Max Nirenberg delivered this talk at the Chief Revenue Officer Summit in September 2021.
I believe that developing a set of clear and scalable sales management routines is the lifeblood of any good revenue plan. In this article, I’m going to show you how we manage it at Comm-it.
When you’re growing a sales organization, it’s all about hitting big targets! If you really want to get those numbers, it’s critical that you instill efficient and effective sales management routines into your work culture.
Here’s what we’ll cover in the article:
- Four common challenges
- Things to keep in mind before you get started
- Weekly 1:1s
- Pipeline reviews
- Deal debriefs
- Building a pre-call plan
- Final thoughts
Before we start looking at solutions, let’s highlight those common problems and challenges first. 👇
1. Constantly rising targets
As you're growing a sales team, executive leadership is not going to be okay with keeping the numbers where they are. So, what’s the solution? Well, you add more people, but as you're hiring and recruiting, your targets are going to go up.
You need to be able to rely on the actual forecasts, but that can be difficult to do. Ideally, you want to have a really good sales process that you can trust, but you're always going to have varying levels of effectiveness from different contributors.
You're gonna have folks who are brand new, and what's 50% for them might not be the same as for someone who’s more experienced.
Growing creates a significant challenge for your forecasts. And not being able to trust your forecasts is a big problem.
2. Sales leadership needs to figure out which deals to focus on
Sales leadership needs to know where to kind of get personally involved. With a growing sales organization, you're going to have a large pipeline. It can be difficult to figure out which deals can really move the needle.
Obviously, you have your big deals that you're always going to focus on. But as your organization grows, it becomes more difficult to know where to focus your limited time.
3. You have too many people to micromanage
You can't work your way into hitting targets, when you have a large sales organization. There are just too many people. There are too many deals in the pipeline for you to truly get involved in every single one. Of course, this also becomes a headache for ensuring quality control.
How do you ensure that best practices are always being followed, especially when you have people of varying degrees of experience and ability.
4. There are just too many meetings
Does your calendar look like a Tetris board? We’re all familiar with the feeling. Too many internal meetings take sellers away from selling time and managing that is a really big challenge.
Obviously meetings are important to ensure quality and to ensure that everybody is aware of what our major targets are, but when sellers don’t actually have the time to implement your plans, those meetings start to seem more and more redundant.
Before you get started
There are a few things you have to have in place prior to getting started with the real subject of this article, however:
1. Consistency is key
You're going to need a CRM with a bake-in sales process that you can actually trust against forecasting. If the fundamental tools that you’re using aren’t up to scratch, you can introduce all of the best routines in the world and it’s not going to make a difference. We’re talking about sales management consulting practice here, and without a robust process, you're not going to get anywhere.
2. Adoption is crucial
You need to have a CRM that brings value to the selling community. For you to be able to trust the numbers, you're going to need people to use the CRM and they're going to need to see value in it.
3. Have a culture of accountability
When people say they're going to do something, you need to be able to hold them accountable. They need to be open to the idea of working as a team. They have to be able to hit large targets in a sales organization with a large team. To enable this, you're going to have to have a culture that's open to coaching.
So, without further delay, let’s get into those effective routines.
1. Weekly 1:1s
I think it’s important to have a structure to these meetings. Have an established agenda that you go through. That way, you can make sure that you’re hitting those essential talking points every time.
Here are some suggestions for the kind of subject it might be useful to cover:
Annual targets and performance
You should bring up annual and quarterly targets and performance goals, then you can compare seller performance against those.
Now, this might seem like overkill, but I truly believe that every sales professional should truly own their numbers and review them on a weekly basis.
Named account updates
So, you might have a set of accounts that are a key focus throughout the year, or maybe you change them every quarter. For this reason, it’s good to have a review. During your weekly one on one, that’s when you can ask your sales professionals about their named accounts.
Prospecting bucket performance
Everybody's coming up with different campaigns and initiatives. Maybe you're targeting medical today, maybe next week you might be targeting the financial sector.
Whatever it might be, I think it's a good idea to constantly review how your different creative prospecting buckets are going.
Coaching and resources
I would always ask reps about any near-term sales calls that they have coming up. Maybe they’re going to need specific resources or coaching to effectively close a deal.
This is a chance for reps to reach out to you for help and guidance.Your job is to make sure that they know you can offer the tools.
2. Pipeline reviews
We all know what they are, and we all do them, but I want to highlight a specific challenge with pipeline reviews that I've run into.
That's right. No matter how much effort you put into it, a significant proportion of those accounts just aren’t going to close. The bright side of this is that a third of them will close regardless of what you do as a sales leader.
