Business is all about evolution. The minute a business owner decides to step down from direct selling and starts the maturation process of his organization, his business evolves into a high-speed sales machine.
After reaching a certain Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), most of the companies can be found in one of the two buckets- either they would be thriving and marching ahead with the same force, or they would be falling apart, unable to continue their growth.
You can already figure out what happens to the companies with their sales teams knocking it all off- their customer acquisition increases, and they keep delivering consistent results as they continue to execute linear sales strategies and tactics throughout their sales process.
On the other hand, those companies that find it difficult to float beyond this juncture have several cracks in their foundation. These teams met an early success without having a proper process to attribute this success to. Often, their revenue generation owned to sheer hard work of the CEO and few of the early team members who happened to be accidently good at sales.
In order to stay on the path of linear growth, a company has to focus on the growth of its sales team as well. I have heard many business owners talking about their declining sales by using vague phases like:
“I don’t know why we are such a mess…”
“We never get to know how many deals would be closed for sure, so we are never able to forecast our sales”
“I am terrible at hiring and somehow I never pick the right people”
Sales surely is chaotic and unpredictable. But it doesn’t have to stay that way forever!
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”- Albert Einstein
Every company goes through a process of maturation, where its individual sales reps gradually grow into a team and eventually, in an organization.
To understand this process better, I have come up with an interesting way to get it straightened out-
The Avengers Analogy
Many similarities can be seen between the growth of a business and that of The Avengers Initiative, materialized by Nick Fury, an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Let’s see how you can learn about the maturity of your business and sales team with the help of this analogy.
Stage #1 Commencement of S.H.I.E.L.D
When a business first opens its doors, the CEO or the proprietor does all the selling. He’s the sole rainmaker, just like Nick Fury.
Fury had but one goal in mind- to save the world from the external threats.
The owner of the business, similarly, has a goal of driving more sales and growing the revenue of his business. However, could Nick Fury do it all alone? I don’t think so.
That’s where comes the next stage, where the Nick Fury of every business realizes that he doesn’t have to do it all alone. This is where a team comes into play…
Stage #2 Enters the Heroes…
S.H.I.E.L.D was in need of powerful heroes who could save Earth from threats that came from the worlds far away. And my friend Nick knew exactly the right people for the job. His choice? Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Clint Barton, Natasha Romanoff, and Bruce Banner.
While Fury knew who would be the best fit for the job, it was easy for him to locate and hire them. But not you.
You as a business owner know what kind of candidate would match your criteria, but looking for one is always a task. Thus, having a reliable and repeatable hiring process is what saves you from your doom.
Recruiting the right sales people becomes an essential process in growing a business. This is how the business first starts to mature.
Stage #3 Heroes become Avengers
Let’s go back in time, when Steve Rogers became Captain America- The First Avenger. He had a good heart, hard-working attitude, and a knack for learning. But he didn’t have a sense of purpose.
A newly hired sales rep is pretty much similar to the captain. He can work hard, give his all into his work, but is unaware of the goals set by the company, which ultimately becomes his target.
Captain America finally found his purpose when he met Nick Fury and joined his initiative.
In time, one sales rep becomes two, two becomes four, and so on…and there you have it! A Sales department is created!
During this stage, sales reps function as lone rangers, with their own agendas to fulfill, their own goals to reach. There’s not much communication between the salespeople and their results are all over the place. Some succeed while others fail when they work in a Sales Department.
Stage #4 The Civil War
Since every Avenger has their own agenda, there’s ought to be a clash amongst them. Remember what happened after The Avengers defeated Ultron? The entire team clashed due to friction between Iron Man and Captain America.
Why do you think it happened? It was because they never worked on the same page from the beginning. With their own targets and intentions, none of the Avenger was ever ready to understand someone else’s view, which led to a Civil War.
The same situation often arises in the sales department as well. None of the sales reps work on the same process, which leads to declining sales.
This is the stage where the business owner must take measures to identify which process works for them and which doesn’t. With these insights, one can establish a proper sales process for the entire sales department, and turn the individually working salespeople into a Sales Team. This marks the next stage in the maturation process.
Stage #5 The Endgame
“Whatever it takes…”
The final stage of maturation was reached by Avengers once they faced Thanos, who wanted to wipe out half the population of the universe.
