Tag Archives: sales productivity

Implement Sales Process to Improve Sales Productivity

We are often asked: “What is the best methodology for our company?” This is the wrong question. Any methodology, when consistently applied, can yield significant Sales Productivity benefits. The better question is:”How do we make our Sales Process useful to the reps and used uniformly across the team?” The challenge is the consistent application in a fashion in which the reps buy in.

One of the keys to improving Sales Productivity is the consistent use of a dynamic Sales Process. According to CSO Insights and others, companies that utilize Sales Process have significantly higher Sales Productivity than those that do not. When you implement Sales Process, you will be more effective in focusing on the highest potential opportunities.

This does not mean that every rep in your company should sell exactly the same way. However, you should: a) Have a consistent approach to measure where a deal is in the prospect’s buying cycle and b) Enable your Sales Leaders to provide coaching to your sales reps on best sales practices that apply to specific sales cycles in their individual pipelines.

When we ask clients about their sales process, they often respond that they have one, but that it is not consistently used across the sales force. We often find that problem is less with the Sales Process Design and more due to the lack of commitment to implementation. Why is this?

In our view, it is that VPs of Sales are often unwilling or unable to deliver culture change. The implementation of a Sales Process (where none existed) is severe culture change. Some of your best performers will resist. And the Sales VP is compensated to focus on the current quarter and half of the next quarter. To expect an executive who typically is in the job for a total of 18 months to take arrows in their back to drive a change that has long term benefits may not be reasonable unless he/she has the strong commitment of the CEO and executive staff. I don’t suggest that clients spend the resources on Sales Process design unless that commitment is evident.

If you need to improve Sales Productivity and/or forecast accuracy, consider our Sales Assessment service to identify the strengths and weaknesses in your approach to acquiring customers.

Growth Process Group

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Sales Huddles-The New Way to Coach Your Reps

Elay Cohen, CEO of Saleshood, has the viewpoint that first line sales managers need to improve their ability to coach their reps to improve their performance. His new book titled “SalesHood” is a good read.

I really like this quote in Chapter 4, Nurture Social Learning, from Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget; Teach me and I may remember; Involve me and I learn.”

As Elay says “These principles apply beautifully to salespeople and sales training. The most effective parts of sales training are those where salespeople share real life deal scenarios and where they can demonstrate and apply their skills.”

He likes small, modular coaching sessions which reinforce learning. One of the changes that he advocates is to hold frequent sales huddles that are led by first line sales managers as more effective than grandiose annual training events.

SalesHood is available on Amazon in hard cover and Kindle formats.

I recommend it for all sales leaders and sales trainers and I am adding SalesHood to the recommended reading list for my Cloud Computing Course (BUS 105-Selling & Marketing SaaS to the Enterprise) at Stanford which is taught in the evenings to serve the needs of those currently working at and those seeking to join cloud application companies. For info and registration, click here.

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Generational Differences Impact Sales

I really liked this post from Carew International on the generational differences and the impact on sales. It provides some interesting insight for sales leaders. The detailed Generational Differences Chart, provided at the Workflow Management Coalition website, is worth a look.

I also recommend “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy”, a book on the topic by Bruce Tulgan.

Increased generational diversity in the workforce means that getting into the “Odds Are” of customers is more complicated and challenging than ever before. Currently there is a big generational shift underway with the rapid exit of Boomers, due to retirement, the increasing proportion of Gen Xers among decision makers, and the arrival of Millennials into management positions.

While we must be careful not to cast blanket stereotypes, we can all benefit from increased awareness and attention to generational influences if we leverage these specific values and expectations for superior sales and customer service effectiveness. In general, “Baby Boomers” tend to be more structured and formal, “Gen Xers” more casual, and “Millennials” (also known as Gen Ys) still more relaxed. This distinction impacts every aspect of the sales process and customer relationship.

Generational influences may be most obvious in the area of customer communications, including format, frequency and style. For example, Boomers appreciate in-person interaction and personal relationships as part of business. In written communications, they expect proper grammar and punctuation. Boomers appreciate recognition of stature/authority. They are more likely to invoke regularly scheduled meetings, updates or phone calls.

