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How to Outperform Your Sales Targets Using Commission Tracking

How to Outperform Your Sales Targets Using Commission Tracking

Motivate your sales people to exceed targets by using commission tracking in salesforce.

Commission tracking drives sales people to close deals.

It motivates them to create new pipeline. It propels them to go the extra mile to win a piece of business.

But it’s not just about the money.

Sales people are highly motivated. Commission tracking is a way of keeping the score. It’s a way of comparing sales performance with the previous month or quarter. It’s how sales people measure this quarter with their personal best. It’s how they know they are winning.

So the greater the visibility of commission earnings, both actual and potential, the greater the motivation for sales people to increase revenue.

So commission tracking is important to you (sales manager) to drive business performance – but it is paramount to the sales person.

But unfortunately there’s no out-of-the-box module for commission tracking in salesforce.

So at GSP we created one.

Here’s how it works.

 

Commission levels

Managers set up records in salesforce that define how much commission each person should receive for each level of sales revenue.

Set percentages for each commission level in salesforce.

For example, the screen shot above shows the commission levels for Dave Apthorp for February 2016.

Dave will earn 2% commission on £1 to 50,000 and 4% on all sales between £50,0001 and £75,000.

If he has a particularly good month, Dave will earn 6% on all revenue over £75,000 with no upper limit.

Defining the parameters at this granular level (i.e. by person, month and sales level) gives major flexibility. It means that a commission structure that will best motivate the sales team can be created.

It also means there’s the opportunity to introduce kickers for individual months by increasing the percentages for that month. In this case, for example, we might raise the commission percentages for March to make sure we end the quarter with a bang and outperform the sales target.

There’s also the option to create commission levels related to product families. This means percentages can be varied based on margin or the gross profit associated with each type of product.

 

Track Sales Performance And Pipeline Versus Target

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Track Sales Performance And Pipeline Versus Target

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Commission tracking in salesforce

The screenshot below shows Dave’s commission tracking record in salesforce for February.

Commission tracking in salesforce.

The highlighted box shows his:

  • Commission Earned. This is based on the opportunities he has closed this month.
  • Pipeline Commission. The total amount Dave would earn if he closed all the deals in his February pipeline.
  • Total Potential Commission. The sum of Earned and Pipeline Commission.

Dave’s opportunities that are due to close for this month are automatically linked to this commission record. We can see these at the foot of the screenshot.

This linkage between the opportunity and the commission record is done by a trigger that runs every time an opportunity is updated. If Dave edits an opportunity, for example by moving the Close Date on a pipeline opportunity to the following month, then the relevant commission records will be updated.

The in-line chart on the left of the page shows how much Dave has earned for the month on won deals (blue bar). It also shows his potential commission (green bar) and his total potential earnings (orange bar).

The chart on the right provides more analysis of Dave’s pipeline deals. He can immediately see which of his open opportunities will yield the most commission.

For most sales people, this commission tracking in salesforce is a proven way of focussing attention. Align the commission structure with your corporate sales objectives and you’ve a built-in way of driving sales performance.

 

Commission reporting in salesforce

This approach means commission tracking reports can be created in salesforce for managers.

Sales managers in many of our customers use these reports to motivate and encourage individual sales reps. The automated commission tracking visibility also saves (probably you) countless hours updating and sharing spreadsheets across the team!

Commission tracking isn’t just about the money. It’s a way to keep the score. And now you can keep that score in salesforce.

If you have a question, or you’d like our help in implementing a commission tracking solution in salesforce in your business, simply get in touch.

 

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Related Blog Posts

 

3 Ways To Measure Performance Against Sales Target In Salesforce

 

How To Use Opportunity Conversion Reports For Superior Results

 

How To Stop ‘Closed Lost’ Screwing Up Salesforce Dashboards

 

12 Must-Have Salesforce Dashboard Charts | With Video And Examples

3 Ways To Measure Performance Against Sales Targets In Salesforce

3 Ways To Measure Performance Against Sales Targets In Salesforce

Many frustrated people search in vain for the Sales Targets tab in salesforce.

However, don’t waste your time.

It does not exist.

Nevertheless, measuring performance against sales targets is a critical activity in running a sales team.

Isn’t it?

Fortunately, there ARE ways to measure performance against sales targets in salesforce.

However, it goes deeper than that.

Sales managers must know two things:

  • First, how does historic performance stack up against sales targets? They need to know this by company, sales team, individual rep and other dimensions.
  • Second, executives must understand whether there is enough pipeline. Is the funnel big enough to meet the target this month, next month or next quarter?

Without this information, you are flying blind.

That is an uncomfortable position.

It means that it’s difficult to know which controls to adjust to be sure of hitting sales targets.

For example, if you know there is enough pipeline to meet next month’s sales target then focus the team primarily on closing existing deals.

Alternatively, if there is insufficient pipeline you have a different challenge. You must close the deals that do exist. However, the sales team must also find new opportunities simply to have a chance of hitting sales targets.

This means measuring performance against both historic and future sales targets is essential.

To do this, there are three options for tracking performance against sales targets in salesforce.

  1. Dashboard gauge.
  2. The Forecasts tab.
  3. Custom solution.

We explain how each one works, its pros and cons and when each is the best option.

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Options for measuring sales targets in salesforce

Here are the three options.

Collectively, they provide salespeople and managers with different levels of information and target tracking experience.

We describe the options and give pointers to indicate the situation when each is appropriate.

Option 1 – Dashboard Gauge

Use a salesforce dashboard gauge to indicate overall achievement against sales target.

Salesforce dashboard gauge is a simple way to measure performance against sales targets.

The arrow indicator shows the current sales performance. Use the red, amber and green segments to set relevant breakpoints. For example, amber to represent 80% sales target achievement, green for 100% sales target achievement.

Feed the gauge using an underlying matrix or summary report. The report simply needs to summarize the value of deals won over the relevant time period.

Pros of the gauge approach

  • The report and gauge are simple and easy to set up.
  • The gauge is easy on the eye.
  • It’s a quick and powerful summary of sales performance against target.

Cons of the gauge approach

  • It is a blunt instrument. For example, if the gauge measures performance at the company level, there’s no visibility of individual rep or sales team performance against sales targets.
  • Manual re-calibration of breakpoint values is required for each target period. In other words, if the target next month is different to this month, the breakpoints need to be modified.
  • Pipeline deals are not shown. Unfortunately, this means we don’t know if there’s enough funnel to meet the sales target for next month. There’s nothing to tell us, for example, if winning 30% of pipeline deals means beating target.

It’s the right choice if

  • You need to set something up quickly.
  • You need a Board-level chart to summarize performance.
  • You only need to measure top-level performance against sales target. Alternatively, if you are prepared to invest the time, set up similar gauges for individual salespeople and teams.
  • Sales targets are the same for each period. In other words, it is not necessary to modify breakpoints each month.

The dashboard gauge is a viable option for relatively straightforward measurement of sales targets.

It’s a simple solution.

If you need to set up a sales target reporting mechanism in the next 5 minutes then this is the option to go for.

Remember, use the gauge in conjunction with other dashboard charts and reports. This will give full visibility of sales performance and pipeline.

Option 2 – Salesforce Forecasts Tab

The Forecasts tab is a sophisticated and advanced way of tracking performance versus sales targets.

The Forecasts Tab is an advanced and sophisticated way to track performance against sales target.

You can view Closed Won opportunities that contribute to sales targets in the Forecasts tab.

Pipeline deals are also included. Categorize opportunities to indicate the chances of a successful close. This gives managers important information on the strength of the funnel and the likelihood of hitting target.

Managers can override the forecasts made by their direct reports. For example, they can adjust the overall forecast to balance excessive optimism or pessimism of salespeople.

However, there is a downside.

The Forecasts tab is complex.

It’s the most difficult functionality sales people are likely to use.

Significant training and coaching is needed to use the Forecasts tab successfully in tracking performance against sales targets.

