It’s Not The Software, It’s The Salespeople

Today's salespeople and their managers are unequipped to work with the tools that off them a competitive advantage. 


Sales needs to partner with technology

Many words have been written on the topic of how sales software can be made to support the day-to-day activities of salespeople better. Whether in the field or on the phone, there’s no denying that today’s teams struggle with incorporating software into their daily routine. While software can, and should continue to be the focus of refinement, there’s a second area that needs attention to maximize the potential of sales augmentation.

Much as today’s schools struggle to equip their students with the skills necessary to thrive in the 21st-century economy, veteran salespeople, and their managers received training at a time when close collaboration with technology was not essential to sales success. Maximizing sales effectiveness in today’s connected world requires more than software that supports humans. It demands salespeople who can partner with the machines that underpin their efforts.

More than a craftsman and his tools

Sales teams have long prided themselves on the development of their craft. The ability to execute in a quota-driven sales environment have consistently relied upon skills that separate sales from other professions. Lately, however, the focus on selling skills has shifted because of the increasing prevalence of sales technology.

While there’s been a growing call for a renewed focus on selling skills, sales now, and increasingly will depend on salespeople’s ability to harness resources beyond their person. Leveraging these resources means that for the first time, sales depends as much on what you know as on skills you have.

Recognizing that sales is the latest profession to take on the characteristics of knowledge workers means leaders need to change the way they think about sales activity and training. While customer-facing time will continue to be the staple of selling, there is an increasing range of activities that now contribute to meeting quota. 

Recognizing the difference

It’s not enough for managers to recognize that new strategies are required to continue succeeding. Salespeople need to accept the that the landscape is changing and adjust their daily practices accordingly.

For most salespeople, engaging in their company’s annual training conference and reading a couple of books on sales over the course of their career has been sufficient to allow them to remain competitive and enjoy an above average income.

By contrast, professions that rely on technical knowledge often see their participants regularly engaging in career development actives. From following blogs to taking courses, adding to their knowledge is essential for remaining competitive in their field.

Sales is transitioning into a field that requires similar upkeep.

Salespeople who intend to remain competitive in the face of these changes need to make a fundamental shift in how they approach work. For teams attempting to navigate the transition, guiding current reps will be as important as being on the lookout for new blood to bring into the team.

The salesperson of tomorrow needs to be able to understand and navigate a delicate balance between technological know-how and interpersonal sales skills. Today selling requires a diverse skill set and the ability to tie together threads from marketing, social selling, and solution selling into coherent and effective outreach effort.

Simply put, refining sales technology isn’t enough. To build a 21st-century sales force, companies, need to look for reps who can partner with the technologies at their disposal to maximize their reach. The result is a sales team who can run leaner while producing a bigger impact on their market.  

The Linchpins of Sales/Marketing Alignment

Finding alignment between the sales and marketing team requires more than friendly words and regular conversations. Look to key points in the organization where the rubber meets the road for effective collaboration. 

By Zen Newman, Marketing Analyst at PipelineDeals

Sales and marketing alignment 

The business buzzword of 2016 is “sales/marketing alignment”. Despite the obvious benefits of getting these two growth teams talking, attaining alignment remains elusive for many organizations. In recognition of the challenges of this area of business organization, volumes have been written on the subject. And yet, no clear roadmap to achieving this happy union has been laid out.

Instead, writers on the topic focus on leaders from the two teams having conversations and setting clear expectations. No doubt, open dialogue is essential to the process. Nevertheless, there are basic institutions which need to serve as the linchpin between these two groups.

Understanding where these groups sit within your organizational framework is essential to creating a partnership that extends beyond good feelings.

Two of the most common departments sitting between sales and marketing are sales development and sales enablement. These two teams focus respectively on smoothing the flow of leads and assets from marketing to sales.

Sales development

For those in industries where sales development reps (SDR) aren’t commonplace, the SDR is a rep who is responsible for pounding the phone and sending prospecting emails to cold prospects. The goal of this position is to take leads generated by the marketing team and develop them to the point where they are ready to enter the active sales pipeline.