In contrast, Gen Xers respond to more direct/blunt communications. They are less interested in “regular” meetings, but they expect more timely and frequent communication. Gen Xers are not as concerned with authority and rank, but expect their sales rep to learn their language and meet them in their world.

Millennials are far less interested in in-person meetings. They greatly prefer the efficiency of electronic communication, and expect immediate response to questions and requests. Their collaborative tendencies mean Millennials want to be included as you develop solutions for their organization. Millennials are more likely to buy in groups, versus Baby Boomers who tend to assume and assign single decision makers, and will be more definitive about who is in charge. It is important to understand who the decision maker is, and if it is indeed a committee making the purchase decision.

The key is to be aware of generational influences, and then be flexible in the style, rhythm and format you apply to different customers. Mentoring with different aged sales professionals on your own sales team is a great avenue for ongoing insight and feedback. With every new challenge comes new opportunity. Leverage your generational insight and awareness effectively and you will create a differentiating sales advantage.

Of course, these insights are just the tip of the iceberg! Want to take a deeper look at generational influences? The detailed Generational Differences Chart, provided at the Workflow Management Coalition website, is an excellent reference resource.

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What Is Sales Enablement, Anyway?

This very good article by Jason Jordan on the range of elements that are included in the term :Sales Enablement”.

Among the sometimes-vague sales terms that get tossed around, sales enablement may be one of the worst offenders. Sometimes, it’s a code word for a sales operations group; other times, it’s code for sales training. CRM can come into it, as can other technology. So what does “sales enablement” really mean?

In the research that led to our best-selling book, Cracking the Sales Management Code, we discovered how broadly people use this term. Then, in order to clarify it, we organized some of this information in the infographic below.

Basically, we found that sales enablement is a collection of tasks and tools that are intended to improve the execution of key sales activities—activities like making sales calls, pursuing opportunities, managing major accounts, and targeting top prospects. But our research also revealed that these tasks and tools all fall into one of four categories—categories that interestingly mirror the lifecycle of an employee.

For the complete article, click here.

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Can Your Sales Reps Communicate Value to Business Executives?

Never-Expect-300x120According to a number of research reports, the number one reason deals do not close is a sales rep’s inability to present value effectively. As Geoffrey Moore pointed out years ago in his book, “Crossing the Chasm”, Early Adopters and Innovators are enamored with features, but executives in the Majority make decisions according to their perception of your value in solving their critical problems. Clear communication of Value is required to sell to top level executives.

A Value Proposition is a concise (quantified) statement of the:
• Revenue Increase,
• Cost Reduction or
• Control Improvement
that your solution provides your customer.

If you can’t quantify the value you provide, you may not have a viable business that will survive.

Value Propositions answer these questions:

  • What can you do for me?
  • Why is that important to me?
  • Is that more than I’m getting now?
  • Is that better than I’m getting now?
  • Is that sooner than I’m getting now?
  • Does it cost less than what I’m spending now?
  • Is it less risky than what I’m doing now?

Before I hold the first class session of my Stanford course on Cloud Computing, I warn the students (who are managers and executives at tech companies) that I expect them to be able to state the Problem They Solve for Their Customers in 15 words or less without talking about product features. I go around the class asking them to provide their problem statements and more than half fail the test. Product feature focus is a syndrome of many technology companies.

As this research report from Insideview.com shows, the top drivers of customer loyalty are reps that provide value.


At Growth Process Group, we use a proven process for developing clear Value Propositions. This is a simplified process diagram.


Achieving Simplicity is key. We begin by describing the Problem Solved from the customer’s perspective. Then, we develop Before & After views in simple graphical representations. We map Value to Pain by Title Type with a TCO perspective. Messages are crafted only after your Value Proposition development is complete.

The criteria for Problem Solved selection:

  • View the problem you solve from the customer’s perspective
  • Focus on customer pain
  • Is it a differentiator (or “me too”)?

