Three Priorities of Focus For Sales Transformation

Sales Growth

Nancy Nardin of Smart Selling Tools interviewed fullcast.io Founder and CEO Dharmesh Singh for her series on Transforming Sales. Dharmesh explains how sales growth can be achieved through operations. Nancy is the founder of Smart Selling Tools which reviews sales tools and provides resources for sales professionals.  You can read the original interview here.

 

NANCY: WHAT ARE THE TOP AREAS OF FOCUS IN THE NEXT 12-24 MONTHS FOR ORGANIZATIONS THAT WANT TO TRANSFORM THEIR SALES ORGANIZATIONS?

DHARMESH: I think the first priority is taking control of the tool stack. There has been an explosion of tools in the sales ops world and we feel that today, sales operations professionals are spending more time integrating systems than performing sales operations.  It’s death by a thousand tools. Moreover, most tools aren’t integrated with each other, so you get point solutions that solve a niche need but are not really helping teams grow. Sales organizations are dynamic by nature and if they invest in tools that do not accommodate and align an evolving sales team, teams will outgrow the tool. This has tremendous impacts on sales teams.

The second transformation is Data Governance. CRM is now the source of corporate truth. It aligns and integrates all customer-facing functions from pre-sales to post-sales. CRM should be treated as an enterprise database, and as with most enterprise databases, it’s only as good as the data within it. Teams looking to transform sales organizations need to invest the time to define and enforce policies for data entry and data lifecycle within CRM. Today most CRM instances are in the wild west age of data governance. The lack of trust in the data is holding sales organizations back from taking advantage of their CRM investment to its fullest capacity.

Finally, thinking about integrating operations with your go-to-market plan. Today, operations teams responsible for daily sales execution chores are disconnected from the overall sales go-to-market team. These are two separate functions in most organizations and it’s imperative to integrate and ensure they are working in cadence as the go-to-market evolves. Successful organizations align their resources rapidly to meet the requirements of an evolving go-to-market as change cycles become shorter and competition in the marketplace increases. Companies that build agility in their go-to-market with execution ability will succeed.

NANCY: HOW SHOULD COMPANIES DECIDE WHICH APPROACHES TO SALES TRANSFORMATION ARE RIGHT FOR THEM?

DHARMESH: Take a data-driven approach to making decisions. Sales operations teams are typically working in silos, disconnected with the needs of the executive suite. Successful sales organizations use sales operations as a strategic lever for growth. An investment in sales operations can exponentially help scale sales beyond just adding headcount.

We have created a GrowthOps Framework that we think can help teams think through metrics to drive alignment from the CXO to the sales ops team. The metrics in the “Grow” row are the top-most metrics for most organizations. They should be the north star for teams working on metrics in the “Optimize” row to drive alignment.

GrowthOps Framework

NANCY: WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR ENSURING THAT TECHNOLOGIES CONTRIBUTE TO SALES TRANSFORMATION IN A MEASURABLE AND IMPACTFUL WAY?

DHARMESH: I recommend folks to go back to the metrics that matter and track to see if they are driving the right behavior. Focus on the process and policies that you want to enable before picking a tool. We have seen success for organizations that take the time to define process and policies before jumping into tools. The tool is a means to an end. Many teams make the mistake of signing up for the newest, shiny toy without taking the time to see how it fits into their go-to-market plan and what policies it will enforce.

NANCY: HOW IS YOUR SOLUTION TRANSFORMING YOUR CUSTOMERS’ SALES ORGANIZATIONS?

DHARMESH: Our platform approach allows teams to bring their sales planning and sales operations together for the first time.  We now have a unified view of how each team is supporting the overall sales motion.

Teams leveraging fullcast.io’s platform are finding that they are able to:

  • Shorten their sales planning cycles and react faster to market changes
  • Build integrated, collaborative sales plans that drive transparent decision making
  • Reduce dependency on IT with the ability to make CRM changes
  • Cut down on ad hoc custom code in Salesforce systems
  • Enforce sales policies consistently across the organizations, resulting in cleaner data and better decision making

NANCY: WHAT ARE SOME GOOD RESOURCES IF SOMEONE WANTED TO LEARN WHAT QUESTIONS TO ASK, WHAT OTHERS ARE DOING, OR OTHER FACTORS RELATED TO SALES TRANSFORMATION?

DHARMESH: Fullcast.io has built a community for sales and sales operations leaders. We’ve hosted meetups around the country and plan to host more in the coming months. These meetups have covered everything from career growth in sales operations to best practices in sales planning. We source our community for topics and listen for pain points we can address at our events. On a more daily basis, we’ve launched the Growth Ops App and a LinkedIn Sales Ops Community group for those looking to connect with other sales operations professionals, ask questions, and share ideas. You can find the Growth Ops App in the app store and request to join the LinkedIn group here.  As one of our community members put it, sales ops professionals often stumbled into their role and make it up as they go, so we’re committed to providing resources to empower sales operations teams and help them unlock growth in their companies.