Pros of the Forecasts Tab

  • Set targets at individual, team, company and product family level.
  • Track performance against sales target based on opportunity category including won, committed, pipeline and best-case deals.
  • Allow managers to override forecasts submitted by their direct reports and modify the projected performance against target for their team.
  • Review forecast history to learn from forecasts submitted in the past.
  • Drill down from the top level forecast to examine performance against sales target at individual rep and team level.

Cons of the Forecasts Tab

  • The Forecasts tab is relatively complex to set up and use.
  • It requires detailed training for sales reps and their managers.
  • Salespeople must update their individual forecasts in order for the overall forecast to have meaning. This implies a high level of commitment is required across the team to get the full benefits.

It’s the right choice if

  • You have sophisticated target measurement requirements.
  • Managers must be able to override the forecasts submitted by their salespeople.
  • The sales team is mature and already has a good level of salesforce user adoption.
  • The business is prepared to commit to appropriate training for salespeople and managers.

The salesforce Forecasts Tab provides robust target tracking and forecasting capabilities.

However, bear in mind that successful roll-out means appropriate planning and configuration effort.

Contact us if you’re interested in exploring this option, we can help!

Option 3 – GSP Target Tracker

Many of our customers use the GSP Target Tracker to measure performance against sales target.

Click play to see how the GSP Target Tracker measures sales performance against sales targets in salesforce.

As a managed package, the Target Tracker is easy to implement into any salesforce environment.

Minimal training is needed for salespeople and managers to use the Tracker compared to the Forecasts Tab. Fortunately, the Tracker also takes away the need to create forecasts manually.

Closed won and pipeline deals automatically link to relevant sales targets. This means targets are measured against secured business plus the anticipated revenue from funnel opportunities.

The GSP Target Tracker is easy to use and compares both closed won and pipeline deals to the sales target.

The sales targets are entered into a custom object for each sales person for each month.

In the example above, we’re looking at the sales target for Michael Watson in April.

The lower portion of the screen shows the Opportunities automatically linked to this target record. The Target Tracker does this by looking at the Close Date of the Opportunity and the Opportunity Owner.

Opportunities link automatically to the relevant sales targets.

The Opportunity links to the relevant target; in this case, Michael Watson’s sales target for April.

If the Close Date or the Opportunity Owner change, the Opportunity is automatically unhooked and linked to the newly relevant target record.

The embedded chart on the left hand side of the page shows Michael’s target in blue, his Closed Won deals in green and the Expected Revenue of his April pipeline deals in orange.

The purple bar shows that based on these numbers, Michael has a shortfall against his target.

The doughnut chart to right analyses Michael’s April pipeline by Opportunity Stage. This means both Michael and his manager have clarity on the likelihood of hitting target based on the pipeline deals.

Dashboard charts summarize company and team level information.

Dashboard charts summarize company and team level performance against sales targets.

 

The dashboard shows over / under performance against monthly sales target at the company, team and individual level.

Drill down to the underlying report to view the sales rep target. This compares the sales target with the value of Closed Won deals, Expected Revenue from the pipeline. 

Track Sales Performance And Pipeline Versus Target

Interested in installing this app for yourself?

Track Sales Performance And Pipeline Versus Target

Interested in installing this app for yourself?

Pros of the GSP Target Tracker

  • It’s easy for sales reps use. Opportunities automatically link to relevant targets.
  • Highly visual information on performance against target.
  • Extensive drill down capability from company level performance to sales team and individual rep.
  • Assess the quality of the pipeline and its potential contribution to target achievement.
  • Easy to set up (implemented through a managed package).

Cons of the GSP Target Tracker

  • A (very reasonable!) license fee.

It’s the right choice if

  • You need a powerful solution that is easier to use than the Forecasts tab.

Recorded Webinar on sales targets in salesforce

Watch Gary Smith and Nick Ambrose demonstrate the three solutions in action.

We have implemented each of the options described in this blog post for customers. Contact Us to find out more about applying each approach in your business.

Track Your Sales Pipeline Trend To Know If It’s Growing Or Shrinking

Track Your Sales Pipeline Trend To Know If It’s Growing Or Shrinking

Every sales manager is under pressure to grow revenue.

That means knowing about the sales pipeline trend.

It stands to reason:

All other things being equal, you can’t grow revenue if your sales pipeline trend is flat. Or worse, heading downhill.

In particular, managers need clarity on their sales pipeline trend over both the long and short-term.

Of course, how you define long and short term is up to you. It’s a function of your sales cycle.

However, the principle is the same irrespective of time periods. You need to know whether your sales pipeline is growing or shrinking.

Here’s how to achieve that clarity using salesforce dashboards and reports.

 

Long-term sales pipeline trend

Getting visibility of the long-term sales pipeline trend in salesforce means using the Opportunity As-At report.

This report shows the size of the sales funnel ‘As-At’ the 1st of each month.

As such, it gives us valuable insight into the medium and long-term trend in the sales funnel.

Long term sales pipeline trend using the as-at report.

We can see the funnel shrank for the first three months.

Fortunately, we were then able to correct it. In fact, the funnel is showing healthy growth in the final three months that should stand us in good stead for 2018.

 

Detailed analysis of the long-term pipeline trend

Drilling down to the underlying report means we can examine the long-term sales pipeline chart in more detail.

Sales Pipeline Long Term Trend details shown in salesforce report

The report and dashboard chart illustrate that the reduction in pipeline size in the first three months was primarily in the latter stages of the sales cycle. The Negotiation Stage, for example, reduced in size.

In fact, the Negotiation Stage has continued to remain flat over the last three months.

That’s because the upward trend in sales pipeline size is primarily in the Prospecting and Investigation Stages.

How do we explain this growth? Did we initiate new marketing campaigns? Did the market take an upturn? Have we hired more salespeople?

Of course, only you know that in the context of your business.

However, here’s one more thing to consider:

Has the pipeline growth been at the expense of funnel quality? Size matters. However, not usually when sacrificing quality.

To monitor this, use the GSP lead conversion dashboard to compare win rates across opportunities. Then review these pipeline quality metrics to measure whether deals are consistently slipping from one month to the next.

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Short-term sales pipeline trend

The As-At report tells us about the size of the sales funnel trend on the 1st of each month.

As such, it’s an excellent guide to the overall trend in the sales funnel.

However, what about short-term trends? How has the funnel changed over the last few weeks or days?

Here’s the salesforce dashboard chart that does that.

However, bear in mind the underlying report and chart mean you must be using Enterprise Edition or above in salesforce. That’s because the report uses the Historical Trends feature, not available in Professional Edition.Short term sales pipeline trend using salesforce dashboard.

This pipeline trend chart gives the short-term information needed for day-to-day sales performance management and funnel reviews.

In the example above, we’ve set the report to provide a snapshot for each of the last 6 weeks. That means the chart measures the short-term impact of marketing campaigns and lead generation activity.

Again, the salesforce report gives more detail on the sales pipeline trend:

the salesforce report gives more detail on the sales pipeline trend

To create this type of report first enable the Historical Trends reporting function. Do this by clicking Setup, Customize, Reports & Dashboards, Historical Trending. Check the box ‘Enable Historical Trending’ for Opportunities. Then, when you create a new report, Opportunities with Historical Trending is an option under the Opportunities report types.

 

Get Sales Pipeline Trend Visibility In Your Business

Like the sound of clarity on sales pipeline trends across your sales teams.

Easy.

  • If you are using Enterprise Edition or above, install the EE version of the GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange. The dashboard delivers great visibility of the size, quality and trend in your sales pipeline. It includes both the long-term and short-term charts discussed in this blog post.
  • If you are using Professional Edition, install the PE version of the GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange. This dashboard includes the long-term sales pipeline trend chart. However, it excludes the short-term version. That’s because the latter needs features only available in Enterprise Edition and above. In all other respects the dashboards are identical.

If you are installing the Enterprise Edition, don’t forget to enable Historical Reporting in your org first.

