Selling Excellence as a Business Process

CEO and sales leader Troy Kanter discusses the three metrics that lead to selling excellence.

I’ve been under the hood of thousands of sales organizations in hundreds of companies. What always fascinates me is why people don’t run their sales organization as a business process.

They wouldn’t dream of running R&D, manufacturing, supply chain, or finance without a process. But sales is the most measurable job family of all, and it has more missing metrics than any other function in the corporate world.

Of the hundreds of things you can measure, only a few really point the way to cost-effective growth. When you build a process around them, suddenly you’ve got real daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly insight: How are we performing? What’s going to make our quarter? Are we ready to scale? I’m going to show you the three things that move the needle – every time.

3 metrics that will make your revenues higher and your life better:

  1. Talent Readiness: Does your salesforce have the right skills to win deals now? What do they need from you to get there?
  2. Deal Management: What are the small, specific seller actions and buyer reciprocations that lead to close? Once you identify them, how do you repeat them?
  3. Leadership Efficiency: Where do you and your sales managers spend most of your time? More importantly, where should you?

A business process for talent

Everyone can point to the top quartile of their sales force, but how do you measure what makes them the best? And how do your other reps measure up? Less than one in 10 companies have a scorecard of salesforce readiness to quantify – rep by rep – where their team stands on:

  • The most important selling skills
  • Industry knowledge to sell your product or service at excellence
  • Demonstrating value with your product or service

Without that intelligence, you don’t know how to build your process. You don’t even know what skills to hire for. So, you keep hiring people for their experience, their education, or just because they look the part. And you’re overlooking the intangibles that show who can do the job at excellence.

Start with the person. Who are they naturally? You can train product and industry knowledge, but it’s impossible to train responsibility, work ethic, grit and determination, and relationship capacity. Most organizations throw new people in the fire without any plan or process to get them ready to perform. Some will succeed, most won’t. But when you have a process, your sales manager will know how to coach and give feedback, in real-time, deal by deal. You’ll shrink the time to growth and performance, and more of your people will succeed. And these tools are available now like never before.

A business process for deal management

Most salespeople have all kinds of CRM reports, but they can’t isolate the seller actions and buyer reciprocations that engage the buyer, shorten close cycles or lead to close at target price and margin. You need a dashboard to isolate these actions – deal by deal, rep by rep – so you can clearly see:

  • Who is the buyer? Who are the influencers? How do you get them on the same page?
  • What are the risk factors of the deal? How do we overcome them?
  • What are the rhythms and processes that get deals done on time, on budget, or at the target price?
  • Where can you teach, advise, and be of value to the buyer?
  • Have you completed the specific seller actions and buyer reciprocations that lead to close?

It’s like guided selling. In their first 12 to 24 months, your reps should be getting measurements and studying the “game film” on every one of their deals. Instead of a two-day training program, you’re teaching them a better way to work every day.

A business process for managers

Most sales methodologies focus on the seller, but the frontline manager is just as important. A typical sales manager wastes 25% to 35% of their week on non-productive activity – getting to the bottom of reports, analyzing the funnel, chasing info for a rep or the CRO. That’s wasted motion. And most CEOs don’t have a dashboard that allows them to see it.

Sales leaders have quarterly numbers to hit, but most don’t have a quarterly plan to keep improving efficiency. They have a weekly one-to-one with their reps so they can give a report to the CEO, but no way to see if their reps are getting better. We put processes in place so sales managers can concentrate on high-value activity, rep by rep. How is their readiness? What one or two competencies are they working on? On Mondays, they’re teaching and coaching reps, seeing where they stand for the quarter, and highlighting 1-10 deals for the next 90 days. The rest of the week, they’re working deals with those reps, breaking down game film, strategizing to connect the dots and get deals done. The impact is simply transformational.

My favorite metric

We all judge our sales performance by the numbers – gross sales, close rate, growth. But there’s another standard I invite you to measure yourself against: Is your salesforce a competitive advantage? Is it part of your value prop? If not, you’ve got some room to grow.

Imagine asking a prospect or customer, “was your experience with my sales rep so good that you would have paid $500 for it?” It sounds crazy, but if they learned enough to actually do their jobs better, that’s a huge indicator of you winning that business. And that’s my standard. I’ve seen it happen, and it comes directly from those three things: the readiness of your salespeople, the readiness of your managers, and a data-driven business process to work every one of your major opportunities.

Troy Kanter is the CEO and Co-Founder of AuctusIQ. Kanter has been transforming sales organizations and their revenue streams for more than 25 years. Prior to co-founding AuctusIQ, Kanter served as CEO of TwentyEighty, a $300M learning and performance management firm and the holding company of the world’s largest sales training organization. Before his role at TwentyEighty, Kanter was the President and COO of Kenexa, a software and services firm that he led from start-up through an IPO in 2005 to a $400M run rate in 2012, when it was acquired by IBM for $1.4B. At Kenexa, Kanter led the global salesforce, executed more than 20 mergers & acquisitions, guided the business through multiple rounds of funding, and expanded the company to more than 3000 employees operating in 20 countries.

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