In the world of B2B SaaS sales, we like to split our teams up into assembly lines. SDRs qualify, AEs pitch - everyone has their own role. That’s not always the case, though. One group of people are tasked with owning the entire sales cycle. The full cycle sellers. AKA: The Swiss Army Knife of Sales.
In the morning they may be dealing with onboarding a new client, in the afternoon, sending out responses to mid-funnel inquiries and before going home, they are managing a long-term account. That’s a lot to ask of one individual. When are they supposed to input data into the CRM?!
Sebastien van Heyningen (Seb, part of our RevOps Co-op team) has seen a lot of the challenges of these teams and has helped define ways to keep that multi-tool Swiss Army Knife sharp in doing what they really want to do: sell.
“There’s a reason that all of the salespeople are going to tell you that data entry is in the top three things they hate,” he says. “If you look at two sales reps, one who hit quota and didn’t put their data in correctly and the other who didn't hit quota but did put their data in correctly, who’s going to lose their job? Obviously, the data entry specialist.”
A sales person’s job security (and financial motivation) is tied to how much revenue they bring in to the business and how many leads they bring in to the pipeline. Unless they work for a very forward-thinking, kick-ass company that gets it, they aren’t incentivized to put data in correctly. To them it is simply a “nice to have'', which lowers in importance if they get busy with revenue generating activity.
And here comes the problem… do you see it coming? Of course you do, because you’ve probably lived it.
You’re a Sales Swiss Army Knife, not data entry chopsticks. Yet administrators and managers are always going to implement processes and ask for more from you without understanding what their Swiss Army Knife team does.
The sales Swiss Army Knife is complete with a multitude of tools that help with their role in sales. It doesn’t include tools that don’t fit (like chopsticks). But it does sometimes include tweezers, which can technically replicate the outcome of using chopsticks… if used correctly.
“They don’t understand the intricacies of the role itself,” Seb says of administrators. “These procedures are put together by people who have never sold and they can’t understand why things aren’t done.”
Knowing what to modify in a sales process and how to approach it requires a real head-to-head about what the executive / manager wants and why. There needs to be an opportunity for the salesperson to explain how that demand can or can’t be met in the current system. They are the ones in charge of executing the process every day. Meaning their opinion is the MOST valuable. Some leaders consider it to be the least valuable, installing changes and mandating workflows that hold their sellers back from (once again) selling.
“Let’s be more understanding of the workflows of a given full cycle sales rep and try to build systems and processes that either make the behaviors that we want very easy, or incentivize those behaviors financially,” he says.
Seb suggests looking at the sales process as a software platform where sales reps are the end users. No one blames the end user of a software platform for not “following process” or “doing things right”. They change the platform to achieve the desired outcomes.
“That’s something I always keep in mind when I’m architecting a sales process,” he explains. “What actions do I want to happen and how am I making that easy? How am I incentivizing those actions?”
Consider gaming software companies that use psychology to increase persuasive design to keep people coming back. They’re not ordering their gamers to do things the way they want… they’re making it easy for them. The gamers themselves happily comply. Similarly, there are ways to get to your desired outcomes, though in sales, we’re looking for positive behaviours and not addiction / dependency.
“We do have to keep the psychology behind things in mind,” he says. “So, when it comes to tools, the same thing applies. It has to fit what you’re already doing.”
This means that while there may be a shiny new tool that everyone in the industry is talking about, it may not be the best option for your team. Conversations need to occur that look at requirements through the magnifying glass from that Swiss Army Knife perspective.
The first thing Seb does is to identify where the data or process gaps are occurring and then zoom in on the stage of the sales process where it’s happening. If there’s bad data, it may be a setup or usability issue which can be fixed easily.
“It happens a lot where we get so tied up in what the perfect sales process is that, again, we forget about the users, the people that are going to be putting the data in every day,” he says.
Ideally, everything done within the organization for the organization, must be customized to the organization and how it should progress. There’s no better way to figure out what’s working and what isn’t than by talking to those doing the work. Hear that, Leaders / Managers? Try asking your sales reps why your BANT fields aren’t always filled in. Figure out from your Swiss Army Knives why their dashboards haven’t been updated to reflect their recent activity.
After Seb spots the gaps, he looks at the existing tech BEFORE considering new tech. He also studies the market to find out how others are solving for this challenge.
“I think current systems can be really underused,” he explains. “We’re already paying for all of these things. Let’s explore if one of them can help us with this challenge.”
He stresses that if you use Salesforce and think your problem is unique, you should get over yourself. It’s probably not. (And if it is truly unique, there’s likely a reason no one else is doing things that way.)