 

Video Demonstration on Sales Pipeline Trend Dashboard Charts

I’ve recorded a 3 minute demonstration of both charts in action. The video includes additional commentary on how to use these charts in the context of the traditional funnel dashboard graph.

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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Related Articles on Pipeline Trends

If you liked this article then you might want to read some of the other blog posts we’ve written on achieving full sales performance visibility using salesforce. Try these:

Gary also recently ran a webinar with special guest Derek Davis, Director of Sales Support at Gilbarco Veeder Root. They demonstrated a wide range of dashboard charts that give increased visibility of the sales pipeline. They also directly addressed the question of how to measure the trend in the sales pipeline. Watch and listen to the webinar recording or read the Q&A published by Gary.

How Sales Forecast Accuracy Helped Dave Apthorp Leave The Building

How Sales Forecast Accuracy Helped Dave Apthorp Leave The Building

December 23, 2016.

It’s late.

Dave Apthorp’s family is expecting him home. His young children want him to help finish decorating the tree.

Unfortunately, Apthorp is still in the office.

That’s because it’s year-end and a third of the pipeline opportunities forecast to close in December have slipped.

Yet one week ago, the sales forecast for the year looked good.

Apthorp told his boss, Mike McCluskey, that his team will exceed quota. Now he’s working on his excuses.

Not for the first time.

He calls McCluskey:

“I’ll come in next week and see if we can get some of the deals over the line after all”, Dave tells him.

McCluskey points out that very few customers will be at work next week.

“Dave, it’s the same every quarter. We need to get this sorted out in 2017.

“I read this blog post on sales forecast accuracy last week”, continues McCluskey. “It’s by a guy called Gary Smith. He’s published a lot on the topic of salesforce dashboard best practices.

“Let’s get him into the office in January and see if he can help improve our sales forecast accuracy”.

 

Sales Forecast Accuracy

In the ideal world, sales managers are confident that every opportunity will close when expected. Imagine if your close dates were always reliable and your sales forecast always accurate?

If only.

Sadly, things aren’t that simple. It’s life that deals slip.

But what can sales managers do about it? How can they avoid getting caught out by nasty surprises at the end of the month? How can they avoid sales forecasts that disappear overnight?

Experience shows it’s often right to be sceptical about sales forecasts. However, knowing which deals have a high probability of slipping means we can take action.

We can double-down on doubtful deals, find new opportunities, work to bring future deals forward.

It also means we can manage expectations by adjusting the sales forecast well ahead of time.

Nevertheless, to scrutinise deals effectively, we need some pointers to highlight riskier opportunities. These pointers help us decide which opportunities to question. They help us identify the deals about which we should be sceptical.

So how do we do this?

These three pipeline quality metrics give us these pointers. They will help you improve sales forecast accuracy and save you from many unforeseen late nights in the office.

 

Introducing the three killer pipeline quality metrics

The problem is clear:

We need to identify deals that have a higher than average chance of slipping. We can do this using three pipeline quality metrics that can lead to sales forecast accuracy.

Here are the three metrics:

  1.    Number of Close Date Month Extensions.
  2.    Number of Days since the last Stage Change.
  3.    Number of Days the Opportunity has been open.

No single pipeline quality metric dominates the others. Use the metrics in conjunction with each other to get the full picture.

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Here’s how it works – the pipeline analytics process

Create a table that displays all the deals that are due to close this month. Include the three pipeline quality metrics in this table.

Salesforce dashboard chart that show pipeline quality metrics such as the number of close date extensions.

Let’s say your average sales deal takes three months to complete. However, you have one deal that has already been open for more than 200 days. The Close Date has slipped from one month to another, four times. It’s been in the same Opportunity Stage for 60 days.

You’re probably right to question whether this deal will close successfully this month. Based on the metrics, there’s good chance it will slip again. In other words, the three pipeline quality metrics are an excellent way to gauge sales forecast accuracy for the period.

Sales managers reviewing these metrics can ask questions about these deals. But the same questions can also be asked by salespeople – the reps who own the Opportunities – to scrutinize and self-manage their own sales forecast.

 

Pipeline quality metric #1 – number of close date month extensions

Here’s a statistically robust way to forecast tomorrow’s weather.

Whatever is happening today, predict that’s what the weather will be like tomorrow.

You will be right more often then you are wrong.

It’s the same with opportunities. If a deal slipped last month, there’s an increased chance it will slip this month.

The Number of Close Date Month Extensions gives us this data. This pipeline quality metric counts the number of times the Close Date has slipped from one month to another.

Close Date changes within a month don’t matter. Nor do changes that make the Close Date earlier. This metric counts the number of times the Close Date has extended from one month to another.

 

Pipeline quality metric #2 – days since last stage change

This pipeline quality metric counts the number of days since the Opportunity Stage was last updated.

Life is not linear. Opportunity Stages don’t change at regular, pre-determined intervals. But a lengthy period without a change – in the context of your average sales cycle – is a sign of a dormant deal.

Let’s say the Opportunity Stage hasn’t changed for a significant period. The deal has slipped from one month to another –  several times. Then you are right to question the close date of this month.

 

Pipeline quality metric #3 – number of days open

This pipeline quality metric counts the number of days that the opportunity has been open. The clock stops ticking when the deal changes to Closed (Won or Lost).

This pipeline quality metric is valuable in its own right. But the primary purpose is to put context into the other quality metrics.

Deals that have had a significantly longer than average sales cycle have a lower chance of closing successfully this month, particularly if the opportunity has already slipped from one month to the next several times. And especially if the Stage has not been updated for quite a while.

To repeat:

Sales forecast accuracy is not about one single pipeline quality metric. It’s about understanding the context. Scrutinize your pipeline with these three pipeline quality metrics to unlock the insight you need to question your deals and find the ones that have a high chance of ruining your sales forecast.

 

4.30 PM, Friday December 22, 2017

Dave Apthorp now uses these pipeline quality metrics to proactively manage his sales forecasts.

He’s gained a reputation for sales forecast accuracy. And he’s spending a lot less time working late in the office. 

If Dave can do it, so can you.

Apthorp calls his wife.

“Honey, tell the kids I’m on my way”.

Dave Apthorp has left the building.

 

Related Blogs

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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Getting Started With The Salesforce Sales Cloud The Right Way

Getting Started With The Salesforce Sales Cloud The Right Way

Getting started with the salesforce Sales Cloud the right way is critical for successful implementation and project delivery.

Unfortunately, many companies fail to do this.

The biggest single reason?

They set off on the wrong foot.

In other words, they fail to understand the core features and building blocks of the Sales Cloud.

This means they are immediately getting started with the salesforce Sales Cloud in the wrong way.

Here’s what I commonly see.

Companies:

  • Quickly build custom fields, when standard fields already exist.
  • Store important data in the wrong places.
  • Confuse the purpose of important standard objects.
  • Struggle to produce meaningful reports and dashboards.
  • Suffer low user adoption because salespeople find the system cumbersome to use.

The result is everyone quickly loses enthusiasm. Then they blame the technology.

However, it doesn’t need to be this way.

The salesforce Sales Cloud is a powerful tool for managing the sales pipeline, tracking sales performance and improving salesperson productivity and effectiveness.

It can do these things in your business.

However, before getting started, it is important to understand the core features and components of the salesforce Sales Cloud.

Fortunately, if that is your goal, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article and the accompanying video, I explain the core components of the salesforce Sales Cloud.

Understand these building blocks and you are getting started with the Sales Cloud in the right way.

Oh, by the way:

I also include links to multiple free resources to get you started with the salesforce Sales Cloud and gain early success!

 

The Salesforce Sales Cloud explained

The salesforce Sales Cloud enables sales teams and executives to proactively manage their sales pipeline and increase the productivity of salespeople.

It does this by providing a collection of components that store data about each aspect of the sales process.

For example, Accounts store information about customers and prospects. Contacts store data on people that work at those Accounts. Opportunities store data about each individual sales deal.

Reports and dashboard charts mean that managers and salespeople have visibility over the size, trend and quality of the pipeline and funnel.

