If your organization grows rapidly, sales operations will have a hard time dealing with all the changes. The second part of our High Growth blog series is here to help you learn what you should do before and after this exciting period. Below you may find insights our experts have gathered over years of working for top organizations worldwide.
ERICH SACHSE, PROFESSIONAL SERVICES VICE PRESIDENT
“Times of high growth are incredibly exciting, but can be very challenging for sales ops departments. One of the biggest challenges that I have seen is forecasting amid the uncertainty that high growth brings.
Often there is a diversity of opinions about how long the high growth rate can be sustained, which leads sales operations teams to take drastically different actions. If we believe the growth is about to slow down, we need to temper our actions and make more modest changes to compensation, territories, and other processes.
If we believe the growth will be sustained (or even accelerate!), we need to scale the organization for this exciting future. This uncertainty can often paralyze organizations, leaving them unable to make the changes needed until it is too late and the opportunity has passed.
My advice is to embrace this uncertainty, taking prudent actions while preparing plans for more significant changes. Determine triggers that will help you identify when to take an action based on your KPIs and forecast scenarios. Model out different outcomes to understand the costs of an oversized sales force or opportunities you will miss with an undersized sales force.
Try not to get trapped into one view of the future – the one guarantee is that it will not be correct.
Doing this requires your processes to be both flexible and scalable. You need the ability to react to continual changes in the market and your own growth. Building this framework for future success is one way that sales operations can help contribute to the high growth environment.”
JOHN RISTUCCIA, PROFESSIONAL SERVICES VICE PRESIDENT
HELP SALES OPERATIONS SCALE UP TO SET THE STAGE FOR HIGH GROWTH:
- “Implement an efficient and effective onboarding and training process. You’ll be hiring a lot of salespeople to drive growth, and you’ll need to get them productive quickly.
- Run simulations of IC plans and quota setting methodologies to make sure they will still work in times of high growth. Otherwise, you run risks of going way over on your budget, or the opposite risk of setting quotas so high they are unachievable and demotivate the sales force when you need them most.
- Ensure that you have the right processes and technology infrastructure to support a larger salesforce, greater volume of transactions, more inquiries and disputes from salespeople, etc. This is essential for scalability. If not, you’ll be forcing salespeople to do manual, administrative tasks rather than be out selling. Identify the most important KPIs to track and measure growth over time.
- Set interim growth goals throughout the year to avoid unpleasant surprises at year end. This will help you spot constraints to growth and address them before they have a major impact.
HOW CAN SALES LEADERS BE PREPARED FOR HIGH GROWTH:
- Have a sales force that’s structured for fast growth. Understand the goals for new customer acquisition and existing customer expansion. Make sure your territories are structured to support these goals without overworking salespeople. This will help determine where and how many salespeople you’ll need to hire.
- Know the strengths and weaknesses of your sales team and deploy them accordingly. Who is best at closing new business? Who is the most effective at growing existing relationships? etc.
Clearly communicate the growth strategy to your sales teams to get their buy in. When sales reps think targets are not achievable, they will leave the company at the worst possible time.
- Think about Marketing too, not just Sales. If leads aren’t getting qualified or communicated to the sales team in a timely way, growth will suffer. If the sales force isn’t proactively following up on leads, you face the same risk. An open communication channel between Sales and Marketing is key.
- Always have visibility into performance.
You need to be able to see how the sales force is doing – not just incentive payments, but the entire process from price quoting and proposals, all the way through to incentive or commission payments. Bottlenecks at any stage of this process could be a constraint to growth.”
MICHAEL LETTO, PROFESSIONAL SERVICES MANAGER
Leadership also has to identify the processes that will need to be scaled up. If there are particular pain points in the current process, they should review them and put a plan in place BEFORE the high growth period is happening. These pain points will only be exacerbated by growth, and may prevent organizations from achieving their goals.
Whether it’s team expansion, process revision, or additional reporting, it’s never too early to prepare for high growth. If you know this period is coming, you should set up your infrastructure for success. The longer a team prepares for change, the more likely it is to cope with it.”
Make sure you also read our executive brief – Sales Operations during High Growth.