Without the Right Structure for your Sales Team, Bad Things Happen

June 16, 2016 Mark Emmons


Just think if a four-way intersection was missing the traffic light. What would happen?

Nothing good, said Jonathon J. Leon Guerrero.

“Everyone would wonder, ‘Do I have the right of way?’” said Leon Guerrero, who runs sales operations at LeanData. “Everyone would be confused. And then it would be even worse when something unexpected happened, like if a pedestrian suddenly appeared in the crosswalk. Well, it’s the same idea for companies with their business process. Without any established rules, it would be chaos.”

That’s why the new generation of sales operations practitioners spend so much time thinking about how best to structure “rules of the road” for the revenue-generating team. The idea is to provide insights to the sales leadership that helps prevent ugly fender-benders — or worse — with precious leads and accounts. From Leon Guerrero’s perspective, sales ops is all about designing the most efficient sales process possible that always gets leads to the right place quickly.


Broken traffic light

And that means questioning, well, everything.

Define the Sales Team: “You have to figure out the entire process,” Leon Guerrero said. “It’s the single most important thing you do. Without a plan, you’re going to be lost. You need that structure.”

  • Are you hunters or farmers? Do you have an Outbound strategy of cold calls and cold emails (hunters)? Or do you have an Inbound business model (farmers) focused on the warmer leads consisting of demo requests and prospects who download content? Or are you a hybrid operation that combines both?
  • What is the best way to establish territories? It could be geography. Or it might be based on company size (SMB, mid-market, enterprise) using metrics such as the number of employees or revenue. Or perhaps it’s better if territories are segmented by industry – like healthcare, education, technology and so on.
  • Do you use a system of target accounts? If so, how are they treated differently from other accounts?
  • What is the composition of your sales team? Do you just use full-cycle sales reps? Do you have Sales Development Reps who act as the conversation starters and feed interested prospects to deal-closing Account Executives? If you’re using both, how many SDRs do you need to support each AE? And how many accounts should each role oversee?

Define the Rules of Engagement: A lead comes into Salesforce and then . . . what? You have to write a playbook that covers every possible eventuality. Only then can your sales team run the plays. Nothing should be left to chance. Leon Guerrero advises that you be as detailed as possible because if you have any holes in your rules system, it’s inevitable that leads will disappear into them.

  • Decide who should be in charge of what accounts. “It just gets you ready for any possibility,” Leon Guerrero said. Who owns customer accounts? Who owns target accounts? What kind of round-robin process should be created to make sure there’s a fair distribution of net-new leads?
  • All leads should not be treated the same. Think about customer leads, active-opportunity leads, net-new leads and leads coming from previous opportunities that had gone dark. They are all different. Each requires specialized attention. Who should be reaching out to those leads? AEs, SDRs or customer success?
  • Disputes are going to happen. It’s unavoidable. So what is your process for settling disagreements? What is your tiebreaker system? “At LeanData, we run through all the scenarios not only about when a lead comes in, but when there’s an overlap,” Leon Guerrero said. “If a rep reaches out to an account owned by another rep, what happens? Or what if one rep owns an account, but a prospect from that company visits a tradeshow booth and has a great conversation with a second rep? These things happen all the time.”
“It just makes your sales team more organized and ensures that you always know where leads are going.”

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Plan for Today and Tomorrow: “It always goes back to scalability,” Leon Guerrero said. “How do we build something that can grow with us? The process that you’re creating has to be repeatable, scalable and reportable.”

  • Nothing ever stays the same. Things change. Territories shift. Accounts are dropped. Sales team turnover happens. You’re building something for the business right now. But you’re also creating something dynamic that can evolve to different, and often unforeseen, circumstances months from now.
  • Are you using data to analyze trends? The way to build a sustainable engine is by making sure it can adapt to changing circumstances going forward.
  • Constantly question what you think you know. Are you willing to fine-tune your sales process based on new data? Business moves fast. Are you ready to move faster?

“You should always know exactly what you want to happen,” Leon Guerrero added. “It just makes your sales team more organized and ensures that you always know where leads are going.”

And asking the right questions now will prevent accidents later.


About the Author

Mark Emmons

Mark Emmons is the staff writer at LeanData. He previously was a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and Detroit Free Press. He can be reached at mark@leandatainc.com.

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