How to scale your sales team for growth

- - Leadership, Sales

Many businesses, when they first start out, will sell their product or service to anyone in order to prove product market fit. If you’re successful doing that, you eventually figure out who your best customers are. At that point, you need to get more focused with your offering so you can scale your sales organization.

What I see a lot of companies do at that point instead is simply add more salespeople. Then, it turns into a free for all. You don’t know if every customer is hearing the same value message. You don’t understand why people are buying from you and what’s working.

Every rep is taking every deal from raw lead through to close, but there is no repeatable process. Every time you hire a sales person, they’re trying to figure out their own way to sell. There are no efficiencies in the system, and the sales process takes a long time. In this model, if you want to grow sales again, the only way to do it is keep adding headcount.

Sell to your ICPs

To scale effectively, you need to create one or two ideal customer profiles, or ICPs, so you can build your sales organization to address their specific needs.

To create these ICPs, you need to take a hard look at your customers and understand who the best ones are and what value they’re finding in your offering. Augment your internal research with external market research to help you validate and size the market and identify similar companies who might be prospects.

Once you have your ICPs, you can map out the customer journey and identify the people, processes and systems that need to be put in place to guide them through.

Hunters and nurturers

Let’s start with people. In a startup, most sales people do it all. But, some sales people are better hunters than others. Some are better nurturers or relationship managers. Mapping your sales process to your ideal customer’s journey allows you to identify how many distinct sales roles there are, and the key attributes you need in each role.

You want prospects interacting with the people that are going to provide them the most value based on where they are in their journey. But, there shouldn’t be more than two or three distinct roles, or you’ll have too many handoffs. Then the prospect gets confused and has to repeat their narrative on why are they buying, and what they like and dislike.

Once you’ve settled on what the roles are, assess the strengths of the people you have and move them into roles where they can be successful. This can be a big challenge, as some will be upset that they don’t get to own the whole process anymore. You have to help them understand the need for specialization, and that the outcome is going be a much more efficient and enjoyable process for everyone.

A virtuous circle

So what does that process look like? It’s going to be different in every organization of course, but here’s a rough outline of the one I’m working with now.

You map your sales content to key inflection points along the customer journey, so that wherever sales people are interacting with the prospect, they’re educating and helping them work through their internal processes to move through that stage of the journey.

The sales development reps are doing this with early nurturing conversations where they’re also learning about the customer and working to determine BANT—budget, authority, need and a timeline for buying. Once those criteria have been established and deals get to a certain age and stage where there have been enough meaningful conversations, the SDRs transition them to our sales team.

We have forecast calls and pipeline review calls. And, we actually review every key win and loss with an extended team that includes product and marketing and even some of the support organizations so they can hear why we’re winning or losing deals.

In addition to that, every quarter the sales development reps are sharing the top objections they’re hearing from the prospects they’re talking to. Our CEO and CFO are typically in those meetings so that they understand what we’re hearing in the field and how competitive we are or are not.

Then we take all of that feedback and put it back into our processes across the company. Marketing creates new collateral to combat common objections, or they tweak existing materials and assets to make them more relevant to our ideal customers. Product considers new features and functions that the market may be wanting.

Slowing down

It’s essential to put systems in place to support the people and the processes as you scale. There’s a temptation in fast growing companies to overlook that piece, because everyone is used to a more freewheeling environment and now you’re asking them to slow down and document what they’re doing and the conversations they’re having in the CRM system.

People hate that, but the CRM is one of the most important assets in the company. There are a lot of people that feed off of the system, not just sales. This is where product and marketing can study the wins and losses and see what’s resonating.

For sales, this is how you make sure that every one is enabled, that there’s a consistent message, and that relationships are documented so the handoffs are smooth. They can go into the system at any time and check on deal status, and prioritize their activities. There’s less time spent chasing information, and fewer meetings are needed. Spending the time to get the CRM and adjacent systems up and running with accurate, real time data is classic example of slowing down in order to go faster.

Scaling vs. headcount

When people start thinking about scaling a business, typically they think, “I just need to hire a ton more headcount.” Not only is that not scalable, if you bring in a bunch more people without processes and systems to plug them into, you have chaos. You have endless meetings, where you spend a lot of time rehashing. It starts to feel like even though the company is growing in size, it’s stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels.

In my experience, people actually want structure. They want repeatability and predictability. They want things to be easier. But, they’re afraid of change and what it might mean for them, so transparency, collaboration and change management have to be woven into of all of this. There’s a lot of short-term pain, but once you get through it, your company will be much better positioned for long-term gain.

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