Well, in a previous life, I spent six years selling to, and thereby studying, Sales Operations. And following this rule of thumb I went DEEP on my target persona.
I learned their primary goals (personal and professional) to refine my value language… studied org charts and power dynamics to map out procurement process… learned about organizational misalignment to help create healthy tension…
You get the idea.
Why go so deep? Because you have to get to the point that you could do the job (and do it well) before you can expect to give realistic advice.
Doing that, you end up learning things that aren’t immediately obvious to everyone else. Things you can use to improve your success rate — like insight into how the industry really works.
Want a quick debrief on what I learned about Sales Ops?
1) Sales Ops gets hired too late, from everyone’s point of view. They come after a VP Sales, but before Sales Enablement.
2) Sales Ops starts as a tech-savvy SFDC Admin (often an introvert BDR transfer). It then grows to Sales Ops, and ultimately matures to Biz or Rev Ops and has a full team built around them.
3) Sales Ops has grown from tactical to strategic. They’re no longer being asked to produce mindless spreadsheets but, instead, is being granted a seat at the table, accountable as the eyes and ears of revenue acceleration.
Now, that’s a bit of a rabbit trail…
I’m really here to talk about your coaching culture. But I’ll make the connection in a moment. And I just want you to grasp the depth of information I’m going to share with you in this guide.
You see, Sales Enablement best practice isn’t exactly the best, and the Coaching Maturity Model may very well be the solution we’ve all been looking for. Keep reading to see:
The movement from Field to Inside Sales resulted in a comparatively massive, “modern” tech stack. As we optimized for velocity, we…
Hired younger and greener
Engineered as much automation as we could in our sales process
Shored up our weaknesses by adding tech
That tech served purposes like capturing leads directly from a website, automatically routing those leads to reps, increasing the volume of emails a human could send, enabling reps to make phone calls with a single click, and easily creating clean and crisp contracts for signature.
Wanna know what else those products can do?
Data capture. Every single one of them. Every single product you bolt onto your tech stack captures and moves data into your CRM.
Think about it…
You’re bcc’ing your emails, CTA making your dials, and tracking opens on every email, contract, and piece of content your team sends out.
And guess what? The smartest and fastest growing companies of the last decade all found a way to harness that data and use it to make smarter and more profitable decisions.
We found ourselves in the age of information — for real this time — and the modern Ops role was born.
What’s the Point, You Might Ask
Where is this going?
Well, I believe that we’re at the dawn of another movement. We’re about to see another role get elevated in awareness and importance.
There’s a person at your company that can…
Make or break your growth round
Personally get you to hit or miss your number
Might have literally millions of dollars riding on their back
The role is Sales Enablement, and they have arrived.
I had the great fortune of being a Chorus customer before joining as the VP Sales. I learned about enablement and training during my time as Sales Trainer at InsightSquared. I was responsible for onboarding hundreds of salespeople, training the entire BDR, AE, CS, and Support functions.
After joining the team at Chorus, I went on a listening tour (just like I did when I was learning sales ops).
I went back and listened to every call that lead to a new customer signing up. I interviewed our largest customers and asked every question in the book.
I learned, again, about their primary goals (personal as well as professional)… understood org charts and power dynamics… asked about organizational misalignment… took Misha McPherson’s Sales Enablement course… and feel like I once again have something worth sharing.
Want another quick debrief? This time, Sales Enablement.
Sales Enablement Debriefed
1) Sales Enablement is also hired late, and only after the problem becomes painfully clear.
2) Sales Enablement pros come from a spectrum of backgrounds; from BDRs that transfer into the role all the way to 10-year veterans who have built global sales orgs for publicly traded companies.
3) Clearly, the responsibilities and output tends to vary based on where in that spectrum you hire.
4) Sales Enablement, at most companies, has yet to experience the “tactical to strategic” movement mentioned for Ops above.
5) The most common “organizational misalignment” comes in two forms:
Front-line managers “fail to reinforce training in the field.”
Sales Leadership (VP and above) fail to make a decision on talk tracks, methodology, training priorities, etc.
6) Hiring in Sales Enablement is often a result of a company moving into hyper-growth mode or after finding their sales team woefully under quota. (A sales enablement manager may be under fire from their first day on the job.)
7) The Sales Enablement function is being asked to deliver visibility into the actual impact their coaching has on the team. Meaning, we’re no longer satisfied to see a conference room full of trainees. Instead, we want to see actual data correlating their training to changes in real-life field behavior, and then correlated into an improvement in quota attainment or win rate.
If you’re still with me, then you likely read that last bullet and reminded yourself how impossible it is.
It’s hard enough to herd cats and get reps into the training room. Nevermind making sure they actually take the advice!
And asking managers to reinforce it on the floor?
In an average week, your front-line sales manager will do 8 1:1s, 3 team meetings, 20 customer-facing calls, and whatever other piece of your job you’ve delegated to them! Asking them to test for or enforce training updates on real calls is near impossible — and the fastest way to dig up some of that misalignment I talked about earlier.
So, what do you do about it?
You hit your number last year, so the board advises doubling your team. This means, with attrition, your sales team will be 60% rookie by the end of the year, or worse. Hit your number again, and less than 25% of your team will have more than a year’s experience in year 3.
The better you do, the more you hire, and the less seasoned and self-sufficient your reps become.
How do you keep up with your team’s coaching and development needs as your company continues to grow and change — especially when, every six months, you look like a totally different business?
Easy. Identify where you are today and take one step forward. Follow the Sales Enablement best practices and progress your coaching culture every single quarter.
Now, let’s look at the nitty gritty of doing just that.
The goal? Establishing a Coaching Maturity Model that helps you overcome the challenges of your sales team doing “too well.”
The Coaching Maturity Model is about creating a coaching framework that takes less-seasoned reps and coaches them to maturity. It’s about creating a coaching culture that’s ongoing and reliable.
Sales Enablement Best Practice
Let’s use j-curves and classic SaaS growth models to help center you in this exercise.
This helps identify the funding and revenue trajectory for successful venture-backed startups.
