How Sales Operations Leaders Can Drive Impact in 90 Days

By Erica Abt

Over the last few years, we’ve received an increasing number of questions about how to structure and/or optimize sales operations and enablement roles, while also observing an increase in the decision influence and authority of these roles. As such, we recently embarked on a project to document what success looks like for Sales Ops leaders, including how they can effectively drive impact in their first 90 days on the job. The culmination of this project is an eBook, "A Sales Operations Leader's First 90 Days", which includes a supporting set of frameworks and tools to help Sales Ops leaders establish quick wins and longer term strategy.

Through our project, we interviewed numerous sales operations, enablement, and effectiveness leaders from a variety of industries and sizes of companies in the US and UK. We collected a significant amount of feedback across strategic, organizational, process, technology, and skills-related considerations.

Read more for a high-level overview of our eBook, including a summary of the recommendations and tools we've developed. Each tool links to a download of our eBook and toolkit.

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Are You an “Operational” Sales Leader?

By Masami Middleton

As sales consultants, we often say that great sales leaders demonstrate three things consistently: 1) They are great sellers, 2) They are great coaches, and 3) They are great operators.

Sadly, top sellers promoted to sales managers do not magically demonstrate all three. This is why we see and talk regularly about the “Peter Principle” in sales, where sales leaders "rise to their level of incompetence".

Of these three traits, which do you think is most lacking?  Most would probably debate between traits #2 and #3.  Let’s look at it from the manager’s point of view:

  • Great Seller: “I am a great seller, that’s why I got promoted - duh.”
  • Great Coach: “I have good relationships with my team; I can teach them how to be successful.” (Red flag – what made you successful does not necessarily make everyone successful.)
  • Great Operator: “What do you mean by ‘operator’?” (Red flag - Not many are thinking about how to run a winning sales team.)

We have written a lot about issue #2, on sales coaching.

In this blog, we focus on trait #3, on successfully operating a sales team. (Which by default improves your sales coaching impact).

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Why Using Behavioral Assessments to Hire Sellers Requires Caution

By Hope Eyre

I drive too fast. This according to approximately 11 police officers and my boss, who recently banned me from renting cars and made taking Uber a condition of my continued employment. (In Dallas on business, I dutifully delivered him to DFW in a Dodge Challenger with a Hemi engine and evidently he had issues with his passenger experience.)

So what can we predict about my behavior the next time I’m behind the wheel? That depends on a number of factors, some of them random. I’ll get to how this relates to hiring sellers in a minute.

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3 Essential Considerations When Restructuring Your Sales Team

By Joni Santos

Consider this scenario: Your company is in growth mode and has acquired several smaller players in your space in recent years. The newly combined selling organization is a mess. Not only are multiple reps calling on the same customers, but it is evident that some sellers are focused on accounts with minimal potential, while others don’t even appear to have the skills necessary to sell and deliver on your value proposition. You aren’t seeing the results you expected and are under pressure to rectify the situation before you lose more market share.

A reorganization of your salesforce is necessary, but where do you start? And how do you ensure you are making decisions that will maximize impact and not just “rearrange the deck chairs,” so to speak? 

Whether you are merging disparate sales teams into one or merely restructuring your team to compete more effectively, a reorg can be quite daunting. Truthfully, there are many “balls” to juggle when restructuring, but if you stay focused on the three essential considerations of alignmentsize, and enablement, you’ll end-up with a sales organization poised for success.

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Going for the WIN, Not the A+, in B2B Sales

By Rachel Cavallo

I admit it, I was that kid in school.  I sat in the front row, and I generally had my hand raised.  I studied every night and wouldn’t dream of coming to school unprepared.  Straight As were important to me, and I would do anything to keep my teachers or parents from seeing me unprepared or not in “straight A” form… 

Fast forward a few years (okay maybe more than a few), and I’ve had a realization working with a lot of awesome “type A” sales professionals … the real world of B2B sales is not at all about getting straight A’s – it’s about getting numbers on the board, and many of the things you have to do to win are completely contrary to straight A habits.

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The Chronicles of Account Planning: The Lion, the Whip, and the Chair

By Hope Eyre

The Good Old Days

In the 90s, when I was selling instead of consulting, I did a lot of account planning. You know, that thing where you and your account team get in a room, usually in Q1, and talk about the sales opportunities you’ll pursue at specific customers during the next fiscal year.

I learned my craft at SAP, and to be sure, our process was disciplined – with the exception of one episode involving dry erase markers that smell like their colors (one finds amusement where one can at a German company).

