How to Rapidly Scale Your Sales Team
By: Jerry Brooner, President of Global Field Operations at Enable
When a company is building a sales team for scale, it is essential to determine the fundamentals: size of market, expected length of sales cycles, type of sales roles you need, how many, and how quickly you expect to get each salesperson generating revenue. All these factors should be combined to make the foundation for planning for hyper growth. Sales roles frequently evolve over time as you acquire new customers, market conditions change, you add products or services, and get better at driving your sales cycle. It’s important to develop your sales team around present customers while building the infrastructure for future customers.
While conditions are always changing for a sales team (which means adaptability is key), companies need to focus on consistent, simple, and repeatable processes to enable scale. It doesn’t matter how many account executives you have if they aren’t trained correctly or take significant time to close their first deal, you will never achieve scale. A healthy culture among sales teams is the key for hypergrowth: AEs have to value preparation (such as the articulation of specific objectives before engaging with a client), be committed to mastering their craft, and passionate about the success of their customers. The values required for hypergrowth and priorities of scale should constantly be reinforced within the team.
How quickly a sales team scales is dependent on a range of factors, from market size to length of sales cycle to company goals. But no matter what your growth strategy, it’s vital to provide the enablement, training, and infrastructure to ensure each member of the team is successful.
Have a flexible plan
The most effective sales teams know how to find a balance between specific individual targets (which help companies track their performance and hold AEs accountable) and the willingness to adjust those targets when circumstances change. When sales teams are trying to achieve maximum growth, the failure to adapt quickly will make it difficult to remain competitive with quickly changing market developments.
Let’s look at territories as an example. According to a 2021 McKinsey report, top performing sales teams are “50 percent more likely than slow growers to adjust their accounts monthly” instead of annually, which is the norm among many companies. McKinsey observes that frequent realignment of account priorities allows companies to allocate sales resources toward the highest-value opportunities, a process facilitated by “analytics that surface key triggers, such as end-of-life product cycles and insights into particular investments that customers have planned.”
Flexibility in a sales organization is especially important right now, with the economic volatility caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues that have forced companies to change order volumes and sales targets more frequently. But even in normal times, there is significant variability in territories, pricing, training, sales cycles, and target customers, which means sales teams always have to be capable of changing course in real time to optimize the sales plan so that every single sales person can be successful.
Make your operations data-driven
Just about every core element of a successful sales operation is built around data. You can’t improve what you can’t measure. Improving the performance of AEs and teams, forecasting, aligning teams, and predictive analysis necessary to be agile in the face of changing conditions can only be done through measuring current and future results. It is no surprise that high-performing sales teams are 1.5 times more likely to base forecasts on data trends than their peers, while more than three-quarters of sales professionals say analytics have helped them provide consistent customer experiences across channels resulting in more revenue sales.
McKinsey also reports that 75 percent of outperforming sales teams use analytics such as sales planning, while two-thirds “apply analytics use cases to be more granular on deal and account level opportunities.” Centralized data management is critical – 73 percent of sales teams say collaboration across departments is essential for their sales operations, while 81 percent think it’s necessary to have a connected view of data across the customer journey. Centralized customer data is a major reason the fastest-growing sales teams are disproportionately likely to use a centralized data hub where different sales teams and departments can review the same information and coordinate on operations and analytics.
Despite the clear importance of data analytics for sales teams in an increasingly competitive and dynamic environment, Gartner found that sales professionals have the lowest data proficiency in their organizations. Top-performing sales teams have already discovered that data drives success and less data centric sales teams are getting left behind.
Scale as aggressively and sustainably as you can
All the strategies outlined above are ultimately focused on one overarching priority: scaling your sales operation as quickly as possible. When companies are capable of adapting to economic and industry trends, reconfiguring targets and resources to find value more effectively, and building a centralized data platform to help salespeople identify growth opportunities and retain customers, their sales operation will enter hypergrowth.
Growth can have a multiplier effect: when a company has more capacity with AEs and are able to cover many territories, it won’t just see an increase in revenue – its sales operation will also be capable of having greater customer data to test new products and putting the overall company in a stronger position to invest in research and development for long term growth. While young companies have a myopic focus on immediate growth, they have to balance short term success with the importance of developing a sustainable foundation for future growth. An emphasis on flexibility and data centric decisions will produce the operational infrastructure necessary to maintain hyper-growth for years instead of just months.
Finally, the most successful sales teams consciously develop a healthy culture. A healthy culture means being extremely well prepared on customers, industries, and economic trends; supporting other peers with data and insights; and valuing passion and hard work. Salespeople should understand that consistent follow up with prospects combined with data will ensure they consistently exceed their targets.
When companies are scaling, there are always a million priorities but only a couple essential priorities to scale a sales teams. First, flexibility is crucial – sales teams have to be capable of rapidly adapting to significant fluctuations in territories, target markets, economic conditions, and changing customer requirements. Second, high-growth sales teams are always focused on data, from robust forecasting that can help them anticipate trends and potential challenges to centralizing information that can ensure all team members are focused on the correct targets and metrics. Finally, the growth of overall sales operations always has to be sustainable, which means providing top-tier customer service for existing clients even as you seek new ones. When companies put all these components together, the sales teams will be able to achieve predictable and consistent hyper-growth for many years to come.