He joined the giant data center operator and Internet exchange company a little over a year ago from Stamford, Connecticut-based Frontier Communications, where, as Executive Vice President, Commercial Sales and Support, he started three new business units and developed numerous products generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
What Hayes saw in his first months at Equinix, and had seen at other employers, were a lot of meetings, reports and processes that were not in sync, making it nearly impossible to get a consolidated, global view of the business.
“Every region, and in some cases, every country, had their own process,” notes Hayes. Some would forecast bookings that came from portal orders, others would forecast price increases. Still others would leave out both elements altogether. “You couldn’t roll it all up and make sense of it,” he says.
And now our system just HUMS.
First Things First – Implementing a New Sales Process:
As a first order of business at Equinix, Hayes implemented an end-to-end sales process customized to the business with proper levels of inspection at key stages along the way. “That was critical. We had to establish a standard language, cadence and process to get everyone on the exact same page,” he says. Hayes has always valued a detailed end-to-end process that allows the entire team to examine each stage of the sales process.
In large companies like Equinix, everything needs to roll up in an automated way. It took six months to bolt down the process he initiated last year. “And now our system just hums,” Hayes says. “We standardized all the dashboards, definitions, processes and cadence. We also collaborated with all the primary stakeholders incorporating their key suggestions to ensure proper buy-in.”
Every quarter, Hayes meets with the Equinix Board to review the forecast for the current and coming quarters. To be on his game, he relies on very specific steps in the Equinix Sales Process, a series of checks and balances, and a team of people that drill into the veracity and forecast details along the way.
It starts with requiring all salespeople to use salesforce.com to track all of their deals. “We hammer it home: ‘If it’s not in salesforce.com, it doesn’t exist,’” he says.
The Equinix Sales Processs – Four Key Components:
- Sales Review: Once a week, salespeople review their deals with their manager.
- CSO Review: Every two weeks, the Regional VP of Sales reviews the forecast with Hayes, including the big deals in every region around the world.
- Executive Review: Two days after that, Hayes reviews that forecast with the executive team.
- Board Review: Finally, once a quarter, Hayes presents the forecast to the board.
Component 1 – Weekly Pipeline Review:
During the Sales Review at Equinix, asking the right questions at each deal stage leads to greater success in hitting end-of-quarter numbers. For example:
Why does the customer need the product?
Do they have the funds committed?
Who is Equinix’s competition and what are they offering?
What is Equinix’s competitive advantage?
Component 2 – Biweekly VP of Sales Review:
“In our two-week reviews, we focus on quarter-to-date performance and committed deals. Next we look at the upside…the big deals that can have a significant impact on the quarter…and determine if they’re on track,” says Hayes. “If the team needs any help, we escalate to any part of the company to improve the odds of closure.”
Deal review represents a critical part of the forecasting process. As deals move through the funnel, regional sales managers and the regional presidents look at the deals to make sure they’re sound and priced right.
“Essentially, Equinix runs the forecasting and deal reviews in parallel,” Hayes explains. At various points they intersect, because the deals go from the approved deal review into the forecasting process.
Component 3 – Execitove Team Forecast Reviews:
Hayes says the executive team review used to take more than 30 minutes, but because they’ve tightened up the process and put reporting systems in place, the conversation now takes 10 to 15 minutes tops. “We send the report in advance so the team can study it. During the meeting we discuss regional and global plans, show the ‘banana chart’ to view the trend, and we’re done.” The banana chart, a graphical representation, compares their real-time performance to the best and worst performance of the previous eight quarters.
On top of everything else, thoroughness is paramount. A lot of times, says Hayes, people move through the process too fast. “People will get the forecast in, take a look at it, say it looks okay, and then it’s ‘let’s move on,’” he says. “It’s a big mistake not to question deeply.”
To manage the unexpected during the final two weeks of the quarter, the Sales VPs do a tactical Quarterly Business Review (QBR) with sales and sales management, assuring a greater likelihood of meeting their numbers. “It gives us belt-and-suspenders coverage on our deals,” Hayes says.
During those final two weeks, the regions do a bit of a straddle: they micromanage the deals coming in over the next two weeks, while looking ahead to the first two weeks of the next quarter to see if they can pull something in.
Component 4 – CSO Presents Forecast to the Equinx Board:
Riding this strong foundation of reviews, checks and balances, and drill-down analysis, Hayes presents the forecast to the Equinix Board toward the latter half of the quarter. This comprehensive end-to-end sales process makes for a smooth Board discussion with a high level of assurance and, importantly, with no end-of-quarter surprises.
Next on the Horizon – Establishing a New Equinix Channel Program:
According to a leading business performance advisory company Corporate Executive Board, 57 percent of the purchase decision process gets completed before the customer’s first engagement with the sales organization. And consulting firm Forrester Research says that 65 percent of corporate customers are influenced by consultants whom they’re talking to while they’re making their decision. Factoring all of this in, Equinix astutely invested “very heavily” in the channel program over the last year.
“When I came on board, we primarily focused on direct selling,” says Hayes. “Now we have also become a channel organization in very rapid order.”
By building a channel program, you get into the decision-making process earlier in the selling cycle. Plus it gives you visibility into the deals that you might not have on your own.
“We’ve set up an org structure where each region has channel leads and program managers focused on each of the major channel segments,” Hayes says. “When everything’s in place, it all just flows as part of the DNA of the company.”
“Of course sales leaders still need to drive channel just like they drive the direct business with a standard language, cadence and process.” You have to build a process that becomes part of the fabric of the company and lives on,” Hayes says.
The New Buyer's DNA Decoded
In this edition, we present practical advice from CEOs, heads of sales, marketing, finance and HR. We take a look at how to adjust the hiring profile, demand generation programs, forecast and pipeline management process, sales management coaching cadence, sales methodology and the big deal inspection process.