All posts by Quincy Darbyshire

The Sales Ops Hierarchy of Needs

I was recently talking with a friend who runs Business Operations at a successful company in Boston about how large companies spend months on Sales Planning. To him, so much planning seemed unpractical – he fights so many fires daily in his 200-person business, that he can’t think regularly about the long term.

Really? I thought. Are you serious? If you are not thinking about the long term, how do you know what decisions to make today?

If you are not thinking about the long-term, how do you know what decisions to make today?

His is a common thought, though, and one we are seeing across the country at our Sales Ops events, in sales conversation, and in supporting our customers. Bottom line: Sales Operations is overwhelmed with day-to-day fires and unable to think strategically about the long term.

But why is this? Why do we regularly tie ourselves up in data weeds when there are important strategic things to consider?

One answer for this comes from a mid-century psychologist named Abraham Maslow.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of (Human) Needs

In 1943, Maslow created a framework that took over the psychology world, and which we still use today. His theory organizes human needs into a set of five progressive categories, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. These categories are Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem, and Self-Actualization.

Maslow’s idea is that an individual or society’s lower level needs must be satisfied and fulfilled before they/it can move onto a higher need, and that moving up the hierarchy is a persistent goal for everyone. For instance, a person needs to attend their food and shelter before thinking about safety, which comes before love/belonging, esteem, and then self-actualization.

This theory makes a lot of sense (it has, after all, stood strong under more than six decades of scrutiny), and maps directly with a new theory from fullcast.io – the Sales Ops Hierarchy of Needs.

Fullcast.io’s Sales Ops Hierarchy of Needs

Similar to Maslow, a hierarchy of needs defines Sales Operations. These needs are: Data, Sales Software, Policies/Business Rules, Performance Analysis, and Strategy & Planning. As pictured below, these needs are progressive, with the foundations of each need dependent on those underneath.

Let’s dive deeper into each.

Data

It’s safe to say that without data – accounts, contacts, firmographic information, news events  – sales  and sales operations teams would struggle. No one to call, nothing to analyze, nothing to organize – it’s impossible to succeed! For this reason, the foundation of any sales or sales operations team is data.

However, not just any data will do.

There’s a saying in the data science world of “garbage in, garbage out,” meaning that if you’re using bad data to make a decision (garbage in), you’ll make a bad decision (garbage out). Harvard Business Review wrote about this recently, sharing that 80% of a data scientist’s time goes to cleaning data in order to run an analysis. In sales and marketing, this is for good reason – SiriusDecisions estimates between 10 and 25% of marketing databases have critical errors, and that while it only takes $1 to verify a record as it’s entered, it costs a company $10 to cleanse and dedupe and $100 if nothing is done.  Their research shows that good data can mean as much as 70% higher revenue.

So, Sales Operations needs good data to start – accounts with correct firmographic information, contacts with phone numbers that actually work, emails and physical addresses for each. Without good data, a sales organization can’t function, but WITH it, that business can start working on where to put it – software.

Sales Software

With a strong foundation of data, needs turn to Sales Software. Software tools are a sales team’s workhorse for organizing data and logging tasks. They also standardize a team’s experience, allowing operational changes to happen at a large scale.

Sales Software is not simple. At our recent Sales Ops Summit, tech analyst Nancy Nardin from Smart Selling Tools put some data behind the adoption of CRM systems – 76% of companies use them, but satisfaction levels are below a 4/5. Similarly, there are over 600 different point solutions out there that help some part of the sales or sales operations job, but which come with their own challenges of enablement and integration.

And what happens when you don’t have your systems set up properly? Loss of productivity for sales, no process standardization for analyzing trends, and costly operations specialists to keep software running all put additional weight on your operating costs. This is the case regardless of whether you have good data or policies, but get increasingly worse if you don’t.

But a good software setup with good data? It allows for movement up the hierarchy, to Policies/Business Rules.

Policies

We’ve covered policies in past blog posts, defining why they are important and the general process for creating them. To summarize those posts, policies are the rules by which we run our business, set up our software, and manage day-to-day operations. In sales operations, policies include routing rules for new leads, account hierarchy logic, handoffs from marketing to sales to customer success, and many more. With these policies, individuals and teams run smoothly because they understand the rules of the road.

Policies, however, are not always good. A policy that requires an inordinate amount of data entry before a rep can create an account, for example, may lower the rep’s productivity below the value of actually having better information. Similarly, a sales process with  bad sales policies may lengthen the sales cycle and significantly increase the cost of sales! So, it’s extremely important to consider WHY you’re implementing a policy and specifically WHAT DATA you have to justify it. Again, as stated above, you need to have good data to make policy decisions.

Good policies, once created, allow you to properly organize your teams, systems, and processes. They allow you to take the next step up the Sales Hierarchy of Needs, to Performance Analysis.

Performance Analysis

Performance Analysis requires answering two questions for a company: “How did we do?” and “Why did it happen that way?” It’s the final part of the Sales Ops Job Cycle, the final step of Sales Planning for Growth, and provides the critical retrospection needed to make informed decisions. If a company performed poorly in a certain area, identify and eliminate the reasons it did poorly. For areas where there has been improvement, double down on the driving efforts.

Good performance analysis needs four things:

  • Subordinate Hierarchy Needs: Good Data, Software, and Policies to properly analyze performance (see sections above).
  • True North Metric: One specific metric that, at the end of the day, shows performance of the business. All other business metrics would role up under this one (e.g. “Attainment” consists of “Quota” and “Bookings,” which in turn consists of a host of underlying metrics).
  • Data-Driven Culture: A company that analyzes regularly, shares analysis regularly, and constantly asks “so what?” from that analysis.
  • Qualitative Input: Input from people out there in the front lines. Never make an assumption on a data point without the perspective from someone who created it.

Without these things, analysis is potentially biased or incomplete. With them, though, a business can step up to the “self-actualization” equivalent: Strategy & Planning.

