18 Nov Four Key Strategies for Implementing Sales Acceleration Programs
Account managers are deluged by administrative and logistics details during a major sale (read our recent post: What Really Slows Down Enterprise Sales – And How To Improve It). This is an area frequently overlooked in sales productivity studies and by global consulting firms, but there is a solution. That solution is implementing Sales Acceleration.
Implementing Sales Acceleration paves the way to finishing a sale that the customer already wants to buy. This contrasts with most sales productivity initiatives that focus on the tools, training and incentives that help the account manager convince a prospective customer to a particular solution. While I can’t argue that tools, training and incentives contribute to sales force productivity, I have seen countless examples where these make up only half the equation. The other half is getting the sale finished. Even if the account manager has a customer signed on the dotted line of a letter of intent, putting together what is actually needed to finish the sale – the pricing, technical and delivery solutions – can grind a promising deal to a halt.
Sales Acceleration paves the way to finishing a sale that the customer already wants to buy.
The Signs That Sales Productivity Initiatives Aren’t Working
Here’s what usually prompts clients to call us for help. In spite of introducing every sales productivity measure – from CRM upgrades to sales training to incentives – sales are down. In reviewing quarterly results, sales executives see lower customer satisfaction in traditionally solid global accounts. Worse, there are indicators that competition is starting to make inroads. Complex global deals looking solid in CRM pipeline reports aren’t closing and the number of top sales people leaving the company is increasing, many citing burnout.
The millions spent on sales productivity enhancements don’t seem to be working.
The concept is simple: remove the administrative and logistics burden from account managers so they can focus on closing deals.
Accelerate the Sale by Applying Project Discipline
The reason that sales productivity initiatives don’t always translate into more deals, is that there’s there isn’t enough focus on finishing the sale. Someone needs to pull together the pricing, legal and technical inputs – and organize the people who will be supplying the inputs.
There needs to be project control methods applied to the large extended cross functional teams. Everyone needs to be held accountable for delivering what’s needed so the customer can issue a purchase order.
Sales Acceleration Pushes The Sale Across the Finish Line
We call this Sales Acceleration. The focus of Sales Acceleration is to offload the administrative burden of the sale from account managers so they can focus on pushing the sale across the finish line. Sales Accelerator consultants run the sale like a project in order to bring the disparate pieces, people and cross functional teams into order.
The concept is simple: remove the administrative and logistics burden from account managers so they can focus on closing deals. Offload the meetings, phone calls, action item chasing and logistics from the sales rep onto a project manager who knows how to manage these complexities.
Here are four strategies to ensure that adopting Sales Acceleration will yield the best possible results.
1. Do Not Mandate Sales Acceleration Top-Down
Sales Acceleration should not be mandated top town. You’re asking for a complete disaster by bringing an unwanted suspected outsider into an already-stressful situation. You need to find someone willing to participate fully that you can make into an advertisement for the program. Usually there is someone so overwhelmed that they will agree to try the concept. Even so, you cannot force Sales Acceleration on any account manager.
2. Find a Sale That Will Be Successful
In order for Sales Acceleration to become an accepted practice in a sales organization, its introduction is key. What you want for your first few engagements are sales where you have most of the major aspects under control. Find the most complex sale that has surmountable issues that can be overcome.
Do not find a sale that is going to ultimately be rejected because of events beyond the account team’s control. It is important for the first introduction of Sales Acceleration that the first one or two assignments build from success.
An example of a sale NOT to work on is the one we worked on three years ago. The engagement was a new post office service. It was a deal that if it went through, could spread worldwide and mean billions in additional revenue for our client and the ultimate customer. Besides the enormous team and logistics involved in bringing it to close, there were cross border and regulatory issues that ultimately no one could solve. The government changed and there was just no way this deal was going forward. We were still able to offload the account manager and we still freed up his time to work on other deals, but this one was not salvageable, even though everyone involved was keen to move it forward. Lesson: Sales Acceleration is about moving winnable deals forward faster, not chasing unsalvageable ones.
3. Sell the Concept to the Account Manager
Account managers usually agree with the logic that a major sales pursuit should be similar to any other sales enablement initiative. Getting them to hand over management of a major sales pursuit requires careful negotiation.
Emphasize that the Sales Acceleration role is facilitating the sale, not taking away the sale.
This requires a concerted sales effort on the part of the project manager. It is important that the account manager hears from sales leaders who have benefitted from virtual project manager services. It is also important to establish ground rules and reassure sales team members that what they say in the meetings will be confidential. Emphasize that the role is facilitating the sale, not taking away the sale.
4. Gain the Trust of the Sales Pursuit Team
Sales pursuit teams are intact, closed groups. Typically they don’t want an outside person listening (and reporting) on their sales status calls. The fear is there will be reporting to upper management of new pipeline that will be added to their quota. They also don’t want someone coming in and micro-managing how the team functions. Plus, the account manager is already buried. To spend precious hours to explain to an outsider what needs to be done by who, seems like a substantial task. Status quo seems easier.
Closing big deals is hard and the administrative overhead of doing it is burying your sales team. Offloading those duties to a more efficient, most cost efficient resource just makes sense. Convinced that Sales Enablement might be right for you? Check out this post for a step-by-step plan to implementing sales acceleration.