Running a sales transformation is difficult. In our experience at SBI, we have found that the organization’s culture, increased collaboration, and focus on value creation are key levers to successfully grow revenue. Additionally, we also see innovation as being a critical lever and a higher priority for CROs. At SBI’s most recent Client Advisory Board, the use of data for decision making, need for cross-functional interlock, and understanding of how leaders can drive digital and customer experience strategy to reimagine the buyers’ journey were key topics.
Businesses have adopted a wide range of “innovations” to ensure their sales teams remain productive to generate enough revenue to keep the lights on for survival through the pandemic, and in some cases, turn a profit. The most common innovation has been going virtual where possible and where not possible, ensuring project execution within the bounds of appropriate health protocols. However, innovation in sales goes beyond ensuring employees can work remotely. It includes redesigning end-to-end enterprise-wide sales processes, rethinking how each segment of a value chain delivers on its mission in the new business climate and reexamining how account executives are managed and incentivized while having to balance family, health, and other priorities.
Learnings Have Been Traded Across Industries for a Long Time
There are numerous examples of practices being applied from one industry to another. Lean management practices started in Toyota’s manufacturing plants but are now used for software development, finance closing, and a host of other business areas. Very similar, B2C online sales practices were “borrowed” from eCommerce sites like eBay and applied to the book-shopping experience by Amazon. With their success in online book sales, Amazon’s team further developed their ideas and re-applied them to selling a wide variety of objects, from exercise gear to flowers to groceries.
How Can You Assess the Viability of New Ideas for Your Industry?
Ahead of the in-depth assessment of initiatives in sales transformations, a quick assessment of ideas can help with improving the pace of decision making:
Here is a simple framework for quickly assessing the viability of new ideas to specific Sales contexts
- WHO: Which industries and players are the best at executing the different activities in your sales processes?
- WHAT: How do they approach the same questions we face today?
- HOW: How can we apply those principles and techniques to our current sales processes? Where are the pockets of resistance in the organization that need to be adequately managed?
- IMPACT/PAYBACK: How would we measure the impact of these changes? When would investments (if any) payback?
In addition, a good next step would be an assessment of the CAPEX and OPEX impact of any initiatives or ideas that seem favorable based on the framework above.
Examples of Innovations Borrowed From One Industry To Another
Here are three examples of how other CROs adopted ideas not common in their industries to improve the performance of their sales and marketing teams.
1. Customer Success in CPG: It is very untraditional to think of customer success in the context of consumer-packaged goods. However, that is what an SBI client in the industry did. The CRO built out a CPG-focused customer success team that enabled customers to use their products more effectively. The 3rd element of the framework, how, was the focus area in their journey. In their approach, they modified their tactics to match what their customers cared about, including such elements in their marketing and customer-facing assets. The convergence of customer success and customer experience was one of the action items discussed at SBI’s client advisory board discussion. For more on the future of Customer Experience, here is a podcast with Tish Falco, veteran CX strategist.
2. Territory, Quota, and Comp Management in Financial Services: In another example, a financial services client needed to push the limit on revenue growth with its salesforce. Financial services sales reps are typically compensated on a bonus structure. For reps to earn their full on-target earnings three criteria need to be satisfied:
- Reps have to meet and/or beat quota in the period under review
- The organization has to have a good year financially
- The rep has to satisfy some difficult to quantify “culture” criteria (Read this more as a manager’s discretion)
Given these 3 stars are rarely aligned, sales rep were never happy and reportedly held back deals at the end of the financial year only to flood the sales pipeline at the start of the new fiscal year to get a jump start on their quotas. Now, the organization is considering switching to a commission-based comp structure and eliminating any caps in sales rep remuneration. Giving sales reps the incentive to always book the next deal while aligning their compensation more closely to what sales reps can control directly. Two ideas that have been applied in enterprise SaaS sales orgs for years but rarely used in the finance sector.
3. Prospecting in the Client Service Industry: Lastly, a client service organization extended prospecting responsibility beyond the traditional sellers while building customer success into its delivery mechanisms. The additional “sales hands” worked as an inside sales team. Increasing the pipeline at a time when win-rates and average deal size had fallen dramatically.
Running a sales transformation is challenging. Injecting innovation is even more difficult. With CFOs prioritizing low-risk investments, the ability to experiment and innovate is expected to slow down in the near term. Tested ideas, albeit in foreign industries, can help CROs make a case for new approaches to revenue growth. Imitating sales practices can be the best bet in making your number this year. To gain CEO and CFO buy-in on the initiatives being executed on, sharing the assessment framework is a good first step. If helpful, send me an email to brainstorm what innovation would be appropriate for your organization and to help structure your sales transformation.