Sales best practices for improving sales win rates, shortening the sales cycle and increasing overall quota attainment. Sales strategies to make revenue growth repeatable, and scalable
In 2000, Marc Benioff, then the CEO of a tiny startup that nobody had heard of paid professional actors to carry “anti-software” signs. They "picketed" in front of Siebel Systems annual user conference. At the time Siebel was the dominant provider of CRM software. And at that time, it was on-premise software. Remember on-premise software? That is software that actually runs on the customer's servers. Today, Salesforce.com is a $13B monster in the SaaS industry. Some would argue or hail Marc Benioff as a "celebrity CEO" and the story of Salesforce.com is taught in business schools all across America.
The painful truth is, if you've been struggling to grow or your growth trajectory has the peaks and valleys of a roller coaster, it's because you're not ready to grow. Predictable lead generation is the #1 lever to driving revenue growth. Repeat business from existing customers is great and we all want and need that. But if you can’t predictably go out and generate new leads and opportunities and win them profitably, you are going to struggle to grow.
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If you follow my blog then you know that I’ve written plenty about sales onboarding. One very important topic that I have not written on however that is key to making successful sales onboarding repeatable and predictable is the use of sales competency certification exams.
One of the most undervalued (and often unknown) formulas staffing executives miss is ramp rate. Ramp rate is the rate at which your new hires including your sales reps and recruiters are ramping up to achieve quota attainment. Knowing your ramp rate is critically important for several reasons. As you add new reps and recruiters your growth goals inevitably increase which means you have to build a credible budget and forecast to justify the investment and demonstrate the ROI. You can’t do this without knowing your new hire ramp rate. Understanding the formula and data model for calculating ramp is also important for making your sales onboarding repeatable and scalable. The two go hand in hand!
Poor sales onboarding is a recipe for an expensive disaster. As I have posted in the past, market leading organizations treat sales onboarding as a continuous revenue generating activity, no different than sales prospecting. They’ve made sales onboarding an internal core competency because they know it gives them a competitive advantage. When you look at the data, it is easy to understand why.
As the IT staffing industry continues to grow, services are increasingly commoditized by off shore competition and low-cost, high touch providers who focus on "skill marketing." As a result, IT staffing firms are (have been) feeling their margins being squeezed. To counter this, results based selling and the ability to sell business outcomes rather than features and benefits becomes the differentiator. IT staffing firms who figure out how to build an organization of salespeople who can differentiate themselves based on the ideas and insights they share and align pricing with the business outcomes or business results customers receive from using their service will win the day and grow profit margins. However, this transformation is not easy and it doesn't start by simply hiring experienced sales reps.
Sales training and sales onboarding is supposed to deliver the skills and knowledge that sales reps need to perform to meet and exceed sales quota. But if you’ve spent any time in sales, you know that sales training can feel more like trial-by-fire than a helpful introduction to a new company, product and/or service. Why is that? For one, buyers are educated and more informed than ever. They're also more demanding and sales reps are under pressure to quickly produce. For many sales organizations, sales cycles are getting longer, not shorter, due to the competitive landscape and the customer's complex interview, hiring and decision making processes. And to top it off, staffing companies are struggling to retain their top sales talent. This new reality means if you wish to accelerate new hire onboarding and increase overall team quota attainment, you may need to hit the "reset button" on your sales onboarding and sales training to properly prepare your salesforce. Here are three reasons why your sales training may be irrelevant.
Sales onboarding is the process in which organizations apply to integrate new sales reps into their organization and help them gain the skills, knowledge and behaviors required to perform and meet and sales quota.
Many sales leaders think of sales onboarding as an additional cost that chips away at their profitability. The reality is, faster sales onboarding is your quickest and lowest hanging fruit for generating revenue. Yes, it can be time and labor intensive, but sales onboarding is a revenue generating activity just like sales prospecting and should be treated as such. Here is why. Your sales new hires are the "X Factor." The reality is you have no idea what kind of performance you're going to get from your new hires once they start. But it doesn’t have to be that way, if you know how to structure the first thirty days of sales onboarding.
In the years since I launched Menemsha Group I have met and spoken with hundreds of IT staffing leaders including owners, COO's, CFO's and Sales VP's. They tell me repeatedly over and over that their number one challenge to growing their business is figuring out how to provide effective, structured sales onboarding for their new hires. They go on to tell me that they need to accelerate sales ramp up time and improve employee retention. Many have shared with me "Dan, if we hire 10 new sales reps or recruiters, we're happy if two or three of them are with us twelve months later." In response, I ask "what have you done to create metrics to track your sales onboarding effectiveness?" To do this day, I've only met a handful of staffing leaders who had an answer to this question. If your objective is to reduce sales turnover and accelerate the time it takes for a new sales rep or recruiter to meet quota then you will need to understand how to create metrics that track sales onboarding effectiveness. In this blog I do just that. I'm going to share with you how to create metrics that track sales onboarding effectiveness. The first step to creating metrics that track sales onboarding effectiveness is to define the specific skills and behaviors you want your salespeople to exhibit. The second step is to establishing a mechanism for quantifying and measuring skill adoption. Why Staffing Firms Must Create Metrics that Track Sales Onboarding Effectiveness Without metrics that track sales onboarding effectiveness, sales managers and leaders have no idea which training modules and content are having an impact and which skills and knowledge your salespeople are lacking. Without the data you have no means for improving your sales onboarding and sales training program. This is one of the reasons why so many IT staffing firms struggle with high sales turnover and struggle to scale. How to Create Metrics that Track Sales Onboarding Effectiveness To figure out what metrics to track to measure sales onboarding effectiveness you'll need to ask yourself some questions to assess your current sales training and sales onboarding program. Currently, how do your sales new hires consume and experience your existing sales training? Are you deploying online sales training or instructor-led classroom training? Are your sales new hires reading Word, PowerPoint or PDF documents? Are your sales new hires watching sales training videos? What sales training activities are they participating in? What exactly is the content that your sales new hires are consuming? What sales skills are your teaching specifically? What knowledge are your teaching specifically? As you assess your sales onboarding program including your content you will first need to identify the specific skills and behaviors that you want and expect your salespeople to demonstrate and execute. Identifying the desired sales skills and behaviors that your sales team is to execute provides the foundation for establishing clear and consistent standards on how you want and expect things to get done. Without completing this step you will not be able to track and quantify the effectiveness of your sales onboarding. Without clearly defined skills or behaviors you have no way to create skill competency exams which are essential to measuring and quantifying sales onboarding effectiveness. This is a time consuming process on behalf of the sales leader in which he or she must really think through the skills and behaviors that are required to "win" across each stage of the sales process and each customer touch point. This is one of the reasons why many IT staffing firms choose to outsource over building their sales training program.