By Zen Newman, Marketing Analyst at PipelineDeals
Here at PipelineDeals, we’ve done a lot of talking about how sales teams will organize themselves in coming years. We call this organization a ‘growth engine’, and we think that it has the power to change the world. By integrating new sales technologies and methods of organization, companies are finding new and exciting ways to organize their business development assets. The result: greater efficiency, faster customer acquisition, and focus on the ‘right’ customers.
We’ve already examined many aspects of how growth engines function, both operationally and strategically. If you’re new to the idea of a growth engine, then here are some of our earlier posts to get you started:
- Creating a Lead Machine
- How To Solve The Sales Acceleration Formula
- What Sales Can Learn From Marketing
- Sales & Marketing Are Converging
- How Sales Enablement Can Make A CRM More Useful
Today, I want to take a step beyond the operations and strategies involved in growth engineering to take a look at how the culture might look on the inside.
The growth engine represents a profound shift in sales methodology. In the past, sales teams functioned as a collection of individuals rather than focusing on teamwork. Furthermore, the sales team itself often performed as a nearly independent entity from the rest of the company.
Inside of a growth engine, this is no longer the case. Success relies on tight coordination across teams. Individuals in turn are able to specialize and focus on their most value added activities. For salespeople, in particular, this specialization means that they need to be able to function within a much more tightly coordinated team than they traditionally have.
Successfully integrating the sales team into an growth engine means getting them to work seamlessly with marketing, management, sales enablement and other sales channels. In many cases, sales can harbor distrust or even animosity towards other groups within the organization. Overcoming this requires a concerted change.
Thankfully, cooperation tends to beget more cooperation. Once salespeople see that other parts of the organization can supply things that help improve their effectiveness, they will naturally incorporate it into their sales process. The following are some broad topics of where sales teams can look to change their approach to better integrate their activities into the infrastructure of a growth engine.
Create A Feedback Loop
Many sales teams are used to being the end of the road for communication and resources. Leads strategy and training flow to the sales team. The only thing salespeople are responsible for in turn is new business.
Inside a growth engine, revenue creation is the responsibility of the entire team. Shared responsibility creates an opportunity to develop feedback loops between sales and other aspects of the growth engine. For many organizations, it’s traditionally been a challenge to get salespeople to keep the notes in their CRM up to date. However, the ability to quickly pass data from the front line back to supporting functions is huge advantage to improving the results of sales activity.
To make the most of this, salespeople need to get used to relying on their CRM to control their sales pipeline and updating it with the results of sales activity on a consistent basis. This data becomes a valuable source of insight for sales enablement, managers, and marketers. Creating feedback loops between sales and the rest of the growth engine creates opportunities for ongoing optimization that were simply not there in traditional sales organizations.
Follow the Data
The result of ongoing growth optimization is that the sales process will change over time. Many salespeople are naturally suspicious of interference in their sales process from people outside of the sales team. Why’ll this is perhaps natural, it can’t continue in a tightly knit organization. Instead, salespeople need to learn to embrace data-driven changes to their sales process.
Optimizing the on-the-ground sales process is challenging. Salespeople often have qualitatively excellent information about what is going on with their clients and in their sales pipeline. Individual sellers, however, can struggle with producing a view of the sales process as a whole that is quantitative.
Most salespeople do not have the time to delve into creating a rigorous model. Instead, this is a function that is ideally suited to attention from sales enablement and marketing. Almost by definition, however, analysts are a step removed from front line exposure to what is happening in the sales process. To be able to create an accurate model of how customers are navigating the buying journey, they need to rely on the data that get’s pushed back up from the sales process through the CRM.
It’s neither ideal nor usually possible for salespeople to lead the charge in optimizing the sales process. Instead, they need to become highly adept at taking the analysis that other individuals prepare for them and tailor their sales activity accordingly. The mark of a true sales professional in the 21st century is someone who can quickly assimilate data-driven insights and translate them into action and result.
Taking direction is a trait that has always defined the best salespeople. Yet, it’s also been a relatively rare dynamic between many salespeople and their managers. Many sales cultures emphasize independence and a lone wolf approach to selling. While traditionally, this was manageable, it is not compatible with a growth engine.
In the past two sections, we have detailed the dynamics of a team that needs to work closely across its separate components to manage highly dynamic markets. As this infrastructure begins to work properly, it passes more and more information back and fourth. At a certain point, applying all of this information to your individual role can become overwhelming.
For this reason, salespeople who are going to excel inside a growth engine need to be able to work well with direction from managers and sales support. This way, as things spin up and changes start happening, they can remain focused on selling, even as they continue to apply the latest data-guided changes.
The concept of a growth engine presents a new way for companies to organize their resources to maximize their growth potential. Combining emerging technologies and new organizational structures into a new model will allow companies that succeed in building growth engines to out-compete companies who use more traditional organizational structures.
While the benefits are obvious, transitioning from an organization where sales and marketing are deeply siloed to one where they function in-line as part of a tightly integrated unit poses major cultural hurtles for most sales organizations. Navigating these obstacles requires taking a close look at the types of salespeople that are going to succeed in the new environment. More than needing salespeople or marketers, what companies creating a growth engine need are growth engineers.