These reports and dashboards also help identify training and coaching opportunities by analysing historic sales performance and providing forward-looking metrics.

When well configured, tools and features within the Sales Cloud increase the efficiency and effectiveness of salespeople.

These tools include workflow and approval processes. There are also third party applications such as integrated electronic signatures on sales contracts that can boost salesperson productivity further.

 

Getting started the salesforce Sales Cloud

Let’s move onto how the key features and components of the Sales Cloud.

Make sure you understand these essential features and components before you jump in and start configuring the Sales Cloud in your business.

This is essential if you want to get started with the Sales Cloud in the right way. Then follow these 10 tips for salesforce project success.

 

Accounts

Let’s start with Accounts.

Accounts are organizations in salesforce. Typically, that means customers and prospects.

However, Accounts can also be other types of organization such as suppliers, consultants and partners.

Accounts are usually customers and prospects, but they can also be other types of organization such as suppliers, consultants and partners..

Use the standard Type field on the Account to identify these different organizations in your salesforce environment.

You can also record the hierarchical – or parent / child – relationship between Accounts in the same business group.

 

Contacts

Accounts have Contacts. Contacts are people that work at those Accounts.

One Account can have many Contacts. However, each Contact links directly to only one Account.

 

Opportunities

Accounts also have Opportunities. Opportunities are the most important feature of the salesforce sales cloud.

Opportunities are sales deals. One Account might have none, one or many Opportunities over time.

We can also record the relationship between Contacts and specific Opportunities using Contact Roles.

This means, for example, we can identify customer roles in the buying process such as Gatekeeper, Influencer, Decision Maker and Buyer.

 

Key Opportunity Information

Let’s talk more about Opportunities.

There might be lots of information specific to your business that you want to record about each opportunity.

However, every opportunity needs three key pieces of information. These are the Opportunity Stage, Close Date and Amount.

Here are these three fields in the salesforce Classic user interface.

Stage, Close Date and Amount displayed in the Classic salesforce user interface.

 

 

Here are the same three Opportunity fields in the salesforce Lightning interface.

Stage, Close Date and Amount displayed in the Lightning salesforce user interface.

 

Make sure you understand the crucial role of the Opportunity Stage, Close Date and Amount fields on the opportunity when you get started with the Sales Cloud.

1. Opportunity Stage

The Opportunity Stage is a picklist. It records where the opportunity is in your sales process at any point in time.

The standard picklist values for the Opportunity Stage are not ideally suited to many businesses. That’s why you will probably want to customize them.

For example, many of our customers use these Opportunity Stages: Prospecting, Investigation, Proposal Made, Negotiation, Closed Won and Closed Lost.

Either way, think carefully to avoid these three common mistakes with opportunity stages.

 

2. Opportunity Close Date

The second essential piece of opportunity information is the Close Date.

The salesperson uses the Close Date to forecast when the deal will complete. This date may change from one month to another as your sales deal progresses.

Tracking the number of times the Close Date changes is an important pipeline quality metric.

 

3. Opportunity Amount

The Opportunity Amount is the revenue associated with the opportunity. In other words, the sales value.

Where does that Amount come from?

There are two ways to enter the Opportunity Amount in salesforce.

The first is to simply type the value into the Amount field.

However, the second way is much better. That way is to use Products.

 

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Products

Products are the goods and services that you sell using Opportunities.

Remember, Products can be physical things.

However, Products can also be intangible items such as subscriptions or fees. Or services that you deliver through people.

In fact, a Product in salesforce is anything that generates revenue for your business.

When you add Products to an opportunity, the total value of these products becomes the Amount on the opportunity.

Using Products means the opportunity more accurately reflects the specific goods and services sold to the customer.

In turn, this means pipeline and sales performance dashboard charts are more useful in decision making about sales strategies and tactics.

 

Dashboards

Now that we have these three pieces of information – the Opportunity Stage, Close date and Amount – we can start to analyse the sales pipeline.

Dashboard charts are a powerful way to do this.

For example, using our three pieces of opportunity information, we can understand the size of the pipeline due to close each month.

In the salesforce Sales Cloud, dashboards are a powerful way to view the Stage, Close Date and Amount.

Within each month, we can analyse the pipeline each month.

Dashboards deliver great visibility of the sales pipeline and sales performance.

You can kick-start the use of dashboards in your business in two ways.

First, study this blog post, 12 Must-Have Sales Dashboard Charts. The post explains the critical dashboard charts that executives need to manage the sales pipeline effectively.

There’s even an accompanying eBook you can download.

Second, install our free GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange. This dashboard contains all the charts explained in the blog post and eBook.

Together, they represent a comprehensive resource to improve visibility of the sales pipeline and sales performance in your business.

 

Campaigns

Campaigns are another key feature of the Sales Cloud.

Campaigns are marketing activities such as trade shows, adverts, emails and web forms.

A key purpose of Campaigns is to create new Leads.

 

Leads

Leads are people in the very earliest stage of the sales cycle.

Often we have very little information about each Lead. To increase this information, many businesses use marketing automation applications such as Pardot and Marketo.

These applications integrate tightly with salesforce and allow you to create email nurture programs that deepen and extend the relationship with Leads over time.

It is important you understand the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity when you get started with the Sales Cloud.

 

What happens when contacting a Lead

Suppose someone in your business telephones one of these Leads and has a conversation.

One of three things is going to happen.

First, you might find the Leads isn’t a prospective customer at all. Therefore, you update the Lead Status to Closed, and take no further action.

Secondly, the Lead is a definite maybe!

In other words, the person is interested, but not ready yet to speak to a salesperson.

This time, you update the Lead Status to Contacted. You might also record a follow up activity to contact the Lead again in the future.

The third thing that can happen is you decide the Lead is qualified. In other words, the person is ready to engage with you from a sales perspective.

Here’s what you do:

Convert the Lead into, an Account, a Contact and an Opportunity.

Now you have a new Account, Contact and Opportunity.

 

Marketing Metrics

Here’s the beauty of the lead conversion process:

When you convert a Lead in the salesforce Sales Cloud, the resulting opportunity links back to the Campaign.

This means you automatically calculate the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing campaigns.

Of course, dashboards are a great way to analyse sales performance and the sales pipeline by marketing campaign.

To get started with marketing metrics, install the free GSP Lead Conversion Dashboard into your salesforce environment.

 

More great salesforce Sales Cloud resources

This is a high level, overview of the salesforce sales cloud. However, you get started with the Sales Cloud on the right foot if you understand these key building blocks.

We have many great articles on our salesforce blog that explain how to maximize sales cloud benefits. Above all, don’t forget to download our 10 Specific Tips for Successful Sales Cloud Implementation at the foot of this post.

Here are some of my favourites:

We also have free dashboards on the AppExchange, including:

In addition, simply get in touch to find out how we can help make your salesforce sales cloud project a tremendous success.

 

10 Specific Tips For Successful Salesforce Sales Cloud Implementation

An extra bonus! Download our 10 page PDF with specific, tips for successful Sales Cloud implementation. Contains detailed advice for maximizing benefits from the salesforce Sales Cloud.

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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To Exceed Year-End Quota, Apply These Q4 Sales Strategies Now

To Exceed Year-End Quota, Apply These Q4 Sales Strategies Now

It’s that time of year.

Q4.

When sales teams around the world are under pressure to get deals closed to meet year-end quotas.

I have worked with many companies in that situation.

And here’s what I’ve found:

The most successful executives apply five Q4 sales strategies.

Q4 Sales Strategies Package Just $1,800* 

16 hours consultancy including:

• Dashboards and configuration specific to Q4

• Help with cleaning up out-of-date opportunities

• Recommendations on salesforce benefit quick-wins

*subject to confirmation of scope.

Q4 Sales Strategies

These sales strategies do not guarantee they hit quota. However, they do put these executives and the sales teams in with the best possible chance of success.

Here are the five Q4 Sales Strategies they use:

  1. Sort the wheat from the chaff.
  2. Determine whether there is enough pipeline to hit quota.
  3. Prioritize time and energy on high impact deals.
  4. Create a close plan for each high priority opportunity.
  5. Protect themselves against margin-eating discounts.