These two factors create a significant challenge because it’s difficult to know which prospects to focus your attention and resources on. Where should you direct your attention and effort so that’s actually going to make a difference? That's the real challenge.
But before we look at anything else let’s zoom in on the purpose of a pipeline.
1. It ensures accurate forecasting.
2. It enables plans for optimization.
3. It identifies deals where sales leadership and coaching actually make a difference.
Focusing on the right deals
You have to have a formula for figuring out which deals will actually benefit from coaching and resources. Too many sales leaders spend time only discussing either the really large opportunities, or the ones that have high potential to close.
The lesson here is, focus on the deals that are going to actually benefit in one way or another from your attention. Just because a deal has high potential to close doesn’t mean it’s worth your time.
3. Deal debriefs
The first thing to understand is that this is a scheduled coaching session. It's not something that happens in between two other important calls where you sneak somebody in for five minutes. Let's look deeper at the purpose and benefit of debriefs.
Coach student/deconstruct opportunity
It’s an opportunity for the student and the coach to deconstruct the opportunity. The idea is that we can take a step back from the opportunity and really focus on what we need to do to progress it further.
“How did you get the opportunity?”, “Who are the stakeholders involved?".
These are the kind of questions that will give you an idea of where you should be focusing your efforts in closing the deal.
Micromoves and sales rep growth
These are basically different tactics or strategies that will help improve your position within the deal. This is a good opportunity for the sales rep’s personal growth. Ideally, a debrief enables a rep to improve and take that knowledge into future deals.
Providing an new perspective/ideas
As salespeople, we do sometimes find ourselves with blinders on. We're always looking for all the positive sides of how a deal can close. An outsider can provide a non-biased, more holistic view of identifying the knowns and unknowns within the deal.
Think about all the deals you’ve lost. Usually, we lose deals due to things we don’t know rather than things we do know. An outsider coaching perspective can really help to identify some things you may have missed.
You want to come away with actionable insights that will help you improve outcomes.
4. Build a pre-call plan
So, let's imagine you did a phenomenal job with the debriefing. Now that you’ve collected all of this data in a structured manner, the next thing you need to do is to build a pre-call plan.
This is where you set out your strategies, or your ‘micromoves’ for moving forward. It will enable you to leverage your ‘knowns’ and go out and find more information on your ‘unknowns.’ Want to know why a pre-call plan is worth your time? According to The Sales Expert Channel, sellers gain can gain at least a 20% bump in productivity through consistent pre-call planning.
Maybe it's saving you one day per week of not wasting time with a truly disqualified pipeline. Maybe you could do some prospecting during that time. Additionally, it could mean 20% more in your pocket. Debriefing and pre-call planning are things that can truly help you to move the needle.
5. Optimal time planning
Before we finish up, let’s take a look at how we can structure our week to accommodate these routines.
Early in the week
I believe that the 1:1 should be done early in the week.This really drives the importance of reflecting on the week that just passed, taking that knowledge, and using it to lay out the game plan for the week moving forward.
As a sales leader, it benefits you to sit down with them early in the week, review that and make sure that the game plan for the next week makes sense. You can provide coaching to make sure that they’re not going to have a wasted week.
End of the week
Pipeline reviews should be done at the end of the week. and there's a specific reason for that. I like to have clarity going into the following week. It really enables you to have a focused mindset when you’re doing our weekly planning.
You know where you stand in relation to your targets and that really gives you a solid foundation for planning your week
This is where I would place deal debriefs. Obviously, it is difficult to predict with these deals what factors are either going to benefit or hinder you closing the deal. You can speculate, but often you have to be pretty agile.
You might learn something that you hadn’t anticipated, and this is something you can factor into your debrief.
Having said that, you should try to have your debriefs be informed by your pipeline reviews as much as possible. Integrate what you’ve planned at the beginning of the week with what you’ve learned in the debriefings.
Some final thoughts
When managing a growing team of sales professionals, it’s imperative that sales management enforces a well developed cadence that is both effective and efficient.
Not only should these routines enable accurate forecasting and support rising targets for the organization, but you need to bring value to the individual contributors on the sales teams.
Standardization can only be achievable if you don't have a full blown revolt against wasting selling time in the field. Make sure your coaching and the routines you implement truly benefit sales reps and don’t eat into their selling time too significantly.
But first and foremost, you need to establish a strong coaching mindset and routines that support people getting better. Once you do that, you’ll start to hit targets in a more predictable manner. Lets build strong tools to really crush those targets! 💪