How to Build a Modern Sales Organization

Over the last couple years, there’s been a rapid shift to buy all sorts of sales technology purchased under the premise that it would help magically unlock sales results. But the pendulum is shifting back a bit towards supporting the basic fundamentals of sales and sales management and settling into what it takes to create a truly “modern”, high growth sales organization.

Companies who got a little too aggressive on buying sales tech are realizing that to scale their company, they can’t forget the basics – improved training of salespeople, enabling front line sales managers to be better coaches, and managing their salespeople around a common set of metrics. No matter what amazing sales tech you use, if your salespeople aren’t consistently prospecting, having client meetings and sending out proposals, your sales numbers will suffer.

Now I’m not saying scrap it all and go old school on selling. That’s a huge mistake, because the world of selling is vastly different today than it was even a couple years ago, let alone 10 to 15 years back. I like to summarize the changing world of sales as a triangle with three parts.

  • The Buyer: In the old world, buyers were beholden to salespeople for any and all information. They didn’t really trust salespeople. In the modern world, the buyer is in control. They’ve done their research, read all the customer reviews, have a sense of how much your service costs, etc. They expect a salesperson to be more of an educator that shepherds them through the rest of their buying process.
  • The Seller: The seller used to be more of a lone wolf, didn’t like to use technology, and was hyper competitive (to a fault) with their peers. Today’s millennial sales person wants constant feedback, wants a real time view into how they’re doing, adapts to technology faster than their company, and collaborates with their peers so they can all get better together.
  • The Sales Manager: The front line sales manager is crucial to allowing a company to effectively navigate through all this change. A team of good salespeople quickly suffers and fails when they have a weak manager. The old school sales leader who was all about steak dinners, closing meetings and a Rolodex of contacts isn’t going to cut it. Today’s sales leader helps their salespeople be good educators for their buyers, is a metrics driven coach, encourages collaboration and shared learning, and enables a culture of performance.

So with that background in mind, here are the keys to ensuring your sales team is really ready to scale in this modern world.

Helping Is the new Selling

This can feel like a bit of a nuance, but it’s vital. Companies need to think of their sales process as an opportunity to educate their prospects, and to help their buyers make the right decisions. Marketing needs to work closely with your sales team to develop content that helps a client move through their phases of discovery and education, and your sales team needs to have that content down cold. Old or new world, your salespeople will be competitive by nature, have a burning desire to win, and can effectively influence and persuade. But the best salespeople do that by educating, not manipulating.

Define Your Fundamental Sales Metrics

This is one that everyone seems to “get” but dramatically over-complicates, and ends up not really doing the right way, which creates significant drag in your ability to grow. With the growth of CRM and an influx of sales and marketing tech, data is coming from everywhere. You can measure and analyze anything, which means you try to measure and analyze everything!

Companies need to work with their sales team to boil down the 3 to 5 critical behaviors and activities they need to be focused on day-in and day-out. These need to be controllable by the salesperson, and serve as the leading indicators to closing business. As mentioned earlier, no matter what your sales tech stack looks like, if salespeople aren’t having conversations with prospects and creating and progressing sales opportunities, sales won’t happen. So figure out the right ones for your company, and be relentless in managing your salespeople around them. This will help you onboard new salespeople faster, identify weak points in your sales process, and get an early view into what could jeopardize next month’s sales targets.

Create Real Time Visibility

Once you have those metrics and behaviors defined, give your salespeople the real time feedback they so deeply crave. Once they understand these key measures, it helps them manage their time effectively, stay focused on what matters, and know who among their peers they can help, or who they should learn from.

The real time view is key for everyone, especially the sales manager and executives because it allows them to see when a key metric is falling off pace so they can take action. Falling behind on prospecting meetings? Even if you’re crushing this quarter’s sales number, if you don’t get that back on track, next quarter could be a challenge. Companies need to put an end to pulling sales data at the end of the quarter only to then discover that a key activity went sideways weeks ago and now it’s too late to do anything about it.

Enable Managers to be Metrics Driven Coaches

A common scenario is that front line sales managers are former top performing salespeople, so they garner quick respect from their direct reports. However, often times it doesn’t last because they just don’t know how to coach and manage people, when and how to have good one-on-ones, and what to discuss other than what’s closing this month. When you’ve defined your fundamental sales metrics and are watching them daily, you are empowering your front line sales managers to manage their people with a common set of measures. It also allows them to see how their sales team is performing, compared to other sales teams in the company. This gets front line managers learning from each other, and funnels up to the VP of Sales who can also be monitoring their sales teams in a common and aligned way.

As you build out your own “modern” sales organization, make sure you keep an eye on the fundamentals and that your sales tech stack is one that aligns with executing on those fundamentals every single day.

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Bob Marsh
Bob Marsh
Founder & CEO

Bob Marsh is Founder and CEO of LevelEleven, a sales engagement platform used by VP's of Sales to drive their transformation into a modern sales organization. High growth companies including HubSpot, Symantec, and Rocket Fuel use LevelEleven to keep salespeople focused on the behaviors that drive revenue, and help sales managers be modern, metrics driven coaches. Bob has more than 20-years of sales and sales management experience, and prior to founding LevelEleven in 2012, Bob spent more than a decade at ePrize which went from startup to more than 400 employees during his time there. Bob lives in metro-Detroit with his wife and three children.
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