Not every company experiences the same “first five years,” though, so we use ARR, employee count, or customer count as proxy. Where is your org? Find your peer group in the image below.
Notice that at Early Stage, a company has a Sales team but nothing more. As they move into the Growth Stage, they develop an Ops team. Then, as they approach maturity, they (finally) hire a Sales Enablement Manager and develop a Sales Enablement framework.
Now, in this next image, we’ve highlighted the most common best practices from companies at these 3 distinct phases of maturity.
Keep in mind, these aren’t all-encompassing lists. They’re a collection of the best of the best by segment.
Not every item on the list might get done at one org, but if you aspire to be best in class, this is a very strong starting point for you.
Now, let’s talk about coaching culture and how you can create one that takes you to Sales Enablement best practice (and beyond).
3 Maturity Checkpoints for Your Coaching Culture
Let’s deep dive these 3 maturity checkpoints to provide a litmus test for your own coaching culture.
Early-Stage Coaching Culture
You’ll see the early developments in a coaching model tend to happen ad hoc, or in the moment.
Sales Leaders will invite the team to a group session from time to time, but most of the training takes place on or after calls. It’s almost always focused on deal execution, and rarely talks to skill development or practice. We’re coaching the deal, but not coaching the rep.
Focus tends to be on the basics: get every member of the team proficient in some basic talk tracks and then go fight for your lives!
Growth-Stage Coaching Culture
As your company grows and matures, you’ll add some scaffolding around your VP Sales.
This second layer of team leads or pure managers can shoulder some of the load. This allows you to be a little more proactive and planned in your approach.
Weekly, recurring sessions start to develop. You create a few tangible assets (like mock call guides or sample role play exercises.) Your product and market develop, creating a need for segmented messaging.
Mature-Stage Coaching Culture
Most readers might get discouraged from this final table. Keep in mind, this represents publicly traded (or on their way) companies, with entire enablement teams built out to develop this program.
“We just raised a hundred million dollars, we’re going to hire a hundred reps in the next six months!” is the rallying cry for this stage.
Watch your initiatives take shape. You’re adding structure (from process and from tech.) You move from loose guidelines to actual curriculums. All skills and sessions are graded, rep progress is tracked, and the most mature orgs are creating individualized coaching plans at scale.
OK, But How Do I Actually Get Started?
Where do we go from here?
The answer is easier than you expect. Break your coaching framework into four key pieces. Make a simple decision on each bucket, and take action.
This is a journey of a thousand miles, so take that first step. The following will outline four areas where you can immediately make an impact this week!
4 Basic Elements of a Successful Coaching Culture
The four basic elements to any coaching culture come down to:
Your onboarding program
The format for ongoing development
What role your managers play
How focused your personal development plans become.
In the following section, you’ll find a basic breakdown of each area.
New-Hire Onboarding takes place from your first days and typically lasts anywhere from 3 weeks to 90 days.
You’ll see the ratio of classroom time to field time move from 100% on day 1 to <1 hr on your final day.
Sessions will cover everything from the founder’s vision, to basic pitch and sales training, to product and competitive understanding, as well as introductions to the rest of your team and company.
Rapid growth companies are starting to catch on, when it comes to seeing ROI, to the value of reducing ramp time.
If you can create an onboarding experience that removes a single month from ramp, you can add a month of full quota attainment for every rep you hire this year.
Multiply the number of reps to be hired this year by an average monthly quota to find the potential impact to revenue.
In real life, you can accomplish this by simply getting more specific on what reps do in their first three months.
Want to hear our secret? Replace non-productive shadow time with a pre-built list of best practice calls.
We all make the same mistake: you slave over the lecture deck, you down three cups of coffee before the session, and you use every war and sports metaphor you can think of to deliver a high-impact, PERFECT training session.
But during the new hire’s other 7 hours that day?
“Go sit with Kat. She’s been here the longest; she’s the best. Learn her moves.”
And so it begins: the latch-key training that 80s moms perfected, leaving their kids home in front of MTV.
Meanwhile, you have a 20% win rate and a 30% no show rate. There’s less than a 10% chance that call you’re about to shadow is worth a damn. Join in and listen to your top sales rep fume about internal politics, while prospect X bails on the call again. Do you really have any idea at all what your new reps are doing with the majority of their day? No chance.
There is a better way: record all calls through your native functionality.
I promise, I’m not pitching Chorus. Every legitimate screenshare product offers basic call recording. Turn it on by default and record every meeting to rep’s personal storage.
If you win a deal, send your trainer/manager the first call’s recording. Use this list of highly productive calls (they all turned into buyers!) to build your shadow list.
Reps watch calls in tight calendar blocks instead of wandering the floor looking for a call to jump on. You get better calls reviewed, more calls reviewed, and less time spent!
You can’t expect reps to be self sufficient by now. Industry benchmark show a 7 month ramp… but the dirty secret is that’s just your comp plan.
Real-life ramp takes significantly longer and most reps never actually get to a place where they’re averaging above quota. In fact, you’re modeling 70-80% attainment of the cumulative goal, but less than 30% of the individuals on your team are actually hitting plan!
Time to get busy.
The most important steps here come down to:
Source the topics
Align on format
Assign and enforce ownership
This gives people fits, but can actually be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. If done correctly, it can build alignment, create good will in and across departments, and improve your outcome this year more than you know.
Create a 12-month training calendar that highlights both Top Down and Bottom Up coaching topics.
Review the company’s strategic goals and OKRs for this year. Should any of them come with sales training attached? (Think launching new products, rolling out methodology, etc., etc.) Chances are, if it’s important enough to hit the Exec Initiative List, it’s worth training on.
Then, survey the team. Ask the reps and managers alike: “What do you want to learn this year?”
Don’t make it exclusively about selling your product. Invest in your people. Democratizing the curriculum like this creates buy in from your team. Also guess what: they’re not asking you to teach them stuff they’re already good at! If your reps ask for help with a specific skill, help them.
Now that you’ve got a basic calendar and curriculum together, it’s time for format. There are some simple options available, and we recommend keeping it fresh by changing up.
For starters, just use the table below for a simple start.
The final decision is around ownership.