So here they are:

Five Q4 sales strategies you can apply right now to achieve year-end quota.

1. Sort the wheat from the chaff

Here’s the first Q4 sales strategy these executives apply.

They weed out deals that with the best will in the world are not going to close successfully in Q4.

It’s February 2017.

Sarah Jones is under pressure to boost her sales pipeline.

The pressure is coming from the VP of Sales. “Come on, Sarah, you’ve got lots of potential in that territory of yours. Let’s ramp up the pipeline.”

You can’t blame him.

The Board set aggressive growth targets for the year and expect the VP of Sales to deliver.

Sarah works through her Accounts.

She picks a prospect with whom she had a meeting three months ago. “I reckon there’s a decent chance with this one,” she thinks.

Sarah creates an opportunity in salesforce.

“It’s bound to close sometime this year,” she says to herself hopefully.

Of course, Sarah doesn’t want to put herself under any unnecessary time pressure. That means she enters the Close Date as December 31, 2017.

The pipeline has increased. Job done.

That scenario plays out in companies around the world.

There are three ways to sort the wheat from the chaff with Q4 deals.

a) Review Opportunity Stages and Get Real

In Sarah’s company, here’s what the pipeline looks like by the time we reach mid-Q4.

There's often a surge of deals due to close in December when we look at the pipeline in Q4.

There’s a surge of deals due to close in December.

But how realistic are these opportunities?

For example, if the sales cycle is typically three months, then are the deals in the prospecting and investigation stages of the sales pipeline realistically going to close in Q4?

In other words, the first step is to review deals by Stage and Close Date. Remove dormant deals from the pipeline. Move deals that still have legs, but realistically won’t close in Q4, to a later date.

b) Review Opportunities by Created Date

Here’s another way to assess the strength of the Q4 pipeline.

Look at deals due to close in Q4 by Created Date.

If the sales cycle is 3 months, carefully examine deals that have been open substantially longer as part of your Q4 sales strategies.

Again, if the sales cycle is 3 months, carefully examine deals that have been open substantially longer.

Shake them out of the tree if they’re unlikely to close this quarter.

c) Analyse Pipeline Quality Metrics

In addition to the age, two other deal metrics provide insight on pipeline quality.

  • Number of Close Date month extensions.
  • Days since last Stage change.

This dashboard table highlights these quality metrics for deals due to close in Q4.

This dashboard table highlights these quality metrics for deals due to close in Q4.

We can see, for example, the Oxted Manufacturing opportunity has been open 237 days, the Opportunity Stage was last updated 100 days ago and the Close Date has moved four times from one month to another.

I don’t know about you, but those figures do not give me a great deal of confidence that the deal will close in Q4.

So that’s the first of the Q4 sales strategies:

Sort the wheat from the chaff.

Doing this will help hugely in subsequent recommendations.

By the way, an easy way to obtain these reports is to download the free GSP Sales Dashboard if you are not already using it.

 

2. Determine whether there is enough pipeline to hit quota

This Q4 sales strategy recommendation is critical.

The answer to the question of whether you have sufficient pipeline to hit quote is a major influence on your Q4 sales strategy.

But first:

How do we know if the pipeline is big enough?

One option is to take the deals you have already won and add the full sales value of the pipeline.

That’s likely to give you a positive feeling. The two added together will likely exceed target.

Unfortunately, it’s not realistic. I doubt you are going to win 100% of your sales pipeline.

A more pragmatic way is to set a realistic probability of winning each deal. Then use this to calculate the Expected Revenue of the pipeline.

Remember, in salesforce you do not have to accept the default probability associated with each Stage. Modify these probabilities on individual opportunities.

An essential Q4 sales strategy is to determine whether you have enough pipeline to meet year-end target.

Then, to determine whether you have enough pipeline to hit Q4 target, create a report based on Expected Revenue. Include both Closed Won and pipeline deals.

Compare the total value in the report with your target.

Now you have a choice:

  • If the Expected Revenue exceeds target, focus on closing the deals you already have.
  • If the Expected Revenue is smaller than your target, you need to decide if it is realistic to increase the pipeline with deals that will close in Q4.

Q4 sales strategies are influenced by whether there is enough funnel to meet quota.

It may not be easy to find deals that realistically will close in Q4.

The circumstances will be different for every business. However,

  • Are there existing customers to whom repeat sales are possible?
  • What about upgrades?
  • Can you make cross sales to customers that bought certain products?

Only you know the answer to these questions.

However, in my experience, it’s a mistake to seek-out new pipeline with smaller prospects.  Often, there’s an assumption these lower value deals will close more quickly.

However, it often takes as long to close a smaller customer opportunity because the relative importance of the deal is greater.

Ideally, don’t leave it until the very end of the year or Q4 to measure pipeline against target.

The GSP Target Tracker is a powerful way to compare won and pipeline deals with target throughout the year. For each month and quarter, it gives a clear indication of whether you have sufficient weighted pipeline to achieve quota.

 

3. Prioritize time on high impact deals

The third of the Q4 sales strategies sounds obvious:

Focus time, resources and energy on opportunities that make the most significant contribution to quota.

However, there are three dimensions to prioritizing Q4 opportunities:

  • The sales value of the deal.
  • The probability of winning the deal, and
  • Whether multiple small opportunities can combine into one larger deal.

You can prioritize on the first two dimensions by creating a report that lists the opportunities by Stage, Amount and Probability:

You may also want to adapt the report to show the pipeline by customer type.

As part of your Q4 sales strategy, prioritize opportunities by stage, amount, probability and customer type.

This helps you prioritize deals with existing customers that despite their Stage may have a higher probability of a successful outcome.

Consider also, whether there are Accounts with multiple opportunities.

In the GSP Sales Dashboard, we include a table and report that shows the pipeline by Account.

In the GSP Sales Dashboard, we include a table and report that shows the pipeline by Account.

In the GSP Sales Dashboard, we include a table and report that shows the pipeline by Account.

In this example, High Hill Estates has opportunities due to close in Q1 AND Q2. Is it possible to amalgamate these deals into one larger opportunity, with a successful close in Q4?

Easily identify the deals you and your team will focus on using a separate field “Q4 Focus” field.

As part of your Q4 sales strategy, focus on deals that will have a high impact on year-end revenue.

Having done this analysis, the goal now is to stick to your higher priority deals. Don’t get distracted!

12 Must-Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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12 Must-Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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4. Create a Close Plan for each high priority opportunity

Many businesses will create a Close Plan for important deals.

The Q4 sales strategy brings this to a head.

However, there’s no need to overdo it.

Create the close plan using a simple rich text field on the Opportunity.

Alternatively, enter it into the Chatter feed for each Opportunity.

This is the approach used by many of our customers has the advantage that managers, colleagues and other internal stakeholders can comment and collaborate on the close plan.

Here’s another common element of this Q4 Sales Strategy:

Agree a Go / No Go Date with the customer.

This is not the date you expect the deal to close. Nor is it a commitment by the customer that you will win the deal.

Rather, it is the deadline date by which you and the customer will aim to close the deal. One way or the other.

This date for example, might be 15th December.

The outcome may be a win or a loss, we don’t yet know. The Go / No Go date is the point at which you both agree the deal cannot be closed in Q4 and you will instead revisit the opportunity in the New Year.

In salesforce, record these dates in a custom field. Track them through a report and Q4 dashboard chart.

The previous Q4 sales strategies are about identifying realistic deals, prioritizing effort and achieving a successful outcome.

The final Q4 sales strategy takes a different approach.

 

5. Protect yourself against damaging discounts

We all know discounts and volume related deals are sacrificed in return for Q4 close dates.

Indeed, many companies have inadvertently trained their customers to leave purchases to the end of each quarter.

However, this Q4 sales strategy is to keep track of the rationale for each discount and give-away.

For example, you give a discount or preferential terms because the customer agrees to buy 100 units over three months (e.g. in a framework agreement).