Rank by

  • Target Market size
  • Importance in the customer’s mind
  • Your credibility at this time


Here is an example of an Initial Problems Solved list:


  1. Rogue spending for Services is too large
  2. Companies need to reduce the total time spent sourcing services
  3. Reduce Cost of Purchased Services
  4. Gain benefits of existing  system for Services

Procurement & Accounting

  1. Procurement-improve control over Service spending
  2. Total Cost of Purchasing  Services is too high (manual process)
  3. Reduce Accounting  Error & Rework Rates for Services
  4. Reduce Reconciliation Effort for  Services Invoices


  1. Need to reduce the time & effort  for Sourcing & Purchasing Services
  2. LOB Mgrs have to mend time reconciling  invoices for Services Suppliers
  3. Purchasing can’t translate LOB requirements to Suppliers
  4. Enable ability to get desired services, but ‘in the system’


Often, the first iteration of such a list is too long and the challenge is to focus on the Problems Solved that are most important to customers at the current point in time.

This diagram shows a simple Before/After graphic we created out of a thick technical features document.


Transforming detailed descriptions of technical features to clear, simple statements is a talent that is rarely found in those who are closely tied to the product or service development. When I show this graphic to an audience, I ask: ”Who here does not get it?” No one raises their hand due to its’ elegant simplicity.

How often do you visit a web site to find a detailed description that does not express customer value?

Here is an example Value Proposition:

We Improve Customer Satisfaction, Improve Retention & Reduce Cost

• Churn reduced > 10%
• Support costs reduced > 30%
• Break even in < 3 months (including TCO) questions resolved in < 24 hours (vs. 60% took > 36 hours previously)
Notice the simplicity and clarity that results from very few words. Also, there are no product features.
The next phase of the process is to craft messages by title type (personas) based on the key interests of that position. Examples of the concerns of various executives are shown below:

  • CEO‐Investor Relations & Share Price
  • CFO‐Profits & Cash
  • COO‐Productivity & Cost
  • CMO‐Strategy, Positioning & Lead generation
  • CSO‐Revenue Growth & Cost of Selling
  • CIO‐ROI & Efficiency
  • Users‐Great Functionality
  • IT‐Ease of Support


Growth Process Group’s Value‐Pain Matrix methodology is used to determine which problems and messages are appropriate for each prospective title type. This often results in Aha! moments that reveal incorrect assumptions on who to sell to. We list the key Problems Solved for the Customer and the Title Types that should be involved as shown below.


For each Problem Solved-Title Type intersection, we assign attributes to each cell as follows:

  • Which Title Type has Acute Pain for this Problem?
  • Which Title Type has Budget Creation capability for this Problem?
  • Which Title Type has Political Power to change the way work is done for this Problem?
  • Which Title Type Owns the Problem (you would like to avoid selling across departments where possible?


Next, we find sweet spots that have all of these attributes in one cell and direct our reps to sell that Problem Solved to that Title Type (and not all of the Problem Solved). We find that when we do this, win rates go up and sell cycles decrease.

Here is an example of an in-process Value-Pain Matrix:


When we take the team through this on a several meeting, iterative exercise, AHAs! sometimes occur, such as the CEO says we have to get to (name your Title Type) when the that Title Type has none of the required attributes for any of the Problems Solved, or the reverse where she had assumed that sales reps should not approach (name your Title Type) when that Title Type does have all of the desired attributes for a particular Problem Solved and can be a great sales opportunity..

Contact Growth Process Group if you need to improve your rep’s ability to communicate value.

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Sales Pipeline Management-Are You Generating Enough Qualified Leads?

Developing a Pipeline Requirements Model
Developing a Pipeline Requirements Model

Sales Productivity is a critical measure of the viability of your sales force. One of the important ways to improve Sales Productivity is to provide each rep with an adequate pipeline of qualified leads. The more time that your reps can spend moving prospects through their funnel (rather than hunting for qualified leads) the more productive your sales organization. Yet, we regularly hear that reps do not have adequate deal flow from field reps and their managers. When companies do not adequately project the number of suspects required to meet the sales goals or they use very optimistic assumptions on conversion rates, the result is missed goals and high selling costs.