You should change up the presenter to keep it fresh. Also, nominating reps to lead sessions will help keep their peers’ attention and also increase the lecturer’s knowledge retention.
So keep mixing it up. Just make sure every session has an owner who is prepared with training materials and takeaways.
Our third bucket is around the role of the front-line sales manager.
This can either be the beginning of a fantastic and long-lasting mentor/mentee relationship, or it can result in wildly nasty Glassdoor reviews.
It’s important. So why is it so broken?
It goes back to the Success Paradox outlined earlier.
The more successful you are, the less experienced your team becomes. You hire BDR right out of college, promote to AE within a year, and then promote again to MidMarket or Manager before they’ve even seen three years in the field.
They’ve never been coached, and they’ve never coached.
In fact, ask yourself if you have a single authority figure on your sales team with a teaching or mentoring background. It’s the blind teaching the blind!
Actually “solving” this remains an elusive task, so let’s focus on a simple step to improve.
You just need to make a few very basic decisions:
What is your rep/manager meeting cadence?
What sales methodology are you using?
Do you block time during 1:1s for coaching?
Meeting Cadence. How often does a rep and a manager meet? What is the goal of each meeting? Is this listed anywhere? Are there instructions for prep and ownership? At Chorus, we do 1:1s on Mondays, Film Review on Tuesday..
Your salespeople don’t need to be data experts to prospect smarter, but they do need to know how to spot the right buying signals at the right accounts — especially during summer when pipeline can slow down.
To that end, sellers have more information at their disposal than ever before, but sifting through data to get to the top prospects can take up valuable time they need to spend… selling.
Join this webinar with Chris Garza, VP of Sales at Dun & Bradstreet to learn practical ways to prioritize your outreach to keep pipelines fat while your prospects are on vacation.
Before we dive in, you may be wondering whether live chat is right for your sales methodology. The short answer is “yes,” and here’s why…
B2B sales are usually one of 5 methods:
DIY Self Service
Live chats can help you manage the front end of all of these. With DIY, it’s even possible it could drive more leads into your existing funnel, giving you a completely automated sales process.
The key is to develop a strategy for automating your efforts, so as much lead gen and qualification as possible are done by your live chat solution, and not by your human sales reps. But we’ll talk more about how to do that in a minute.
Now, let’s look at the 3 types of campaigns that make live chat so useful for busy sales teams.
1. “Lead Bot” Campaigns
A lot of business use live chat on their websites to respond to customer queries — and that’s about it.
That’s probably because of the limitations in early live chat applications. You see, when live chat was first implemented, it was session-based.
Session-based chats offer isolated, broken experiences because they don’t record the chat history or allow you to chat across devices. Worse, if somehow the chat gets disconnected due to a snag, you have to start the chat all over again from the beginning. There’s no way to provide a continuous, contextual experience.
On the contrary, modern messaging apps are taking over the business world because they offer a great chatbot experience to both customers and businesses. They are customizable, easy to deploy, and low-cost.
Here’s just a taste of what’s possible when you use chatbots for lead gen…
At their most basic, you can automate chatbots to interact with prospects and qualify them as leads.
Today’s chatbots can integrate with your CRM software, so you can essentially configure it to be a “leadbot.” With that setup, you can automate the customer data to your CRM dashboard and make your sales prospecting process a lot less manual.
You can also program the chatbot to follow smart workflows so they can interact with your prospects in different scenarios, including your offline business hours.
Here’s how it works…
The chatbot serves as a proxy human live chat agent.
It qualifies leads based on their interest level.
It then hands off the conversations to their human counterparts
Talk about creating a leak-proof funnel despite having a limited team bandwidth! And it doesn’t stop there. For more advanced use cases, use chatbots to encourage prospects to:
Enroll for a course from right within the chat widget.
To avoid making the chatbot sound robotic, be sure to personalize your bot to use your brand voice. Customize it to have whatever personality fits your brand: funny, friendly, sassy, or whatever else you want it to be like.
2. Contextual Triggered Message Campaigns
Chatbots can serve as robot concierges to your website’s front desk, meeting and greeting visitors and answering their questions. You can also run bot-less automated campaigns — something like self-service kiosks in your front desk lobby.
To do this, you only need to automate triggered messages based on user behavior.
What types of behavior can launch triggered messages?
Visiting specific pages
Clicking a button
Staying on a page a specified number of seconds or minutes
This really is the best example of contextual selling in the virtual world. With triggered messaging set up on your website, you can trigger ultra-specific messages to hot leads who might be evaluating a purchase.
Best of all, it offers a better user experience than many other sales and marketing apps.
Unlike the annoying pop-ups that hinder a customer’s experience to the point they turn them off, triggered messages appear quietly within the chat widget. They don’t demand attention, and they give visitors full control of navigation.
Like chatbots, you can employ triggered campaigns to work for you 24*7 and reap the benefits of automation.
For instance, if analytics suggest that a significant number of prospects belonging to different time zones visit your website during your offline business hours, you can employ triggered messages to engage with them based on their behavior.
With triggered messages, you can run high-impact campaigns such as:
Instead of looking at live chat as an either/or option to emails, you can get a synergetic effect on your sales process by getting them to work together.
Use live chat to get your foot in the door of your prospects — gather intel on their email address, names, and interests. Use that information to nurture prospects through personalized emails. Follow up with an offer to answer their questions on a call, get a free trial, or sign up for a personalized demo.
If you want to make this campaign more effective, choose a messaging app that provides live chat + email automation as part of its feature offerings. This feature lets you select ready-to-use email templates, customize them, and schedule them at an appropriate time.
Industries with high customer churn can benefit immensely from this collaboration: When customers initiate a chat about canceling their free trial or subscription, you can automate targeted emails (with incentives) to convince them to stay with you.
A Good Fit for Today’s Sales Environment
Live chat campaigns can prompt your prospects to take action when they are at the peak of engagement with your brand.
But you need to be strategic about how you use it. The 3 kickass campaigns I’ve shared in this article can help you build in automation without losing your personal touch.
The results? More leads and more time to follow up with each of them. Sounds like a win-win to me!