Keep a record of the rationale for the discount or special terms.

That’s because, let’s say, it turns out the customer only ever orders 80 or 90 units.

You won’t always go back and negotiate a retrospective price increase. However, this information is invaluable when negotiating future discounts.

Use this information now when the customer is putting you under pressure on a Q4 close.

Look back over historic deals. Did the customer fulfil their side of the bargain? If not, use this information to strengthen your negotiating hand.

The Chatter feed on each opportunity is a good place to record the rationale for discounts and other terms given away in return for customer commitments.

That’s the fifth of the Q4 sales strategies that successful executives apply:

Keep track of the rationale behind the agreement and make it easy to find when you are under pressure.

Our blog post, 10 Expert Tips To Improving Discount Control gives more advice on avoiding unnecessary give-aways.

If you think others will benefit from reading this blog, please share on LinkedIn or Twitter.

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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Getting Started With The GSP Sales Dashboard

The GSP Sales Dashboard contains the core set of dashboard charts and underlying reports that give executives great visibility of the sales pipeline and sales performance.

System administrators around the world have installed the dashboard over 500 times.

The blog post explains the simple getting started instructions for the GSP Sales Dashboard. Follow these simple steps to maximize your sales visibility using the Dashboard.

Step 1: Select the correct GSP Sales Dashboard version

The GSP Sales Dashboard comes in two flavours: the version for Enterprise Edition and above and an alternative version for Professional Edition.

The only difference between the two is the Short Term Pipeline Trend Chart.

The short term pipeline trend report requires historical trending to be enabled in salesforce.

The report for this chart uses a feature called Historical Trending. This feature is only available in Enterprise Edition and above.

Therefore, the first step is to select the correct version of the dashboard: Enterprise or Professional Edition.

12 Must-Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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12 Must-Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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Step 2: Enable Historical Trending

The step applies only if you are installing the Enterprise Edition of the GSP Sales Dashboard.

The Historical Trending feature must be enabled to install the dashboard successfully. If you get this error message when installing the GSP Sales Dashboard then Historical Trending is not enabled in your salesforce environment.

This error message when installing the GSP Sales Dashboard means historical trending is not enabled.

Fortunately its simple to enable Historical Trending.

1. Go to Setup.

2. In the Setup search box, type Historical.

3. Click on Historical Trending.

Search for historical trending in setup.

 

4. Select Opportunity. Check the box marked Enable Historical Trending and Click Save.Check the box to enable historical trending in salesforce.

You are now good to install the Enterprise version of the GSP Sales Dashboard.

For more instructions on the dashboard installation process, including enabling Historical Trending, play this video.

 

 

Step 3: Set the Close Date Change Counters

One of the most powerful features of the GSP Dashboard is the table that tracks the number of Close Date month extensions.

The table shows deals that are due to close this month.

salesforce dashboard chart that shows pipeline quality metrics such as the number of close date extensions.

The table presents the Opportunity Name along with three pipeline quality metrics:

  • Number of Close Date month extensions (the number of times the Close Date has moved from one month to another)
  • Number of days since the last Stage change, and
  • The Age of the opportunity.

3 Killer Pipeline Quality Metrics That Highlight When To Be Sceptical gives great advice on how to use this information to get more accurate sales forecasts.

After you have installed the dashboard, the table will track these metrics for all new opportunities created from this point forward.

However, with a few simple steps you can also get the metrics to track existing opportunities.

This short video shows exactly what you need to do.

Additional Resources

12 Must-Have Charts Blog Post

The 12 Must-Have Charts Blog Post is a comprehensive resource that explains how to use each of the dashboard charts to boost pipeline visibility.

The also contains links to additional videos and articles that provide even more details

12 Must-Have Charts eBook

Download our eBook to read about our commentary on each of the charts. Contains examples of how to use each chart for sales performance visibility.

GSP Salesforce Apps

We have a range of apps that extend salesforce functionality in key areas.

These include:

Salesforce Implementation Services

We have a range of implementation services that can help you maximize your benefits from salesforce.

Simply get in touch to find out how we can help you.

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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Webinar | Power Metrics For Lead Conversion Success

Webinar | Power Metrics For Lead Conversion Success

Join me and my team for a compelling webinar on power Lead Metrics in salesforce.

We promise you fresh insights.

As a result of this webinar you will be able to take new action to drive lead conversion rates in your business.

Date: November 1st, 2017
Time: 11 AM EST, 4 PM GMT
To join: Register here today.

Lead Conversion Success Webinar Topics

We will demonstrate how to:

• Implement a robust lead management process.
• Measure the revenue contribution of converted leads.
• Track key metrics to improve lead performance.
• Compare win rates on opportunities created from converted leads.
• Analyse lead performance from multiple angles and identify improvements.

The webinar will give you a unique understanding of lead metrics in salesforce. You will gain new, specific actions to increase revenue from leads that you can immediately apply in your business.

You will also, of course, have the opportunity to ask questions.

We are limited to 80 places on the webinar. Don’t miss out. Register today.

I’m looking forward to you joining us.

View Detailed Win Rate and Revenue Metrics on Converted Leads

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View Detailed Win Rate and Revenue Metrics on Converted Leads

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Successful Sales And Marketing Alignment | 5 Powerful Best Practices

Successful Sales And Marketing Alignment | 5 Powerful Best Practices

“I’ll prove it to you!” exclaims Jack Kosakowski.

“Let me show you the current state of Sales and Marketing alignment.”

It’s September 12, 2017. I’m attending the London Sales Hacker event.

We’re in the middle of a panel discussion, “Sales And Marketing Alignment Strategies To Build Massive Pipeline”.

Also on the panel is Jack’s marketing colleague, Creation Agency CEO, Jason Sibley.

The two have contrasting views.

“Everyone in the audience that’s in sales, stand up!” orders Jack.

Two-thirds of the 600-strong audience stand.

“Okay,” continues Jack.

“Stay standing if you believe Marketing give you enough warm leads.”

I look around.

Not a single person remains standing.

Jack turns to the rest of the panel.

“See what I mean!” he proclaims, waving his hand theatrically at the seated room.

“Marketing isn’t aligned with Sales at all.”

Why Sales and Marketing Alignment is a Good Thing

Sales and Marketing alignment seems like common sense.

If Sales and Marketing work together as one, then revenue generation is more efficient and effective.

The evidence bears this out.

The Aberdeen Group research identifies a direct causal link between Sales and Marketing alignment and revenue growth.

Your own experience will probably concur.

When Sales and Marketing align successfully, revenue increases because:

  • Marketing campaigns focus on the most beneficial topics and channels.
  • Salespeople have a higher volume of well-qualified, sales-ready leads.
  • Sales have the correct quantity and quality of content needed to convince prospects.
  • Marketing deliver company-specific and marketplace insights that improve selling effectiveness.
  • Metrics and qualitative feedback are available for continuous improvement of sales and marketing performance.

What company doesn’t strive for these benefits?

Unfortunately, like many things that sound easy on paper, Sales and Marketing alignment turns out to be more difficult to achieve in the real world.

In fact, in my experience, the lack of alignment is the cause of more angst in business than any other topic.

However, if Sales and Marketing alignment is something that business wants, why is it so difficult?

The Sales and Marketing Blame Game

The conflict between Sales and Marketing plays out in many companies.

Sales blame Marketing and Marketing blame Sales.

To quote Tavris and Aronson, “Mistakes were made (but not by me)”.

In other words, both sides blame the other for the repeated failure to turn marketing activity and leads into won opportunities.

There are many reasons for this finger pointing.

  • Goals that do not encourage cooperative behaviour.
  • KPIs that do not align.
  • Personal desire to look good against rivals, including vying for the future CEO position.
  • Short-term sales objectives conflicting with longer-term marketing priorities.

I could probably go on.

Popular Strategies for Sales and Marketing Alignment

Do a Google search on Sales and Marketing alignment and you will discover no shortage of content.

In fact, 40.3 million search results.

