Building A B2B Sales Force That Works

Author: 
Anand Srinivasan

The typical B2B sales process goes through four distinct stages. It begins with Discovery, and then moves into Diagnosis and Design before it ends with Delivery.

Among these four steps, Diagnosis and Design is where a lot of organizations falter. This is because each industry and client is different and it is not always a straightforward process to identify client problems, understanding their expectations and charting out a solution. In essence, many organizations rely on the expertise of the individual SDR to get through these steps.

Studies show that high-performing sales teams depend on strictly enforced structures and processes to get work done. Over 70 percent of all high-performing teams in a study published by HBR were found to have at least a well-documented, if not closely monitored and enforced, sales structure in place. In comparison, this was only true for around half of all under-performing teams.

The RST Model

So how do you build such a sales structure for your B2B organization? The ideal sales team is

  • Repeatable
  • Scalable
  • Trainable

That is, members of your sales team should be capable of executing the various tasks in the sales process with the same level of precision each time. Also, it should not matter whether you scale your sales force up or down - the members in the team must be capable of executing their tasks without hampering their productivity. Finally, as evidenced by the HBR study, high performing teams tend to fire fast. Consequently, your sales structure should enable newly hired salespeople to get trained and produce results within a short term.

Let us look at how you can create a sales force that adheres to the RST model.

Repeatable Execution

One of the biggest challenges with executing your processes on a predictable trajectory each time is that client needs and expectations are not constant. For instance, an organization selling ERP applications will deal with clients who will have varying levels of tech infrastructure in place at their current setup. Your solution to their problem thus needs a customized approach.

To fix this, it is important to move away from a process-based approach to an outcome-based alternative. That is, instead of focusing on what your product can do (and in turn addressing your client on how it can fix their challenges), it is important to diagnose where your client currently stands, and where they would like to be. You may then go back to the drawing board to see how your product or service can help them move towards this destination.

With this approach, a salesperson’s repeatability is no longer based on how they begin addressing every proposal, but instead how they end it. Once the goal is homogenized, it is simpler to work through the processes backward in order to ensure a repeatable execution of projects.

Scalability

The size of your sales team can go up or down real fast even in the largest organizations. The ideal sales structure is one where the productivity and efficiency of salespeople do not get impacted by these changes. The most effective in this regard is what is called the “pod” structure. In this structure, organizations create tightly-knit focus groups (or pods) that is made of team members playing different roles. Within each pod, team members work in an assembly-line fashion and have unique specialties.

The reason such pod structures work so well is because stakeholders are no longer just care about their own role, but are invested in the entire customer journey. Also, when a team has to grow, it is simpler to create new pods to take on additional clients, and when the team is downsized, you simply remove the number of pods in the organization. There is minimal impact from an individual SDR’s perspective.

Trainability

The last piece in the puzzle is to create a framework that can train and onboard new sales recruits quickly and effectively. Here too, the objective is to create a ‘repeatable’ process that churns out highly trained salespeople regardless of their experience and pedagogical requirements.

According to the ‘lead from the back’ plan, organizations should look at business objectives and this should be used to create SMART development goals (SMART here refers to Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound) that can then be used to build training programs.

For instance, in the case of a sales onboarding system, the end objective is to create a salesforce that is an authority on the industry they represent, and are also equipped with all the repeatable and scalable tasks assigned to them. These objectives are used to create specific development goals that are then broken down into discrete lessons. Organizations can build assignments-linked elearning modules that cater to these specific lessons that your SDRs must pass in order to qualify.

Building an effective sales force for your B2B organization is not a day’s job and requires a great deal of planning. It is however very likely that your systems may fail to achieve the desired objectives. The job of a trainer or HR manager is to build a continuous-improvement model that measures performance at each stage and tweaks the system in order to build a salesforce that adheres completely to the RST objectives.

Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a project management app that helps individuals and businesses organize their tasks and collaborate better.