I recently interviewed Brad Reynolds, a sales operations leader who knows how to enable revenue growth in a meaningful way. Today’s topic is focused on providing a road map on how Sales Operations improves the efficiency of the sales team to increase revenue per head. It’s difficult to grow revenue faster than your industry’s growth rate and faster than your competitors. Leverage the How to Make Your Number in 2018 to access a revenue growth methodology to hit your number quarter after quarter, and year after year.
As the Director of Sales Operations and Enablement at Kimberly-Clark Professional, Brad is going to demonstrate how to improve the efficiency of the sales team. Kimberly-Clark Professional is the B2B arm of Kimberly-Clark Corporation with global brands such as Kleenex, Scott, WypAll, and Kimtech. Brad has been with Kimberly-Clark Professional the past eleven years, serving the past four years leading sales operations and enablement.
Brad is uniquely qualified to speak on this topic of sales operations. The Kimberly-Clark Professional sales team targets segments around the world such as industrial, office buildings, health care, and education with hundreds of thousands of end-users. Brad demonstrates how to improve the efficiency of the sales team.
Why this topic on this day? Sales ops has become a catch all phrase. The sales ops leader gets assigned all the work no one else wants to do. Often underfunded and understaffed, sales operations leaders fail to deliver a meaningful revenue contribution. Yet, the best growth executives understand that sales ops are the most strategic sales function in the entire company. They understand that when deployed correctly, sales ops can impact revenue growth in a very meaningful way. Do not starve this vital department. If you do you’re going to miss your revenue goal.
I have included the full transcript of my conversation with Brad, or if you prefer, listen to the full interview through an audio podcast.
As the leader of sales ops and sales enablement, let’s start at a high level, which is, what are the business outcomes that the sales operations team is charged with?
What I would say is that everyone on my team shares the same sales and profit objectives as the rest of the organization does. First, we must be there to help deliver the business results at the top line. Second, we had a sales growth agenda for North America that articulates three very clear objectives that my team is there to support. Those are, first, we support the go-to market strategy for the business. Second, we are here to help the business win with big end users so those big key accounts that drive results for us. And finally, the sales agenda is to drive a high-performance culture, so how do we make sure from a cultural form account perspective that we are in a great position to win.
Then, I would say for the sales operations teams, specifically, while we support the entire organization, we try to keep a laser focus on the sales team. I’ve stolen some verbiage from SBI from my work with your teams on this and our goal is to put the entire sales organizations in winning performance conditions and we can talk about that more as we go through this.
Very tight business outcomes tied to the strategic comparatives in the strategic outcomes of the company. I start with this question because sometimes when we’re working with your peer group, they get pulled into a lot of tactical execution and not that that isn’t important, it is. But, only if aligned with business outcome. That was a fantastic answer.
Let me come down, one level, if you will, and ask the next question, which is, what are the strategic focus areas that now tie to those desired business outcomes?
I think we have some traditional areas for sales ops team, then we have a couple that are non-traditional based on the needs of our organization as it’s evolved over the years. From a traditional perspective, we own the Go-to-market strategy. We own the care and feeding of the sales organization from a strategy perspective, that includes sales deployment, territories, and stuff like that. I have the CRM teams rolling up to me as well. They are instrumental in helping us identify the sales tools, the targets, the metrics we need to be successful.
From a sales ops manager perspective, we have rewards and recognition and the fleet and computer program, so just making sure our reps can get where they need to go and have the tools they need to do that. We have a great administrative support team for our field sales organization. I think that’s all traditional.
From a non-traditional perspective, we’ve acutely put demand generation onto our team because we have a lot of very sales focused collaborative campaigns with our distributors. We have it on my team so that we can stay focused on our distributors. Number two, we have an after the sales service team that we call the Dispenser Activation. The reason for that is, that about 60% of the deals that we close, require us to go out and install dispensers in an office building, in a hospital, in a school for you to use our products, which are towels, bath tissue, soap. You need dispensers for any of those and we have a customer facing team that manages and completes that work for us.