Strategy & Planning

Similar to Policies, we have talked a lot about Strategy & Planning. For reference, here is a blog post breaking down who, what, when, and how, and a workshop presentation we put together with Salesforce’s Vice President of Strategy & Operations.

Strategy & Planning is the top of the Sales Operations Hierarchy of Needs. Here, Sales Operations drives a business’s strategy, identifying where the company is going in the long term and setting up steps to get there successfully. Strategy & Planning sits on top of Data, Policies, Systems, and Analysis, relying on properly addressing each subordinate hierarchy level. Skip one step, and your strategic vision is at best incomplete and at worst ineffective. But get everything right, and your sales team hums with efficiency and moves with agility in the right direction.

Similar to Maslow’s “self-actualization” summit, it is a constant struggle to spend time on Strategy & Planning, as my friend in Boston expressed at the beginning of this post. With all of the issues that exist in every subordinate hierarchy layer, upward mobility is a challenge! Even large successful companies like Salesforce struggle here,  if my experience says anything. Still, they and all companies strive to make it a constant thing.

Summary

Just like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the one for Sales Operations symbolizes a never-ending pursuit to  do more strategic work while regularly caught in painful operational minutia. As career Sales Operations professionals, we at fullcast.io have experienced this pain firsthand, and now spend our time creating solutions to help our customers move upwards.

Do you feel like your company is spending too much time in the lower levels of the Sales Ops Hierarchy, or are you interested in moving up? Reach out! We would love to talk to you.

Enjoyed this post? Check out these others!

Linking Planning to Execution: The Challenges and the Solution

Ask anyone in sales strategy and operations, and they’ll tell you – one of the biggest challenges we have is connecting our strategy and planning with our execution. We come up with an effective plan, having considered all possible scenarios and identified all challenges before laying out the perfect go-to-market strategy, and then we struggle with actually implementing it! Or, we’re so busy tied up in executing and see planning as only adding more challenge, a challenge that we never actually get time to do the planning in the first place! This might show up in many different situations:

  1. Weeks or months of analysis to define segments, create territories, and design compensation plans are hamstrung when it comes to putting everything into systems.
  2. Management determines a strategic shift to align sales and marketing with the product, but company culture prevents that change from happening for months, even years.
  3. One group in a company decides to make a change to their team but other teams remain the same, creating misalignment and drops in handoffs and productivity.

It can be frustrating, but these are common scenarios across all types of companies. Why does this happen? Below we lay out some of the biggest culprits of planning and execution disintegration.

Problem 1: Increasing Go-to-Market Complexity

Companies have never had more information or technology than they do today, and their go-to-market complexities reflect this:

  • Focus on Account-Based Marketing means companies create unique plans for every single one of their prospects.
  • Machine Learning algorithms constantly update strategies as prospect and customer data changes the models
  • Today’s mobile and remote salesforces add additional levels of operational challenges since the workforce is rarely in the same place.

Each new layer of complexity adds exponential challenges to execution, requiring more time, effort, and resources than ever just to implement a strategy. Identify an opportunity that requires a new type of sales support role, or an underserved area that needs a unique team? These types of decisions (often valuable) create bespoke plans that slow down time to market and complicate everything in the  Sales Operations Job Cycle.

Problem 2: Tools

From our perspective, the single biggest problem preventing the integration of planning and strategy, especially as company plans get more complex, is software. While it’s never been easier to analyze, visualize, and access information to make decisions, at the same time there has been little effort to support sales operations as they try to put plans into action.

Consider the types of solutions that exist for strategy and those that exist for execution:

  • Strategy: Data Visualization (i.e., Tableau, Looker, Periscope, Excel), Predictive Analytics (Leadspace, Salesforce Analytics, InsideSales.com), Price Optimization (Zuora), Forecasting, etc AND/OR Consultants
  • Execution: CRM, Consultants

Want to analyze your team, or think strategically? Use any of the hundreds of tools that can help you answer specific hypotheses you might have. Want to execute on that? Put it into your CRM.

For Sales Operations teams, the increased complexity that comes from the proliferation of tools means added complexity integrating all of these tools together as well as making sure that all of the right information is getting to the proper end users. When these tools DON’T integrate efficiently, as is very often the case, the burden on people to fix the problem drives the wedge between planning and execution even deeper.

Problem 3: Poorly-Scaling Processes

One of the more challenging, self-induced challenges of integrating planning and execution comes from processes that scale linearly while complexity grows exponentially. Today, companies solve their execution challenges by hiring additional people full-time, or by bringing in consultants. Teams get bigger, break up responsibilities between teams and people, and implement processes to share information. The intent of the processes is stronger integration.

The problem? It doesn’t scale fast enough and leads to breakdowns when handoffs don’t work and teams aren’t aligned.

At a small company with fewer stakeholders, the effects might be small because there is little complexity – a CRO or Sales Leader makes a strategic decision and passes on the information to one individual Systems Administrator who makes the changes in the system. A quick follow-up once the changes happen will confirm whether the changes are correct, or whether there needs to be rework. As long as this small planning<>execution link stays strong (i.e, good communication, both players stay at the company, etc), the company can be agile.

At a BIG company, things break down, and the process gets out of control. At one of our meetups, a senior executive at one of the fastest growing enterprise software companies explained how she spent eight months out of last year strictly working on planning – modeling capacity, creating segmentation, carving territories, designing quotas, and then working to input that into the system. Why? Well, according to her, much of it came from the sheer number of people that were involved in planning, who had to be in weekly meetings to maintain alignment and had to make sure their teams were represented and heard at all meetings. Unsurprisingly, this senior executive had hit their limit and left strategy and operations for a different role.

Problem 4: Bad Data and/or Lack of Transparency

Problem 4 is close to home for anyone in sales, operations, or business in general – bad data and lack of transparency are significant hindrances to making and executing on decisions.