Sam Jacobs: Hey folks, it’s Sam Jacobs, your friendly neighborhood Sales Hacker Podcast host. Welcome to the show. We’ve got Kathleen Roberge, she’s the chief revenue officer at Rocketrip.
She’s an incredible leader and she has a number of great insights, both about how to manage people and how to incentivize teams, but also how to be a great chief revenue officer. It’s a great interview.
We’d like to thank our sponsors. We’ve got two sponsors on the show for you today. Conga is the leading end-to-end digital document transformation suite. With Conga, you can simplify documents, automate contracts, and execute e-signatures so you can focus on accelerating sales cycles and closing business faster.
Our second sponsor is Outreach, the leading sales engagement platform that enables sales reps to humanize their communications at scale, from automating the soul-sucking manual work that eats up selling time to providing action-oriented tips on what communications are working best. Outreach has your back.
About Katheen Roberge: An Introduction
Sam Jacobs: Kathleen is the new chief revenue officer at Rocketrip, but she’s a career CRO and sales leader. She spent 20 years growing technology companies through her focus on delivering strong go-to-market strategies, building demand gen engines, opening new channels of revenue and developing customer success and account management programs. She contributes regularly to thought leadership, participating in 20 to 30 speaking engagements annually and publishing lots and lots of articles.
Kathleen, welcome to the show.
Kathleen Roberge: Thank you, Sam. It’s great to be here.
Sam Jacobs: So tell us what Rocketrip is.
Kathleen Roberge: It’s a great concept. Rocketrip is actually a rewards platform incenting travelers to spend less on travel. Essentially, what we do is we present each traveler with a price to beat. If they go below that price, they keep half the savings and the company keeps half the savings. So it’s a win-win for everyone.
Thinking Outside the Manager’s Box
Sam Jacobs: What are some of the pillars of your management philosophy, your leadership philosophy, and maybe even your sales philosophy?
Kathleen Roberge: One thing is what I call rapid experimentation. It’s taking risks and trying new things that the company’s never done before. I always say that the risk of not experimenting is greater than the risk of failure. And these don’t have to be big, disruptive risks or ideas. It’s more about making smaller improvements and testing the assumptions very quickly.
Another philosophy is, don’t be afraid to… try new things, think out of the box. I’ve done things like make people earn their spots on my sales team. I’ve done some really crazy things with distributed work environments and not being so fixated on having everyone in the office.
Never limit yourself and always be thinking of what works best for the company, even if it’s not the traditional, conventional way to do things.
Persuasion Starts By Establishing Buy-In Early On
Sam Jacobs: Do you have a way of persuading people?
Kathleen Roberge: I’m a pretty transparent person and when I start with a company, I have a very frank conversation with the CEO, and sometimes even the board, to let them know that I am going to experiment and that’s what I was brought in to do. I try to get their buy-in, even before I come on board, that I’m going to be asking for their commitment and their buy-in on some non-traditional things.
If they have confidence in you and they are willing to let you take some experiments, that upfront and frankly, if they said, no, we’re not going to let you experiment, I would know that this wouldn’t be the environment that I would thrive in. So it’s good to have that conversation early and upfront.
Teams Over Idea
Sam Jacobs: “Teams Over Idea.” Tell us what you mean by that concept.
Kathleen Roberge: Sometimes people think, especially with startups, that it’s all about the idea and how great the idea is. But one concept that I always found is, you can have the best idea ever, but if you have a team that can’t execute, what good does it do you?
It’s always better to have a great team than a great idea. They’ll figure out a way to execute and a way to come up with an even better idea if they need it. It’s really more about the people that you hire, than the actual idea itself.
Sam Jacobs: What do you think the mechanisms are for building a great team? What are the strategies that you use to make a team great in the first place?
Kathleen Roberge: The whole idea about finding ways to motivate your team–for everyone, it’s different. Invest time in your team and figure out what is the one thing that gets them really excited? Is it money? Is it recognition? And once you determine that, you start to play with those levers and really incentivize people based on what they’re motivated to do.
How to Attract and Retain the Best Young Talent
Sam Jacobs: Part of your management philosophy and leadership style is developing young talent. Working with, I guess we can call them Millennials, but really, the dominant laborers in the workforce now, but talk to us about your perspective, relative to conventional wisdom and how you think about engaging and motivating these folks.
Kathleen Roberge: I’m a fan of Millennials and I’m not afraid to say it. I have many, many colleagues and peers that find the behavior of Millennials frustrating. Typically, they’re labeled as needy, entitled, they’re not loyal, they’re casual workers. And I frankly, have seen the complete opposite.
I don’t look at them as needy, I just think they need a lot of feedback and they want to build trust with their employer and that’s good.
They’re pushing the bar to cause companies to have more friendly, engaging, flexible environments, which is what we need in order to attract and retain the best talent.
Sam Jacobs: As you’re thinking about attracting and retaining, is it just about incentives for you? What’s the kind of work culture that you’re building to make sure that you do engage the rising stars of the workforce and make it a productive place?
Kathleen Roberge: It’s not about just incentives. Not at all, actually. There’s a large part of it that is about the culture and the level of engagement that you have with these employees, asking for their input, letting them be a voice in the organization. Especially if you see an employee who has a creative idea, let them speak it. Don’t speak it on their behalf, invite them to an executive meeting, have them share an idea, give them some exposure. And the best thing that you can do is give them some recognition.
I’m a big fan of the environment around them–create one that allows them to thrive. That’s not just motivating them with incentives; that’s recognizing them and giving them that voice in the company, so they feel like they’re a contributor.
Sam Jacobs: Hi, team, it’s Sam Jacobs. This is Sam’s corner. Another fantastic interview, Kathleen Roberge, what a track record. She joins companies and something good happens.
What We Learned
How to implement rapid experimentation
How to persuade people
What makes a great team
How to excite your team (and incentive them along the way)
Don’t miss episode 63
This has been a great show. Before we go, we want to thank our sponsors. Conga is the leading end-to-end digital document transformation suite. With Conga you can simplify documents, automate contracts, and execute esignatures. Our second sponsor is Outreach. Outreach is the leading sales engagement platform.
