Today’s post is by Norman Behar, chairman and managing director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and white papers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications, including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.
Did you know a typical sales professional may rely on six or more cloud software applications (i.e., the sales stack) daily? Think of how many of the following you use all the time:
- Email (e.g., Outlook, Gmail)
- Business applications (e.g., Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
- CRM (e.g., Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics)
- Sales engagement (e.g., Outreach, SalesLoft)
- Virtual meetings (e.g., Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting)
- Team messaging (e.g., Slack, Chatter)
Most of us working in sales can’t function properly without many of these cloud software solutions. That’s why so many SaaS companies have sky-high valuations and aggressive growth rates to maintain them.
Managing Sales in a Rapid Growth Environment
In many cases, pre-IPO cloud software companies are held to ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue) growth rates of over 100 percent; after going public, growth is expected to exceed 50 percent. Even the very largest cloud software companies (e.g., Salesforce, Workday, and LogMeIn – all of which have annual revenues in excess of $1 billion) are still expected to post double-digit sales growth.
These hyper-growth environments put extreme pressure on the sales organizations of SaaS companies in terms of hiring, onboarding, training, coaching, and managing sales teams. In addition, they typically have highly specialized sales roles that focus on specific business objectives. While the actual titles may vary, a typical SaaS company will have sales roles that include:
- Business Development Representative (BDR) – Identify and qualify new customers and/or opportunities
- Account Executive (AE) – Sell into qualified (or what are perceived to be qualified) opportunities
- Account Manager (AM) – Manage large or strategic account relationships with a focus on growth within the account
- Customer success manager (CSM) – Emphasis on renewals and upgrades
- Sales Engineer (SE) – Focus on aligning solutions with “use cases” (pre-sale) and implementation (post-sale)
While growing and developing talent is critical for each of the above-listed functions, the greatest challenge typically falls on the frontline sales managers. Managing sales in a high-growth environment can be particularly difficult because accelerated growth rates typically result in the promotion of top sales performers into sales management roles.
The Challenge with Promoting Top Sales Performers into Frontline Sales Managers
While top salespeople have instant credibility based on their sales success, they generally have little to no sales management experience and usually struggle with this transition.
The importance of frontline sales management was recently highlighted in an article in the The Wall Street Journal, “The Economy’s Last Best Hope: Superstar Middle Managers,” which cited a Gallup study noting the compelling positive impact quality management has on employee productivity and engagement.
When it comes to managing sales teams, it helps to keep in mind the quality of your manager will affect the following key functions:
- Hiring – always easier when you have the right people on your team
- Performance management - creating a culture of accountability around sales behaviors and results
- Pipeline management – opportunity management and forecast accuracy
- Sales coaching – personalized coaching to improve selling skills
- Sales leadership – maintaining a positive, highly-engaged team
How Frontline Sales Managers Can Transcend the Daily Grind
Unfortunately, the sheer number of priorities at cloud software companies often leaves sales managers trapped in a daily grind of focusing on urgent tasks, attending meetings, and submitting reports as opposed to training managers to unleash the full power of their sales teams.
The good news is that sales managers can learn to adopt excellent sales management skills and techniques. This is especially necessary at any company where managers are expected to deliver extremely ambitious sales results.
Managing sales in a rapid growth environment require a sales management training program that introduces the knowledge, skills, and tools new frontline managers need to be successful. Then, the organization can help new sales managers make the transition to becoming a high-performing sales manager much more rapidly and with better results.
Click the image below to read more on this topic in our white paper, “Developing Great Frontline Sales Managers.”