Before coming to work at Jive, I spent a number of years in management consulting, working specifically on the needs of large sales organizations. I had a chance to participate and lead a variety of projects around the world. Living out of the proverbial “consultant suitcase” for days at a time, you do feel a bit estranged from family and friends. It was tough but looking back, though those were years in which I learned invaluable lessons about sales management and operations, and I would not trade them for anything.
Peering into over 50 sales organizations, I had the opportunity to work on a vast range of strategic, operational, and human capital problems related to sales. The sales organizations I observed were under constant pressure to change and simultaneously deliver revenue. The results of those change programs, even in our most successful engagements, sometimes left parts of the sales organization struggling to catch up and benefit immediately from the new programs.
I always felt concern and regard for these "line-sales" personnel. I’m sure it’s because I once carried a bag myself and understand how difficult the work truly is. In my current role at Jive in sales operations, I hold this same regard and concern for the line sales person, but I get to channel that concern into programs that help them sell more, feel more connected, and get the guidance they need to close more deals. Here are three recommendations to improve sales operations:
1. Develop an effective method for your sales force to locate expertise and documentation during a deal. The speed at which a sales person can respond accurately during a deal cycle can make or break the ability of a sales person to close a deal. At Jive, our deal-desk, finance, legal department, and my ops team can all see what questions salespeople have during their sales cycle, and we can respond immediately. We create specific spaces and groups inside of Jive to collaborate and we allow the platform to recommend documents or people with the right expertise on a question. We bring answers that can help a seller get back to what they do best and that’s manage the customer. This helps us to speed up our sales cycles by at least two weeks.
2. Create an efficient process to collaborate on proposals. Most every sales team works in a CRM tool. The rest of the organization does not. Relying on the notion that the rest of the organization will be able to occasionally peruse the CRM data and help develop a proposal is false. If you don't live and breathe in a the CRM tool, it can be very difficult to understand the information, or have the needed context to understand why deals are structured the way they are by a sales person. Creating a process for your sales team to keep other departments informed of the deal and key information is essential to efficient proposal development. It’s this type of cross-functional dependency that we use Jive to solve, as we can include account records and data objects directly in a discussion thread to bring knowledgeable parties together when deals need to get done. It’s a pretty slick integration, and it forms the back-bone of our deal management process, speeding up our proposal development time on average by 20% in a given quarter.
3. Ensure incentive plans for your sales force reflect sales strategy. As sales strategy and product or vertical focus shifts, it is important to establish incentive programs to encourage sales to make the change. Year to year, sales organizations need to adapt to the ever changing market. With this adaptation, the incentive program needs to change, and reflect the strategy you wish your sales force to undertake. Creating incentive plans is not an easy task as it requires input from a number of parties, such as HR, finance, sales ops, and sales leadership. At Jive this year, a small, cross-functional team was able to roll-out global sales incentive compensation plans on time at the January sales kick-off, much to the delight of our sales staff. We did it because stakeholders engaged and collaborated with key sales leadership, to agree on behaviors, metrics, and cost. We reduced our need for meetings by 25% using our own software. We leveraged the platform’s privacy and security settings, so that only the people involved in decisions could see the data, and drive the compensation design process forward. Getting incentive plans for the year out to the sales force on-time instills confidence and it lets sellers know where they should be focused on to make money.
This year we’re among the many sales organizations undergoing a transformation around sales effectiveness. Jive’s helping me get the right people to look at documents and policies when it’s needed, and it’s allowing us to forgo the constant need for email chains and teleconference calls as we make impactful changes.
Winning customers is not going to get any easier, but there’s a lot we can do to make the business of selling easier for our sales force. Download this resource kit to learn how you can make your sales processes more efficient.
How are you streamlining sales operations this year? Comment below.