If you want to reach out to me with feedback, you can reach me on LinkedIn.
This has been the Sales Hacker Podcast. And that’s all I’ve got for now. We’ll talk to you next time.
How do you ensure you’re maximizing your sales team’s potential? How do you inspire your team to go above and beyond what they think is possible?
The answers may surprise you.
According to the first-ever State of Sales Performance Survey, in partnership with Sales Hacker, Ambition, Gong, AA-ISP, Vidyard, and Factor 8, the key is modern sales performance management.
This may sound complicated, but it’s not.
Modern sales performance management is simply how the top sales organizations today are doing things. All it really means is that you’re using data to unlock and maximize the potential of your team, and using it to judge how you stack up to the competition.
And the State of Sales Performance Survey has the data you need to start making powerful, strategic changes to your org right now!
Keep reading to learn the top 5 motivators, as uncovered by the survey. you can use to inspire your team today.
First, A Deeper Look at Sales Performance
When evaluating sales performance, you’ve got to start by asking yourself, “Why do my reps come into work every day?” and “What do they want out of working here?”
“Because we pay them,” I hear you say. “Silly question.”
But you’ve got to think beyond the obvious.
The obvious answer is that sales reps do their job because they want the salary or the bonuses. But that doesn’t explain why they chose to work with you and your organization.
The fact is, most of your employees show up and sell for the same reason you do. They want their career to succeed and grow, and they see your company as a place to do that.
They show up and sell because they want the company to succeed — because if the company succeeds, they succeed.
Why You Need to Trust Your Team
According to the survey, you and your reps rate your performance based largely on the same KPI’s, albeit on slightly different scales. It’s clear that sales leaders and reps prioritize things very similarly.
Everyone wants the same thing: increased revenue. Which means you don’t have to coerce your reps into working for you.
You don’t have to trick them into doing what they should. They know what they need to do, and they know what numbers are important.
What you do need to do is help them stay motivated.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the top five things the survey uncovered that improve your reps’ sales performance:
Like you, your reps want to see revenue numbers go up. But they can’t do that without data.
According to Scott Barker, Head of Partnerships here at Sales Hacker,
“Sellers want transparency across the entire revenue organization. Where is the team sitting for the month? Why did my quota go up? How long of a runway do we have if we aren’t hitting our numbers? As leaders, we need to take this to heart and make the numbers visible and easily accessible to all.”
In short, your sales reps want to know what the stakes are. They want to know how the company is doing and how their actions are affecting the bottom line.
If the company fails, they’re out of a job. If it succeeds, they hope to succeed and grow along with it.
Treat them like an integral member of the team, and they’ll fight for the company. When sales are down, they’ll reward you with creative solutions.
Your reps are your snipers. They take a shot, attempting to make a sale, but they need their spotter (the data) to tell them if they missed, by how much, how to adjust their aim. And if they do hit (make the sale), they need that spotter to help them acquire a new target faster and more effectively.
Bottom line, treat your reps like more than just a cog in the machine. Give them the data to do their job — and the freedom to act on it.
You’ll be amazed how such a simple change can affect your bottom line so much.
Performance Booster #2: Recognition
The second best thing that you can use to drive team success is public recognition. Over a quarter of reps said public recognition got them fired up to sell.
By publicly praising high performers, you cultivate a culture of success and give everyone a benchmark to strive towards. It’s why companies have celebrated the “employee of the month” for years.
A growing majority of sales workers are now millennials: More than half of the people polled said that at least 50% of their team is made up of millennials. Millennials want to feel valued. They want to feel like they’re making a difference.
This isn’t just a millennial thing, though. Humans are social creatures. We’re hard-wired to enjoy validation from our peers.
That being the case, it’s important to celebrate the wins — big ones and small ones alike.
If an employee has improved, or overcome an obstacle, praise them for that. Success, on every level, is something that should be put on a pedestal.
Too often, only the top performers get that validation. You need every one of your reps to feel like they are an important member of your team — even underperformers.
If you want loyalty in your sales team, there is no better way than publicly recognizing their success.
Performance Booster #3: Contests
Contests and competitions are one of the most popular tools used by companies, with 63% of companies saying they had run one in the last 6 months.
Contests can be a fantastic way to motivate your team. You can think of it as a strategic mix of public recognition and sales bonuses.
However, you don’t just want a contest for the sake of having a contest. You want contests with a purpose.
Build your contests around S.M.A.R.T. goals to create lasting change in your organization and team.
For instance, if your team is struggling with getting leads, you can create a contest centered around who gets the most leads, or better yet, identify the core problem.
Perhaps your team is struggling with writing compelling emails. Create a competition that rewards the best-written email or the email that gets the best response.
Now your competition isn’t just inspiring them. It’s helping to solve a problem in the long term.
Performance Booster #4: Coaching
Another important thing to motivating your employees — and something that is far too often overlooked — is coaching. 98% of reps asked in the survey said that they were more likely to stay at a company that offered a development program.
It’s simple. If the company shows they’re going to invest in them, they are more likely to invest in the company.
Remember, your team wants to feel like a valued and integral part of the team. So treat them that way.
All those millennials working as sales reps…
They want to learn skills that will carry with them throughout their career. If you’re not offering that kind of development, someone else will.
But just having coaching isn’t enough. You need good coaching.
Almost half of all reps rated their 1on1’s as a 6 or worse.
You need to have a clear plan. Don’t just wing it. Your coaching should be specific and unique to each individual in your team. Not everyone needs the same advice and teaching.
Your goal in a 1on1 is to help them do their job better. Figure out what they’re struggling with, what they need to improve, and what help they need to get there. Then enable them to do that.
You need effective, consistent coaching for your entire team. Don’t just focus on the top and bottom performers.
Performance Booster #5: Awards and Bonuses
The last tool you can use to motivate your team is awards and bonuses. These are most companies’ go to’s, but they shouldn’t be.
They do work, and having a special award or small bonuses along the way can go a long way towards encouraging that extra push through a tough quarter. That being said, after looking at all the other things that reps have said they’d rather have — like recognition — it makes more sense to save your money and focus on other incentives.