All the Avengers found a common purpose and fought with all their might to stop Thanos from killing innocents. No matter how many times they tasted the dust, they still stood up and fought for what was right, and for the goal set by their initiative.
A Sales Organization is labeled as mature when all of its salespeople work together for the common goal of increasing sales and generating more revenue.
The best practices that were identified in the previous stage get converted into concrete processes in this one for the entire sales team to follow.
This is how individuals grow into teams, and teams become mature organizations.
Nick Fury started with a single hero and gradually hired more capable players to turn them into a power-packed team.
Eventually, the original 5 Avengers trained the new ones and lo and behold! The next generation of Avengers is ready to save the day!
Some questions to ask if you want to know how mature your sales team is
It’s not always easy to make a sales team reach its highest efficiency. If you are stuck anywhere in the above-mentioned stages, ask yourself some questions that would help you understand where your sales team stands on the Sales Maturity Model.
By asking the following questions, you can illuminate the issues in your sales process and solve them quickly without facing much loss. These questions are quite simple to answer, but you will see the light at the end of the tunnel, and know how you can go about improving your sales team’s performance and in turn, increase your revenue growth.
1. Do you use a repeatable hiring process?
Any new business owner would always take a hit or miss approach to recruiting. They would try various ways, and try to understand which one works best for their business. However, this trial and error shouldn’t last very long.
Using a consistent process that takes every candidate through same questions and interview stages can help you hire those who are most likely to succeed inside your organization.
With time, your recruitment process improves, and you get better at predictably hiring good salespeople.
2. Are most of your hires a good fit?
Hiring the right fit is necessary, because the way a salesperson performs can decide which direction your business takes. Of course, not every hire is going to be the perfect fit, but you need to hone your skills and instincts it takes to spot, hire, train and develop great salespeople.
It’s not possible to get better at it over-night, but practice makes the man perfect! Keep improving, and even take help if you need, until you yourself don’t excel at it.
3. Are you able to retain your salesforce?
It’s alright to lose those sales reps you don’t want to retain, but if more and more salespeople start quitting, then you need to determine why they are leaving and fill the gap through which you are letting your workforce slip away. Look into how you can retain them- culture and compensate them and fix their issues right away.
4. Do you have a positive work culture that promotes productivity, learning, collaboration, and results?
“Sales culture” can sound like a soft aspect, but it’s an important predictor of your business’s success. Ask yourself if your company’s culture focuses on learning and team collaboration, and determine the measures you can take to make your business a better place to work.
5. Do you abide by a Sales playbook to onboard and train sales reps?
You can informally train the first few reps, but it is not viable to continue the same process once your business starts growing. Thus, use a sales playbook to impart consistency among your sales team.
Sales playbook is a collection of useful sales materials that defines the sales process and methodology, outlines roles and responsibilities, details selling tactics and techniques, and provides a systematic framework for closing deals.
6. Does your sales team follow a defined sales process and methodology?
Many new business owners and sales managers think they have a sales process when they actually don’t. In order to streamline your processes, you need to define every stage in the sales process, include your buyer’s perspective, and train your team into how to approach each stage.
You cannot track your process unless the entire team follows a consistent approach.
7. Are your forecasts accurate?
Sales Forecast indicates the projection of sales that the company would achieve in a particular time period. This valuable information is required to predict the success of the company.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea to be a pro at forecasting sales, but these projections show you how effective your sales process is, and how you can hold yourself and your sales team accountable.
8. Can you easily get to see the data and results of how your team’s performing?
How can you improve something if you can’t measure its effectiveness? Salespeople and Sales Managers rely on metrics to track the growth of a business. You need tools and resources to quickly get any numbers you need and keep Key Sales Metrics visible to everyone in the organization.
Based on this metric, the forecasting can become easier and more accurate, and you can make steps to enhance the productivity of your sales team in case you find any weak points in the process.
Signs that indicate low maturity level
Maturity level of an individual or even of an entire team can be assessed with the help of some common behaviors that the team shows. If you wish to learn how much your ‘Sales Avengers’ have matured, observe them based on the following signs that indicate low maturity levels.
1. Low engagement level while onboarding
Employee onboarding is a process of integrating new talent inside the company culture and providing them with necessary tools that they might require to perform their best.
