain points and selling in a way that addresses those pain points
- Role modeling how to lead the conversation from pain points to JD Edwards solutions
- Educating on how to reframe objections
- Appealing to sales’ competitive nature with “How Do You Win” sheets for specific competitors
The Results Speak for Themselves
With the Revenue Delivery System, JD Edwards grew $400 million in topline revenue in two years.
This significant increase in revenue positioned JD Edwards for a premium sale price when they merged with PeopleSoft.
All the work in identifying products, industries and geographies, and building sales enablement tools simplified the integration process after the merger — making clear which products should stay and which products should be sold by what sales teams in what geographies.
This article was originally featured in the world renown sales and marketing publication Top Sales Magazine in October 2018. Download the complete magazine here.