- More than three decades in the high-technology software industry – leading, advising or consulting with 30 companies, most with less than 100 people at the time.
- Senior executive responsibilities across sales, business development, services, support, product and marketing functions for start-ups, early stage and public software companies.
- All 6 Best Practices
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Sales Operations Strategy & Management
In a time of dizzying change, businesses are undergoing transformations in ways large and small. Successful sales operations are changing with them, embracing new models, processes and customer demands.
One fundamental, however, hasn’t changed, but has instead become more critical than ever: Sales organizations must be completely aligned with the overarching strategy of their business, which for most companies is top-line revenue growth.
This means building and maintaining a sales operation that aligns, across all functions, to deliver against this goal. It requires building a set of operating structures and processes that while complete and capable of addressing complex issues, are still simple enough for a sales team to comprehend and embrace in its day-to-day habits.
These structures and processes must track with the five essential elements of the customer life cycle: engage, transact, fulfill, support, and renew. These are the baseline behaviors required of a sales operation to bring a product into the marketplace and sustain it over time.
To accomplish an organization’s customer life cycle, there are six core components of a scalable sales operations strategy that must be in place:
- Business models: What business structures, sales channels, pricing and discounting make up your go-to-market strategy?
- Sales channels: How do you define your sales channels, contracting methods and go-to-market partners Key to this includes how you recruit, enable and engage with your channels to ensure they can market, sell and support the product into their targeted customers.
- Customer segmentation: How does your organization segment its target markets? Central to this effort for B2B businesses are elements like geography, industry, account size, buying role and use cases for the solution.
- Sales process: What is your explicit process for executing your selling efforts? It’s critical to document this so you can train sales teams and build scalability out to self-sufficient field organizations.
- Demand generation: What are the marketing activities that drive customers further into a relationship with the vendor, leading to a purchasing activity?
- Compensation: Do you have a well-defined plan of incentives that reward employees for achieving company objectives and their specific responsibilities?
With these components in place as a foundation, you are ready to build the framework of behaviors and metrics that enable your employees and the sales team to move customers through the customer life cycle:
- Engage: Communicate need to your target customers. Create awareness, build interest, educate.
- Transact: The customer evaluates and decides. Negotiation takes place, the actual purchase happens.
- Fulfill: Solution delivery occurs. How is the solution implemented? What's the pilot process? How is it deployed? How does it work? How is cash collected?
- Support: How does the company provide technical or customer support? How does the team deliver on making customers successful with the solution?
- Renew: Is the product renewed/updated on some frequency? How do you extend your position with the client and do upsell and cross-sell? How do you turn it back into a renewal cycle to start all over again?
As your company grows, this five-element framework of engage, transact, fulfill, support, and renew can grow to be more complex as new processes are developed within each. In larger organizations, many of the detailed tasks required may become functions unto themselves. You may create teams that focus on marketing, market research, public relations, business development and early lead management, training, customer support, and on and on.
When companies are small, a simple structure is required. As it grows, then more complexity can be added. By focusing on top-line revenue growth, across all elements of the customer life cycle, an executive team has the best opportunity to design and build its organization for growth and enable it to scale efficiently, even in times of rapid growth.
- Define the value you want to create: for most companies, top-line revenue growth.
- Establish your core foundation: business model, sales channels, target segmentation, sales process, lead generation and compensation approach.
- Build your framework of behaviors around a focus on all customer life cycle processes: engage, transact, fulfill, support, and renew.
The above are the fundamentals for creating a successful sales strategy and operation. Even in an ever-changing business environment, they will position you for success if you follow certain Best Practices in execution:
- Create a clearly-depicted operating model and explain it to your employees in a way they can understand. Make sure everyone in the organization understands the customer life cycle stages of engage, transact, fulfill, support, and renew.
- Conduct an annual review of the value drivers of the business.
- Create a sales plan that is aligned with the company’s defined goal for value creation.
- Conduct a periodic review of sales metrics across functional teams.
- Develop a systematic way to assess your team’s alignment along the core factors for revenue.
- Build a system for predicting revenue based on the way your unique business operates.