It’s one the most important recruiting tool for every business. However, unfortunately, not every business takes this process seriously.
If your employees look unengaged during the onboarding, it’s probably because your methods of engagement aren’t, well, engaging enough.
This indicates that the maturity level of your team is low, which is why it isn’t able to capture the newly hired employee’s attention.
Look for the methods that can help you with the employee onboarding process and increase the employee’s engagement with the company and his/ her work.
2. Lack of an established sales process
It’s time to go back to The Avengers Analogy. Remember how the original five could not collaborate together in the beginning, since they did not have the sense of a common purpose?
They only knew the end goal which was to save the world. However, they lacked the team bonding because none of them followed a particular process to reach that goal.
Similarly, it’s the lack of an established sales process that might be the cause of your team’s inefficiency and low maturity.
To overcome this challenge, establish a streamlined sales process for the entire team to follow, so that all the team members can work together as a team and not just individually.
3. Failing to capitalize on the existing customer database
Is your sales team efficient enough to capitalize on the existing customer base? If not, then it’s a clear indicator of low maturity level of your sales team.
Looking for new leads when you cannot make profit from the existing clients is an ignorant way to sell.
Generating revenue from the existing clients once the first sales is made is always a task, albeit, an important one.
It requires a lot of efforts to nurture a lead, build relationships, and taking timely follow-ups once the sale is made. It’s not just an integral part of the process, but also essential in ensuring that your clients stay loyal to you. Hence, the maturation of your sales team highly depends on this one skill- to capitalize on your existing clientele.
4. Reps invariably miss hitting the sales quota
A study showed that 50% sales reps aren’t hitting their quota. Isn’t this number unsettling, given that so many resources and tools are available to help sales reps with their day-to-day sales processes?
This might be happening to your team as well, probably because you didn’t set the quotas correctly, or because you haven’t defined proper roles for your team members.
How can sales reps perform if they are unclear about what’s expected of them?
This is another major sign that you need to reform your processes in order to mature your sales team.
5. Poor or under-utilization of CRM tool
CRM tools were introduced to the sales industry in order to help sales reps with their everyday tasks. They not only keep track of every activity, but also minimize the manual efforts that a sales rep has to put in before, during and after a sale is made.
Not using CRM tools to their optimum level is a strong sign of immaturity in your sales team, since it’s a wastage of a paid tool as well as time that your sales reps can save and sell more.
6. Lack of transparency on who is working on what
Do you keep a track of your sales team’s routine tasks? If no, then how do you think you can help them manage and achieve their goals?
Transparency is a catalyst for communication and accountability throughout an organization; it gives you a 360-degree view of what’s happening in the company, is a key to collaboration within all departments and gives a clear understanding of what’s going on during the entire sales process.
Not having a clear understanding of what the team is up to is an indication of an immature sales team.
7. Lack of collaboration for the attainment of common goals
How do you find your team’s collaborative skills? Are your sales reps communicating within the team? Or do they prefer doing it all on their own and only concentrate on their individual goals?
Mindset like this can be harmful for the entire team and for the company as a whole. Since your team isn’t ready to collaborate with each other, they cannot put their own agendas aside and think about what’s good for the company.
Clearly, such a sales team can be tagged as immature, and require a change in the sales process or the leadership itself.
8. Deals getting stalled in the pipeline
A stalled pipeline is a cluttered pipeline, and if not worked upon in time, might cost you many deals.
If your team isn’t able to move the deals through their sales pipeline, then it simply means they aren’t very serious about it, or aren’t able to nurture their leads enough to make a sale.
However, there might be several other reasons as to why this might be happening. For example, the right leads aren’t getting qualified, or the outbound lead generation isn’t good enough to get in the right leads.
This practice reeks immaturity on so many levels! Not being able to make a sale is the worst kind of situation that a sales rep can imagine, and if it’s happening, then you know something needs to be changed.
Reflect on these questions and answer them honestly. It’s high time you gear up and start filling the gaps that let your sales slip away and make it tough for your sales team to perform.
Just like the Avengers came together after many years and stages of working together, clashing and fighting with their own teammates, you can get your sales reps to mature in due time and work as an organization. Remember, the growth of your company depends on the efficiency of your sales team and how they perform, both individually and as a team.
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