I love the way you dimension traditional versus non-traditional. Let me ask a follow-up question. You have demand generation as part of sales operations, which is uncommon and you explained the reason you have that is because you focus on your distributors, help my audience and myself understand how do you connect demand gen with distributors?
I would say at least half of the campaign opportunities that we have come up are joint campaigns between us and one of our distributor partners. It starts out like this, based on this list and they say, “Hey, can you help us vet this list, identify the best opportunities, and use your call center to set up appointments so that we can jointly go out and work those together?” We want to keep our marketing teams focused on our big marketing programs and delivering their marketing qualified leads and really driving their strategic outcomes and so we keep our team focused on that as well as delivering the results for the sales team that they need.
That’s an insightful approach to supporting your distributors. I think many in our audience, who sell through distributors should consider that idea. My last question for you in this segment, then we’ll take a quick break is regarding the organizational chart. Obviously, you work for a very large company in a large division inside of that company with some of the world’s most respected brands.
I would imagine that some type of matrix structure there and maybe I’m wrong, but could you explain how the sales ops team fits into the broader organizational framework?
We are heavily matrixed. If you cannot work collaboratively here, you really can’t work here. As I laid out before, we have five groups reporting up to me. Those are sales strategy and enablement, CRM, sales ops, our dispenser activation team, and then our sales support team. I think the best way to talk through how we work a matrix with the other teams is maybe to give a few examples of what we’ve done this year.
One example is, we have been working with our marketing teams to identify some sales specialist roles that are needed in some of our segments. To do that, our strategy team met with the marketers to identify the rationale, the business conditions behind the need. We worked with HR to generate job descriptions and put them at the right level. We worked with the finance team to make sure that we have funding available to pay those roles. Then, we worked with sales management to figure out where they report and how we’re going to launch and make sure those roles are successful. I think that’s one.
Another example is our dispenser activation team. We have identified that, not only as a team to get work done, in terms of installing dispensers and customers, but it’s actually a team that we can send out when a deal is about to close to show our big customers the capabilities we have in meeting their service needs after the sale. We will go out, meet with a customer, explain to them how we will get that job done for them, and then manage it for them as project managers after that. We need to meet with our forecasting team, our product supply team to make sure we have the right dispensers in the right locations to do that. We work very heavily with product management to make sure that we are getting from a quality perspective, the job done. I would say that team really works across the organization more and more every year.
Those are great examples and it really brings to light what I was trying to get at with that question, which is sales ops and sales enablement, by definition, must be fluent in all things cross-functional because you’re touching HR, sales, marketing, product, IT, finance, and twenty other areas. It really is the hub of so many of these activities and those two examples brought it to light well.
Brad, would you explain to the audience a little bit about the roles and responsibilities of the sales ops team? Most importantly, how are those determined?
I think I would go back to that traditional versus non-traditional set up that we have. For years, we have had scattered throughout our organization, people doing the role of maybe sales operations or managing CRM, or people dabbling in strategy as maybe half of their job. I would tell you that we got to the point in 2012, 2013 we did not have the consistent growth that we wanted to have as a company and we needed to do a better job of meeting our commitments to Kimberly Clarke overall. So, we decided at that point to bringing the team together as a team.
At that point, it was really CRM and sales enablement. I would just say as the needs of the organization changed, we brought sales strategy into it as well, then we added on this concept the of after the sale service or the dispenser activation team. I think that’s the best example of a team where we had one or two people managing dispenser installations as a spreadsheet exercise and then we found out that we needed people in the field, dealing directly with the customers in a customer facing way.
This is something that was originally on the marketing team, but we’ve said it needs to be on customer facing it needs to be with a team more accountable to the sales organization and we’ve done that and really had a lot of success with it. I think, by need, we brought those non-traditional roles over added them to the team in a way that we manage them as a customer facing sales organization.
Let me move on to executive reporting. It seems like the sales ops team is charged with helping the executives make educated business decisions by giving them the information that they need. Often, this falls with sales ops to handle the executive reporting. Particularly things like dashboards, etc. Tell the audience a little bit about what you do there?
