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So, when you think of the arcane sales executive, what comes into your mind? A smooth talker with words made out of silk and closures made out of steel. Come 2018, my views have changed, and so have my peers.
If I had to summarise this whole document in a line, it would be that “Sales is not about brass balls, it is about steel minds”, but you don’t get anything from that. So, let’s delve and fight more. Sales lessons, from a sales exec to another sales exec. Heart to heart.
Let’s get started without delay on one of the most valuable lessons about managing sales in a start-up environment – Hire. The. Best.
“Sales is not about brass balls, it is about steel minds”
When looking to hire a salesperson, what you’re looking for first is grit and determination. It’s hard to gauge such qualities just by looking at a resume or conducting an interview. After all, there is one lion in the jungle as opposed to a million sheep.
Think hard and firm as to what is/are that/those core competencies for successful sales personnel. You will realize that your first salesperson person should have different attributes than a VP of sales at a seasoned organization. Another important factor and something which misses out on a lot of occasions are ‘to upgrade continuously’.
Stagnancy by design kills the efficiency as well as the creativity of the predicted show-stopper by making him complacent to the ambiance.Another important factor and something which misses out on a lot of occasions are ‘to upgrade continuously’. Stagnancy by design kills the efficiency as well as the creativity of the predicted show-stopper by making him complacent to the ambiance.
The third crucial thing to keep in mind would be the tussle between your dependency on knowledge and smartness. Knowledge is the collection of skills and metrics your respective hire has acquired through experience. Intelligence, on the other, stronger hand is the ability to apply knowledge.
Personally, in my company, I have given smartness a much larger weight. At least in the initial stages, and it has worked wonders.Intelligence, on the other, stronger hand is the ability to apply knowledge. Personally, in my company, I have given smartness a much larger weight. At least in the initial stages, and it has worked wonders.
With increased employee mobility combining with the advent of social media, employees have not only become better informed over your company’s standing as an employer of choice, but they are also now much abler (and likely) to apply for a job elsewhere as soon as they become aware and/or decide that it is worth switching.
What should you do in this situation? The answer is simple. Make them think long term. Allowing and nurturing your workforce to develop sustainably will drive growth in your company over and above the feeling of belonging to the company in your workforce. And let me tell you one thing, sales guys are the most successful after the 1st year. Give them time; you will not repent on your Return on Investment.
If you take any growing organizations into a microscopic view, you will know that 80% of the sales are done by 20% of the workforce. The game here is to increase that shoddy 20% metric. I sincerely believe in out-pricing the competition in the hunt for the leader of the wolf-pack.
As a sales head, I know how difficult it is to devise the sweet spot in strong variable pay plan for your workforce. But strong offenses often die weak. One failure which I faced while scaling was when my organization offered direct co-relation of incentives to a certain percentage of the revenue.
Trust me; things will slip out like sand when you are closing your first. Another value addition which is brought upon by experience is to ‘incentivize disproportionately for top performers’. Yes, the age-old carrot in front of a rabbit story.
How ESOP plans for your veterans can help grow your business potentials is a tried and tested thumb rule. Albeit, it is hated by the bystanders and novice entries. Period. Giving them goals to achieve in the back of their heads can turn the perilous tides of your organization. Sharing your wealth is the key here.
You know what’s more efficient than an electric car? It’s the new hire from your nascent campus. They will burn the midnight oil just to ‘rise to the occasion’, all the more you might find your diamond in the rough.
We have all heard ‘old-dog-new-tricks’ story, on similar lines – infusing fresh talent at various levels might just give you the spark to light the wildfire. But enough of stories and euphemisms, let’s get down to the brass tacks now.
Going deeper into the science of sales, segmenting your workforce in accordance to the size of key accounts/ demographic regions can be your key to unravel the chaos. Structuring your workforce in accordance to their strengths and more so often – their weaknesses can be a very efficient and feasible way to increase your outputs while actuating your bottom-line. Inside sales, another ardent cog in the scalability of any organisation.
As a leader, I am wired to be the 10th man who refutes any and every result with a question ‘how’, and you should do it too. Trust me; it works wonders. Asking the question, ‘How are you selling this ‘might just be the key to finding the next Sachin Tendulkar for your team.
Involving product in the active discussions of sales can be the defining niche needed to conquer all your target achievement woes. Picture this, if the person making the product does not have an active take away from the whole sales process, how is he going to make the product better equipped?
Nurturing Nursery kids, as researchers suggest is the most tiring and arduous jobs of all times. Doesn’t necessarily mean that you put in teachers at every point. Same scenario, different ambience. Letting your workforce manage its mistakes is the key takeaway here.
