In this post, Kathy Venincasa, one of our inaugural Miller Heiman Group Icons and a sales forecasting master, discusses what she sees as the top four sales operations best practices .
Over the course of my career, my roles in sales operations have ranged from serving as a number cruncher to motivating and training sellers, analyzing sales budgets and compensation plans to forecasting. In every aspect, sales operations combines two things I love: sales performance and data analytics. It’s a beautiful blend of art and science.
I have seen it all when it comes to sales operations, so as you consider your organization’s approach to sales operations, keep these four best practices in mind.
1. Build Rigor and Consistency in the Sales Forecasting Process
I’ve helped raise several companies’ forecast accuracy from 60% or 70% to 90%, often in less than a year. The problem that many organizations face is that their sales forecasts are too complex. The more complicated the forecasting process, the harder it is to master—and the more difficult it is to use it consistently. Other companies have poor forecast accuracy because they’ve failed to adopt any process at all.
When organizations don’t follow a documented sales process or when their sellers don’t understand the sales process they’ve been asked to follow, there’s a disconnect. If sellers get bogged down in a poorly defined or overly complex sales process, they won’t follow it.
To move sales forward in a consistent, repeatable way, sales organizations need to teach their salespeople the theory behind their sales process and make it easy for sellers to follow the steps that lead to a successful deal close.
One way to encourage sellers and sales managers to follow the same, straightforward process is to create a playbook that informs sellers on what to do—and when and why to do it—before they move to the next stage of the selling cycle. A playbook based on a sound selling methodology helps sellers, sales managers and sales leaders accurately judge what stage a deal is in and what move to make next, both of which improve forecast accuracy.
2. The Value of Human Input When Implementing Technology
Technology plays a significant role in taking sales teams to the next level. Automation reduces the time that sellers spend on tedious administrative tasks, which frees up more time to actually sell.
Adding a tool to the sales technology stack that reinforces the adoption of core sales methodologies, like Scout, ensures that all of the organization’s sellers follow proven sales strategies and builds in coaching opportunities that help sellers improve their behaviors.
But technology on its own is not enough. I’m all for technology making the work of sellers easier and automating data input, but you can’t do it at the expense of a salesperson’s gut instinct. Even the most sophisticated artificial intelligence can’t pick up on a buyer’s body language, tone of voice or level of engagement in a conversation. That’s why I think hands-on interaction from a salesperson is key.
Our goal should be to find the right balance between reducing the time and tedium of a salesperson’s work and incorporating their insights and feedback into a CRM.
3. Train Sales Managers How to Manage
Great salespeople aren’t born; they’re taught. The same is true of sales managers. But sales organizations often default to promoting the most successful salespeople into sales management roles—without training them how to be a good manager.
Because they’ve never learned how to train or coach sellers—much less why it’s important to do so, these managers end up as “super sellers,” parachuting in to save the day and help sellers close the deal without imparting key knowledge that helps sellers grow and learn.
The sales operations team should ensure that sales managers have the tools they need to make selling easier—and one of those tools is training. Managers need to be taught how and when to coach their sellers. Sales managers don’t automatically know how to mentor their salespeople or how to constructively criticize their team without demoralizing them; they require instruction and practice to improve these skills.
4. Look for Sales Talent with Sales DNA, Drive and Attitude
The most important quality for sales talent isn’t technical skills; the two raw ingredients that you need to hire for are attitude and drive. If you find the right person with the right sales DNA—a high level of eagerness to grow, learn and be successful—and a passion for what they’re selling, you can teach anyone to sell.
I recently hired a person with no scientific background and another with no sales experience and no science degrees. Both are star performers because they had the willingness to jump in and learn. With the right attitude and desire, anyone can learn the repeatable set of behaviors and processes necessary to improve sales performance.
Learn More about Effective Sales Operations
Want to learn more about trends in sales operations and hear about the tools that I recommend to add to your sales technology stack? Listen to my Move the Deal podcast episode.
Kathy Venincasa has been a leader in sales operations and enablement for the past 15 years in a variety of service and high-tech manufacturing industries. Kathy’s experience prior to sales operations and enablement covered a variety of business areas, from IT and finance to customer service and order management. Kathy currently resides in the Denver area and is part of the sales enablement team at Optiv, the leader in cybersecurity solutions.