Why You Should Stop Trying to Set “Accurate” Quota

 

The start of a new fiscal year brings excitement about the possibility of achieving the next scale of your organization, a fresh new operating model

…and quotas.

Behind compensation plans, sales targets are routinely the most difficult communications to the sales team – both impact reps pay, but targets are much more tangible. Reps understand how hard they worked last year to hit their quotas, and adding a growth target on top of that (however justified) is completely demoralizing to the sales team. They feel exhausted after achieving quota from last year, so their immediate reaction to increases is negative.

To combat this reaction, companies spend an inordinate amount of time double-checking their quota figures against historical account sales, pipeline figures, and whatever other metrics they can get their hands on in the interest of making quota more “accurate.”
I’m telling you right now – making “accurate” quotas is a waste of your time.

As I write this, I can hear the metaphorical crowds gathering: “if our quotas aren’t accurate, then reps won’t trust us! Who would possibly recommend such a thing?”

Hear me out – the reality is that there is no such thing as an “accurate” quota – at the end of the day, quota is an arbitrary production assignment to a rep; good reps will overachieve and the poor ones will underachieve. This is the way sales has always gone – so why is sales ops still focusing on this concept of quota accuracy?

Instead of putting their effort into calculating an “accurate” quota number, sales ops should focus on delivering fair
quotas – and communicating the quota determination process to reps so they understand where quotas were derived. This is done in two critical components:

1. Quota Setting: Quota setting is the process through which the total quota budget is calculated – the starting point for any company’s strategic plan. Generally, the formula starts with the company’s revenue target, which is then uplifted to account for profit margin, customer retention rates, partner margin, etc. This (often secretive) process is really the root of reps’ complaints – if the overall quota number is increased, then reps across the board will have to absorb that increase, which is where most number shock comes from. By showing reps why the overall quota number is what it is – and that the number being allocated is the best possible option – they will have the context to understand general increases in targets.

2. Quota Allocation: Allocation is the process through which companies take the number calculated during the quota setting process and distribute it to reps (more on that in a later blog post). Often overlooked, this is another critical piece of communication to reps – when they see their quota increase, they will naturally react, but by understanding how the company arrived at their quota – including all the key data points, process, and decisions required to determine final quota numbers – reps will quickly shift their mindset from mistrust to motivation. The end goal is that quotas are fair and logically derived – if your reps can’t follow the process then it raises the risk of unfair quotas.

Note that nowhere in this post do I advocate that companies should arbitrarily assign reps a number – and that “inaccurate” quotas are ok; instead, I argue that companies should stop searching for the elusive “accurate” quota because that accurate measure is meaningless. Try to define what an “accurate quota” is and how you can apply it to your quota process. You’ll quickly find that it’s nearly impossible to define and adds little to no value in the quota process. If anything, using the term “accurate quotas” gives reps ammunition to reject quotas, resulting in multiple review cycles that add to sales ops workload. The point here is that the accuracy of the individual quota is an elusive exercise – only transparency across the quota setting and allocation process really matters to your reps.

 

 

Matt Haller is the founder of The Startup Seller, a consulting firm specializing in go-to-market planning for early and mid-stage startups. Matt is a thought leader in sales communications and messaging, compensation and quota design, and designing sales teams to drive growth.  To learn more about his company, visit his website or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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? Read more

Policies: What They Are and How They Function Within A Software-Defined Ops Framework

The definition of a policy from Wikipedia states: A policy is a deliberate system of principles to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes. A policy is a statement of intent and is implemented as a procedure or protocol.  

What do all of the below have in common?

  • No smoking within 20 feet of this building
  • RCW 46.61.050 – Obedience to and required traffic control devices
  • A dress code
  • Password must contain numbers
  • An email address is required to create a contact
  • A “No Parking” sign

These are all examples of policies. We are surrounded by policies in our daily lives and most of us (reluctantly) follow them without knowing they are policies. We use them to guide our decisions in daily life. Policies help produce predictable outcomes as well. In the business world, policies help us avoid risks and/or increase the predictability of a process.

Take a minute to think about several policies you use or follow in the workplace. A good example of a workplace policy is a dress code. Focus on one policy and now think about how it shapes the decisions you make. If the policy didn’t exist, what would you do? How does that differ from the outcome the policy intends to achieve? If you ask your neighbor what before and after decision they made, it would be a fairly good bet to say that the outcome of the decision made without a policy in place is different from your outcome. Yet it’s also a safe bet that you and your colleague are both wearing closed-toed shoes to work on a hot summer day.

