How Sales Leaders can Build a Model for Success with Phil Harrell

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The average tenure of a sales leader is 18 months. And while there are many reasons why VPs of Sales don’t last long in their jobs, one strong reason (according to my guest) is the lack of a model for success.

My guest in this episode is Phil Harrell, VP, Group Director Sales Research at Forrester. He has spoken to many sales organizations around the world and has gathered valuable insights for sales leaders that he shared with me during the podcast.

Phil is an industry thought leader in sales and marketing with more than 20 years of experience building and leading high-performance B2B sales teams worldwide. He has held executive-level sales and marketing positions at well-established companies and hyper-growth technology startups and has proven success in growing revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Phil joined Forrester through the acquisition of SiriusDecisions. Prior to SiriusDecisions, he was vice president of sales at HubSpot, where he was responsible for building the mid-market and enterprise businesses.

Listen to this episode to learn how you can build a model for success in your sales organization.

B2B Buyers Expect B2B Companies to be as Efficient as B2C Companies

Phil says that their research at Forrester has shown what buyers expect from sellers and organizations:

  • To be transparent and open, being straightforward with their pricing.
  • To understand them at a very deep level, using the information they gather to personalize every interaction.
  • To be immediate, answering right away when they ask for something.

B2C companies have created an expectation of efficiency in the consumer’s mindset, who now wants the same experience in the B2B world.

“So as a sales leader,” Phil says, “when you're thinking about your sales organization, you have to think about how to design and optimize the experience your buyers are having to be almost like a consumer experience.

Remove friction and make it really easy for your sellers to engage with buyers.”

The pandemic has only accelerated this trend. Buyers now are much more comfortable interacting in the virtual world and interacting with salespeople digitally.

Remote selling is here to stay. Even after the pandemic, buyers are going to prefer digital engagements (perhaps not all the time), so sellers have to get comfortable helping buyers virtually.

Phil says that instead of pushing for a close, the new role of the seller is to help buyers through their journey, help them get the information they need to make a decision.

Typically, sellers withhold information to get that 15-minute meeting, but consumers are pushing back for more transparency.

Three things that sellers can do to be more transparent are:

  • Publish pricing upfront
  • Ungate content
  • Educate and provide information instead of pushing for the sale

Buyers want sellers to anticipate their needs and be hyper responsive, so they can have a great experience. That’s when customer loyalty and advocacy happens.

Four Things Sales Leaders Need to Build a Model for Success

Phil says that sales leaders need to think about how to build a model for success instead of relying on last-minute deals to hit quota.

Most sales leaders don't have a system to make their results repeatable, scalable and predictable. But Phil says that sales leaders should be able to explain the processes they have installed for acquiring and managing talent, managing leads, and managing the execution against opportunity management and against their sales pipeline.

If leaders have a really good handle on the productivity and the health of their organization, they’re going to stand out and keep their jobs.

Here are the four things you need to build a model for success:

  1. A process, from lead generation to onboarding.
  2. Infrastructure, including sales prospecting tools and technology to help sellers do their job faster and better, automating processes.
  3. Insights about buyer engagement and the buyer’s journey coming from the CRM or AI software, so they can hyper personalize the interactions.
  4. Talent with the right competencies, trained in remote and virtual selling.

Sales is 51% science and 49%. And the science part has to do with CRM hygiene, gathering and entering the right data (touchpoints, for example) into the system. Sales leaders must use data to help their reps be successful at selling.

The Importance of Sales Planning

How can sales leaders ensure that they're going to get off to the right start at the beginning of the year?

Phil says you got to make sure you've done a really good job on sales planning, from territories to quotas.

“One of the critical things you have to do is make sure that you have your sales plan ready early in January and when you get to the kickoff, you roll out the quotas, you roll out the comp plans and you tell the marching orders of exactly what the expectations are from a product perspective and how they're going to get to their number.”

Another thing sales leaders must do is prioritize the processes and the technology tools they need to start the year strong.

Sales Productivity

One of the biggest challenges that is burdening sales organizations is sales productivity.

At many companies, only 30% or 40% are hitting their numbers, mainly because of quota over assignment. Phil says he recommends no more than 10% quota over assignment from the VP of sales down to the rep level.

Another problem with sales productivity that Phil mentioned has to do with organizations getting bigger and the processes that are put into place affect productivity.

“In a startup, it's simple,” Phil says. “Everything is about the buyer and so processes get designed from the buyer into the organization. As you scale, invariably you put in more processes and it gets designed by headquarters and pushed out to the field. And before you know it, you look around and you see all these processes that are designed to actually help the organization, not the customer, and salespeople say it's really hard to get deals done here. Everything takes too long.”

Phil recommends doing a survey of your reps to understand what's keeping them from being productive. What are their top challenges?

Then you can prioritize the top two or three things that are really in their way.

“If you're making it hard on your sellers to do business with the companies that you're trying to do business with, you're making it hard on the buyer. All buyers want immediacy. And if you can't turn something around quickly, if you can't respond within 24 hours from the very start, that's a signal to them that you're not an organization they want to do business with.”

That is one of the reasons why here at Vengreso we develop a free sales productivity tool, to help sellers respond to messages on the fly, with well-crafted templates that can be used in any web-based messaging platform with just a few keystrokes.

Listen to my conversation with Phil for more tips on how to build a success model for your sales organization and how to make your reps more productive.

Outline of this Episode

[6:25] B2B Buyers Expect B2B Companies to be as Efficient as B2C Companies

[14:30] Four Things Sales Leaders Need to Build a Model for Success

[30:25] The Importance of Sales Planning

[36:09] Sales Productivity

168 episodes