Bad data comes in two forms – incomplete data, and incorrect data. Incomplete data comes through as accounts or leads that are missing important fields, and therefore provide an unfinished view on the market opportunity. Strategies built on incomplete data are at best incomplete, and at worst, when there is a pattern to the incompleteness, incorrect. Putting these strategies into execution is also challenging because processes like routing don’t work when they are based on data fields that are missing

Incorrect Data is data that is inaccurate – a data field has information, but that information is not true. Data can start inaccurate from the first time it goes into a system or it can become inaccurate over time (22.5% of data decays each year ), and in both instances causes issues when it comes to making decisions in planning and then putting that into execution. This is similar to incomplete data above, but the additional wrinkle is that planning usually happens in a static database, meaning that the people who are making changes doing it in one place while the database is changing in another place.

What’s the Issue?

Clearly, misalignment between planning and execution happens a lot and for a legitimate reason. The results, though, are unacceptable – companies diminish their planning efforts because of execution challenges or, even worse, they skip a formal planning process altogether. At one of our meetups in December, some of the companies even went so far as to call planning a “luxury” that they could not undertake because they were so focused on execution and didn’t have time to think about or execute on a plan. Let that sink in, and consider what would happen if YOUR company didn’t even have a plan to which you could track.

The Solution?

We’re working on that. Our software platform, which we’re calling Software Defined Sales Ops, integrates connects planning and execution into one platform, allowing all users to have visibility and plan collaboratively. With CRM integration and strong data visualization, we shorten our customers’ planning cycles by more than 25% and allow them to align their team to focus more quickly on what’s important – sales.

Want to learn more? Reach out here and we’ll get in touch.

Fullcast.io November 2018 Update

With a productive month of November, fullcast.io is starting off the holiday season strong! As mentioned in last month’s update, these months are high-stakes for many companies as they prepare for year-in-reviews while at the same time plan for their next fiscal year. This is certainly the case for our customers, and we’ve been right there with them.

In response to demand, we’ve developed several new features to expand our software offering. We also hit the road with a number of Sales Ops events, and a few webinars. Continue reading to learn more!

New Product Features

This month we’ve added several new features to improve our Planning App. Each of these updates helps make Sales Strategy & Planning more simple, flexible, and comprehensive:

  • Integrated Quota and Territory Review  – To support quota and target setting, we’ve developed review dashboards that bring all relevant data to one place for users to make more informed decisions about setting sales quotas and targets.
  • Expanded Disruption Report – We’ve expanded our Disruption Report (a view on the planned movement of accounts for each territory and person in the business) to include additional planning metrics and provide greater visibility.
  • Data Update Improvement – For customers who use our software through SFTP, rather than through Salesforce Integration, we’ve improved our ability to incorporate changes happening outside of the Planning App, bringing a more integrated planning process to those customers.
  • UI/UX Improvements:
    • Expanded Export Feature – For teams still using excel or a BI tool, we’ve expanded our export capability in the app to allow for a greater number of records.
    • Account Assignments – Users can now assign sales representatives at an account level, in addition to assigning by territory. For teams with complex sales organizations and a number of “exceptions” in their go-to-market strategy, this gives necessary flexibility.
    • Consolidated Grid Features – In our assignment grid, we’ve consolidated features and opened up visual space.

Interested in seeing everything in action? Reach out for a demo!

Community App

To give the Sales Operations community a place to connect and share best practices in an organized and simple way, we launched an app! Our GrowthOps Community App is where sales operations professionals can do the following:

  • Share Best Practices on topics ranging from Career Development to Compensation Design to Tools of the Trade
  • Post Open Jobs to recruit top Sales Operations talent
  • Connect with other professionals within the same field

Initial conversations on the app have been terrific, and we look forward to this becoming a great repository of Sales Operations information for all users.

Interested in joining the community? Fill out this form or email Katherine at kholt@fullcast.io and we’ll get you set up.

SalesOps Meetups

In November, we went on the road! We hosted meetups in Seattle, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area, to discuss Sales Operations career challenges and growth. It was tremendous to see the energy and excitement in the rooms, which reemphasized to us the great people who work in the profession. Up next, we have a few more meetups, with space remaining in each for those who can make it:

Keep checking our upcoming events if you’re interested in learning about future events in your area, or reach out to us and we’ll keep you posted.

Webinars

We hosted two webinars this November. Thanks to everyone who participated! There were some great questions during the sessions and we’ve enjoyed the follow-up discussions since. Click either of the below links to hear a recording:

  • 10 Tips for  Sales Planning – We shared our top tips for managing a successful Sales Planning process, from using the right metrics to how to think about segmenting the market. With so much to discuss in Sales Planning, we look forward to future webinars about the topic!
  • Planning App Demo – We took a dive into our Planning App, highlighting a few of the features we think will change the way businesses do sales planning. Note that we continue to build features since, too, so get in touch to see the latest and greatest.

More webinars are on the way, so stay tuned!

What’s Next?

We’d love to share more with you about our future plans. To stay in touch, find us here at our blog, join our mailing list here, or send an email to info@fullcast.io.

10 Tips For Sales Planning

Sales planning is one of the most important functions of sales operations, but it is often the most time consuming and frustrating. There are so many options and considerations in sales planning, how do you prioritize? And how do you make your sales plan scalable as you grow? We at fullcast.io put together 10 tips we think any sales operations professional should consider when planning for growth. To hear a discussion on these tips, watch this recorded webinar. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

1. Think “Customer First”
This is our first tip because it’s the most important to effective sales planning. It’s a mantra we hear often in sales organizations – think customer first, the customer is always right, and getting close to the customer is most important. But thinking customer first also prompts you to consider how your sales planning will impact your customer. For example, decisions on segmentation, resource ratios, and use of automation set the tone for how and when your customer is contacted. All your sales planning should be focused around improving your relationship with the customer, improving their experience, and shortening your sales cycle.