How accurately can you forecast the onset of any disaster, proves the Mettl(e) of any and every leader? Setting targets which are aggressive, yet realistic is another key ammo in your arsenal to win the battle. Don’t worry, things do go wrong, and they go down fast – the key is to have a solid fallback action plan.
Devising disruptive strategies for those big players is something which in personal experience has been articulately beneficial to my organization. Barring the reflection of reality onto your projects, pipelining stages to give you a systematized process can more often than never be your USP in this growing market.
Setting expectation and minimal benchmarks to develop mental deadlines and strategies can be the key differentiator of your team.
Trust and numbers, being the two sides of the same coin can be your weapon of destruction or self-destruction depending on how you use them. I have long believed that humans (myself included) err on the side of overconfidence in their abilities and thoughts. Thus one of my favorite sayings is
“Strong opinions, weakly held.”
Decode the metrics of your workforce’s input and set realistic benchmarks so that they adhere to particular framework hence holding the bottom-line together. Your rock-star sales pupil might be getting all the revenue from his old business, all the while ignoring new businesses out rightly.
Analyzing costs of your team over a certain tenure is mostly ignored, but when the losses hit a surmountable level, it is often frowned back upon.
Why not do it from the start then, is my ardent question. Optimizing yours spends across the team can not only help your revenues, but it can also very well bump up the potential of rising.
Through personal experiences, I have learned that saving the hides of your workforce on the battlefield always pay handsomely in the longer run, especially in the initial stages of their learning the ropes. And this becomes all the more important when you have your battlefields spread across different geographies.
Think of it this way – a part of your workforce is materializing a deal in Mumbai, and you are sitting in Delhi. In this situation, however bright you may be, you have to take the backseat and act as a support to the front-line force in the impending battlefield.
Ideas can come from anywhere; the question is if you are welcoming them or not.
Getting involved and having an open-ended conversation while being an interactive and fun way of engaging your employees, can also give you that defining niche to propel you ahead of the competition.
The flow of information is the most crucial building block in any organization. An open looped interaction where anyone can contribute is the best thing that technologies have given us today. Period.
Whenever there is a closure, client size immaterial, there is a circular forwarded to the entire organization. How does it help? It gives the incentive of bragging rights to your workforce, ultimately helping your bottom line.
When the ownership of a certain project lies in the hands of the perpetuator, so should the veto in the pricing. You aren’t there on the battlefield, your platoon is. Would you let them choose the right arsenal for the war, or send them with axes in a nuclear war?
Having a flexible rate card can operationally lower their dependency on you while making them feel empowered for something which ultimately belongs to you.
You’d think that marketing and sales teams, whose work is also deeply interconnected, would have discovered something similar.
As a rule, though, they’re separate functions within an organization, and, when they do work together, they don’t always get along. When sales are disappointing, Marketing blames the sales force for its poor execution of an otherwise brilliant rollout plan.
The sales team, in turn, claims that Marketing sets prices too high and uses too much of the budget, which instead should go toward hiring more salespeople or paying the sales reps higher commissions.
As your functions become better aligned, it’s important to create opportunities for marketers and salespeople to work together. It’s useful for marketers, particularly brand managers and researchers, to occasionally go along on sales calls.
They should get involved with developing alternate solutions for customers, early in the sales process. And they should also sit in on important account planning sessions.
Salespeople, in turn, should help to develop marketing plans and should sit in on product-planning reviews. They should preview ad and sales promotion campaigns. They should share their in-depth knowledge about customers’ purchasing habits.
Jointly, marketers and salespeople should generate a playbook for expanding business with the top ten accounts in each market segment. They should also plan events and conferences together.
As the platoon commander to your force, you should understand that cash is the only commodity bringing sanity to an unenforced structure. To wit, collection of money should be a sound process cordoned off from every leak. Especially in India, as the best case is money upfront.
Focusing on Churn, and how to drive out this humongous impediment to growth in your organization. And foremost, do business with utmost honesty and integrity. Having a co-founder who has done sales for the first 3-4 years always help. Yes, I am a bit narcissist as well.
Today, the savviest sales leaders are dramatically changing the way they run their workforces. They are reinventing their sales approaches to respond to new market environments. They are expanding their lists of target customers beyond what anyone had previously construed.
They are boosting their sales reps’ productivity not by hiring the most gifted individuals but by helping existing reps sell more.
So I ask you again. Where are you in this race?
To summarize these sales intricacies into concise points.
Ketan Kapoor, one of the co-founders and CEO of Mettl, is part of a growing breed of highly qualified entrepreneurs. An IIT-IIM alumnus, he has the unusual distinction of having spent most of his career at startups.
Originally published May 1 2018, Updated September 2 2021
Sales hiring is a talent acquisition process through which organizations build winning sales teams. Using standardized sales assessments, situational tests and role-plays can elevate your sales hiring and help you hire the best sales talent.