It’s important to understand that policies do not just stand on their own. If we zoom out to look at the larger picture we will notice that policies are components of a capability or the ability to do something. Let’s take the example of driving. We want the capability to drive. That’s easy enough, give us a car and we are good to go right? Well, what do we do with the car? If we want to get from point A to point B, then we need a process, and if we want to get from point A to point B safely, efficiently, and effectively, then we need policies. The process itself is the act of driving. Turning on the car, stepping on the gas, turning the vehicle, etc. The policies are the rules of the road that keep everyone from colliding into each other.

Take a moment and think about the worst intersection of traffic in the world. The middle of this intersection is packed with vehicles all trying to go in different directions. Inch by inch each vehicle creeps forward, progress is slow. Why is the traffic like this? How did it get this way? It’s not unreasonable to think if everyone just followed the rules, they wouldn’t be in this traffic nightmare.

Now imagine a pristine intersection with stop lights and all vehicles are stopped at a line before the intersection. When the light turns green, the vehicles get to zoom off to their destination since the intersection is free of other cars trying to go in other directions. What differences do you notice between the two scenes?

  • The second scene is more efficient than the other
  • Cars are able to get to their destination quicker
  • The drivers and passengers are more likely to arrive at the destination without a ding in the car
  • There is less frustration and confusion

How does any of this relate to Sales Operations? A Sales Operations organization without policies or stop lights, will operate much like bad traffic. Sales reps will fight against the system or if there is no system, then they may just do whatever they want. They will look for the loopholes, like driving on an open sidewalk. It will take longer to arrive at the destination, and sometimes the destination just becomes so unattainable a rep will give up. Policies in the driving world keep the intersection clear, thus increasing the efficiency of getting to the destination, which would increase the chance of arriving at the destination. Policies in the business world grease the wheels of the process and help guide us to a predictable outcome like the attainment of a revenue goal.

In Sales Ops, a considerable amount of time is spent putting together a go to market plan. Back in our Strategy and Planning post we learned that our GTM strategy is how an organization plans on getting to its revenue goal. The plan is the process of getting to the goal. Policies are implemented to help maintain focus on the goal and make the “how” of how to hit the goal easier by taking the guesswork out of some decisions. We’re not saying no policies no goal. Policies just increase the predictability of hitting the goal. Every VP of Sales would tell a Sales Ops org to implement policies if it increased the likelihood of them hitting their goal by 5%.

In the short-term, missing a revenue goal may seem like not a big deal because the thought is that you can always double down on the efforts to make up the revenue in later months. However, as we will discover in the next couple of paragraphs, quickly adopting a plan to make up for the miss may not be as easy we might think and we can now kiss that revenue goal goodbye. Try telling your VP of Sales that. The likely scenario is the organization spending the rest of the year trying to catch up. Everyone knows the long term implications of missing a revenue goal, but something that often gets overlooked is that the faster you move, the less policy gets enforced. Policy drives focus in decisions, and therefore a lack of policy can lead to a chaotic feeling. Decisions take longer and they are less predictable. The more chaos in the culture of an org the more employee churn.

As we alluded to in the previous paragraph, this problem of policies goes a step further. Coming back to our driving example, there is a difference between a policy that is hardcoded into the process and a policy that is extracted from the process and is able to adapt to the changing conditions. The best example here is speed limit signs. We see these signs everywhere. They are permanent and don’t change. They are hard-coded into the driving process. Getting a speed limit sign changed requires a lot of time and energy. It starts with a request, a traffic study is performed, then an agreement on the new limit is made, new signs made, and a crew will then change the signs. By the time all that gets completed, the original conditions may have changed. In business, they definitely changed.  

The solution to this problem is extracting the speed policy from the process and giving it the ability to adapt to the changes in driving conditions. In major cities around the world, we are beginning to see electronic speed limit signs. As the density of traffic increases or the weather worsens, the speed limit is changed on the fly. This allows the traffic to quickly adapt to the change in policy, keeping vehicles and people safe, while keeping the traffic moving. Any business interested in building a well organized intersection that allows for efficient and rapid progress towards a goal, then policies should be a part of every process and capability established. These policies need to be dynamic and adaptable to changing business conditions. This means we need to think about how to extract our policies from the processes we currently have in place. This concept gives rise to defining policies using software. Software-defined policy is the equivalent of the electronic speed limit sign. They give you the ability to quickly turn a new strategy into execution in the CRM.

Policies are an important aspect of a capability, as they help define the rules of the process. They help with decision making. They create reliable outcomes, establish predictability, and allow your organization to scale and adapt to the changing business environment.

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.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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).”

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