2. Use Metrics
Sales Planning can be a challenging process with a lot of ambiguity and emotional decisions. Setting metrics gives you an objective, clear path forward. Are you trying to figure out how to hit a certain growth target? Setting metrics around historical productivity, pipeline, and close rates makes it about the numbers instead of the people, which deescalates emotional situations and makes planning more productive. As an example, one of the biggest metrics Salesforce uses is Bookings Potential – an account score that estimates the amount a business spends on each of Salesforce’s products. Having this metric helped in territory creation, market opportunity, resourcing, and unifying stakeholders while maintaining objectivity.

3. Create a Timeline
A big part of planning is program management and meeting milestones. You need input from Finance, Marketing, and HR during planning, and then the planning outputs are fed back to Finance, Marketing, and HR. There are a lot of interdepartmental dependencies so giving a timeline with deliverables keeps everyone accountable. Work back from your ultimate deadline and deployment, considering all the processes that need to happen along the way.

This is an example of creating a timeline for one of our clients. In order to get to deployment, we need to conduct a performance review, market evaluation, capacity planning, and territory building. It’s a small part of overall sales planning, but it provides transparency and accountability across all stakeholders.

4. Think Ahead
This is best illustrated with an analogy from hockey – skate where the puck is going. Look to where the market is going, not where it is. Use forward-looking metrics instead of historical looking metrics. Past performance does not equal future performance, and past sales do not equal future sales, so look to where the market is going. This also applies to segmentation. You want to create your segmentation based on projected growth as you add sales staff, customer support, and customers. Staff your teams based on your plan, whether product-related or customer-service related.

5. Over-Carve Territories
Related to planning ahead, it’s important to think about ramifications for growing faster than you originally planned, and how you’ll manage that growth. This happens with so many companies – you grow faster than you plan and run out of territories as you bring in more headcount. A simple solution is to create more territories than you think you’ll need when planning. This is something Salesforce and many other high-growth companies do as general policy.

As an example, say you are planning to have 5 reps in a region, but you anticipate growing.  Carve out 6 territories so your new hire can hit the ground with a prepped territory.

This also sets the expectation with reps that they may lose some of their accounts. If you create extra territories, it becomes easier to share accounts when you continue to hire.

6. Create Balance
Sales Planning is about aligning resources across the company, and one of the most important things to do in this process is to create balance across all planning aspects. Balancing go-to-market efforts across resources prevents overextending one resource, and ensures all resources are fully optimized. It also allows you to balance risk across markets. Creating territories is really a way to balance market opportunity across your account executives so everyone feels empowered to meet quota. This creates a culture of accountability and everyone pulls their weight. Similarly, creating balance allows for easier performance analysis – if some territories outperform other territories, it’s easier to identify causes if you’ve made each territory equal.

7. Experiment
We discussed this in a recent blog post about optimizing processes. An important part of Sales Operations is conducting experiments in small parts of the business and taking those learning to the larger sales org. For example, experiment with a hunter/farmer strategy vs. account executives managing both customers and prospects. You could experiment with
SDR/BDR/AE ratios to optimize productivity and cost of acquisition. However, keep experiments small and scalable to reduce your risk.

8. Over-Communicate
There are a lot of people involved in and impacted by the sales planning process – sales, marketing, finance, HR, IT, just to name a few. These stakeholders have their own planning process congruent with sales planning. Not everyone needs to be involved every step of the way, but it’s important they know what is going on. This can be done by creating a timeline (per tip #3) and overcommunicating so everyone is aligned and understands planning goals.
Many of our clients have minimum weekly check-ins as a group to level set on priorities for the week. Smaller teams should meet and communicate daily. Things can get lost in translation or interpreted differently in each department, so having continual communication ensures everyone understands each department’s goals and planning method.

9. Document Everything
At fullcast.io, we take the view that if something isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist. On the topic of overcommunication, we recommend documenting everything – ultimate decisions, timelines, responsibilities, and ideas. This allows you to look back on past decisions when evaluating your plan or planning in the next year. It also gives you a roadmap when questions or disagreements arise. There could be disputes about account ownership, compensation policies, even overall planning processes. Documenting each of those things gives you a point of reference.

10. Stay Flexible
So far, we’ve talked a lot about specifics, being precise, and staying organized in your process. But this tip acknowledges the need to stay flexible. We’ve touched on this through a lot of our tips, but it’s important to recognize things rarely go perfectly to plan, especially as you’re scaling growth. Building in flexibility for contingencies and changes is important to save time and energy in the long run. Flexibility makes planning more fun and allows for unexpected growth and change. Here are some ideas on putting it into practice – over-carve territories, over-assign quota to create wiggle room, share resources, and create redundancy in workstreams. These are ways to de-risk the plan and make flexibility easier.

Bonus Tip! Revisit Often
No plan is perfect, and sometimes you need to make pivots. Revisit your plan often and evaluate whether you are meeting your expectations. Revisit quarterly, if not monthly, with your overall team. You’ll want to revisit with higherups and the board quarterly as well and check in weekly, if not daily, with your team. You don’t need to change the plan, but the more often you talk about it, reference it, and measure against it, the more successfully you’ll stay on track.

What are your thoughts? We’d love to know if these are helpful for you, and what other tips you might add. Shoot us an email at info@fullcast.io.

Sales Planning, Reporting, and Usability: Feature Updates for October

Happy Halloween! fullcast.io’s Spooky Product Updates

It’s been a busy month at fullcast.io as many of our customers start their sales planning process, identifying their capacity needs (how many people they’ll be hiring) and territory planning (where those people are going). The next few months are high-stakes as they prepare for year-in-reviews while preparing for next year.