If you do use an awards program, get creative. It doesn’t make sense to shell out a ton of money for a prize when the purpose of the award was to boost sales in a difficult quarter.
You can come up with lots of fun and creative awards and prizes that don’t break the bank, but still inspire action. For instance lunch with the boss, better parking spots, gloating rights.
Money works to motivate, but it should never be your go-to.
To boost sales performance, you only need to give your reps what they want.
Trust them. Give them the information they need. Then sit back and watch your team turn into an unstoppable sales machine.
In an ideal world, 100% of your data ends up in Salesforce (or your CRM of choice). But sadly, that’s not what’s happening in the real world.
According to a recent Salesforce study, poor data hygiene costs the average business nearly 30% of its revenue, amounting to a total economic loss of a whopping $700 billion a year.
You know it’s important to capture high-quality data to help you conduct QBRs, analyze your account health, review handover processes, report on your opportunity pipeline, and forecast win rates at your organization. Every (good) manager knows this.
So, why is it that the average customer’s contact database is composed of 90% incomplete contacts, with 20% of records being useless due to a myriad of issues? We’re talking about as many as 74% of the records being in need of updates and a full quarter of them being duplicates!
Here’s the Problem
You’re asking your team to input data into Salesforce without giving them anything perceptible or useful in return. Why would reps spend their valuable time doing this? Sales reps want to sell. The way you pay them just underscores this.
Let’s take a step back.
At every point of the buying journey, your prospects and customers share valuable insights with you into their world, giving you visibility into their needs, pains, competitors, and more. This information ultimately fuels other parts of your business, right?
As a result, it should:
Be far-reaching at all stages of your sales cycles
Align with how you make big business decisions
But what good is receiving customer feedback if it’s not living in the CRM? All too often, that information lives in Evernote… OneNote… Google Docs… Notepad…
Pick your poison. In almost every sales organization, it’s not just one app that houses vital customer data. It’s a combination of things! Heck, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had scrap pieces of paper scattered on my desk with notes scribbled down on them.
When so much relies on having current information, can you really afford to have 88% of your customer data living in disconnected sources? Ugh, why isn’t it there?
Here’s the thing…
Your team doesn’t prioritize entering data into the CRM because it doesn’t immediately provide them value.
From a rep’s perspective, managers reap the benefits of this data for better analytics and more accurate forecasting, whereas the rest of the team views Salesforce as a data dump and reporting tool that takes away from their paycheck.
Good luck changing behavior without heavily incentivizing the desired behavior.
Let’s be real. Simplifying data entry won’t inherently fix the problem — but it will make the next two steps simpler.
Make it as easy as possible for your team to input data so they aren’t making any excuses.
Rather than asking reps to fill out the pain field in the CRM, start having them ask a prospect a specific question that relates back to the field you want answered.
Translate data requirements into sales and buyer-centric language, and your adoption will increase ten-fold.
You need to start aligning the CRM to the sales process, as opposed to data entry. Take Outreach and SalesLoft as examples — every email logs directly back into Salesforce.
2. Align Incentives
You have a couple of options here.
Option #1: Pay reps for data entry.
It’s not ideal, but it can hypothetically work. You could still get junk data in the CRM here, and it’ll require constant auditing and upkeep for commission reconciliation. But hey, it does speak their language.
Option #2: Push key information in exchange for data.
This has to be context-specific data. You want data beyond just industry, company size, etc. If you’re only receiving generic information, you can only push out generic content, which leads to a generic sales process and dirt-poor results.
Instead, consider pushing your team’s specific data points based on specific deal intel gathered:
“Oh, you mentioned you had XYZ pain, are growing your sales team 3X, and want a system that can scale with you? That sounds exactly like XYZ customer.”
3. Create a Positive Feedback Loop
Cool, a battle card shows up citing exactly what you need to say live on a call. Now what?
If you’re mentioning what’s on the cards, you need to relay feedback on the effectiveness of that content back to the creator.
As a marketer myself, I want to know if the articles and case studies I’m writing for my sales team are even helping them move the needle on deals. If I know interviews with sales thought leaders in the industry are providing us more credibility than case studies, then I’ll allocate my time accordingly.
The goal is simple: know what talk-tracks and content perform best, so you can continually optimize your enablement strategy and playbook.
Side note: Quantifying the results of your enablement efforts isn’t easy. More to come on this, but think about some sort of NPS metrics around your content and you’re on the right track.
Making Data Entry a No-Brainer
At the end of the day, you want your team to want to capture information and share it with the rest of the business (and the CRM).
After all, it helps them win more deals.
Whether you’re leading sales enablement or sales operations at your organization, you want to help your team make the most of every customer interaction.
If you’re making data entry a no-brainer, enabling them with shared sales playbooks, and advocating a positive feedback loop — you’re setting your business up to put data in motion, because the incentives to do so far outweigh the drawbacks.
To improve the quality (and utility) of the data in your sales organization, you need to understand the bottlenecks to putting your data in motion and sharing it broadly. Get rid of those bottlenecks in a way that makes everyone win and, ladies and gentlemen, you’ll uncover the not-so-secret, secret to moving deals from prospect to closed!
Statistics gathered by Influitive tell us, “Business-to-business companies with referrals have a 70% higher conversion rate, and they report a 69% faster close time on sales.”
Even Nielsen has found that “84% of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends about products — making these recommendations the information source ranked highest for trustworthiness.”
Knowing how impactful sales referrals are, why don’t we as salespeople use them as often as we can?
Sometimes, it’s that referrals tend to happen after a successful close — the same time that most motivated salespeople are off chasing down the next deal. But in other cases, we don’t do it because we don’t have an effective process in place.
That’s a huge mistake.
When you take the time to build a referral process, you can automate all or part of it, so you get all the benefits of referrals without needing to put manual effort in after each sale.
When it comes to getting referrals, Trey Gibson (founder of Spotio) says one thing is sure: just ask.
Referral asks need to be timed correctly in order to be effective.
Generally speaking, the best time to ask for referrals is after you’ve proven value to the client. Don’t ask for the share if the relationship is new or if you aren’t sure your client is satisfied with the work you’ve done so far.
