What sales processes do you need in place to scale?

In the B2B SaaS world, there’s an obsession with growth.

It’s no great secret that in order to thrive, companies must find a way to consistently discover and engage new customers, as well as to maintain their existing clients.

Recently, my colleague Dominique Levin posted on Linkedin about the concept of how ‘Go To Market Fit’ is the ultimate goal for rapid and repeatable scaling of sales.

Here’s a diagram:

The thing is, achieving ‘Go To Market Fit’ is something that a lot of organisations struggle with.

The Challenges With Achieving Go To Market Fit

There are unique challenges at each of the three phases:

  1. The founder deciding on a sales model and committing to it
  2. Developing a repeatable and professional sales routine that secures and satisfies new customers, and;
  3. Strategically aligning the business with the problem it is addressing and the sales process, to initiate scalability.

Phase 1 — Founder Sales

A lot of people stumble at Phase 1, and that’s because they don’t have an intimate understanding of the problems that their customers face, let alone how they can prove that their business is setup to solve them.

At Phase 1 you are essentially trying to replicate the sales process of the Founder. Very few people have such an intimate knowledge of the challenge the customer faces and how your unique solution is able to solve it — the Founder is not scalable.

Because the founder has such a passion for solving the problem, it holds a certain gravitas with prospects. They tend to get deals across the line in a nonlinear fashion which is not at all repeatable.

Phase 2 — Professional Sales

As you get into Phase 2, it’s about moving beyond the founder and finding success with three or four sales reps who share a similar passion to the founder.

In Phase 2 you really need what Mark Leslie and Charles Holloway refer to as a “renaissance rep” in their Harvard Business Review article. These reps are comfortable with ambiguity and will build their own sales process based on the game they see in front of them. They are creative, relationship-based reps who will do whatever it takes to get a deal across the line.

Everything that is going on at this stage in the ‘Go To Market Fit’ process is still very loose and hard to scale. You are relying on the intuition and creativity of individuals. A select few reps may be crushing it, and you’re growing fast, but 80% of your revenue is coming from 20% of the sales team — your rainmakers… you can’t replicate rainmakers.

In the world of SaaS, where average order values are in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands, relying heavily on a select few salespeople can be a recipe for disaster. They won’t help you make your number alone.

Phase 3 — Scaling Growth

Even when you start moving beyond the second phase and into Phase 3, there are still a number of challenges. Companies moving towards this level of maturity will typically look to hire an experienced peer-to-peer salesperson who has worked for a big company, hoping they can come in and replicate that success.

The problem with this approach is that most of the time these people don’t have a process they can adapt to a new business, and the new problem they are solving. They’ll bring in one or two high-performing reps from their previous company, lean on previous technologies that they are used to, and rely on the same marketing channels that have been successful in the past.

They bring these disparate elements into a new environment and try to fit a square into a circular hole. Their old processes aren’t agile enough to create scalable growth in a new and potentially more volatile environment.

That’s why the typical tenure for a VP of Sales in Silicon Valley is 18 months. It’s very hard for them to succeed.

Breaking The Trend: The 80–80 Rule

To truly achieve ‘Go To Market Fit’ you need to create what we call the 80–80 rule — where 80% of your sales reps generate 80% of the revenue. In traditional sales organisations, management relied on a couple of superstars to generate the majority of the revenue.

The 80–80 rule requires a repeatable process. One that can be coached, trained, and then followed in Phase 3. That’s the only way you will get scalable growth.

This notion of training and up-skilling a group of people to achieve peak performance is not unique to sales. For centuries, organisations have been creating a process to enable large groups of people to execute on a plan. Think about the military, in education, and even in sports.

A great example of this concept in sport is the Hawaiian Ironman, one of the most gruelling endurance events on the planet. When it first started back in 1984, there were only about 12 elite athletes, who adopted strict training processes and used the latest technology, contesting the event. Now that these processes and technology are widely available for the public the number of people competing in the event has exploded into the thousands and average athletes are able to achieve above average results.

The Agile Sales Process for Getting To 80–80

To achieve scalable growth you need to create an agile sales process which comprises of six key elements:

  1. It acquires the right skills. Your reps need to be skilled in selling remotely, and in an online environment. People are making much larger purchase decisions over the phone or on collaboration tools like Zoom, Skype, or join.me. This requires a different skill set to be successful as a sales rep. Even for organisations that have to go out into the field to sell, a large majority of their preparation is done in an online environment.
  2. It uses the right tools. Sales tools today go well beyond a phone and a phonebook. In fact there’s over 700 sales tools available to reps. These tools act as a force multiplier. They’re not replicating human engagement, but providing reps with what they need to be more effective. Instead of thinking of a Robocop AI-stylesalesperson, think of an Iron Man suit that enables the salespeople to be more effective.
  3. It’s reinforced with content. Content really acts as the new outbound sales call, and it’s essential to the modern seller. People are consuming content at a faster rate than ever, and they’re looking for answers to their problems. Salespeople need to be providing and enabling them with content so they can go on their own journey of self-discovery, before they are ready to buy.
  4. It’s built into an agile organisational structure. Your org structure needs to be agile and adapt to the rapidly changing market conditions that are affecting SaaS businesses today.
  5. It’s customer-centric. Aligned to the customer’s buying behaviours, how they identify that they have a problem, educate themselves on a solution, and ultimately make a decision.
  6. It’s all underpinned by data. All of these elements are driven by data. The data enables you to measure the performance of your reps, how they apply the process, the intricacy of the tools, and how popular the content is. You can then iterate and improve your process based on these findings.

Conclusion

Achieving ‘Go To Market Fit’ is never easy.

You need to invest in regular training, a culture of coaching, and a willingness to change — to ensure that your team understands the frameworks they should work within. This empowers individuals to go and test, iterate, and improve the process when the market changes.

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Happy selling!