In support of that, we’ve been working hard on our product offerings and are excited to share updates with all of you to help with your sales planning. Without further ado, here are the key new features we’ve added this month:

Salesforce Integration

Integrating Sales Strategy with execution is the top priority at fullcast.io. This month we automated our Salesforce integration, allowing customers to sync their planning platform with their Salesforce data and push the territory, team assignment, and quota targets they make in fullcast.io back into Salesforce. With this update, fullcast.io seamlessly integrates users’ strategy and planning on the fullcast.io software with the backend execution in their CRM instance.

CRM Modification Reports

Important to sales planning is staying on top of changes in data. To that effect, one of fullcast.io’s additional features in October highlights data changes that occur in our customers’ CRM system, so users who are planning on our platform have up-to-date views of the changes in their CRM system and can act immediately to incorporate those changes into their go-to-market plan. No more re-downloading account information into your excel spreadsheets or other databases – we’ve got you covered.

Balancer, Portfolio Change Reports

fullcast.io introduced a host of new planning-related reports to our platform, including two of particular note:

  • Balancer Report – as users edit their territory hierarchies and assign routing rules/individual accounts to segments and territories, our balancer report gives a clear view in real time of how territories stack up against each other. Stop moving accounts, changing tabs in excel, and refreshing pivot tables – this report shows everything you need to know as you do your planning updates.
  • Change Report – curious about how your portfolios are changing from the plan currently in your CRM to your proposed view for your next fiscal quarter or fiscal year? We’ve introduced a change report to summarize the edits made in the planning process. This allows you to not only to understand the amount of disruption happening, but also share with the sales teams.

General Usability Features

In addition to the updates above, we’ve done a few other improvements and tweaks, including some UI enhancements with our segmentation and target-setting modules. Password retrieval and management are also new, as are a host of new metrics to consider when creating territories.

So What’s Next?

We’d love to share more with you about our future plans. To do that, keep coming back to our blog page or sign up for our newsletter. Or, if you want to chat with someone at the company, fill out this form or send an email to info@fullcast.io.

Sales Process Optimization – Experiment and Refine

Process Optimization for Sales Operations professionals is like a technicians tinkering with a machine – experiment, learn, and improve.

We’ve done a few things in recent posts:

  1. Summarized the Sales Operations Job Cycle, describing the infinite loop of processes in the Sales Ops function.
  2. Dove into Sales Strategy & Planning, which is how a company sets its vision.
  3. Discussed Policy Creation, which is how companies implement their vision, through policy and processes.

The next step in the Sales Ops Job Cycle is Process Optimization. This is the responsibility of Sales Operations to constantly evaluate and improve upon the way a sales organization works, with customers and within itself.

In this post we provide you with examples of process optimization and discuss our Five Steps for optimizing processes.

What is Process Optimization?

Our posts so far have limited Sales Operations to “Strategy” and “Policies.” Any sales operations person knows this is short-sighted – it restricts the view to a “discrete” process. In reality, Sales Ops is constant work, and there’s no greater example than the never-ending activity of optimizing processes.

We’ve outlined a few sales processes below, along with the questions and metrics addressed when optimizing. In the far right column are potential outcomes of projects that optimize processes.

Process Examples Considerations Optimization Outcomes
Lead Routing – How are leads currently routed?
– Is our capacity maximized across segments?
– Metrics: sales cycle, close rates, coverage, pipegen, sales qualification
– Leads are re-routed to under-utilized resources, improving close rates
– Re-allocation of marketing resources means higher ROI
Sales Stages – What happens at each stage? (e.g., Qualifications, Demo, Additional Sales Support)
– Metrics: time in stage, deal size, close rate, sales cycle
– Sales resources adjust to different sales stages and decrease sales cycles
– Earlier demos improve close rates and increase deal size
– New requirement for qualification yields better pipeline quality
Marketing → Sales Handoff – What constitutes a qualified lead?
– How and when does a handoff happen?
– What data is stored/ processed?
– Metrics: close rates, deal size, deal type, deal source
– New definition of “qualified lead” yields higher close rates and shorter sales cycle
– New handoff process yields bigger deal size and greater account continuity
Renewals – How often is sales &/ or customer success engaged with customers?
– Metrics: customer engagement, QBR
– Better customer engagement yields higher renewal rate
– Greater Sales relationship yields more “upselling”
Quote-to-Cash – How are quotes created?
– What pricing exists for whom?
– How are discounts handled?
– Metrics: sales cycle, deal size, close rates, cost-to-serve
– New software implementation reduces cost to serve, increases customer LTV
– New pricing processes improves deal size and reduces sales cycle
New Account Creation – How are new accounts created? What fields are required, by whom?
– Where is new data from? When to use various data sources?
– Metrics: # new accounts, data quality (missing fields, duplicate accounts, etc.)
– Change in process allows faster account creation, and more prospecting opportunity
– Improved data quality means greater clarity through downstream analyses (i.e. AI-based forecasting tools)

Each of the above examples outlines a different process in the sales organization, and there are many others out there. Maintaining a good grip on each is challenging, and requires a lot of effort from all stakeholders.

So, How Do You Do It?

Below we have the 5 key steps for Process Optimization in a Sales Organization:

  1. Establish Your Goal – Are you trying to get close to the customer? Do you want to maximize Sales? Come up with goals that can be measured. Defining your goal and tying a metric to it allows you to evaluate later steps in a rational way. Note the initial value of the goal you set does not matter as much, since you’ll be revisiting later.
  2. Experiment – Have an idea that might work, but no evidence? Test it out! Here is a great article by Harvard Business Review that discusses how to set up a business experiment and test a hypothesis. Setting up the right test can quickly validate whether an idea is valuable to your business.
  3. Analyze Results – You’ve completed your experiment, and want to know the results. Did it work? Well, look at your metrics (remember, you set a goal in Step 1 that had them?) – comparing your test group’s results with a control group benchmark, or an industry benchmark, allows you the perspective you need to determine whether the idea worked.
  4. Replicate Successes, Eliminate Failures – Simple. Take the ideas that didn’t work and get rid of them – either to never see the light-of-day again, or put them on a shelf to try again at a different point in time. The successes? Roll those out across the company, aligning key stakeholders to own accountability.
  5. Repeat Steps 2-4 – Process optimization is a continuous cycle, after all, so it’s back to step 2 to continue tinkering and iterating on processes to improve where possible.