So how do you know when you’ve proven value? Every deal looks a little different, but there are several signals to pay attention to:
They tell you how happy they are.
Not only is this a great sign that customers are willing to make referrals, it offers a great jumping-off point for making the request.
For instance, if a customer compliments an aspect of your product or service, you could follow up with something like, “I’m glad you’ve found it useful. If you happen to know anyone else who could benefit in the same way, could you please introduce me? I’m always looking for others to help.”
When getting referrals from an existing happy customer, Steve Benson (CEO of Badger Maps), recommends using the “land and expand strategy.”
“The ‘land and expand strategy’ is where you get one person at a company to use you, and because you make them successful, you can ask them to recommend you in their company. They then tell their coworkers and management about you and spread the word about your product/service around the organization.”
You’ve hit a key project milestone.
According to copywriter Nick Darlington, writing for the Freshbooks blog, “As the relationship evolves, they’ll begin to trust you and learn what you’re capable of. It’s at this point you can comfortably ask for a referral.”
Freelance brand strategist Megan Elliott shares on the Bonsai website, “You want to make your existing clients so pleased with the work you deliver that they want to brag about you and the work you’ve done to all their friends and colleagues.”
They’ve responded positively to your NPS survey.
In an NPS survey, you ask a single question: “Would you refer our company to others?” If the score is a 9 or a 10, you can confidently assume your contact is ready and willing to make referrals for you.
They refer others to you without asking.
Sometimes customers will be so happy with your product or service that they’ll share it naturally, without your prompting. This is why customer service and success should be a primary sales priority. If that happens, you can be pretty confident that they’ll be open to making referrals to others if you ask.
They ask you for a discount.
Sergey Butko, CMO of CallPage (a callback solution provider) shares his tip:
“If a happy customer asks your sales rep for a discount, a free trial of the newest feature, or any other price-related “favor,” give them what they want, but in return for a referral. We use this mini strategy at CallPage, and it drives awesome results for both sides. Clients get what they want, and we do not give our tool away cheaper.”
Steve Richard, Chief Evangelist and co-founder at ExecVision, suggests different timing may be just as effective.
Once you’ve identified the common triggers in your referral process, you can start to build automations around them. As an example, here’s a workflow you could build around the NPS survey
Sales Referral Automation Based on an NPS Survey
First, you would trigger an NPS survey email to go out a certain number of days after a key milestone. You can automate this by tying it to the completion of a key milestone tracked in your CRM, such as the completion of a project stage.
Based on the results of the NPS survey, you can then automatically trigger one of the following messages to go out one day after recipients complete the survey:
If you receive a score of 0-6, don’t send a referral request template. Instead, send a “Can we fix this?” message to attempt to rebuild the relationship.
If you receive a score of 7-8, you still shouldn’t send a referral request template, as recipients aren’t enthusiastic enough about you to guarantee a positive referral. Instead, trigger a “How can we improve?” message and retest recipients after a set interval.
If you receive a score of 9-10, send a “Who else can we help?” referral request.
TEMPLATE: Here’s a good referral request email.
Wow! Just saw you gave us a great score on the customer survey you received yesterday. I’m so happy to hear we’ve met — and maybe even exceeded — your expectations.
Can you please do me a favor? I’m trying to find others who would benefit from the same features you’ve enjoyed. Is there anyone you can think of that you can introduce me to who might also be interested in our product?
Thanks in advance,
Tweak the template as needed based on your business and its products or services. But don’t stop here….
Recipients might miss a single referral ask. They’re busy. Space in their inbox is limited.
As mentioned by Gary Galvin, CEO of Galvin Technologies, use technology to your advantage. Monitor how and when they engaged with your referral ask, “because although you may have sent the email on a Tuesday, it may not have been opened until Friday — wouldn’t that be nice to know?”
To make sure they see your ask, build out a referral request cadence with multiple follow-ups — just like you do with your cold sales emails.
For instance, you could send:
A second initial ask message a week later to any recipients who didn’t open your first request.
Automated follow-ups at specific intervals throughout the duration of a project.
Final requests at the close of a project or a few weeks after its completion.
TEMPLATE: Here’s what a post-project referral ask might look like.
It’s been a few weeks since we wrapped up our work together — I hope everything is still going well with you and the team.
I know I’ve asked before, but is there anyone you can introduce me to that might also have a need for our [product or service]? I’d hate for them to miss out if they’re [experiencing the same pain point you were].
One final set of templates to have at the ready is the series of messages you’ll use in case contacts send you referrals. Act quickly by preparing the following templates ahead of time:
A thank-you email to your original contact that reassures them you’ll follow up quickly and take good care of the person they referred.
An initial outreach message for connecting with the new referred contact.
A follow-up message for the original referrer sharing a status update on the new connection or further information if you’ve incentivized the referral process.
Say, for example, that you’re offering a $500 invoice credit to any customer who books a year’s worth of service with your company. In that case, not only would you want to mention the bonus-earning opportunity whenever you ask for referrals, you’d also need several templates for following up with your original contact.
And when you act on a referral, “it’s a good idea to ask permission from the referring customer to use their name.” reminds Justin Zappulla, Managing Partner of Janek Performance Group. As an example, “Thank you for providing me your colleague’s contact information! When I call him, may I use your name?”
You can also look to set expectations to use customers as references right off the bat.
“Understand the approval process for references upfront and incorporate it into the contract when signing the deal. I have seen cases where the signing authority agrees to be a reference when signing the contract but there is a push back from legal when we ask for it after meeting the success criteria.”
TEMPLATE: A message when the referral is successful.
Thanks again for referring [new contact] to me. I’m excited to share that we’ve signed a contract to begin work together, and I look forward to helping them [experience some benefit] that you’ve seen already.
As a thank you for making the connection, I’ve asked our accounting team to issue a $500 credit to you. You should see it appear on your next invoice, but please contact me if you have any issues.
Thanks again, and please let me know if you can think of anyone else I should reach out to.
TEMPLATE: A message when the referral is not successful.
Thanks again for referring [new contact] to me. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’re a fit for each other right now. But if that changes and they sign up for a service plan in the future that qualifies you for our referral bonus, I’ll let you know right away.