We manage at Kimberly Clarke Professional using lean management principles, we do a lot of visual management that we update on a weekly or a monthly basis, depending on the need. What we have on my team, specifically, is I have a scorecard that we update monthly. I have five groups reporting up to me and each one of them have four or five metrics that are key to our team results that they are responsible for updating monthly on to my scorecard. We rate every one of those metrics red or green. Then, if we have two red months in a row, we are required to act on that. We either sit down and have a meeting to fix it ourselves, if it’s that simple, we elevate it, if we need help with it, or we press the emergency button and go a couple of levels up and request a team to come in and help us if it’s something that we can’t fix by ourselves.
I will tell you it’s been a very effective and it is my bible that I carry around with me and I use it in almost every meeting to share with other teams what’s important to us and how we’re doing on a year-to-date basis. Then, I would say, of those 20-25 metrics, I elevate five of them to my boss and she elevates two of those to our North America president and they show up on his scorecard and are updated monthly as well. We really take that lean principle of, try to keep it to a limited set, but elevate the most important ones and share with everybody how you’re doing.
I think what’s brilliant about what you’re doing is, the visual management of it. Simple color coding, red and green. Red two months in a row, we got to do something about it. I think sometimes when numbers are on a spreadsheet, if you will, they don’t tell the story as much as visual management would do. That’s a best practice that I hope everybody is following.
I want to talk to you a little about sales analytics, specifically, three types of analytics. I’m going to speak directly to the audience here. The first type of sales analytics is descriptive analytics. What that does is that describes accurately, what’s happened in the past. The second type is diagnostic analytics, which tells you why what happened in the past happened, answers the why question. Then you get to predictive analytics, which says, “Okay, if things continue, this is what’s likely to happen in the future.” In the fourth step is prescriptive analytics, that says, “Now that I know what’s likely to happen in the future, if I don’t like the expected outcome, what can I prescribe as a set of actions to change the outcome before it happens?”
Brad, educate the audience a little about where you are in your implementation or journey around sales analytics.
Sure. I’ll go back to that 2012, 2013 time frame. We were reactive at that point and I would say a little bit dysfunctional. We were the classic organization that would say, “Hey the quarter is almost up, we want to be able to predict to our leaders how we’re going to finish the quarter, everybody pulls out their spreadsheets and send it in email to tell us how you’re going to finish the quarter.” It created a fire storm of work on a quarterly or bi-annual basis that was not that productive for us.
We had the salesforce.com system already in house and we had it since 2010, but we weren’t really using it that productively and it was because the sales team didn’t understand the value of it and the people in our headquarters didn’t really use it to get the answers they could get from it. I would say we were reporting information, we were relatively accurate with it, but it was sometimes after the fact that we were reporting it. It was descriptive, it was reactive, and we wanted to do a better job.
We did a re-launch of salesforce.com in early 2014 and we managed it like a change management project. With that, we started with the why for the sales team. We made sure we had sales leaders on board with that and they were leading the message for us. We required to get rid of all the spreadsheets that were out there, all the ancillary spreadsheets. We said, “From now on, we are managing in this system, with these dashboards, and we’re going to have monthly calls where we give the information that’s needed to all levels of leadership so that they can guide their teams.” I’m not going to tell you it’s perfect, but I’m going to tell you we have come a long way and we have people inside and in the field using that as a tool to run the business, which feels good compared to where we came from.
You were reactive before doing this. The goal is now to be proactive. Are you proactive at this point?
We use our monthly visual management meetings to basically say, “How are we doing?” So, there’s a reactive part, where we’re looking back saying, “Did we hit our targets?” But, where we’re proactive is we’ve now got three or four years of data where we know what good looks like. We can take our sales team and we can segment them into the top 20% of performers, the bottom 20% of performers, and the middle 60. We can go out to our sales team, and we do this at each of our annual sales meetings. We call it the Metrics that Matter and we say the top 20% do things that look like this, the middle 60% do things that look like that, so decide where you want to be. Those are the types of things you need to do to be successful in this organization.
