Veteran sales pro Steve Hollingsworth outlines a point-by-point process to transform your selling organization.
If it involves selling, I’ve probably done it twice.
I started out as a sales rep carrying a bag. I did pretty well, worked my way up, and eventually got a chance to be sales manager. I was wholly unprepared for the job, but I figured out how to do it and, eventually, how to do it well. Then I got a battlefield promotion into my first sales leader role.
I learned fast that it’s a completely different job than sales manager. I looked all around, but I found no playbook for how to be a great CRO. So, I started thinking about the different tasks I was now accountable for and said, “What’s the best practice there? How do I ID that practice and move in that direction?” Eventually, I formulated a process that worked for me – and I knew it could do the same for others.
The two questions for growth
About 12 years ago, I started consulting in sales excellence with private equity-owned portfolio companies that were having growth issues. Nearly every time, the CEO had some version of the same two questions:
- Can you help me understand the current state of our revenue organization, and how it compares to others in our space or in our level of maturity?
- Where do I make focused investments to grow faster?
I took the process that brought me success and started fine-tuning it to help clients answer those two questions. Optimized and adapted to work for any kind of organization, it has matured into the GrowthIQ platform. GrowthIQ has eight core pillars. At a very high level, they are:
8 Pillars of Growth
- How well do we understand the market? This involves fairly standard, apples-to-apples metrics and tools like TAM, SAM, SOM, personas, ICP, that sort of thing.
- What are our capture strategies? Revenue model, coverage model, and so on.
- What are our core processes? What standard selling motions do we follow, how do we manage opportunities and accounts, and the like.
- How do we differentiate our offering? What’s our value proposition? How do we position ourselves against competitors when talking to buyers?
- How do we enable our salesforce? How is compensation structured? How much is based on quotas, proposals, CPQ? What are the motivation reward systems?
- How good are our data and visibility? Look at the marketing and tech stack, the KPIs, reporting, and dashboarding. How good is our forecasting?
- How efficient/effective is leadership and management? Are we spending our time on the highest-value activities? Does it move the needle?
- How do we develop talent? Do we find and attract the right people? Are we giving them the right training? How well do we measure, assess, and give feedback to keep improving?
When I started finding my way as a CRO, these were the things I kept my eye on. Once I realized that my job was creating a process that made my team successful in these eight areas, it was a light bulb moment for me. I finally understood that we could hire great sellers and managers, but if we didn’t have a system optimized for growth, they would probably never succeed at a high level.
As I consulted with more organizations, I witnessed countless CROs having that same light bulb moment.
GrowthIQ in action
In most organizations, the leaders already know the “big rocks” that need solving. But the solutions are not so obvious. Here’s an example:
Let’s say the big rock is, “Hey, we’re having a hard time generating top-of-the-funnel demand, getting enough leads, enough first meetings.”
That’s a “big rock” problem. It’s obvious, right? But what are the root causes in our process that might be adding to this problem? We start by asking some questions:
- Do we have a defined lead generation process? Is that working or is it a leaky pipe?
- Are we just missing handoffs?
- Do we have a differentiated value proposition in the marketplace that’s getting a response?
- Do I know my buyer personas? Am I speaking in my outreach to a persona so that the message is hitting home?
- Are my business dev people trained to prospect and get a meeting?
- Is the issue training or enablement?
The GrowthIQ process uncovers honest answers to all these questions. You’ll be able to say, “This is probably what’s causing our big rock problem, and this is where we should invest to solve it.”
For the executive, this is an eye-opening experience. It’s extremely helpful because if you have an ambition for growth and a willingness to invest, the hard part is just knowing where to spend your money. GrowthIQ can point those dollars in the right direction. Suddenly your current state isn’t a problem, it’s a benchmark. Run some improvement initiatives on those selling competencies and measure your progress against them.
One more thing: Sometimes, the hardest part of trying something new is sticking with it long enough to see the results. Sales are a lagging indicator, and whether it takes one, two, or three quarters to see the change depends on your sales cycle. But with GrowthIQ, you can see your progress quarter over quarter. You’ll have the validation to keep going, and the confidence to step it up.
I can tell you as a CRO and a consultant to other CROs that this is a super fun experience. It’s like seeing inside this growth engine that you’re building, and watching your competencies grow. If you’re having trouble breaking down your own big rocks, it’s an experience you don’t want to miss.
Steve Hollingsworth is a Partner with AuctusIQ. Steve has been a seller, sales rep, sales manager, CR, founded his own companies, and stepped in as an executive to turn sales around for others. At AuctusIQ, Steve consults with CEOs and sales leaders of sales, sales operations, marketing, business strategy, and development.