Our account plans were things of beauty, right down to the color-coded Harvey balls we used to visually denote the health of our selling relationships with decision makers.

The first iteration (building a new plan from scratch) took an agonizingly long time, as much as a full week of running down information for a complex customer:

  • What’s the customer’s corporate strategy?
  • Have there been leadership changes?
  • Did they acquire or divest?
  • What are the trends in their industry or changes to their market dynamics?
  • Who listened to the last analyst call; what did they say?

When we were done, we’d wrap our plan in pretty paper, tie it with a bow, and deliver it to our Sales VP in a formal presentation that solemnly conveyed the highly disciplined client strategy we intended to execute as a result of the entire process.

Then we went back to our day jobs.

It was an annual ritual as old as selling itself. We would check the box on planning, then thank our relative deities that no one would be uttering the “P” word for another 12 months. Time to get back to work; someone might buy something today.

Why didn't we ever make the connection between planning, client strategy development, execution, and winning?

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Sales Coaching: To Bear Fruit, Build on the Fundamentals

By David Szen

If you’re like most sales managers, your inbox is crammed with the latest and greatest coaching secrets. Each year, hundreds of books and workshops promise new techniques to help your sales team exceed its targets, out-sell the competition, and generate greater-than-ever revenues.

But let’s get real: year after year, does the art and science of coaching actually change all that much?  Has selling evolved in a way that requires a brand new perspective every cycle?

We think not. In fact, we’ve come to see successful sales coaching as more incremental than transformative. It’s like tending an orchard. Tree farmers read up on new techniques in irrigation, fertilization and pest control, but the essentials – the best practices – evolve. Same with sales coaching: While new models and methods can be useful, sales leaders who build on the fundamentals are likely to get the best results.

If you have one bad harvest, you don’t uproot your entire orchard; you go back to the ABCs, make small-but-continual improvements based on new knowledge, maybe prune a few under-performers – and pretty soon your efforts will bear fruit.

But what does an effective sales coach look like? And what are the basics of the discipline?

In this blog, we look at the fundamentals of sales coaching – the traits of great coaches, coaching to the bell curve, and managing sales reports.

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Back to the Future – The B2B Sales Imperative

By Warren Shiver

“Whoa, this is heavy…There's that word again; "heavy." Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the earth's gravitational pull?" -- Back to the Future

A recent HBR article, The New Sales Imperative got me thinking about the classics. Seems like the “new” B2B sales imperative looks a lot like the old one. It reminds me of NBC’s great slogan in the 1990’s when they would show reruns of their must-see lineup on Thursday nights (the era before Netflix, streaming, etc.), “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.”

I’m not quite sure of the original source, but we were working with sales teams to define their buyer-aligned sales process with supporting “customer evidence” back at OnTarget in the late ‘90s for clients, such as Microsoft, IBM, and HP. There are reasons that good ideas are enduring, especially in sales where there are such clear scorecards.

Back to the Basics

We are often asked about the latest sales trends and pushed by clients, especially those focused on Learning & Development, to offer the latest sales technique, program, or approach. Increasingly, we are recommending a back-to-basics approach for many of our clients.

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5 Steps to Sales Onboarding Success

By Joni Santos

How can you design an effective onboarding program for sellers that accelerates their time to productivity, while reducing employee turnover? In our recent blog post, the Case for Sales Onboarding, we highlighted the sobering data around seller turnover, departure costs, recruiting costs, lost revenue, and new seller ramp time. We also emphasized the importance of establishing desired outcomes and milestones for a seller onboarding program, defining success according to five C’s: Clarity, Connections, Comprehension, Confidence, and Contribution. 

As each ‘C’ builds upon the last, you can implement them as you would follow steps in a process, recognizing that the journey may not always be clean and linear.  In this post, we expand on how to apply the 5 C's of Sales Onboarding Success.

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5 Must-Haves to Nail Your Sales Kick-Off Meeting

By David Szen

A Sales Kick-Off meeting (SKO) is a huge investment for any company gathering more than 100 sellers in one place to gear up for a new year. In our experience participating in myriads of SKOs, we have seen an unfortunate disconnect between what companies think they’re delivering versus what their sales teams are actually taking away. While companies leave their SKOs believing their sellers are energized and educated, attendees often view the experience as a three-day string of mundane sessions, offering little or no tangible takeaways to use in their sales activities going forward.

What are the elements that make a great Sales Kick-Off meeting and what are the pitfalls to avoid?

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