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Engineering Success as a Sales Leader

6/12/22 12:00 PM / by Alice Chandrasekaran

Most sales leaders were once top sales reps themselves!

In our work with many founders and ownership teams, we see a strong sales background with at least one person on the executive team - rainmakers who helped to build successful companies with relationships. 

However, now that you are a leader, you are required to have different skills on top of selling to ensure success. It can be stressful. It can be overwhelming. Your team's success depends on you. Your company's success depends on you. The reward is high -- and so is the stress!

As a partner at Digital Magenta, I play a role in sales and as the primary subject matter expert in revenue operations, optimization and acceleration. I work with multiple VP Sales and C-suite leadership teams day in and day out. This insight has influenced me and I have a tremendous amount of respect for sales leaders.

Some of the top challenges I commonly see sales leaders facing:

  1. Reaching new growth goals
  2. Building a new sales team
  3. Expanding into a new region
  4. Managing regional teams
  5. Complex or longer sales cycles
  6. Having support from marketing, customer success, and leadership
  7. Sometimes, all of the above

"Engineering success" is a principle we began applying last year to solve problems together with our clients. We would ask questions such as -- What made you come to a certain conclusion? What is the trigger? What steps did you take?

Engineer Success vs. Ensure Success

  • Ensure success - "to make sure or certain, to guarantee."
  • Engineer success - "design and build (a machine or structure or process) to be successful"

In my experience, you can ensure success when you can engineer it! 

Top 3 ways you can engineer success in your sales organization today:

1. Build sales champions, not reps

High-performers are highly accountable! Sales teams like to win. The sales function attracts people who are competitive and up for the challenge. What do champions need? Champions need clarity and coaching. Champions have a clear understanding of what it takes and then put in the work to improve. 2-Jun-13-2022-08-13-37-33-PM

  • Clarity on the sales growth strategies that are in focus (example: grow new business revenue)

  • Clarity on how to reach success and data to measure progress (example: defined key actions required to reach revenue goals)

  • Champions need coaching -- invest time and resources into coaching your team

2. Use logic to inform goals

More often than not, sales organizations are run with revenue goals alone, and the growth goals are set arbitrarily. 

Boss: Let's grow by 40%! Let's give it a shot -- if we can't then we would have still moved the needle.

Rep1: Sure. (What else am I supposed to say?)

Rep2: It seems a bit high, maybe can we set a 25% growth goal.

Rep3: Nods. (I should start looking for jobs.) 1-Jun-13-2022-08-13-37-30-PM

3. Use data to build a positive culture and outcomes

Data is a bad word among most sales reps. The most common problem we see is adoption by the team. Have you wondered why?

  • Lack of education about the importance of data across the team
  • The data available is overwhelming or unreliable
  • One size fits all approach, without accounting for the sales factors
  • Data is used to threaten reps vs. providing the right support for success
  • A cumbersome data collection process

How do you create a positive culture around data?Social post - setting revenue goal (1)

  • Educate your team and help them use data to optimize for success
  • Leverage data to provide the right support
  • Weigh manual effort vs. value to data collection and get buy-in

In a recent event, a particular rep had a higher win rate for smaller deals and a lower win rate for higher deal sizes. This team had a higher win rate overall because of regional factors and products. Data surfaced the problem and the sales manager was able to locate the "why" meaningfully: This rep was swamped and did not have time to build the relationships required to close bigger deals. This was beyond a gut feeling.  They are now hiring a CSR to manage smaller deals so the rep can focus on high-value activities and close larger deals.

The devil is in the details. If they had only looked at the overall win rate, this rep would have looked bad compared to his peers. Depending on the situation, the manager would have dismissed the data or the rep. The sales manager had access to the right data and also approached it with empathy and support. The leadership team here set the tone for a positive culture allowing for the right outcomes.

Being a sales leader is a stressful, but rewarding role where you will overcome many challenges to reach success - are you ready to start engineering it for success? Leave the stress behind and embrace the challenge!

About Digital Magenta Inc.

We help good sales organizations become best-in-class by bringing together people, data, systems, and processes. We are the founders of the Growth Data™ Framework and have helped growth teams achieve next-level success. Be it building lean high-performing teams or achieving growth or sustaining scale -- we are here to help you on your growth journey.

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Topics: Business Intelligence, Productivity Acceleration, Revenue Acceleration

Alice Chandrasekaran

Written by Alice Chandrasekaran

A strategic, data-driven revops leader with 20+ years of experience in marketing, digital, sales, and data. Alice has helped several companies step out of their revenue plateau and achieve predictable growth using our proprietary framework.