Insight-led selling and the critical role of sales operations (part 2 of 3)By: Gary Tubridy Chief Sales Executive Events, Insight-Led Selling
In Part 1, Alexander Group uncovered identifying customer needs as part of improving Sales Operations. Not only are leading Sales Ops groups discovering the challenges that customers face and addressing them, but they are also working with Marketing to discover more insight and competitive advantages.
Another role for Sales Ops is to enhance sales productivity through growth opportunities and time efficiency on sales activities.
BOLDLY ENHANCE SALES PRODUCTIVITY
More than one executive mentioned that Sales Ops in their company is charged with being an “engine of sales productivity.” First rate reporting is part of that. But top Sales Operations groups also influence sales productivity by providing:
- Guidance on where the best growth opportunities lie
- Support in maximizing time on the highest value sales activities
Chief Sales Executives are given the growth goal. Then they are presented with product marketing plans. Next up: They fuse growth ambitions and product plans into a workable sales strategy. This is where leading Sales Ops groups shine. They provide guidance on where to look for the best sales growth opportunities. As one executive put it, “The best Sales Ops groups help sellers look forward, not just backward!”
Sales Ops does this by taking the lead in developing the “tactical sales plan.” A three-step process to accomplish this was described:
STEP 1: FOCUS ON THE MOST ATTRACTIVE GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES
Sales Ops (often teamed with Marketing) accomplishes this by undertaking two critical analyses:
- Identify industries/sectors that are growing, healthy and most apt to buy “our kind” of products/ services
- Identify subsets of these industries where we have a competitive advantage through product differentiation, vertical/application expertise or a deep reference base
This enables high-performing Sales Ops functions to identify sectors with both the highest growth potential and the highest propensity to buy:
STEP 2: TURN OPPORTUNITY INTO A SALES STRATEGY
In each target sector, accounts must be identified, categorized and prioritized. The best Sales Ops functions don’t leave this to chance. We learned that top Sales Ops functions identify accounts by sector, region, district and territory. They provide sellers with a list of accounts and contacts. And they fit these accounts into one of four categories:Sellers can steer away from the lower left quadrant to focus more effort on higher value accounts. And they can tailor their message and approach according to whether the account is a current client, a target, or has a high or low sales potential.
STEP 3: SUPPORT THAT ENABLES MORE WINS
This is the nitty-gritty aspect of ensuring that sellers have the ammunition they need to win on the ground. This includes services like:
- Populating CRM systems with contact information
- Tracking down success stories and producing high-powered cases
- Maintaining a list of customer references
- Maintaining a library of applications and solutions relevant to each target sector
- Maintaining an up-to-date list of solution/application experts who can be called upon for help and advice
- Working with Marketing to build and distribute first-rate sales collateral that sellers actually use
- Collecting and distributing relevant insight from social media about activity in the sector or at specific accounts
- Building playbooks based on seller best practices on what to do and who to call on to maximize the odds of winning, tailored to whether the customer is a current user, light user or a high-value target
SUPPORT IN MAXIMIZING TIME ON THE HIGHEST VALUE SALES ACTIVITIES
Another Sales Ops mission: Make sure sellers have sufficient time to effectively implement the sales strategy. Top Sales Ops departments do this by quantifying how sellers spend time and helping them to focus on the activities that add the most value. Referring to the graphic below, that means helping sellers shift effort toward activities in the top row while de-emphasizing activities along the bottom.As important as they all are, activities such as billing issue resolution, customer order servicing or even routine re-orders are all potential time sinks. They require attention, but perhaps not from the seller. Phase III Sales Ops functions build tele/inside resources to handle such activities better, cheaper and faster. And they manage the handoff to and from sellers so that it is seamless to the customer.
These groups also invest in ways to help sellers maximize the effectiveness of high-impact activities along the top row. They create libraries of successful proposals and presentations easily accessed by mobile technology. They create pre-proposal discovery templates and help sellers connect with in-house experts to leverage their expertise. They help make selling time devoted to solving customer business issues as productive as possible.
And that’s not all. We heard about Phase III Ops functions that help spot accounts with the highest propensity to buy; point out where and when equipment is coming off lease (sometimes even for competitors); highlight changes in key management positions and alert sellers to new opportunities (or risks). In some cases Ops filters Marketing leads to ensure that sellers are asked to pursue only openings with reasonable odds of closing. These Sales Ops functions know that seller time is valuable and are determined to maximize their return on effort.
We invite you to learn more about Alexander Group’s 2014 Chief Sales Executive Reinvention Forum or read more about Insight-led Selling.