March 29, 2019

Secret Weapons In Building A Winning Enterprise Sales Organization

Kiva Kolstein

By Kiva Kolstein, AlphaSense CRO

Every enterprise sales organization needs a secret weapon or two in its arsenal. True secret weapons are unexpected, used at the right time, and generally lead to wins. They remove obstacles, amplify your powers, and tip the scales in your favor. Consider the tank in World War I, Navajo code talkers in the Pacific Theater, or antibiotics in 20th century medicine.

In Sales, your secret weapon is often strengthened by how you structure your team. The commonly held belief is if we just hire more sellers, or more experienced sellers, we’ll win more business. Too many first-time CEOs or inexperienced sales leaders think this way. They attempt to scale a sales organization by pouring more bodies at the problem, then wonder where they went wrong when aggressive targets aren’t achieved.

The key to victory or accelerating enterprise sales growth isn’t more sellers. It isn’t even about hiring better ones. As long as you’ve already hired great sellers, it’s about what you do with your existing sellers, and how well you know your own business.

The two most important functions (and my secret weapons!) for getting there are Sales Enablement and Revenue Operations. Not the sales enablement role who occasionally helps a new hire get up to speed on a deck. And not junior sales ops doubling as Salesforce admin, who spend most of the time on leads and contacts.

I’m talking about senior people with broad responsibilities, each tied to the performance of the business, and with good reason.

“Sales Enablement allows you to maximize the return on investment you’ve made in your people, and your people to maximize their investment in you.”

 – Alea Homison, VP of Sales Enablement, AlphaSense

Enterprise Sales Enablement: Secret Weapon #1

True Sales Enablement should be designed to achieve three key objectives:

  • New Hire Onboarding
  • Performance Ramp
  • Ongoing Sales Effectiveness

New hire onboarding (Three weeks)

This process brings new hires into your sales organization/culture the right way.

Week 1: Train on your organization (people and functions), target vertical markets, client personas, and competitive landscape. Week 1 ends with a presentation to senior management and go/no go decision into Week 2.

Week 2: Train on personal thesis, upfront contract (thank you Sandler!), agenda setting, intro client deck, demo, discovery, and objection handling. Week 2 includes two presentations to senior management, each resulting in a go/no go decision to get to next phase of training.

Week 3: Train on client use cases and value stories by persona. Week 3 ends with a presentation to peers on value stories, casually told in front of the room.

Performance ramp (12 weeks)

At AlphaSense, we ramp our team’s output by building our sales methodology into every conversation so it becomes part of their DNA. Training focuses on role-specific skills like:

  • Research
  • Using email tools like Outreach
  • Prospecting
  • Presentation
  • Discovery
  • Objection handling
  • Writing mutual plans and trial engagement plans
  • Negotiating and closing

It also defines key success indicators, measuring activity goals, and pipeline management.

Every AE or SDR knows exactly what they’re responsible for each of the next 12 weeks. Sales Enablement is providing constant support to the rep, and feedback to management around progress.

Enhancing sales effectiveness (ongoing)

We’re continuously tying everything back to the sales process. It is important to create a culture of continuous learning,  constant feedback, and accountability. Sales Enablement is a commercially-minded partner to our ramped-up sellers that provides:

  • Regular performance training
  • Bi-monthly sales skills development
  • Small group training
  • Deal workshops
  • Client call and meeting feedback

“As a seller, there’s no single more helpful resource available to me than our Sales Enablement function. Alea is essentially an in-house strategist, helping me analyze my territory, craft custom messaging by persona, and workshop live deals from the very first interaction through partnership decision. In some organizations, Sales Enablement might simply mean checking the box on Sales Training. If done correctly, it means constantly leveling up your entire sales organization.”

– Jordan Lert, Enterprise AE, AlphaSense

In addition, Sales Enablement serves as a liaison between our product, marketing, sales, and executive teams. This total buy-in makes each level of your organization an extension of the sales process.

Revenue operations: Secret weapon #2

Most sales leaders hire a sales ops resource when their team grows beyond the first 10 reps, and there’s an acute need for basic reporting and someone to fix the broken stuff in Salesforce. This resource is valuable for a while, but as the team expands, Sales Ops continues to deliver the same reports every month without taking into account how the business has evolved since there were just 10 reps. The sales leader also continues to believe a basic dashboard showing pipeline and sales-by-rep is all the visibility they need to run the business. As a result, most of these sales leaders don’t recognize blind spots until it’s too late.

“If Sales Enablement is people and Revenue Ops is process, and both are good at their jobs, you should have no blind spots in the business.”

– Tucker Borgman, Head of Revenue Operations, AlphaSense

Identifying opportunities and executing

Revenue Ops provides the leadership team with a holistic, end-to-end view of the entire customer journey. At AlphaSense, Rev Ops threads together data from every team, so we can take a microscope to every single stage of the marketing and sales funnel, and our entire customer base. We can identify non-obvious growth opportunities most people would miss, and quickly act on the opportunity. We can also diagnose and correct small issues at the top of the funnel before they ever have a chance to become bigger problems downstream. We can also see which prospects become MQLs fastest and at the highest conversion rates by channel, campaign, persona, and customer segment.

If we know one of our marketing channels is generating more MQLs, we’ll double down there immediately. We know exactly which opportunities will close the fastest, and at the highest win rate by vertical and company size. If an AE is closing bigger deals within a particular vertical, we’ll adjust their territory immediately. When a new customer signs up, we can quantify the expansion opportunity because we’ve modeled their propensity to buy and we know the exact TAM for that specific account.

Diagnosing and fixing issues

With an end-to-end view of our entire funnel broken into its smallest component parts, we can proactively diagnose problems with laser precision and prescribe corrective action instantly. Are the marketing, sales development, and new business teams each hitting their monthly pipeline generation quotas? Has each AE hit their individual meetings target this month, which will give them the pipeline they need next quarter? Which reps aren’t following up with MQLs within the time defined in our SLA? Which accounts haven’t the AMs had a check-in call with in the last 30 days?

Revenue Operations is one of the most critical pieces when building an Enterprise Sales foundation. They surface growth opportunities you otherwise might miss, and advise the CRO on the fastest and most effective way to seize that opportunity. They also go far beyond fixing all the minor problems in your tools and processes. Rev Ops diagnoses systemic issues in your funnel, fixes them before they hamper productivity downstream, and put preventative measures in place so they can’t happen again.

Building an enterprise sales team

Sales Enablement and Revenue Operations are my secret weapons, and give me the confidence I can scale a massive, global enterprise sales org that consistently achieves target. Not everyone can hire an Alea Homison or Tucker Borgman to fill these roles, but there are no more important functions in a high growth enterprise sales org.

AlphaSense is growing globally. See open roles at AlphaSense here

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