6 Mistakes Founders / CEOs Must Avoid When Scaling Sales Ops
Product-market fit and scaling mindsets are very different. During the sales scaling stage, the critical focus should be on repeatability and sales infrastructure, which can be leveraged, ensuring the lowest customer acquisition cost.
‘If I can get the demo meeting, I can close the sale.’
‘I have a chicken and egg situation. If sales improve, I will first add salespeople, which will solve slagging sales.’
‘My salespeople don’t seem to be doing enough calls.’
‘My salespeople don’t follow any systems. It is for their good, but they are clueless for the most part about the pipeline, cashflow, compensation systems and all of that.’
These are some of the most common problems I keep hearing from founders and CEOs of small and medium businesses, and, more so, if they are SAAS businesses. We all have some idea about mission, vision, happy employees and happy customers but, to get to the point, a company cannot survive without sales. And if the company is continually struggling to get the sales wheel spinning all the right things that are supposed to be implemented, it never happens. Let’s look at some common problems while scaling sales and how we can resolve them, and, most importantly, without breaking the bank.
F1 car, Powerful engine, Expert driver behind the wheel — but no fuel a.k.a Leads
In most cases, the product-market fit has happened, but scaling is the problem. Let’s understand one thing- getting leads, qualifying it, converting it and ensuring impact for them, all are different tasks but are crucial to enable sales. The best organizations separate these functions. It is not necessary to spin them off as separate functions. But at least the demand generation, i.e., prospecting & lead generation stage, must be separated from demand fulfilment function. This is because demand generation is a high volume, low- value game which should be scaled and the cost structures are entirely different. You lose focus when you combine demand generation and demand fulfilment. Mostly, founders are good at wearing multiple hats. But professional employees hired by founders/CEOs to scale operations from large organizations come from a specialized environment. They would have worked in narrow silos, so when they have to flex a different set of muscles in a small and medium business, it becomes difficult for them.
Action point: Sperate demand generation and demand fulfilment, this is best achieved by creating a system for prospecting and then handing off sales to a set of closers. This creates focus and massive cost efficiency.
Hoping to scale without a sales flywheel!
The reality is that people can’t be pushed into buying. But you can help them buy by making them realise their needs, pointing them to problems they could run into, help them capture an opportunity and even help stop seepages. One common thing founders mostly say is “let’s hire someone with industry experience, and they will bring in the contact and network.” Yes, it works but only for a short time and not in every kind of scenario. The contacts run out. Importantly, the real risk is the salesperson moving on, with the account under their arm if they get poached or decide to move out. These high-profile salespeople are smart and intelligent; they are certainly not oblivious of the value they bring in. What needs to be done is to create a selling infrastructure or a flywheel right across the sales stages so that the high-profile salesperson can leverage it and, in case they leave, they will not be able to access it. This flywheel is quality sales content and automation systems, which has high leverage value. The cost of creating good quality content across the selling process is negligible compared to the cost of good salespeople’s, not to forget the high leverage it also offers. Another standard come back from founders is “let’s do a quick Google search campaign to get leads,” but do remember that as long as you pay Google money the leads happen and it is not a long-term strategy. Content should be across the selling stages right from pain points to customer success cases. Several factors should be considered while creating content such as the shelf life of the content, type of content, immediacy of results, salespeople who will be using the content, content refreshing, and lots more.
Action points: Create a sales flywheel with content, play a high-volume prospecting game, use high-cost salespeople only for closing, toggle between content types (e.g., pain points v. proactive content)
Sell and forget, tomorrow is another day.
There is no better marketing and PR than a happy customer. I was consulting for a SAAS company that had made quite a name with market potential data. The problem was customer churn. The company provided data quarterly, but when the time came for renewal, the customers were not there; they were choosing to move on for whatever reason. The problem was not at the data or product level; the companies that purchased my client’s data never used it. In the initial days, the founder used to work with companies to leverage the data. But now, after signing up more customers, he and his small team were left with little bandwidth for the same activity. Unlike the earlier years where sales was looked at from a funnel perspective, in which sales ended almost the moment the customer bought the product, now things have changed. The first part is the sales and the second part is enabling customer success.
Action points: Look at sales as two parts- first the sale, then ensuring client impact, use happy clients for referrals, and put a product person or even a creatin percentage of time for ensuring that clients use the product in the right way, provide them with adequate advisory from time to time.
No idea of who the ideal customer is and their switch nodes
This is a huge point that merits a detailed discussion. Sometimes I feel companies are not clear where to focus their sales effort, which are the critical nodes that will make customers switch competition and even the right time for a pitch. The product features responsible for generating satisfaction might not be the factors that will cause a customer to switch. You have to develop a laser focus on the ideal customer type, their occasions or moments of a switch. (more of this in my earlier article on-demand pools).
Action points: Go back to your recent sales deals and try to understand triggers and moments of purchase, which caused them to churn from the competition, customer type, and then replicate it for scaling.
Selling to partners like selling to customers.
For small organizations maintaining a larger sales force is difficult. The best way to overcome this is through alliances and creating a partner network. But you need to understand that you have to make your product attractive, lucrative and easy to sell for the partners. This again goes back to providing them with leads and a flywheel of content, making selling easy for them. Have a look at this simple framework for leveraging partnerships
Action points: Identify all players who sell to your ideal customers, this could be pre your product or even post your product, create JVs and alliances, be upfront on sharing revenue or even leads, make it easy for them to sell or recommend you
Lack of force-multiplier sales systems
Most of the time, founders and CEOs readily acknowledge the need for a selling system and even invest in one without any qualms. But the problem is at the adoption level. The sore point- ‘salespeople are not adopting it’. We need to understand the fundamental rule that better design always leads to better adoption. Companies tend to look at the system for generating reports and keeping a tab on salespeople. You have to turn the system into a tool that makes selling easy for the salespeople. There are enough selling systems in the market with no content flywheel, making adoption very difficult for salespeople.
Action points: Make adoption easy for salespeople by showing how it makes selling easy for them, automate sales sequences in the sales process, even it means slowing down to speed up.
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