First and foremost, it comes down to everyone (and I mean everyone!) using the CRM system. Sales leaders should lead by example. Why would a new-hire account executive (AE) think it’s necessary to plug in their activities if you aren’t actively involved as well?
Whether it’s that new hire or a seasoned pro, we always need to teach the best practices: logging all activities and meetings while also keeping opportunities up to date by filling in next steps and the success criteria. Sales leaders should be actively engaged in the application on the opportunities: using the data (or lack thereof) to coach their people in order to improve outcomes, pulling in the right people at the right time, sharing updates on a deal to key stakeholders, and collaborating on things like deal spreadsheets and presentations to a client. But again, this can only happen if the CRM is always up to date. It’s priority #1 to keep the team on track.
For our team, I track our activities, meetings, and pipeline on a weekly basis. Our AEs know that it's something that their entire leadership team cares about. AEs can’t always control what their annual contract value (ACV) is at the end of any given month because they may not have 100% control over whether clients buy or not. But what they absolutely can control is the level of activity (as we discussed in tip #1) and the necessary rigor of documenting it. They can show they’re doing the right things and exhibiting the right behaviors that, in time, will pay off in ACV. And if they aren’t, the leadership team can help guide them in ways to fix it.
That’s where coaching becomes a key component. If you have everything in the CRM system, a regional vice president (RVP) can sit down with an AE and say, "Tell me about this meeting. What happened at this meeting? What did you learn from this meeting?" or "I participated in this meeting, too. Let's go back and talk about what’s working, where are you getting stuck, what could you do differently?”
Incentivizing — whether it’s paid or unpaid — is an important aspect to keeping a sales team on track. For example, we are constantly coming up with new ideas around spiffs or team competitions to keep things fun while we drive the right focus in our business. Whether that is creating and closing business in a month or continuing to “feed the beast” with pipeline generation, we see quite a bit of success around that. We try to keep it interesting with a new theme each month, and we track it all in the app. Our leadership posts on a weekly basis how people are doing, and those who are at the top of the dashboard.
When it comes to rewards, it doesn't always have to be monetary. Think creatively about it. Last year we awarded top leaders in activities, meetings, and pipeline by calling them out in Chatter and dropping a little three-inch gold trophy on their desk. It’s all about bragging rights. Some people acquired a handful of these trophies throughout the quarter. We’ve had competitions to win dinner with an SVP and a March Madness bracket to earn a half day off. It's a fun way to keep inspiring the sales team to stay focused and work hard when things like prospecting can be pretty hard. None of these were tied to money because, while money is great, I don't think it's always the most motivating factor. With these programs in place, we are on track to surpass our pipeline goals in the first quarter. We will accomplish this through prioritization every day, holding people accountable, and recognizing success.
Our leadership team really prioritized enablement coming into this fiscal year because we can ask our AEs all day long to pick up the phones, create pipeline, and close deals. But if they aren't comfortable or confident, or having the right types of conversations to uncover the business impact, problem to solve, or potential return on investment, then there’s a problem. As sales leaders we must arm them with the right skills to be as successful as possible and to capitalize on every opportunity they have.
Last year my management team rolled up our sleeves and said, "What are the areas that we really need to reinvest in for our people?" We focused on the sales skills that we thought were important to create pipeline and move deals successfully through the funnel. Each RVP raised their hand and took a topic, so it wasn't on one person to deliver. It made all of the leadership team a little bit more invested in it.
For the first three weeks of the month on a weekly basis, we ran an enablement session with our AEs. We’ve done topics that range from performing account research to determine the right accounts to target, to running successful discovery sessions with your prospects or customers — uncovering value and business impact, asking tough questions, and building appropriate close decks to get in front of executives prepared with a point of view and a message. The topics run the gamut of tactical to strategic.
This year we are focused on delivering specific industry plays that will help our AEs break into their whitespace. We enable this through a webinar, ensure they consume the material through a Stand & Deliver program, provide reports for target prospects, and schedule call blitzes to drive activity. We showcase where people are doing things well and highlight use cases for pipeline generated. It’s all about sharing those best practices and learnings across the team, demonstrating to everyone else how to do it successfully and what a great example looks like. In turn, this gives AEs the recognition that they're doing the right things and are contributing members to our collective goals.
“As sales leaders we must arm [AEs] with the right skills to be as successful as possible and to capitalize on every opportunity they have.”