For anyone that's had the opportunity to work in a fast-growing industry or company, it's often an exciting and engaging time in one's career. You experience a brisk working pace, greater span of responsibilities, and often, if you're fortunate enough, a culture around empowerment in the day-to-day operational tempo. There is one particular area of growth that I'd like to discuss, that of scaling a sales organization. This typically involves supporting a go-to-market strategy in new regions and territories or geos around the world. It entails bringing on-board lots of new bodies and programs - not only in sales roles, but in the support, enablement, financial, and logistical functions that accompany sales growth. If you're like me, you'll appreciate that ironically, the groups responsible for helping to build sales-scale, are often the most under-resourced and likely to not operate at scale, sad but true. I'd like to write briefly about the challenges we face here at Jive, and how we use our software to solve some common growing pains that commercial departments often face including the one of limited resources in support and logistics.
It should go without saying that any software used in scale-building really should come after a well thought out plan is in place. Software helps, but technology is only as good as the business techniques and processes they support. I'm saying this because as a sales ops leader, I know too well that lots of tools don't help if you're not underpinning some helpful processes. Scaling a sales organization for global deployment is not easy and you have to have operational methods in place that you can replicate and build scale around. Solid growth planning for sales involves:
A truly, exceptional growth plan is also one in my opinion that considers change management for sales organizations and the rest of the company. Here's where certain kinds of software can bring true force-multiplication for scaling up, but I'll get to that.
Take sales-capacity planning as an example. A sales capacity plan tells you "how much revenue or productivity you can drive with how many sales bodies, and at how much cost." It's a framework that can support decision-making, but it's still just a framework. The best processes still need human judgement and collaboration to vet through assumptions before the data can help inform investments. At Jive, we tend to peddle process and collaboration simultaneously inside of the company, meaning we share what we're working on fairly transparently so people throughout the organization see what you're working on. We open up the Intellectual Property to be viewed by others (except for sensitive content of course) and allow collaboration and insights to flow to us from there as authors.
Collaboration around models and even ideas is best performed early in the development cycle of information assets. It's a little un-nerving when you first start working in this paradigm of social business, but you soon see that some forms of "crowd-sourcing" when designed properly can help fill in gaps, and surface additional insights when building a model. Sales capacity plans make assumptions about people and their levels of productivity, but when scaling a sales org, these assumptions often cannot hold due to local customs, regional differences about how business is performed, etc.
For instance, let's say your plan assumes the same ramp-up timing for sales reps in a territory say between the UK and Australia. You will quickly find that reps in Australia tend to take longer by an average of 1-2 months. Why? There could be lots of reasons. One I learned about that seems to be validated over and over is that working, business-relationships require more time to develop between vendors and buyers, as a general rule. Business relationships in that part of the world tend to be based on time and preference rather than a distinct purchasing process or transactional nature in conducting sales. There are a number of other seemingly small differences in culture and business practices that require human insight and knowledge sharing between employees in that region and the central planning organization back at HQ. Regional specific sales practices were crowd-sourced to me some time ago via Jive, and it's made its way into how we recruit and develop on-boarding regularly. Having a collaboration platform is critical to bring a level of planning knowledge that can help you make better decisions when scaling out.
I said earlier that certain software tools bring a type of force-multiplier to the task of scaling a sales organization. Social platforms are definitely in this category, as we use Jive for 2 key areas of developing scale:
When a rep comes to Jive, they quickly learn that our prescribed sales methodology and tools "live" in one space inside of our instance of Jive. Reps are "pointed" to this virtual store-house of knowledge and encouraged to do things like take self-study, watch product training or corporate pitch videos, and ask questions of their peers. Or better yet, see questions already asked and addressed by internal experts. This use of a content location that provides collaborative capabilities allows new users to not only locate standardized materials and training, but it also allows users to voice their specific needs in a new location, and they can work directly with content creators to meet localization, language, or other regional business and compliance related requirements. It gives us a balance between centralizing the curation of sales collateral and customizing tools needed by a rep in a part of the world that needs something outside what we provide. This is the first part of scaling for sales that can help when support organizations in marketing or operations are resource-constrained.
Sales Rep Ramp
Capacity planning typically requires finance and operations to work together. There are numerous examples for how collaboration around management planning processes can be enabled, but the one I want to illustrate here is focused on the line sales manager and sales rep. Closely tied to onboarding is the ramp-up process to get a sales rep productive in his or her new territory, which at Jive, involves getting a sales rep situated in a territory and quickly focused on the right customers and opportunities. I don't mean training here either, but rather the process by which a company can provide the guidance and instruction for maximizing opportunities during the ramp-up phase for a new rep.
A social collaboration platform can quickly help a rep get the HOW portion of the selling cycle. This HOW portion is about communicating the coverage model, who's who in the organization, rules of engagement, and most importantly, best practices from top reps already successful in the sales organization. Jive allows us to share best practices and document key selling steps used by our top performers. We capture this knowledge and share it in a social way on our platform, and we map this knowledge at specific points in the sales methodology so a rep anywhere in the world, at any time knows what works and what to watch out for as they engage customers. Our system gives us the ability to impart and distribute selling know-how in a way that opens up learning so it flows from those that know to those that need it most: the newest rep in a territory.
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Have you been a part of a sales organization that was scaling globally? What are the biggest hurdles you encountered? Comment below.