You’ll even find there’s a Sales and Marketing alignment summit.

To examine best practices for Sales and Marketing alignment, I carefully reviewed the top 50 search results.

You probably don’t want to spend as much time on this as I did, so I created a summary of the recommendations that you can read here.

Some of the recommendations will clearly have a positive impact.

It’s hard to disagree, for example, that a robust lead hand-off process should be implemented, that Sales and Marketing must define and agree the customer buying process and that they must communicate regularly.

Likewise, agreeing common definitions of what a well-qualified, sales-ready lead looks like is a precursor for successful implementation of this process.

Other sales and marketing alignment strategies are more controversial.

For example, potentially not every business will want to make both sales and marketing the responsibility of a single chief revenue officer.

So what else can we do?

5 Sales and Marketing Alignment Recommendations

Let’s return to the problem.

Sales and Marketing frequently blame each other for missed objectives.

However, in most cases, as Jack and Jason concur at the end of their Sales Hacker panel discussion, neither side is entirely right nor is either side entirely wrong.

Unfortunately, both Sales and Marketing come to the debate with their own preconceived ideas on the responsibilities of the other.

It’s these ingrained perceptions and, in many cases, preconceived views of the way the world works that determine where each side places the blame.

We need to break out of this narrow horizon to align Sales and Marketing successfully.

But what’s going to smash through the existing paradigm?

Enter center stage: CUSTOMERS and PROSPECTS.

We need the direct involvement and input from customers and prospects.

That may not sound radical.

Yet it’s something many companies hardly achieve at all.

So, here are my five recommendations for Sales and Marketing alignment.

  1. Create an effective open feedback loop with input from customers and prospects.
  2. Create an effective closed feedback loop with quantitative metrics.
  3. Re-shape your end-to-end revenue process and methodology.
  4. Implement a process of continuous marginal gains.
  5. Make project-led structural improvements.

I have applied these Sales and Marketing alignment strategies in many businesses with success.

Let’s go through them.

1 – Create an effective open feedback loop

Marketers strive for a closed feedback loop that links lead and opportunity outcome back to the originating campaign.

This closed loop delivers quantitative metrics on lead conversion rates and the efficacy of marketing campaigns.

This is crucial. I’ll explain how to implement an effective closed feedback loop successfully in Recommendation #2.

However, an open feedback loop is something else that provides other benefits.

Input from external sources is what defines an open feedback loop.

In other words, when there’s no external feedback or stimuli coming into play, nothing will challenge existing perceptions or alter the status quo.This sales and marketing strategic recommendation is to create an open feedback loop to gather external input from customers and prospects.Matthew Syed describes it this way.

“Without external input, failure doesn’t lead to progress because information on errors and weaknesses is misinterpreted or ignored; an open feedback loop does lead to progress because the feedback is rationally acted upon.”

To achieve Sales and Marketing alignment we need to break the existing cycle.

It means we need an open feedback loop.

Feedback on success and failure

For the purpose of Sales and Marketing alignment, an open feedback loop means we need input from customers, prospects and leads.

We need this input not to apportion blame, but to understand the customer buying process and to make improvements to our sales cycle.

In other words, unless with have this external input, the status quo will continue. Sales and Marketing will still blame each other for ineffectiveness, because what else is there to do? There is nothing to challenge the existing model in the absence of customer and prospect insight.

Specifically, to break out of this, we need input on the customer buying process in two areas.

  1. We need to learn from success. Why did we win?
  2. We need to learn from failure. Why did we lose?

I recognize the latter, in particular, is a deeply uncomfortable recommendation for many businesses.

Unfortunately, getting first-hand feedback on the reasons for failure is something we do infrequently, either as people or as organisations.

However, this is critical.

Think about it.

How often is ‘price’ blamed for a lost deal or an opportunity that does not progress?

I can vouch from personal experience of conducting research on behalf of many clients that price is rarely the root cause reason for a deal sales that doesn’t succeed.

For example, here is verbatim, what one person told me recently:

“Yes they were the most expensive and the price was too high, but if we had wanted to work with them I’m sure we could have gotten around that somehow. The fact is we didn’t want to work with them, so it was easy just to say, ‘your price was too high’”.

Prior to this externally focused research, this company spent many months tinkering with their pricing strategy with no discernible impact on opportunity conversion rates.

It was only after getting external feedback, from customers and prospects that the company began to truly learn why they win and why they lose.

Areas to get external feedback

Here are examples of specific areas on which you can gain valuable qualitative feedback:

  • Why do some unqualified leads fail to become qualified leads?
  • What stops some qualified leads becoming opportunities?
  • Why do some deals not progress beyond the initial, discovery stage?
  • What causes some deals to be lost at the negotiation stage?
  • What is the compelling reason why certain deals are won?

And lots more.

The key thing about this feedback is that it is comes from external rather than internal sources.

Steps to get external feedback

To implement this first sales and marketing alignment best practice, gather external, qualitative feedback in many ways, including:

  • Invite customers and prospects that didn’t buy into the company e.g. a facilitated team meeting.
  • Commission independent in-depth telephone and face-to-face interviews.
  • Get independent observation of live sales calls and visits.
  • Sit alongside the customer in their office and experience ‘walking in their shoes’.

One more thing about external feedback.

Get to the heart of what the customer means. Don’t accept at face value, “I don’t like the brochure”. Discover the underlying reasons; for example, whether this view relates to the core messages, the way the content is written, or the physical appearance.

In an upcoming blog, I’ll expand on this Sales and Marketing alignment best practice by detailing six ways you can get external feedback.

To get a heads-up when this post is live, register here.

2 – Create an effective closed feedback loop

The first sales and marketing alignment recommendation is to create an open feedback loop. This creates qualitative, externally sourced feedback that leads to improvement.

However, external feedback is only part of the story.

The second best practice is to gather accurate and reliable internal feedback. You do this through a robust closed loop feedback process.

This needs to happen in two ways.

  1. Insist on quantitative feedback.

Link every lead and opportunity to its source and originating marketing campaign. If no campaign produced the lead or opportunity, record this as well.

2. Insist on qualitative feedback.

On every lead handed-off from Sales to Marketing, whatever the outcome, ensure there is qualitative feedback transferred the other way.

How to implement a closed loop for quantitative feedback

The only effective way to achieve this is by using a CRM or sales automation application.

Unfortunately, many companies fail to implement the closed loop successfully by failing to follow these 5 best practices.

For detailed advice on how to design the closed loop process, read The Difference Between Leads and Opportunities. This blog post contains downloadable process diagrams in Visio and Powerpoint to help get you started.

This closed loop feedback on quantitative data also means you can collect insightful metrics on lead conversion metrics and the contribution that marketing campaigns make to overall revenue.

How to implement a closed loop for qualitative feedback

CRM systems also provide ways to capture qualitative feedback from Sales to Marketing on each lead.

For example, if your company uses salesforce.com, use Chatter on Leads and Opportunities to gather this feedback.To achieve sales and marketing alignment, gather qualitative feedback from sales using Chatter.Create reports that summarise these Chatter posts. Create tags to group Chatter posts together.

3 – Re-shape your revenue process and methodology

Your feedback loops are gathering qualitative and quantitative information on your end-to-end sales cycle.

Clearly, that information is of no value unless you do something with it.

So what should you do?

The two things Sales and Marketing must do together with all this information and feedback are:

  1. Re-design your revenue process.
  2. Re-define your revenue methodology.

The difference between the two:

Process is the planned steps you take to achieve something.

Methodology is how you take those steps.

An example:

Your sales process might include a discovery meeting. That’s a step in your process.

Methodology is the way you conduct that meeting. This includes the words you use to introduce the meeting, the questions you ask and the way you agree the next steps.

In other words, the meeting is a process step; the way the meeting is conduced is the methodology.

Some (although admittedly not many) businesses I encounter have a clearly-defined sales process.

The stages of the process are well understood by the sales team. The CRM system reflects this process in its opportunity stages. Reports and dashboards report the pipeline in a consistent way. There is uniformity across the team in terms of the process they follow.