“Somebody has experienced this before and odds are, there is a free or cheap app on the appexchange that you can download and install and have your team use right away.”
With the team’s approval, of course.
If system connections are weak, if your process just isn’t working, or if you don’t have product-market fit, it doesn’t matter how hard the salespeople work to put in good data. Sometimes sales enablement systems or marketing automation can’t handle it.
All the Swiss Army Knife attachments in the world aren’t going to solve this problem. It’s time to ask for help.
“In the RevOps Co-op group, there are a ton of people saying, ‘Hey, I have this problem with Outreach, it’s not going to Salesforce correctly’,” explains Seb. “Then a bunch of people jump in with answers, contacts, and tools to help.”
If you can pinpoint the issue, you can get help resolving it. That’s the power of community. It takes a village to integrate disparate software tools into a coherent sales process. So, dig in, figure out what’s happening, then reach out.
For a full cycle seller, ensuring data and notes are stored correctly makes a big difference to record accuracy. That record accuracy matters to the entire organization. The data that your sales team is gathering is a vital part of how your business grows. From the perspective of Marketing, Product, Sales, and Customer Success. Seb uses Fellow.app to track his meeting notes because it ties into his calendar and allows him to set up work blocks for different activities.
“Find something that works for you,” he says. “Fellow.app might work for me, but other people might want to use something like Scratchpad that works really well with Salesforce.”
Different CMRs are going to have different tools. So, if you’d rather use the Swiss Army Knife’s metal saw blade than the wood saw blade, it’s about ease of use and ability to integrate into the system.
“The key is finding what works for you.”
“When I hear qualification methods, I immediately think of acronyms. I think we’re all familiar with that,” he says. “The point is, there are tons and tons of these acronyms. Those are ways that you’re proving to your team that this person, this company, this conversation is worth your time.”
While there are many different ones currently in use, personalization to the organization’s needs is what matters. If the letters of an existing popular acronym (BANT, ANUM, MEDDPIC) isn’t quite right, come up with your own.
“This is going to be how you qualify your prospects for your product, service or offering. So, you might say that in order to convert this lead, you need to prove that they have the budget, the person has the right authority, there is a need for the product and they’re going to buy in a reasonable timeline.”
Values within these sometimes required fields determine the next steps of the process and can be used to predict whether or not you will win the deal..
“Essentially you’re plugging in the parts of the acronym of your qualification methods into your opportunity fields and your primary contact fields as a gate to get to the next stage in the process.”
Full cycle sellers will usually be responsible for all the steps in the acronym. In the assembly line method, everyone chips in. Marketing, SDRs, solutions consultants, etc. etc. It’s essential to know which department owns what data fields so that check-back clarity is possible and those departments can pivot as needed.
When new leadership comes in, an existing process can be threatened. Perhaps the new sales manager wants to use a new acronym in the qualification process - an acronym that worked really well for them in a past job. Ideally, executive, management and supervisor levels should know what’s coming. If the new leader is charged with changing the framework, here’s hoping they weren’t the only one in those meetings. Seb has seen these cases.
“With those, what I always try to do is show people the results of their request beforehand,” he says. “You draw up a project plan that exhibits that pain that the sales leader will feel. I know there’s a number hanging over their head and as soon as you show them that what they want could threaten that number, they’re going to be a lot more willing to work on a compromise.”
It's a bit of a pumping of the brakes to make sure others have been included and the parties from Sales up to CEO are all aware of what is happening. It’s also showing them the long-term effects of what they want. Yeah, that new acronym sounds good now, but if it causes a drop in qualified opportunities or close rate...it might not be worth it. This gets the new sales leader on your side knowing you care about their best interests as well as the sales team’s.
These conversations also ensure that the team at every level has the opportunity to voice their desires in terms of reporting and data. Revenue, churn and margin are often important to executive ranks along with organization-wide details like lifetime value per customer. But at a sales director level, the desires are different, with results by team or even individual and the number of touch points they require.
“Please, please talk to your team. Find out what they need,” Seb says. “I’ll ask why they need to know that and then you hear the reason and you’re like, “Oh my God, everybody should know this’.”
Sales people want to know where they’re sitting in terms of their current goal and what their pipeline coverage is. As well as needing to know if they have enough Leads or Contacts to even get there.
“It’s all about personal performance, what activities are happening and what’s providing the most value in terms of connection rate and meeting rate,” he explains. “Then how they are pacing towards their goal and covering themselves in terms of pipeline and opportunity.”
Organizations grow and change. The processes will shift alongside it. If everyone has a say and can discuss what works and what doesn’t, modifications can be easier to adapt to than when you’re trying to use scissors like they’re chopsticks.
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