Tag Archives: Sales Optimization

You Win Some, You “Luge” Some

A client recently came to us with the following question: What do we see other b-to-b companies doing to help their reps accelerate late-stage deals? Their reps often struggled to “cross the finish line” and close opportunities at the bottom of their funnel, so the client wanted to know what content and tools they should develop. What training might be useful? What offers should be extended? The truth is, there are probably several factors contributing to this problem. Maybe their reps are weak at negotiating. Maybe they are unable to sell effectively to senior-level decisionmakers who often play a role late in the buying process. Right now, we are helping the client to diagnose the exact problem, and then we’ll explore the possible solutions to address them. Perhaps they could leverage tools like ROI calculators or client reference systems. Of course, this discussion got me thinking about the Winter Olympics – particularly the luge competition. Perhaps this client’s problem wasn’t a “bottom of the funnel” problem at all.

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Sales Enablement Can Be the Pits

I recently went to see Ron Howard’s latest movie Rush. If you are not familiar with the movie, it’s about two Formula One racecar drivers and their intense rivalry. While the movie was disappointing, it had some great driving footage – and one scene in particular that caught my attention and got me thinking of sales enablement. (You know it has to be a pretty bad movie when I start to daydream about sales enablement.) The scene showed the orchestrated precision of a Formula One pit crew. Within a few seconds, tires were changes and fuel was topped. The pit crew was run by a crew chief, who also helped the driver set strategy before the race and adapt strategy during the race via radio communications. So, here’s what got me thinking of sales enablement.

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Pipeline Multipliers: The Math Just Does Not Work

Increasing the pipeline multiplier means putting more junk in the pipeline and hoping to improve output. Can you imagine a manufacturer taking this approach? We are going to keep output the same by lowering the quality of our raw material and increasing waste. Rarely is decreasing efficiency the answer to improving rep productivity, as shown by a SiriusDecisions study. We divided more than 200 b-to-b companies into two groups: those that mandated a 3X (or less) pipeline and those that managed a 4X (or greater) pipeline. Here’s what the data showed us:

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The Sales Forecast: No Surprises, Please

A SiriusDecisions survey found that only 21 percent of companies achieved 90 percent or greater sales forecast accuracy level at 30 days out – despite the hundreds of millions of dollars they spend on sales force automation tools and the (estimated) 2.5 hours per week that each sales rep and manager spends managing the forecast. Far too many companies continue to use intuition-based forecasting, sometimes influenced by wishful thinking, to supplement or even override their system-generated forecasts.

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Observable Outcomes: A Checklist For Sales

At SiriusDecisions, we’ve studied and written at length about the value of aligning the sales process with the customer buying process. A typical sales process includes a series of stages through which b-to-b buyers pass before making a complex purchase and correlates to the actions a seller takes (e.g. analyze needs, qualify, identify solution, propose solution) to manage opportunities through the pipeline. But that’s not nearly enough. A best practice sales process goes beyond the high-level stages and includes knowledge inflection points and observable outcomes associated with each stage. An observable outcome, similar to a checklist item, is a measurable, verifiable and specific response from – or an action taken by – the buyer. Here are a few examples:

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Four Steps to Building a Sales Enablement Function

While some may say that sales enablement is just the latest buzzword or industry fad, our research shows that 60 percent of companies plan to increase their sales enablement budgets, and another 30 percent plan to maintain spending levels. During their inquiries with us, companies beginning to develop a sales enablement department often express a sense of urgency or even panic. We have also witnessed an explosion in vendors offering sales enablement solutions. Both companies and the investment community recognize that sales enablement is here to stay. We suggest the following steps for building a sales enablement function:

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Weathering the Storm of Better Sales Forecasting

SiriusDecisions’ research continues to demonstrate that predictability and accuracy in sales forecasting is one of the top challenges in b-to-b organizations. Many clients ask me for a “silver bullet” best practice they can implement to deliver better forecasts. I wish there were a single activity or process I could offer to solve this age-old question. Sales organizations must consistently implement a formalized forecast methodology. This methodology must outline the criteria that the organization will use to define the opportunities committed for the month or quarter. Specific criteria could be based on certain stages in the sales process, using probability factoring or pure sales rep intuition (though the latter is not a best practice).

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Summit 2013 Highlights: Apply Productivity Analysis to Improve B-to-B Sales Results

Time is the most valuable resource a sales rep has: “A salesperson has, typically, 50 hours in the week in which to work. It’s the job of both marketing and sales to ensure that those 50 hours are spent as productively as possible,” said Jim Ninivaggi, service director of Sales Enablement Strategies at SiriusDecisions, who spoke at Summit 2013 this morning. B-to-b organizations often struggle to keep reps focused on higher-yield activities that lead to closing deals and bringing in revenue. This was borne out by the results of an instant poll of the Summit 2013 audience: Only 1 percent of participants polled felt very confident that their reps are fully productive vs. 41 percent who are very confident that their reps are not fully productive.

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Four Proven Ways to Reach at Least 90 Percent Sales Quota Attainment

How can you improve the performance of your b-to-b sales organization? Set higher quotas? Provide higher commissions or accelerators? Increase training? Hire more sales specialists or, perhaps, administrators? Which levers should you push and why? In the past, we have written about the clear relationship between pipeline-to-quota ratios and pipeline conversion ratios and pipeline velocity (3x-or-less pipelines have better conversion rates, while 4x-or-more pipelines have faster velocity, but that does not make up for the worse conversion rates). Analysis of our sales benchmark data reveals four interesting commonalities between b-to-b organizations that reported at least 90 percent annual quota attainment for their sales force.

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Sales Process, Methodologies, Models and Hybrids

This Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens will compete in the Super Bowl to determine the American football championship. While the respective coaches may come from the same family (Jim Harbaugh is the head coach of the 49ers while his brother John leads the Ravens), they deploy very different offensive systems. The 49ers use an offensive system called the “Pistol,” which includes many plays where the quarterback may be required to run with the ball. The Ravens utilize the “Vertical” offense, where the focus is on having the quarterback pass the football in precisely timed patterns to his receivers. These different offensive systems made me think of a common question I receive from our sales enablement clients. There seems to be some confusion as to the difference between sales process, sales methodology, and sales models – and often our enablement clients use them interchangeably. At the risk of overusing yet another sports analogy in sales, here’s how football can help explain the difference.

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