At Cloud Analytics, a $10 billion global B2B technology company, the growing Asia-Pacific sales force sold successfully to existing accounts, but only a small number of salespeople made progress with new customers. Emily, the general manager for the region, knew that if she could scale some of what these successful salespeople were doing for other new customers, she would help the company exceed its goals and earn well-deserved recognition for the team. At the same time, she had seen numerous attempts at “scaled” initiatives, almost all of which wasted time and resources and delivered no value. Would it be possible to effectively scale what these few winning sellers were doing to make the field stronger?
Not every success can or should be repeated. First, the effort required may not be worth it. Plus, what worked for one customer may not necessarily work for another — and if you forget that, you could fail. Knowing when to scale an initiative and when not to scale can be the difference between the company hitting its numbers and not.
There are tried and true questions to ask before deciding when to scale a new approach. Based on our 15 years of experience leading transformation projects at technology companies, we encourage companies to determine whether an initiative is worth scaling by assessing alignment with company sales strategy, impact on time with customers, return on investment and adoption incentives. to investigate.
Important scaling questions
When a salesperson succeeds in testing a new sales program, leaders often resort to profit-sharing over a phone call or widespread email. But after celebrating the victory, they often fail to take the next important step. Leaders need to ask four key questions to determine the best way forward.
1. Does the sales program match the company’s sales strategy?
Sales leaders need to ask themselves if this victory, even if it’s a big one, is one they want to replicate. They can look at this question through two lenses.
First, they need to determine whether they want to close more deals with the type of customer they just sold to, with customer type often characterized by industry alignment, current spending level, customer location, or company size. For example, if a salesperson closes a deal in healthcare and the company has some healthcare customers but isn’t interested in significantly expanding healthcare, it might not make sense to scale up what they’ve done.
Second, leaders must consider the type of sale and whether the products or services sold represent business priorities. Maybe the seller just sold a big deal with newly released products that represent the future of the company. In that case, scaling the approach can be of great value.
With those two lenses in mind, it can become clear what the alignment is between scaling a sales program and the company sales strategy. At Cloud Analytics, Emily knew that her region — and the company in general — needed to sell the existing product suite to more new customers to meet ambitious quotas, and that investing in scaling served that goal. She decided to investigate what the best salespeople she could scale were doing.
2. Do aspects of this program allow salespeople to spend more time with customers?
When there is alignment between strategy and scaling, leaders must determine which parts of the program should be scaled. For salespeople, the goal is often to spend more time directly with customers or preparing for a conversation with customers, and to spend less time attending internal meetings, navigating systems and tools, or reporting. So an easy way to evaluate a sales program is to understand which parts sales reps can better spend their time with.
For example, salespeople spend a lot of time prospecting and qualifying leads. While these steps are important and ultimately lead to more time for customers, they are often repeatable and scalable. To do that, sales programs can establish marketing sequences, making it easy for the sales force to reach many prospects as they move through the early stages of the sales funnel. Sales can send automated emails and post content to social media platforms to establish their credibility and brand, increasing their chances of meeting prospects and closing the deal.
In the case study example, the salespeople in Asia-Pacific had books with a large number of accounts and spent a lot of time trying to make appointments with new customers, rather than actually talking to customers. Many of the reps became frustrated both with the time they spent trying to get meetings and with their low success rates. Two of the representatives had made significant progress by sending messages based on templates and attaching relevant standardized content. They used both industry and functional area (e.g. finance, HR) to consider what content to include in posts and what content to include, and response to these posts was very high. The CEO saw potential and decided to automate some of the sales processes to support this approach for the new customer segment, investing in an automation suite from a software startup to build email-based marketing sequences that could be easily implemented. scaled up.
3. What is the return on investment from scaling up?
Of course, scaling any effort should be judged in terms of return on investment. The investment to scale a program can usually be broken down into investments in tools and people to support new processes. The return modeling will mainly focus on the additional closed deals directly related to the scaled program. However, there may be indirect factors to consider when calculating returns. For example, the success of the sales program can lead to insights and other initiatives that impact sales, marketing, or customer success.
After the new approach was rolled out in a pilot at Cloud Analytics, marketing and prospecting activities were on one platform, so Emily had a clear idea of the impact. She saw a significant increase in new customer response, interaction and interest in the company’s products, particularly from two sectors she focused on: metals & mining and technology. She enthusiastically shared this data with the regional marketing manager, who decided to shift more of his marketing dollars for these target sectors to online channels, including social media. The success of his efforts helped improve the regional return on marketing spend.
4. Can leaders create the right incentives to drive adoption?
If the sales program is scaled up and then left unused, it is likely to be viewed as a failure, so leaders need to define the right incentives to drive adoption. Easily accessible training and financial incentives – from bonuses to multipliers – can help motivate the field to change behavior. At the same time, the company should reward salespeople who contribute to large-scale initiatives, whether they come up with ideas about what to scale end-to-end or simply contribute sales materials that are shared with other reps.
Recognizing employees for these kinds of important scale measures has many advantages. Individual employees who receive praise are more likely to be satisfied and stay with the company. Nearly 80% of people who have quit their jobs say “lack of appreciation” played a role, so this kind of recognition can make a difference. For the company, these actions demonstrate a commitment to celebrate and support a more innovative culture.
Many companies have sales clubs, where the salespeople who exceed the quota are rewarded. Recognizing employees who contribute to economies of scale is different. Leaders can, of course, offer them company-specific rewards and shoutouts on calls. Even better, though, is when they provide these innovative salespeople with additional responsibilities, including the ability to lead more specialized teams that help create their work.
Answering these four questions when scaling a sales program can transform the sales experience for the better. The benefits are clear. The companies that have scaled programs with the four factors in mind have salespeople who are more likely to meet quotas, be happier at work, and less likely to leave.
Of course, there are challenges in scaling programs. Automating aspects of prospecting and lead generation can require significant investment, both in terms of time and money. Sellers have to invest time in setting up the steps that will be scaled, and this effort doesn’t guarantee results. At Cloud Analytics, getting the field to support automated prospecting and lead generation has been a challenge. The company realized early on that it would be difficult to sell the program in one go, so they chose to roll it out by region. They were diligent in collecting data and showing results, using the success from one region to sell sales leaders in the next. However, going through these steps took time.
Building on a successful sales program has always been both important and challenging. But by empowering the field with better scaling practices, leaders can ensure their go-to-market programs benefit everyone involved.
This post Is your sales strategy worth scaling? was original published at “https://hbr.org/2022/04/is-your-sales-strategy-worth-scaling”