Since the start of COVID, many startups and sales teams have been required to adapt and change to address the new business climate presented by the pandemic. Heading into 2021, there is optimism, but also the acknowledgment of the reality that our society may not quickly completely transition back to pre-pandemic norms.
To help our portfolio companies prepare for 2021, and as a follow up to our thoughts from May on 5 Fundamental Sales Strategies during COVID-19, we hosted a session with three Sales Strategy experts to share their thoughts on how Sales Leaders should best navigate the future.
Our speakers were:
- Mark Godley – CEO, LeadGenius, an innovative B2B Data and Automation Software company.
- Christina Brady – President, Sales Assembly, a top sales training program for B2B Revenue Leaders with clients such as Glassdoor, Groupon, G2 Crowd, LInkedIn, UpWork, and Gong.
- Dawson Cochran – Managing Partner, ValueSelling Associates, a leading sales methodology training firm.
The session covered:
- Sales Risk Assessment and Mitigation
- Optimal Data for Board-Level Conversations
- How to Establish Consistency Through Sales Processes
- Keys to Success: Creativity, Agility, and Efficiency
Sales Risk Assessment and Mitigation
Most Sales Reps fall into the trap of avoiding conflict and continuing the status quo with customers. However, this poses long-term risks to the business. Encourage your team to increase engagement with their customers to find “speed bumps” early on.
Questions for Sales Leaders to consider for the health of their business:
- Are your customers and prospects attending your calls and asking questions during those conversations?
- How are you measuring customer engagement?
- Do customers know what success should look like? How are they measuring the success of your product? How should they be measuring the success of your product?
- Are your customers consistently missing deadlines and not sticking to the timelines you have in place?
- Do you understand customer budgets and who has buying authority?
- What are the customers’ needs and overall timeline to meet those needs?
Optimal Data for Board-Level Conversations
Numbers are the lifeblood of every business and sales has a huge impact on projecting whether the company is set up for success or not. At the end of the day, if the sales forecasts you have put in place do not show up on the P&L, they will not move the needle. Accurate sales forecasts have a huge impact on key growth areas like hiring and future sales/marketing budgets.
Every Sales Leader should consider the following:
- Find a “Financial Partner” to work with for sales and market forecasting activities. Examples of good targets include an Informal Advisor, CPA or VP of Finance, or Peer on Executive Team with startup finance proficiency.
- Establish sound funnel management tactics. Challenge your reps to continuously qualify their pipeline so you have accurate data to share with the Executive Team and Board of Directors.
- Determine the “Vital Few” Key Metrics to focus on. Often these are:
- Quarterly Gross Bookings
- Net Retention
- Gross Margin
- Exit Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)
- Align on goals. As Head of Sales, ensure your goals as both an Executive Team Member and Sales Leader are aligned. Your personal goals and the needs of the organization must be balanced.
- Leverage B2B Data for account management and prospecting activities. Our portfolio company LeadGenius is a great example of a solution provider in this space.
How to Establish Consistency Through Sales Processes
Sales Leaders must find a “method to the madness” and establish a definitive process for the team to follow. Some challenges you might face when formalizing a process include:
- Each sales rep has their own style and may not be able to adhere to a defined script, so flexibility is necessary, while not compromising key messages
- It is hard to ensure sales reps are adopting the process and ultimately “walking the walk”, especially in a remote work environment
- You are retraining the team’s “sales muscle memory”, so there will be a period of transition until new good habits are fully formed
However, without a sales process in place, you risk:
- Low Close Rates
- Inaccurate Forecasts
- Lengthy and unforecasted Sales Cycles
- Scaling Below Expectations
- Customer Negotiations on Price, Not Value
Because of these challenges and risks, it’s often best to formalize your sales methodology early in a company’s life cycle. There are a lot of methodologies to choose from but the general sentiment is any sales methodology is better than nothing. Ultimately, a methodology can help you transform the lowest performing sales reps to at least above average, which can be a key factor in becoming a top performing sales organization.
Keys to Success: Creativity, Agility, and Efficiency
These three attributes are the cornerstones of any successful sales organization and are particularly important during COVID.
- Creativity. Every technology buyer is overloaded with prospecting emails. Each sales rep must figure out how to cut through the noise. Reps thinking outside the box will be the ones that will be seen or heard. Encourage your team to put themselves in their prospect’s shoes and think about what emails are likely to get noticed and read. Video prospecting was mentioned as one innovative idea.
- Agility. Customers are more open to different ways of engagement and collaboration. Sales Leaders are encouraged to embrace change, retool their processes, and figure out how to set themselves up for success in 2021 and beyond.
- Efficiency. During COVID, sales reps do not have the time to chase prospects that will not deliver. Teams must be maniacal on what constitutes a top lead based on the qualification process set in place. Advise your sales team to do time analysis exercises and see what is working and not working.
We hope these tips are helpful as you think through your Sales Strategies. If you would like to connect with Mark, Christina or Dawson to talk further about Sales Strategy best practices email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out our post on 5 Fundamental Sales Strategies During COVID for more tips.
Brendon joined Sierra Ventures in 2017 and leads business development operations for the firm, including the CXO Advisory Board and Annual CXO Summit. In addition, he partners with management teams in the Sierra Ventures portfolio to accelerate their growth by identifying mutually beneficial CXO engagements, key strategic partnerships, and providing support with analyst relations strategies. Brendon also works with the Investment Team on sourcing and due diligence. Brendon has a background supporting CIOs in the healthcare industry and investors in the Venture Capital & Private Equity sectors through his work at Gartner. Brendon holds a MS in Entrepreneurship and BA in Environmental Science from the University of Florida. Outside of work he’s an avid golfer, traveler, and big Florida Gators fan.