These steps work across processes, and allow businesses to make better and faster decisions.

One important thing to note – this tinkering should happen with as little disruption as possible, and only where the potential gain outweighs the cost. Tinkering for the sake of it can disrupt the daily motion of a business and cause more harm than good.

How does fullcast help?

At fullcast, we are a company of sales process optimizers. After years of working through broken processes or unintegrated sales tools ourselves, we developed a streamlined platform that grows as your business does, and is flexible as you develop your own business design and rhythm.

Take some a couple of examples:

  • A $2.5B IT Organization has moved its sales planning process completely out of spreadsheets and into our Design Platform, allowing unprecedented collaboration, planning, and system integration.
  • A $50M CPG Company has reduced sales administrative work by over 50%, allowing more interaction with customers and more time to sell.
  • All of our customers have simplified their sales processes, reducing wasted time working in their CRM and freeing up more time to sell.

Is your business overwhelmed with processes that keep it from growing like it should? We want to help. Reach out at info@fullcast.io or leave us your information here and we’ll reach out.

Sales Policy Creation – Linking Strategy with Sales Operations

In recent posts we have been answering a question we get a lot: “What is Sales Operations?”  We have defined the roles and responsibilities of the Sales Operations job, and have started looking at each of those responsibilities.

We last looked at Sales Strategy & Planning, which is how a company sets its vision and lays out the path to get there.

In this post we dive into the next step: Policy Creation.   We’ll focus on “What (are Sales Policies),” “Why (do we have them),” and “How (do we make them).”

What are Sales Policies?

Sales Policies are the rules that govern sales organizations as they go through their daily motion.  Policies guide how business gets done – how people interact with each other, what to do in certain situations, how technology systems work and integrate, and a host of other things.

Is a sales organization split by industry, where certain people cover healthcare companies while others cover financial services? Sales Policy.  Are there rules that a salesperson can’t move an opportunity to the next stage unless they’ve spoken with a particular person at a company? Also a Sales Policy.  What about needing manager approval before offering a discount? You guessed it – Sales Policy.

Sales Policies exist everywhere in a sales organization, and a well-operating company ties its policies closely with its Sales Strategy and general business priorities.  Take, for instance, the goal of getting new sales reps up to full productivity.  There are many policies tied to ramping new reps, and we have listed some below:

  • Business Objective: Introduce new Sales Reps to the Organization as quickly/effectively as possible
  • Example Policies (including, not limited to):
    • Onboarding: New reps need to complete certain training before taking on accounts.
    • Account Ownership: New reps manage a certain type of accounts to start.
    • Account Handoff: Old reps hand off accounts to new reps in a certain way.
    • Incentive Compensation: New reps are paid a  certain way in the first few months.
    • Quota Target: New reps have a certain quota target in the first few months.
    • Existing Opportunities: Opportunities that another rep created are treated a certain way.
    • Tasks by Stage: New Reps complete certain tasks at different stages of a sales cycle.

Policies exist for every business priority, and align tightly with company strategy to move everyone in the same direction.

Why do we have Sales Policies?

Creating Sales Policies is a critical component for putting strategy into action.  No matter how good an idea is, or how defined a company’s vision, unless there are tangible ways to implement it then there will be little chance of success.  Sales Policies ensure that sales activities align with the company strategy.

Take the example that we provided above, where a company is trying to reduce the time that it takes to onboard a new rep.  What if there is no onboarding structure? What if there is no policy for experienced reps handing off accounts to new hires? Sales managers and sales operations staff will tell you – managing without policies in place causes significant headache, detracts from the company’s goal, and hurts performance.

Many of our customers have shared experiences with us that show issues when there are no policies.  In one instance, eight collective hours of manager and rep time was wasted in a dispute between two sales reps that worked the same deal.  Who should receive credit? Everyone had an opinion, and no one agreed.  In another instance, a company outgrew a policy that let every rep see each other’s territory.  It made sense when there were 5 reps, but not with 30, and it became an issue when everyone began looking over the fence to see what accounts other people had.  This brings up an important point: Issues that arise from lack of sales policies also become larger as a company grows.

Bottom line: create sales policies! Doing so prevents issues from coming up, and allows people to focus on the important things.  We recommend creating an official “Sales Policy Handbook” that lists every policy in one place, so everyone can refer to it when questions arise.

How do you determine the right Sales Policies?

Creating the right sales policies is important to a company’s performance.  Poor sales policies are as bad, and sometimes worse, than no sales policies at all.  Company’s creating new sales policies should follow these steps:

  1. Consider your Business Priority. What are you trying to do? Hopefully this is a natural flow from Strategy & Planning.
  2. Brainstorm potential policies across Sales Ops functions. Policies exist with Sales Enablement, Data Governance, Compensation, Account Ownership, Territory Assignment, Account Handoff, and many others. Make a list!
  3. Evaluate policies on their attractiveness and achievability. Select most attractive and most achievable across all functions
    1. Attractiveness: will this policy significantly help us get to our business goal?
    2. Achievability: is this policy possible, and low relative cost to the business?
  4. Consider how your policies will change as your company does. A Sales Policy Document is a living document and changes as a company does. The more flexibility you can have in your sales policies from the beginning, the better.

Following these steps will make sure your sales policies, and by result your teams, align with your business priorities to drive performance and growth.

Where does fullcast.io stand?

Sales is dynamic, sales teams are constantly evolving, and companies need strong platforms to support that.  At fullcast.io we believe this starts with the policies – that the best way to build scalable sales organizations is by implementing the right sales policies and aligning them with go-to-market strategy.  Our software platform and business partner services support that goal, and allow companies to elevate their sales operations functions to focus on driving and sustaining growth.

