I am being asked this question a lot. I work with CEOs, and their sales and marketing leaders.  They are an impatient group. “It” refers to the deliverables associated with the sales effectiveness project. Things like head count plans, compensation and quotas, methodologies, etc.

 

I typically get asked this when a customer buys our Sales Productivity Benchmark. There is something about this offering. When a customer sees it they say, “I want one.  

 

See for yourself what all the fuss is about. Get a copy of our Sales Productivity Benchmark here. Learn how to determine if you are better than the typical sales team.

 

My response is often “at what point are you in your sales year?” 

 

I usually hear something like “Q2”, or a month, such as “October.” This is a response from a leader who treats sales improvement programs as an event. This is also an incorrect response. Sales effectiveness is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing, cyclical business improvement process.    

 

I recommend turning one-time sales effectiveness programs into cyclical business processes. There are two ways to do so: 

 

  1. Proactively
  2. Reactively

 

Proactive programs are initiated by a leader to get ahead. They tend to focus on a small number of well choreographed improvement initiatives.

 

Reactive programs are initiated by external events. For example, a chronic underperformance from the sales team. Or, an attack by a competitor. They are often very large with many improvement initiatives, performed in chaos.

 

The best sales organizations institutionalize proactive sales effectiveness programs. This gets accomplished by turning sales effectiveness programs into a cyclical business process

 

Here is an example of a Proactive Cyclical SFE Program Calendar:

 

proactive sales improvement cadence

 

This approach allows for sales improvements year after year. It is standard operating procedure.

 

In contrast, here is an example of a Reactive Cyclical SFE Program Calendar:

 

reactive sales improvement cadence

 

You can see many sales improvements happening at once, in a somewhat chaotic way.  External events have a way of forcing us to do things we don’t want to do. Sales effectiveness, done this way, is not fun. This can be avoided. 

 

In this example, “Top of Funnel” initiatives include items such as Buying Process Maps.  Change in any top of funnel item will necessitate change to many of the mid-to-bottom funnel items. And so on down the line it goes.

 

Three things to note from both approaches to the sales calendar:

 

  1. Both begin with a sales benchmark. It is a poor decision to change anything without a baseline.
  2. Both usually begin in July and end in December.
  3. Both extend benchmarking into post-launch QBR (quarterly business review) benchmarking.

 

The primary difference between the two is focus. A proactive cyclical SFE sales calendar works on a small number of things each year. A reactive cyclical SFE sales calendar works on multiple things in parallel.

 

The goal is to get to a proactive calendar. This way the question of “when do I get it” can be put into proper context.  For example, working on comp plans in May might not make sense. But, if you are on a calendar fiscal, it does make sense in October. Companies who institutionalize SFE into a cyclical business process force their competitors to be reactive. By forcing your competitors into chaos, you will beat them. 

 

A reactive sales calendar cannot be avoided at times. For example, there are many trigger events that dictate it. A global recession can force you to be reactive. A loss of a major customer might cause a reaction as well. When this happens, it is perfectly acceptable to switch from proactive to reactive.

 

3 key take aways:

 

  1. Start all calendars with a benchmark. Here is an example of our Sales Productivity Benchmark.
  2. Convert your sales effectiveness program into a cyclical business process. One-time events are not very helpful.
  3. Get your team together before July. Review with them the two examples in this article. Draw your version on the white board.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Greg Alexander

Leads the firm's focus on the CEO’s role in accelerating revenue growth by getting the product team, the marketing department, and the sales organization into strategic alignment.
Learn more about Greg Alexander >

Greg is the host of The SBI Podcast, the most listened to sales and marketing podcast on the internet.

 

He is the host of SBI TV, a monthly television program broadcast on the internet featuring top B2B sales and marketing leader sharing their strategies to grow revenues.

 

Greg is the Editor-in-Chief of The SBI Magazine, the leading B2B publication focused on sales and marketing effectiveness.

 

He is the author of two critically acclaimed books Topgrading for Sales and Making the Number.

 

Greg has authored over 100 articles on SBI’s award winning blog, The SBI Blog.

 

He graduated from The University of Massachusetts Amherst with a BA in English and received his MBA from Georgia Tech.

 

Video:

 

Transforming the Sales Organization inside Fortune 500 Companies

Greg Alexander and John Gleason, Chief Sales Officer of Ryder, talk about the unique challenges of transforming a sales team inside of very large enterprises.

 

A Better Way to Structure Your Sales Force

Greg Alexander and Tony Capucille, Chief Sales Officer at Heartland Payment Systems, discuss the pros and cons of the 7 B2B sales organizational models.

 

Build a team of A Players Inside the Sales Organization

Greg Alexander and Todd Cione, Chief Revenue Officer at Rackspace, talk about hiring, onboarding, and developing exceptional sales talent.

 

Articles

 

Fill Every Role on Your Team with an A Player

In this article, Greg Alexander makes the case for applying the TopGrading methodology to the sales team, and outlines how to do so.

 

What CEOs Need to Know About Their Marketing Strategies

In this article, Greg Alexander and Rashid Skaf, CEO of AMX, discuss the role the CEO plays in crafting a company’s marketing strategy.

 

What CEOs are Looking for in a Sales Leader

In this article, Greg Alexander and George Norton, leader of Heidrick & Struggles Chief Sales Officer practice, discuss what CEOs need in the chief sales officer role.

Read full bio >