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7 Steps to Hockey Stick Sales Acceleration

Sridhar Ramanathan

By sridhar ramanathan
Posted on September 2016 in Channel Development

It’s been an odd week. I just so happened to have three conversations this week with CEO’s of high tech firms that have been in business over eight years and yet have not seen that “hockey stick” breakthrough in revenue growth. All of them are in market spaces that are growing, maybe not over 30% per year, but growing nevertheless.  After listening to their stories, I shared with them some client experiences we were lucky enough have as interim Sales VP role for two quarters or more to help drive hockey stick results.  Here’s a nice testimonial from one such engagement:

“I wanted to thank you and your team for the services provided to [us]. Since the work we’ve done together, we were able to break through our quarterly sales plateau and now we are seeing a hockey stick type of growth. The work Aventi did was the foundation for my team…”

Upon reflection, I came up with seven core elements of sales acceleration practices that we know work really well if the executive team demands a disciplined, holistic approach to sales performance. I put these seven elements in the form of questions so that you can print this off and see what gaps your Sales VP might have in their approach.

Make coaching reps a daily priority

  • Do you do a deep dive on 1-2 deals every week to see where you can help your rep take their game to a new level?
  • Do you sit in on a few customer calls (one at qualify stage, one at propose stage, and one at close stage) and give them immediate, specific feedback?
  • Do you really know what motivates each of your reps beyond money and recognition?

Create an atmosphere of learning

  • Are you asking reps what they’ve learned from their mistakes as well as their wins?
  • Do you quickly share the “best practices” of your top reps, doing it in a way that is not divisive?
  • Do you and your reps know their specific competency gaps (e.g. product knowledge or skill gaps in qualifying, proposing, negotiating and closing) and have a plan in place to address them?

Dig deeper to understand your customer’s situation

  • Do you see your reps digging deeper to understand their prospect’s purchase drivers, pain points, and why “doing nothing” is a bad idea?
  • Do you see them mapping out the organization up and down the ladder and laterally so they are not blind sided later in the sales process?
  • Do your reps have a good grasp of the buyer’s emotional, logical, and gut level instincts that are driving the deal?

Actively manage sales team performance metrics

  • Is sales management on top of the key leading and trailing indicators of sales performance?
  • Are sales managers looking at leading indicators such as pipeline value, quota/pipeline ratio, and maturation of pipeline? Are you examining trends?
  • Are sales managers looking at trailing indicators such as quota performance, win/loss ratio, conversation rates at each step from MQL to SQL to SAL to opportunity to close)? Do you spot trends by comparing these metrics with prior quarter’s?

Pay for sustained performance

  • Have you implemented generous “accelerators” to sales compensation based on blowing out the quarter?
  • Have you set a quarterly “consistency bonus” to balance the whale hunting tendencies of the team that wreak havoc on forecasting?
  • Do you optimize compensation so you reward the right mix of hunting and farming within their territory?

Don’t put up with whining; demand recommendations

  • Sales reps are notorious for citing any number of reasons why a particular lead went nowhere or a deal went south. Do you challenge reps to propose solutions to improve the sales/marketing process?
  • Do you have reps do a “big deal review” in which they have a chance to make recommendations on sales process, tools, marketing, product offering, pricing, discounting, etc.?
  • Do you back reps up when there is a specific, unified recommendation that is well worth implementing?

Engage marketing

  • Do you get marketing input on compelling messaging and discovery questions that reps can use to lead customer conversations?
  • Does marketing sit in on customer calls, sales meetings, and deal reviews so they can tune their work and offer valuable inputs?
  • Do you ensure there’s a great feedback loop between marketing qualified leads and sales taking ownership to create opportunities and wins?

Of course these are just a few of the many ways in which great Sales VPs build outstanding, high performing sales teams.

What have you seen that really works?