SDRs have become commonplace in industries like software because of the added efficiency they provide to the sales process. By taking on the burden of appointment setting, they enable a company’s best representatives to focus on what they’re best at, namely closing big deals.

Most sales development reps fall under the sales umbrella, but as many as 24 percent of SDRs report to the marketing team instead. This bizarre mix illustrates the degree to which this role is responsible for proctoring the transition of leads from one team to the next. Whether this team sits under one department or the other, it’s an area where there are clear benefits from having active input from both teams.

The benefits of having both groups giving input into how sales development is handled in a company offer broad benefits to the cultivation of new inbound and outbound opportunities. It also can, however, come with some pitfalls. Sales development, more than any other department; more even than sales, demands absolute focus on the task at hand.

Using a matrix approach instead of having a clear hierarchy creates the opportunity for the focus of the sales development team to get diluted. Avoiding this, and still keeping the benefits of close collaboration at this critical juncture in the sales process requires having a clear agreement of sales developments goals and objectives. Moreover, this approach is probably best suited to SDR teams with a dedicated manager or supervisor who can balance the needs of both marketing and sales while keeping reps on the phone and setting appointments.

Sales enablement

Unlike sales development, sales enablement functions in a support capacity to the sales team instead of being customer facing. Similar to sales development, however, enablement sits in a position to facilitate tight coordination between sales and marketing.

Marketing produces a lot of assets from blogs, to flyers, to emails. Many of these can be a great help when utilized by sales teams. Some of it doesn’t convert well, though. Finding and removing barriers to the sales process is a big part of the sales enablement role. In many cases, this involves sifting through a wide array of marketing produced resources to identify assets that can be used to help sell.

Some of these resources are ready right out of the box. Other’s need some tweaking first. Sales development teams can fill a vital need between sales and marketing to help guide the production of assets that convert leads into customers.

Much like sales development, sales enablement is a function that could easily fit into either the sales or marketing team, but that benefits from the active participation of both groups.

Finding alignment in more than word

Most of the advice out there for leaders looking to cultivate alignment between sales and marketing focuses on keeping channels of communication open. Dialogue is a great start, but it’s not enough. Creating real alignment between teams demands that companies create institutions within their organization that can go beyond talk and execute on operational alignment.

For companies that have already reached scale, this means understanding which teams fill vital niches between sales and marketing and how they contribute to a smooth handoff between the two teams.

For smaller companies that may not have the resources to fit dedicated teams into each of these roles, it can be at once more challenging and simpler. It’s easier because there are fewer pieces to fit into the business growth jigsaw. Cooperation can be harder for small businesses, however, because executing on sales/marketing alignment requires the active collaboration of both teams on day-to-day tasks.

The challenge of sales/marketing alignment is not really about different priorities. At least not on teams where growth is the goal. Where the difference arises is in how the two departments approach the same challenges. The goal of creating institutions with clear objectives at the touch points of sales and marketing is to repackage the output of one approach so that it is the correct input for the next approach.    

Digging In with Andrew McCaffery

Digging In is a “no holds barred” series of sales interviews presented by JP Werlin, Co-founder, and CEO of PipelineDeals. The series is intended to be a candid look at the world of selling from the perspective of those who do it every day. With each episode, you’ll leave with at least one real tip, trick, or strategy that will help you improve your game. 

In this first episode of Digging In, we explore the sales operations of BrandVerity, a small bootstrapped company that is rapidly expanding into new markets from the perspective of their head of sales, Andrew McCathery.  

Andrew was brought on by the company’s founders as their first salesperson to prove the channel as a viable route for growing the business. His understanding of the importance of finding a fit between a company’s culture and their sales process has been essential to leading the company's sales team. 

At BrandVerity, Andrew got thrown into the deepened on day one and went on to craft not only a sales process that has allowed them to continue growing for seven years but to build a sales team to keep the growth coming. In the interview, JP presses him with the tough questions of building a team that can match the culture of the organization and fit the needs of the clients. 

The results are an insightful blend of the skills that it takes to make it as a quota carrying sales rep and the knowledge that is needed to take it to the next level as a sales manager. 

Catch the full interview on Grow University and take home valuable insights into what it takes to succeed wherever you sit in the organization, from front line rep to VP of sales.