Structure is vital and, right from the start, you should build cadence into your processes to keep focus on the prize: revenue growth.
By Kathleen Hartigan, Group VP International Revenue at Clari
It may be a controversial way of looking at things, but one VP of sales says: “People are unmanageable – we can’t even manage ourselves. You develop people and you manage the process.”
When you hire people, you want them to be smart, confident, resilient, creative, excited about the work. Why is it that, once they’re hired, so many leaders try to manage that enthusiasm out of them? A much better approach is to create a process that empowers them to use and develop their skills but at the same time keeps them disciplined and focused.
Kevin Dorsey, SVP of Sales at Bench Accounting is the man who says you cannot manage people, and we should listen because he’s a leader with more than a decade of experience, whom others regularly seek out for advice about how to manage the sales process. This is where he starts: “Who are my best closers? What are the things they do? What are the things they get their customers to do? Ta-dah! There’s my checklist.”
The checklist drives the process. The role of the executive, he says, is in documenting that process, in creating and updating the checklists. “Eighty percent of deals go about the same way. Give me six months with a top performer and I can replicate 80% of their performance [in the process].”
Seth Marrs, Research Director at Forrester agrees: “Get the structure in place, get it running to the point it’s just the way we work, and then you have the brain space to do other things.”
Having created a process, there are two stages in making it effective. First people have to be educated about what it is, how they should use it and, maybe most important of all, why it’s there. Once you have your team documenting the progress of deals against a standard checklist, that makes one-to-ones easier, more productive. Before you even start talking, you can see, in black and white, where they are in the process and that they’ve done all the things you would expect them to do. Now, you can get straight into the detail of the deal.
Second, you need a way of measuring the progress of a deal. “Once you’ve closed 200 – 300 deals, you know, mathematically, what you expect,” says Dorsey. He focuses on the pipeline value of a deal, the strike zone, and close rate. He compares the data-driven forecasts that come from these numbers with what team members are telling him. “If the forecasts are different – why? That guides me on the process.”
Cadence is vital
Dorsey looks at the strike zone in particular – when in the cycle do most deals close? Fine tuning the process of deal-making towards the close leads us to the idea of cadence.
Definitions of cadence are a little blurred, so let’s take a moment to define what it means for the business process. In music, rhythm is the drums, the beat. It defines the pace and keeps us moving forward. It’s important in business, too, for the same reason. We set up weekly one-to-ones, monthly team meets, quarterly reviews. These are the rhythms of our business and they keep us moving forward.
In music, cadences are the ups and downs within the rhythm. The careful selection of which note follows another and how long it should last – this creates another layer of meaning on top of the rhythm. Often, it gives a piece of music a sense of purpose.
In business, too, cadence creates a sense of purpose, although in our world that purpose is less abstract. The purpose we care most about is revenue.
The question ‘are we generating steadily growing revenue?’ shouldn’t just be something we ask at the way markers of the rhythm. It should be part of the cadence of our business. It should be built into the processes. It should be at the heart of every checklist we create.
“It’s a frantic world in sales,” says Marrs. “It [can be] quarter to quarter, just trying to figure out how to make the number. You have to build the cadence – usually right from the start. It’s of critical importance. Without cadence, your hopes and dreams cannot be achieved.”