This article is focused on developing a Pipeline Requirements Model for subscription revenue businesses. It incorporates conversion and lead time metrics.


Explanation of the model An example of such a model is shown below.


The second row states the Revenue Goal for the year ($50M in this case) and row 3 shows the Renewal Revenue Estimate of $42M. An assumption in this version is that Renewal Revenue takes Churn into account. If not, you should add in specific Churn Estimates by quarter and compute Net Renewal Revenue before proceeding down the model. The Average New Account Order Size (Row 4) is an important element to estimate how many new accounts are needed.

Next, management states the desired distribution of New Account Revenue by quarter (shown in row 6: 10% in Q1 growing to 35% in Q4). Sales Leadership estimates the number of New Accounts to be Closed from the Current Pipeline by quarter (row 8: Total = 290 in this example). Multiplying the number of New Accounts to be Closed from the Current Pipeline by the Average New Account Order Size provides the revenue for a full year after the order is closed (assumes all contracts are for one year). Multiplying that by 25% (the assumption that the subscription service is provided equally each quarter may not be correct in your case) provides the ratable revenue that is recognizable each quarter (row 10). The difference between the New Account Revenue Goal (row 5) and the Revenue from New Accounts to be closed from the Current Pipeline (row 10) reveals the Revenue required from New Accounts Not yet in the Pipeline (row 11).

The calculation of New Account Orders to be closed that are not in the Current Pipeline (row 13) is (Revenue from New Account Orders not in the Current Pipeline X 4) / (Average New Account Order Size). Now, with the Number of New Account Orders not in the Current Pipeline, we can proceed to develop projections for the number of Qualified Leads, Prospects and Suspects or Targets required to meet the plan.

It is important to use conversion rates that meet a sanity test and to progress to a point where most of your Qualified Leads and some of your Prospects are generated in earlier quarters than the order close quarter. This assumes that the sales cycle for $80K+ deals is more than 1 quarter. The number of Suspects, Prospects and Qualified Leads needed to satisfy the revenue goal is often much larger than the company executives think is necessary.

As we see here, we need to touch more than 200,000 Targets to get 109 New Accounts not currently in the Pipeline. This can be reduced if the conversion rates for Qualified Leads and Prospects improve. If we can close one of every two Qualified Leads, the number drops to 136,000 (which is still significant).

Assumptions in this model

  • Renewal revenue estimate includes revenue lost due to Churn
  • All orders are for one year contracts
  • Subscription service is provided equally per quarter
  • Average order size is a meaningful number
  • Sales cycles are more than 1 quarter

Companies need to apply this approach globally as well as to the individual territory, Different territories have different needs. Marketing programs should be driven to serve the needs of each sales territory. For this to work well, the Marketing team needs to have the philosophy that Sales is their number one customer.

Adequate Lead Generation and Qualification is very important and should be guided by your Target Markets and Ideal Prospect Criteria. There are several new technology approaches for generating and tracking new opportunities. Refer to the extensive excellent subject matter resources at Marketo.com and HubSpot.com.

You can view this and our other blogs here. If you would like help in building your Pipeline Development Model or improving other Sales Productivity issues, contact me.

Chuck DeVita
Growth Process Group

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Debunking three myths about software as a service (SaaS)

By Marc Dietz, director of IBM SaaS strategy & marketing

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is not a new delivery model. The SaaS market has enjoyed rapid growth over the past few years and shows no signs of slowing. In fact the SaaS market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 24 percent to reach by $66.9 billion 2016 and the applications segment is expected to grow to $36.9 billion by 2016. The SaaS market has been evolving as it’s been accelerating but there are still quite a few myths about SaaS. In this post, I’d like to debunk three of them.

