3 Ways to Successfully Build Scale into Your Sales Organization


Scale is what makes many big companies start to slow down. And often the stagnation happens in part because they didn’t appropriately prepare their sales organization.

In the early days of a company, there’s nowhere to hide. If you aren’t a smart, talented sales leader, you usually don’t last. As a company grows, it’s harder to keep tabs on who gets in.

It’s also easy to brute-force new business if you’re managing a small team. But what happens when that team grows by several dozen and you can no longer touch every deal?

I’ve been fortunate to be with two companies that have grown rapidly without hitting a wall. I was at Sun when it was less than a billion in sales and when it hit $22 billion. I was at Salesforce when it was at $100 million in sales and when it hit $6.5 billion.

I’ve learned that teaching sales leaders a holistic view of their sales team makes all the difference when scaling up. Keep reading for three ways to accomplish this successfully.

1. Inspect what you expect.

Ask your sales leaders, “What percentage of the people in your organization made their number in order for you to make your number?” So often you’ll have someone who rides the back of 25% of their people as opposed to really building a team where everyone, or at least a strong portion of the team, can achieve.

If 75% of a team aren’t making their number and you continue to hire as your company grows, you are eventually going to collapse under the weight of this larger and larger group; one that hasn’t been brought up to a successful level, hasn’t been onboarded properly, and hasn’t been invested in appropriately.

2. Run a balanced business.

Instruct your sales leaders to find out where the business is coming from. Is there a balance between new logos and upsell to the install base? Is it a combination of big deals and small transactional deals that you can count on regularly? The more balanced of a business you’re running, the more your ability to scale.

If you don’t learn to pick your head up and look out at the horizon, then you’re going to hit a wall one day without even seeing it. You will be stuck with too many people not producing, too much of your number coming from your install base, and too much business from one-off big deals that aren’t repeatable year over year.

3. Hire and coach sales talent.

A significant aspect of successful scaling involves taking a look at who has hired the real talent into the organization. Find out how many of the top performers your sales leaders hired and how many they inherited. What is their track record on hiring? Did the people that they hired last year ramp up quickly and become real producers this year?

Also, make sure that your sales leaders are proactively engaging in talent management from top to bottom. Managers tend to assume that because high performers are making their number, they don’t need coaching. In reality, it’s imperative that these stars also be taught the keys to scaling, so they are ready for the next level.

If you don’t pick your head up and look out at the horizon, you’re going to hit a wall one day without even seeing it.”

Susan St. Ledger | Chief Revenue Officer, Splunk Inc
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