Interested in learning more? Email info@fullcast.io.

Sales Strategy and Planning – What’s Your Vision? How Are You Getting There?

Napoleon, one of the most successful leaders of all time, built his empire on meticulous strategy and planning.

We recently answered the question “What is Sales Operations?” and defined the roles and responsibilities of the Sales Operations job.  TLDR: It’s all about the policies, processes, and analyses that support sales teams to sell better, grow faster, and be more strategic.  The Sales Ops Job Cycle is made up of 6 points:

  1. Strategy & Planning
  2. Policy Creation
  3. Process Optimization
  4. Sales Enablement
  5. Data & Technology Management
  6. Performance Analysis

In this and subsequent posts, we want to dive deeper into each of these points, and today we start from the top: Sales Strategy & Planning.  We’ll focus on the “What,” “Who,” “When,” and “How,” and finish with a plug for our Strategy & Planning tool ????.

What is Strategy & Planning?

Sales Strategy & Planning is about how a business will hit its sales targets.  Trying to grow your revenue by 30%+?  Maintain sales while lowering expenses?  Have a sales target from your investors/management and need to figure out how you are going to get there (or want to set your stake in the ground for your next investor/management meeting?)?  This is where Strategy & Planning comes in.

Strategy & Planning encompasses, but is not limited to:

  1. Market Analysis – Who are our customers? How many are there, and where are they?  How much will they pay?
  2. Territory/Team Alignment – Where do we put our sales people? How do we organize and then support them?
  3. Capacity & Role Decisions – How many sales people do we need? What are their different roles?
  4. Target Setting – How much is each sales person expected to bring in? How does this add up across the company to hit our overall goal?
  5. Compensation/Incentive Plans – How do we structure comp plans to maximize motivation? How much are we expecting to pay?
  6. Crossfunctional Communication – Do we have numbers from Finance? Does Marketing know our alignment, so we can match?  Is our Customer definition the same as Product’s?

The task list is long, but all components are critical.  Miss one step, and your sales team is unorganized, inefficient, and potentially unsuccessful.  We plan to cover each point in further detail in later posts.

Who Does Strategy & Planning?

It depends.  Strategy & Planning for a small sales organization is the responsibility of the sales managers.  Small sales organizations don’t have the budget to task specific people to think exclusively about Sales Strategy & Planning, so it is part of the job of the Sales Leader(s), the CRO, CEO, or the Head of Sales Ops.  Strategy & Planning at this level is often quick and dirty, due to the many other responsibilities on these teams’ plates.

On the flip side, an enterprise could have hundreds if not thousands of employees dedicated to Strategy & Planning.  At Microsoft, for instance, there are over 2,000 employees with  “Sales Strategy” in their role, and Salesforce has over 1,000!  What these people do is undoubtedly different and spans the gamut of our Sales Operations Job Cycle. However, when you consider the number of markets, products, channels, and sales people these companies address, it is easy to see how the need for Strategy & Planning would expand.

When Does Strategy & Planning Happen?

This also depends.  It is important to find the right balance, but our view at fullcast.io is that Strategy & Planning is and should be a constant concern for a business. There are cases both for and against it happening constantly:

The case for constant Strategy & Planning

  • To Stay Ahead of the Market – you want to prepare your business for any industry changes
  • To Get Closer to Customers – you want to get your people closer to evolving customers
  • To Take Advantage of New Information – you get new information daily, and want to respond

The case against constant Strategy & Planning

  • To Minimize Account Disruption – you want to let reps have enough time to break into an account before moving it
  • To Focus on Execution – you want to focus on executing, because that’s how you sell deals
  • To Empower your sales force – you want your sales people to own their own destiny

Make changes too often?  You lose productivity, trust, and headcount on your sales team.  You miss your targets.  Don’t make changes enough?  The market and your competitors adapt faster and you lose out on opportunities.  Your business falls short.

Typically, we find that focused Strategy & Planning between one and four times a year, with most companies having a one-time, multi-week or multi-month process set aside to analyze for the next year.  This number depends hinges on the size, growth, targets, and many other factors.

How Do You Strategize & Plan?

The Strategy & Planning process follows a regular, intuitive flow:

  1. Review Past Performance* – How have you been doing?
  2. Evaluate the Market and Set Goals – Where do you want to go? Is this feasible?
  3. Determine Resourcing – What do you need to get there? Can you afford it?
  4. Align Resources (Sales, Marketing) towards Goals – How are you organizing everything?
  5. Monitor Performance and Make Changes as Necessary* – How is it working?

*Note Steps 1 and 5 blend into other parts of the “Sales Operations Job Cycle,” inevitable in this closely-linked job cycle.

Each step happens differently and depends on the company (different metrics in Step 1, different resource needs in Step 3 and allocation in Step 4), but generally follows this progression.  Sometimes consultants come in to do the additional work so that the Sales Operations team can focus on execution, sometimes the team steps away from execution so it can focus on Strategy & Planning, but generally it follows the above process.

How Does fullcast.io Come In?

Great question!

fullcast.io’s Planning App integrates Strategy & Planning activities into one collaborative tool, allowing sales organizations to make real-time decisions on their sales strategy and push those decisions seamlessly into action.  We bring the “what” and “how” of Strategy & Operations into one place so that you (and your team!) can stop worrying about the effort of planning and focus on reaping the rewards.

Interested in learning more?  Reach out to us at info@fullcast.io to schedule a demo.

What is Sales Operations?

Many people have asked us to define sales operations roles.  West Coast, East Coast, North, and South, it seems like few understand the day-to-day of the Sales Ops function. So we decided to help everyone out.

Sales Ops is the platform on which businesses build their sales teams. It is the infinite loop of policies, processes, and analyses that support sales teams –managers and individual contributors – to sell better, grow faster, and be more strategic.