Thanks again, and please let me know if you can think of anyone else I should reach out to.
Automating Your Own Referral Email Process
As you can see, there’s a lot of variability in the way you can set up your own automated referral email program. So while it’s great to use automation to ensure the referral ask process happens in the first place, you still have to pay attention to how it’s performing.
Troubleshoot different workflows. Test different triggers. Pay attention to what you’re hearing from clients.
With a little effort, you’ll be able to find the most effective referral approach for your needs. One idea from podcast host and sales trainer Donald Kelly is to build in referrals as part of your sellers’ KPI.
He says, “Like anything else in life, if you want to see results, you must measure it.” Have your sellers set a weekly referral goals and report on it like other sales KPIs.
“The referral process could even be a cadence that is predefined as a set play within your sales process and customer journey,” says Tim Harris, VP of Marketing at DialSource. “When looking at the engagement an Account Executive has with an account after the completion of onboarding, implementation or post-sale. Sales organizations can empower their account executives to continue developing their relationship with the customer and can include a series of prescribed touch points within a referral cadence to do this.”
Harris shares an example of what this playbook might look like.
PLAYBOOK: Implement 90 Days after Close/Won or Implementation Go Live.
In this playbook, Harris uses Sendoso for direct mail and Pardot for automated email. But the tool isn’t important. What matters is that you set up the right touchpoints to make referrals part of your sales process.
Building this process into a playbook allows your team to shape and adapt the messaging to fit your entire organization and gives Account Executives an easy-to-execute playbook of next steps to follow when asking for a referral.
It also helps turn this engagement into a repeatable process that can be automated and prescribed to the Account Executive at specific stages in the customer journey.
Utilizing multiple channels and forms of communication helps to expedite the engagement process and also improves your chances of connecting with your customer.
Do you have an automated referral program in place? Share any other tips or tricks you’ve discovered while setting it up by leaving a comment below.
Ever wonder how top performers balance time and manage priorities?
I’m not talking about balancing professional and personal time, here. Just juggling all your work requirements is a feat you could write home about.
Take me, for example…
Several years ago, I took over the management of a second enterprise sales teams. One sales team needed to be evaluated, partially dismantled, re-shaped, and re-inspired. The other took me on the road to the west coast seemingly every other week.
Keep reading to learn how to implement it for yourself.
Rule 1: Three Hours
To truly balance time, you need to reprioritize 3 hours a week.
I commit to giving three hours of my week to projects/asks that support someone other than the goals of my team or my direct reports.
When I think through all the things that are asked of us…
15 minutes to strategize on a deal
an hour to interview a candidate for one of your peers
45 minutes to weigh in on a better method to do xyz
an hour to mentor a new hire in a different office
another hour to interview a candidate for another peer
… There are limitless ways for us to support our organization.
The trouble is, if we see an opening on our calendar and we have a genuine eagerness to be of help, it’s far too easy to say “yes.”
It’s true. I am one of those people. So, I set boundaries for myself.
I shifted to giving ONLY three hours of my week to any such activity. Once those three hours are scheduled, I’m simply out of time that week. If someone needs my help, I offer a slot for the following week.
By the way, I do this even if I don’t have a single meeting planned on a given day (ha!). Saying “no” to someone else once those three hours are gone means I’m saying “yes” to myself and my team’s immediate goals.
This boundary was one of my survival mechanisms when I was overly busy, and it’s proved to be critical to my success (and sanity) today.
Rule 2: Three People
To balance your time with people, you need to connect deeply with 3 people a day.
As a leader, I thrive when I connect with my team. I love talking to them, jumping on quick calls, working deals as a team, sharing stories from the previous day or weekend, or running a million miles a minute during our 1:1s.
One thing that’s unique to my scenario, and always has been, is that I’m a remote leader. Some of my team resides in NYC, some farther north, some farther south.
This brings a unique set of benefits but also presents one specific challenge: how to stay connected.
Regardless of where I am — home or on the road — I make a point to speak to at least three of my team members every single day.
Even if those touch points are 90 seconds to exchange a quick sentiment, I make them happen. I know so many people who struggle with how to stay meaningfully connected in spite of being remote or being habitual travelers, and this practice has always paid off well.
You know those days where you’re booked back to back to back, and wonder how you’re ever going to handle the work that’s coming in while you’re in meetings? Well, this might help you.
I’ve picked up a pattern in a lot of my meetings: Many of them end just short of the time allotted and many of them start just a few minutes late.
My 10am runs until 10:52, which leaves me just enough time to hit the ladies, grab a clementine (fine, fine, a wheel of cheese) and head back to my desk by… 10:57am.
I polled a variety of friends and asked, “What do you do during the few minutes before a meeting or conference call starts?”
Almost unanimously the answer was, “I look at Instagram,” (or anything mindless). Frankly, that was my answer, too. So, I shifted.
Every time I sat back at my desk and realized I had a few minutes before my next meeting, I tackled as many emails as I could.
These are my “one dollar activities,” as we say in sales. They’re quick and don’t require an inordinate amount of focus, preparation, or attention.
I can say “yes” to someone and set them off on a task.
I can approve a request or an expense or a deal, and keep things moving.
I can send a calendar invite that I wrote down earlier to get sent.
I can book my hotel for an upcoming trip.
Here’s the thing I noticed: It energized me to get these tasks out of the way.
Instead of disengaging my brain a bit and mindlessly scrolling through social media, I tackled tasks and felt productive, which made me that much more engaged during my next meeting.
The Rule of Three has worked for me. I’d be willing to bet it can help you too. And it’s as simple as 3 Rules, each governing 3 elements of your day or week:
Reprioritizing 3 hours a week
Connecting with 3 people a day
Recovering 3 minutes of wasted time a day
These three things have paid off extensively in my connectivity to my teams, my ability to be productive, and in feeling like I am supporting my wider organization while not over-extending myself to the detriment of my top priorities.
Because to balance time in the office, you’ve got to keep your priorities in order.
In sales, our #1 priority is people, both team members and customers. And the Rule of Three is designed to put people first.
Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.