Regarding systems architecture, you mentioned previously you use salesforce.com but maybe share with the audience a little bit more about the system architecture that you have in place there.
We are a salesforce.com shop and we’ve run it since 2010. I’d say we run it effectively since 2014 and we have a strong partnership with Sales Force and appreciate that. We manage our sales force dashboards as much as we can. I think throughout our sales leadership group, we are using the sales force dashboards as a predictive way to manage the activities and coach the team. Internally, because we sell so much through distributors, 98% of our sales go through distributors, we find that we need to match up distributor rebate information that we get through SAP, and match that up with our salesforce.com information to determine what the truth is. So, sales force is a predictive tool for us and business intelligence data coming out of SAP is the evidence of that.
When we generate reporting, upward through the organization, we need to have a tool that can help us match up the sales force data with the SAP data and we use Tableau a lot for that. We might use excel, depending on the nature, but we have different reporting tools based on the need. Our main data sources are BI and our salesforce.com and we commonly use Tableau for complex reports to report that out to our sales team. I would say that’s primarily what we’re running here.
Let’s move on to forecasting accuracy. How do you make sure your forecast is accurate?
This is an interesting one, because really, for us, the closed won new business in sales force is a forecast for us because we then must sell everything through distribution and see the evidence of that through rebates. Our monthly closed sales are a forecast of what’s to come in the following months. Through 2013, we incented our sales team on what they reported in sales force but we did not have any checks on that. As you can imagine, what happened from that is that we had very high reported net sales, closed won new business and paid a lot of incentive on that. But, when we did a check, we found out that our accuracy on what was reported on that, was about 25%.
I’m going to tell you, this is on 100,000,000+ new business.
It was important. Okay, so what we did is we added in a new concept that we call realization where we use our system’s architecture to match up what comes in through rebates to what was reported in sales force. And we really managed hard on realization and we changed incentives so that incentive was no longer paid on what was reported in sales force, but what we measured thorough realization.
One of our strongest distributor partners told us that they’ve been doing something similar for years and that they believe best class was 75%. We set that out as a four-year target and I will tell you we got really close faster than that. So, 2013, we were 25%, 2014, we went to 42, 2015, we went up over 60%, and in 2016 we are in the high 60’s now. We are proud of the work that we’ve done in saying, “It’s not what’s recorded in sales force that matters the most, it’s actually what we realize to the P&L as a business.” Tracking through to that has been a change management experience of itself, but it’s been very positively received in the results of the business.
What a great story. From a 25% accuracy rate to a high 60% accuracy rate, in a relatively short time period. I know that seems probably when you were going through it, it probably seems like a century or so, but it was just a couple three years. That type of measured improvement is remarkable. That’s inspirational and something for all of us to strive towards. I think forecasting accuracy remains a challenge for many. I’m glad to see that you guys can pull it all the way through to the P&L. Just one more question for you, because we’re getting close to running out of time here. That’s regarding pipeline management. Share with the audience a little bit about your process to manage the pipeline.
Again, we use visual management to do that and because a lot of our sales organization is remote, my team prepares reports for the district managers and for our directors of sales that are updated in Tableau daily. They can go in at any moment, bring up their team’s report, it gives them a guided, I think it’s about 10 or 12 slides that walks them through their updated situation in terms of their pipeline, their new business they’ve generated, the big deal results, and our customer loyalty results that we’re aiming for. The fact that we’re able to give them all that up-to-the-moment report means that they can have their meeting any day of the month that they want.
We have district managers have meetings with their teams, our directors of sales have the same meeting with their district managers, the VP of sales with the directors of sales and yesterday, our VP of sales had his pipeline report with our North American President. We start at that level and we ladder the metrics and the measurements all the way down so that we’re all looking at the same things.
The idea of benchmarking is to collect a body of knowledge and stand on the shoulders of those that have come before us so that we all can get smarter. Brad provided a big contribution to our field.
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