At least, that’s sometimes the case.

However, in these businesses, what is far less uniform is the methodology the team members adopt. Sales people are left to decide for themselves HOW they undertake each process step. These companies can benefit hugely from identifying and sharing best practice and delivering training on how to execute the sales process.

How to re-shape your process and methodology

Sales and Marketing alignment recommendation 3 is about re-designing your process and methodology based on the feedback you have received.

Here are the specific steps to take.

  • Get Sales and Marketing people together in the same room with a large whiteboard.
  • Pick one significant deal your business recently lost (or a deal that withered on the vine).
  • Map the end-to-end sales cycle on the whiteboard.
  • Figure out everything you did (i.e. the process).
  • Describe how you did those things (i.e. the methodology).

Then take these two further steps:

  • Work out how to improve your process.
  • Work out how to improve the execution of that process.

This separation of process and methodology means you focus on both what and the how.

For example, if we had to go after the same deal again, what activities would we repeat? How could we execute them more effectively? What didn’t we do that with the benefit of hindsight, we could have done? How would we do those activities?

Examine more deals

This is what you do next:

Repeat this cycle of examination for a successful deal.

Capture the things that worked well and those that didn’t. With the benefit of hindsight, even though the deal was won, identify the activities whose execution can be improved.

Then do the whole thing again with another deal.

Work through four to six deals.

You know the score:

Figure out how to improve the process and the methodology. Remember to use the feedback from recommendations 1 and 2 to decide what these improvements look like from a customer and prospect perspective.

Document the improvements to process and methodology

Sales and Marketing alignment best practices 4 and 5 explain two ways to implement these improvements.

However, there’s a precursor to implementation.

The sales and marketing workshops will produce many whiteboard photographs, flipchart sheets and handwritten paper notes.

Get it into a structured format.

This means:

  • Process diagram(s) that describe the ideal end-to-end revenue cycle for existing and potential customers.
  • Notes and use cases that articulate how the process is best fulfilled.

Then you’re ready to start implementing changes that will achieve sales and marketing alignment.

4 – Continuous process of marginal gains

Now Sales and Marketing have fresh insight.

We understand what works well and what needs improvement.

We have information about success and failure. Your teams have figured out what is important to customers and prospects and what they care about less.

Here’s what you do next.

Implement a process of marginal gains. This is Sales and Marketing alignment recommendation 4.

Marginal gains is the term originally popularized by Dave Brailsford, the hugely successful head of the Sky pro-cycling team. 

Brailsford’s belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement. They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.

But Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there. They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.

Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years’ time. He was wrong. They won it in three years.

Source: This Coach Improved Every Tiny Thing By 1% And Here’s What Happened

Whether sport or business, success or failure is determined by the aggregation of multiple marginal gains.

Each gain may be minimal in itself, but when combined together, they have an irresistible impact.

How marginal gains works

Suppose you’re standing at point A.

You want to get to the top of the hill, point B.Marginal gains is the first way to implement changes that achieve successful sales and marketing alignment.Marginal gains will get you there. Take a small step.

Test whether you went up or downhill.

If you’ve gone uphill, take another small step in the same direction. Test again. Repeat the process.

If you’ve gone downhill, take a small step in another direction. Test again.

Keep repeating this process and without fail, you will get to the top of the hill. You’ll eventually arrive at point B.

Applying marginal gains in your business

Marginal gains mean you identify multiple ways in which you can make small improvements. Make enough of them, and you have a significant advantage.

So this is what you do.

  • Apply the feedback you gained and work out the many small ways in which you can improve the customer and prospect experience.
  • Refer to your sales and marketing funnel. Look for small changes that will improve the conversion ratio at each point.
  • Examine the end-to-end lead generation and sales process. Search out the multiple small changes that together, will collectively add up to a big difference.

Remember, every error, every flaw, every failure and every piece of adverse feedback, however small, is a marginal gain in disguise.

Sales and Marketing must regard this information not as a threat, but as an opportunity.

Finally, how do you decide which marginal gains take priority for implementation? That’s why you did Recommendation 3. You worked out what was important to customers and what was not.

Focus on the marginal gains that customers and prospects care about the most. The ones that relate most closely with the unique value your business adds.

Test marginal gains

Here’s what many people forget about marginal gains.

They forget about testing and measuring.

“Marginal gains are not about making small changes and hoping they fly. Rather, it is about breaking down a big problem into many small parts and then rigorously testing to establish what works and what doesn’t”. Mathew Syed. Black Box Thinking.

In other words, test everything. Make changes and validate that they have the result you anticipate.

How do you do this testing? Keep using the open and closed feedback loops we describe in Recommendations 1 and 2.

How to implement a marginal gains process

Implementing a marginal gains approach successfully requires a structured approach to communication and decision-making.

Here’s an example of how Modernis embedded this dialogue to achieve Sales and Marketing alignment.

In this company, marketing pass leads to inside sales reps. The inside sales reps aim to turn these leads into qualified appointment for field reps.

  • The inside sales team leader meets daily with the marketing team leader.
  • Each field rep speaks daily with his or her inside sales rep to discuss leads and appointments.
  • Each regional sales manager has a weekly face-to-face meeting or conference call with the inside sales team leader and the marketing team leader.
  • The VP of Sales and VP of Marketing hold a weekly conference call. They also meet formally face-to-face monthly.

The format of the discussion is the same in every case. Here’s the agenda:

1. Review:
Quantitative results and metrics.
Qualitative feedback from reps.
Qualitative feedback from customers and prospects (this happens only on a weekly basis).
Results from tests on marginal gains previously implemented.

2 Agree:
Those changes that will maintained and those to be reversed.
New marginal gains that can be tested.

There’s a formal method for recording these conversations in the CRM system.

Team leaders review these records in their weekly meetings. The VPs of Sales and Marketing do likewise.

This approach has transformed Sales and Marketing alignment. It gives both a common purpose, strategy and framework for working together.

The result at Modernis is an uplift in opportunity conversion rates of 17%.

5 – Make project-led structural improvements

Seeking marginal gains is something you do every day.

My final Sales and Marketing alignment strategy is something you do once or twice a year, sometimes not as often as that.

Look at this diagram of two hills.A sales and marketing alignment best practice is to implement step change improvements.You’ve already climbed the first hill. Marginal gains and continuous improvement got you from point A to point B.

Better design

Marginal gains work for day-to-day improvements. As we’ve seen, it’s highly dependent on testing and feedback to check each step.

However, it will never get you to point D, the top of a mountain. That mountain represents a better design and a better way of doing things.

The problem is that when you are at point B, the top of the smaller hill, a small step in any direction always takes you downhill.

To scale the mountain you need the vision and confidence to take a big leap.

Make that leap in the right way and you will likely land at point C.

Then what do you do?

Start again seeking marginal gains. Test each change.

And you know what?

Through a combination of step-change and marginal gains you will eventually arrive at point D.

How to make the big leap

To make that leap, to get to point D, you need a better design. A fundamentally different and improved way of doing things.

That might be a marketing automation system. It can be the introduction of new products or services. A new sales strategy. A culture change.

It may be many other things.

Above all, however, it’s a visionary step change that results from detailed analysis of quantitative metrics, salesperson feedback and qualitative input on success and failure from leads, prospects and customers.

These major leaps require a formal, structured transformational project.

You need to do all the things you expect from a successful project: robust business case; clearly defined scope; agreed goals and objectives; realistic implementation plan.

But you know where it starts. It starts with feedback and input from external sources, combined with innovation to produce a best-in-market revenue cycle.

Sales and Marketing Alignment in your business

“You know what?” says Jack Kosakowski at the end of the Sales Hacker panel discussion.

“Sales can’t live without Marketing and Marketing can’t live without Sales.”

He’s right.

Break through the existing paradigm and Sales and Marketing enter a beautiful relationship.

A relationship that can play-out in your business if you follow these five compelling strategies on Sales and Marketing Alignment.

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Good luck.