Myth No. 1: SaaS is only about reducing costs. For many solutions and many companies, the economics of the SaaS model are certainly one key aspect of the value proposition. What is less known is how organizations are embracing SaaS for its real value: competitive advantage. While a recent IBM Global SaaS study did find that reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) was the top driver for adopting SaaS, 47 percent of IT and business respondents reported that SaaS was actually transforming their businesses and providing a competitive advantage in the market. The primary sources of this competitive advantage are speed, both in terms of time to value and agility to make future changes; and innovation, made possible by freed up IT resources, ongoing updates to business applications, and unique advantages of cloud solutions over on-premise solutions. In other words, SaaS is not just another delivery model and while it offers multiple economic advantages, the real value goes beyond the economics.

Myth No. 2: SaaS is only for business users and that means bypassing IT. Just because SaaS is easy to purchase and deploy by business users and has given rise to “shadow IT” and “rogue buying” in the enterprise, this is a big myth for two key reasons. First, cloud computing is disrupting and shifting the entire software industry, including software for IT practitioners. In fact, a recent study showed that IT practitioners “go rogue” and bring unapproved SaaS apps into the business MORE than line of business users! More and more IT management applications, such as workload automation and application performance management, are now in the cloud as well, with many more middleware and other IT SaaS apps to follow. The second major debunking factor for this myth is that innovative CIOs and IT shops are getting more involved with SaaS – and not to “clamp down” on shadow IT with iron fists, but rather with open arms. In a recent IBM Global SaaS Study, we found that in Pacesetter organizations LOB and IT strongly collaborate on SaaS selection and deployment and 65 percent of pacesetters actually describe the IT and LOB relationship as a strategic partnership. SaaS also allows IT to enable the business with innovative solutions much more quickly and then focus resources on more strategic business initiatives. Security, privacy, integration, hybrid environments are all certainly still important, so IT and the collaboration between the business and IT needs to consider functional business needs as well as these factors.

Myth No. 3: SaaS is for mid-market not enterprise. Another declining but still common belief is that SaaS is really only for small or mid-market companies, not large enterprises with mature IT departments and comprehensive data centers. SaaS, and cloud computing overall, is a great option for smaller organizations, of course, but many big companies are moving to the cloud for all the same reasons: economics, agility, innovation, competitive advantage, and more. Some enterprises do still evaluate solutions in a SaaS model and then bring on-premises. But more and more we see companies start with that intent, but then never make the change (why fix what isn’t broken?). And some enterprises are even now taking a “SaaS-First” approach for business applications and I predict we’ll see much more of that in the months and years to come. The reality of course is that major enterprises will have hybrid environments even if they start a “cloud-first” approach now. They need to evaluate how SaaS solutions fit with and integrate with other legacy applications, but with capabilities available today to integrate, secure, and orchestrate dynamic, hybrid cloud environments, this particular myth is definitely fading and is certainly short-lived.

The companies that are getting beyond the myths and embracing SaaS solutions are finding success in the market. These SaaS Pacesetters are collaborating better both internally and externally and improving business relationships. They are leveraging analytics across the organization and making better decisions. And they are increasing innovation and responding faster to market changes.

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Do’s and Don’ts of Pivoting to the Cloud Model

Excerpted from a Sandhill.com article by Peter Yozzo, Founder and CEO, ThinkHR titled ” What to Consider Before Pivoting Your Business to the Cloud Model”, dated Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pivoting your business to the cloud? Here are five things you should do and five mistakes to avoid when making the transition.

Do …

  • Have a clear vision and be fully committed to the cloud business model.
  • Make adjustments and create a plan including a detailed multi-year financial model using a SaaS or cloud methodology.
  • Ensure your board and key investors are in alignment and supportive of the strategy shift.
  • Have adequate funding. Moving to a subscription model requires a longer cash “runway” to break even.
  • Make sure your existing customers understand what you’re doing. Create a clear and compelling communication plan.

Don’t …

  • Attempt to pivot without first testing your hypothesis with potential customers.
  • Attempt to pivot with the existing management team only. It will require different skill sets and a different culture to be successful.
  • Force existing customers to convert to the cloud option immediately. Create a comfortable migration plan.
  • Maintain both business models indefinitely. It’s organizationally confusing, complex and expensive, especially for startups.
  • Expect immediate success. Be ready to work very hard with little to show for it for a substantial period of time.

For the complete article, click here.

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