There are 6 major responsibilities of traditional Sales Operations:

  1. Strategy & Planning
  2. Policy Creation
  3. Process Optimization
  4. Sales Enablement
  5. Data & Technology Management
  6. Performance Analysis

Collectively these roles integrate with and build on each other. They are strongly interdependent.

Sales Operations is Strategy & Planning

We could start anywhere in the Sales Ops Cycle, but we start here. Why?

Strategy & Planning is the most visible part of Sales Ops. It is where a company’s high-level strategy and its policy and procedural operations come together. Looking at Sales Operations from the top, it starts here.

Strategy & Planning takes many forms, but most generally it happens prior to a company’s new fiscal year. Management sits together and makes decisions on the next year’s plan. At many of our clients or former employers, this is a 3-5 month(!) period of determining how many people to hire, what roles to create, how to distribute and support them, and how much to pay everyone.

Strategy & Planning requires several things to succeed, which we plan to cover in depth. Data-driven decisions and stakeholder communication are crucial. Done wrong, and a company lacks direction for its sale team. Done right, Strategy & Planning leads seamlessly and effectively to the next step in the process: Policy Creation.

Sales Operations is Policy Creation

A company turns sales strategy and planning into a set of policies to govern its team(s), like who is taking which responsibilities. Policies include, but are not limited to:

  • Account Assignment (e.g. by company size, geography, industry, etc.)
  • Orders-of-Operations and Rules of Engagement for Team Members
  • Sales Methodologies and Company-wide Tactics
  • Compensation Design
  • Routing of Leads, Opportunities, Accounts, etc.

These policies are extremely important as companies grow. A 5-person sales team is different from a 50-person or a 500-person sales team, and endless complications arise as businesses scale in headcount, geographies, products, etc. Making sure a business’s policies keep up with its growth is critical for continued success.

Strong policies are clearly an important foundation for Strategy & Planning, and once put in place they lead to the next part of the Sales Ops Infinity Loop: Process Optimization.

Sales Operations is Process Optimization

Sales Policies turn into Processes, like the way an outbound sales rep contacts a customer or the point at which a subject matter expert enters a deal cycle. Processes exist at every stage and every company and are a big difference between businesses that run effectively and ones that struggle.

Processes that Sales Operations cover include, but again are not limited to:

  • Lead Routing
  • Defined Customer Touchpoints
  • MQL and SQL Hand-offs
  • Quote-to-Cash
  • SLA Creation
  • Compensation Attainment and Execution

Depending on the size and stage of the company, Sales Operations creates, maintains, and improves on processes to make sure that the sales engine runs more effectively each day.

At Salesforce, for instance, when over $100M in sales might close in a single day on thousands of transactions, the Sales Operations team manages the processes. They make sure deals are ID’d in the beginning of the sales cycle and are documented and paid for at their close, ensuring the business grows relentlessly. Smaller businesses face the same issues and with significantly fewer resources, which often can delay important things like rep compensation.

Fixing gaps in sales processes often leads to changes with how sales people do their job, and therefore require the next step: Sales Enablement.

Sales Operations is Sales Enablement

With the right processes outlined, a Sales Ops team focuses on enabling sales teams to do their jobs effectively. No matter how good the Strategy & Planning, Sales Policies, or Processes, no company succeeds without effectively passing strategy on to the team bringing in the revenue. Here is where Sales Enablement comes in.

Sales Enablement comes in many forms and may not always fall directly to Sales Operations, but includes the following:

  • Evaluating Training Needs
  • Establishing Onboarding Plans
  • Setting Effective Ramping Targets & Quotas
  • Providing Information at the Right Time to the Right People
  • Promoting Cross-Functional Communication

One of Sales and Sales Ops teams’ most important metric is productivity, and any manager will confirm there is no better way to improve a sales person’s productivity than to provide them the right support to make them successful.

One of the greatest ways to provide Enablement? Managing Data and Technology.

Sales Operations is Data & Technology Management

Data and Technology Management are often overlooked in businesses, but they are the platform on which everything succeeds. Notice how ineffective you are without your phone or your computer – a sales person is the same without their CRM.

Sales Operations does a lot with data and technology management:

  • Procuring, Setting Up, and Integrating Technology Tools
  • Data Governance Practices
  • Data Integration
  • CRM System Administration

Often these roles are spread among a number of different teams at a company (IT, Product, Sales Ops), but in the end Sales Ops makes the decisions about how to think about systems and data coming together to effectively support the Sales teams.

Strong Data and Technology Management enables sales teams. It also enables Sales Ops to do what is another fundamental part of their job and the last part of the loop: Performance Analysis.

Sales Operations is Performance Analysis

People working closely with large quantities of data and tech tools understand that no amount of information can help a business without effective analysis, and Sales Operations is no exception. A strong Sales Ops team will support managers and reps with several analyses. Some of these include:

  • Sales Forecasting
  • Creating Key Performance Metrics
  • Tracking Progress towards Targets & Quotas
  • Analyzing Account Whitespace
  • Comparing Company Performance to Market Opportunity
  • Running Strategic Projects in Key Areas

Performance Analysis is an ongoing task for Sales Ops and shows up in different ways at different companies. In small businesses, this task might fall on a Sales Manager or Business Operations person. Large businesses may have teams of 40+ people running Performance Analysis to make sure that the sales engine is staying on track of their numbers.

What happens with Performance Analysis? It provides the framing for Strategy & Planning, which takes you straight back to the beginning of the process.

Sales Ops, Simplified, is What fullcast.io Is About

Is Sales Ops complicated? It can be, but we don’t think it has to be.

At fullcast.io, we are working to build a platform that supports and enables business’s Sales Operations. Through strong policy-based frameworks and software products we help businesses to hit targets and enact strategy more efficiently and effectively.  We support Sales Operations teams to set bigger goals and make them happen.

Interested in learning more? Learn about fullcast.io’s solutions here.