Working in sales now for close to 20 years I have heard every excuse, seen raving success, colossal failure and everything in between. I have spent my career learning how to sell and am eternally grateful for some of the great sales leaders and executives I have worked for like Lars Dalgaard, Richard Terry-Lloyd, and Jan Zeman. What I learned most from these mentors and my experience is that sales is more science than art and repeatable success depends most on the right strategy and process.

Throughout my career as an individual contributor, I learned the execution side of sales and benefitted from these leader providing the sales process, supporting systems, sales assets, and coaching to support my efforts which produced $50M in sales and 4 trips to sales club in 2 different industries. But when you become a sales manager or VP those skills are just a small part of your job as you now must own the sales ecosystem, tools, process, and strategy. This is where most organizations are the weakest. They might have some strong talent, but a rudderless ship never helped anyone reach their destination.


In the startup world and in the market in general, sales leadership is getting younger and younger, now age is not an issue per say, but the issue is the lack of experience and the missing skill set to CREATE the sales structure. I constantly see sales executives being promoted to VPs at startups who have no clue how to create a sales process, define critical stages and map their efforts to the buyer’s process. Failure here is why you are not growing, why sales are inconsistent and forecast wildly inaccurate.


 “The team just needs to sell more”

-Inexperienced Sales VP

This is statement is often made by poor sales leaders and is an easy way to identify they don’t know how to diagnose the root problem. The reasons are simple – if you do not have a clearly defined sales process then how does the sales force know what to do and when? How can you identify missteps if you have no steps defined? How can you hold a team accountable if there is no clear process to follow? As we all know sales is harder now than possibly ever before as buyers don’t find value in engaging with sales and engage later and later in their process as all the research outlines. So, it is more critical than ever to maximize every engagement. The way to do that well must be clearly articulated, documented, trained on and measured to deliver consistent performance.

So, how do you fix it?

In some cases, you need to hire a new VP who knows how to create the sales ecosystem, process, and structure. In other cases, you hire people like me and my firm Executive Answers which was founded to help startups fill this gap. In the meantime, here are some of the critical first steps you can start taking now to help move in the right direction.

  1. Document and define your sales process today. What takes place from the first engagement until you hand off to implementation or customer success.
  2. Next look at the last 10-20 deals you closed and add all the critical elements that took place which you believe are responsible for winning the business. It may be things like a technical review with IT stakeholder, call with reference from their industry or meeting with finance to approve budget etc.
  3. Then add on to this all the steps the buyer took that you were not involved with that you need to be aware of. For example, the searched for products and read reviews on G2 Crowd, the attended webinar, tradeshow or asked for recommendations from social groups. This context is essential to understand who when you first engage to have a sense of their initial perspective and assumptions and can incorporate that into your initial discovery. It also helps inform marketing where engagement is having an impact on the top of the funnel.
The output of this first step should look something like the graphic above, mapping your engagement process from demand generation through expansion. This enables you to see how a website visitor becomes a lead, a lead an opp, an opp a customer and a customer a brand evangelist.
Then expand beyond the headings of the steps into the details of what takes place both internally and externally as a prospect goes through each step of the process. The template file should look something like the graphic below but of course include all steps and stages.
With these critical building blocks in place, you can really start to measure the effectiveness of your process, the execution of your team and give more specific answers to root issues when reviewing performance. If this looks incredibly sophisticated and you have never had these discussions and seen these assets from your VP – it is a good indication they could use some support as it is impossible to really scale an organization without a strong procedural foundation with clear and direct guidance for the field.

If you would like to bring this type of clarity to your business as part of your 2018 growth plans, check out the Executive Answers process and solutions in greater detail here. Happy Selling! #saas #sales #process and #strategy for #growth

P.S. Thank you, Lars, Richard, and Jan for helping me learn the science of sales and seeing the massive impact it can have on SaaS companies!