SOS: Do You Need to Increase Sales?
If you need consistent, predictable, year-over-year increases in sales, you need a Sales Operating System (SOS) to drive sales.
Most CEOs would never dream of running a company without process around everything from production to accounting. Yet, sales often operates with either no system or an outdated system that can't support company sales goals. Sales success requires sales processes and systems, just like your other departments need HR, accounting, or production systems and processes.
Building and implementing a Sales Operating System provides visibility into your sales organization's inner workings, so you know exactly what is happening in sales and can manage your team toward reliable, predictable growth year-over-year. Who doesn't want that?
So, if you are feeling pressure to increase sales and are ready to grow your sales team, it's time for a sales operating system.
Sales Operating System
A Sales Operating System is the infrastructure needed to run a sales organization. It includes the strategies, the frameworks, and the systems that support your sales. These are the things that provide structure, priorities, and focus for your team.
CEOs and founders often talk about sales as if it is a black hole. They feel like they drop leads in the top and hope something comes out the bottom. It shouldn't be that way! While there will always be some unpredictability in sales, the better your Sales Operating System is functioning, the more predictable and reliable your sales growth will be.
When people think of sales operations, they often think of sales enablement technology like SalesForce, OutReach, or Gong. Those tools support the sales operating system. They are not the system itself, and often you can't implement them until you design your Sales Operating System.
A Sales Operating System consists of strategies, frameworks, and systems that enable your sales team to work more effectively by focusing on the things that matter most. Your Sales Operating System starts with robust strategies that help set priorities that focus the team. The sales process you build supports the strategy. Then, leadership needs to manage using those systems to get the best results. You can always assess the strategies and systems and make changes when things aren't working, or the world around you changes.
An effective Sales Operating System has four components: Strategy and Frameworks, Systems and Processes, Management, and Assessment.
Your mission is to implement the system and frameworks that will support the strategy you have created to achieve your company's goals.
Sales is not a series of fortunate accidents; it results from well planned and executed strategies.
A strategy is the plan to get from where you are now to where you want to be. It's your roadmap or Google Map.
Strategies help achieve overall company goals, including sales goals, achieve individual goals, and to set and achieve goals in key accounts.
Often, for a strategy to be effective, we need some frameworks to help structure the pieces. One example is a SWOT analysis. It is a framework for analyzing your ability to achieve a strategy based on your current situation. Another way to think of a framework is a set of descriptions and rules that help us understand how things work. An excellent example of that is what I call a Sales Positioning Framework. It includes your mission, how your company and product fit into the marketplace, who your ideal customer is, and a compelling value proposition. This framework is critical to bring a team together around what matters most. A sales communication framework is a useful tool because it sets up the guidelines around communicating with prospects and customers.
Strategy and frameworks are the highest level of your Sales Operating System. It tells you where you are going and why, and it sets parameters that help manage priorities.
System and Process
The second component is the systems and processes. Your organization will achieve the strategic goals when you have functioning systems and processes that will support the behaviors required to achieve the goals. The more complex your selling environment, the more critical the systems and processes that support it are.
A process is a series of rules and steps that take you from start to finish. Most companies have a lead generation process, a sales process, a process for responding to RFPs, putting together proposals, and onboarding new clients. That set of rules and steps helps us make sure we don't miss anything important.
A system is a group of components that work together. The re: Sales Operating System includes strategies, frameworks, and processes as well as technology to support it. But in smaller bites, you may have a sales process and a communication framework that work together to create a system.
The more systematic the activities in the sales arena are, the fewer the mistakes, and the more consistent the results. Make sure that the lead generation process is delivering qualified leads that are worth the seller's time. Make sure the handoff from marketing to sales is seamless. Don't let leads get lost in the handoff.
Establish a sales process and an opportunity management process to follow the leads from start to close. It is critical that sellers follow the sales process, making sure to communicate with all the buyers and to avoid skipping steps when possible. When the sales process breaks down, so do sales results.
Finally, don't leave hiring and onboarding to chance. Hiring the wrong people or not onboarding the hires properly is one of the biggest problems in sales organizations. It is expensive in terms of wasted resources, but more importantly, wasted opportunities.
Systems don't work well unless they are managed and reinforced. The world moves naturally from order to disorder, and your sales team is no different. Sellers will always do what is quickest and most comfortable, not necessarily what will get the results you want.
Salespeople are notorious for being independent, self-motivated, and extroverted. They tend to disdain processes and systems. Despite that, they are more effective when they follow systems and processes that support their success.
For those reasons, it is challenging to manage salespeople. What you can do is manage the processes and hold your sellers accountable for fulfilling certain expectations. The clearer the expectations and the more consistently they are reinforced, the more likely your salespeople will follow them. As soon as you stop managing and reinforcing the sales processes, sellers will stop following them.
Establish structure around team meetings, one-to-ones, coaching sessions, and funnel review. Set the expectations about what will happen before, during, and after meetings. Don't veer from the expectations. Once they know what to expect, they will learn how to prepare and will be prepared. If they aren't prepared, don't let them off the hook. Consistency around the right behaviors will improve results every time.
Finally, every system needs to be assessed. Do you have all the right components? Are they all working the way they should? What needs to change to get better results? If you have the right strategy and frameworks in place and the systems to support the strategy you have developed, you should start to see the results you need.
Some good indications that your Sales Operating System is working well are: there should be fewer fires to put out, close dates should be more accurate, close ratios should improve, sales cycles should shorten. Overall, sales should become more predictable, and most importantly, sales revenue should increase.
If that isn't happening, it's time to assess. Do you have the right strategy? Are you appropriately positioned in the market? Is your messaging working? Do your systems to support your strategy? Are you managing consistently?
Maybe it's time to make some changes. Do you need to revisit your strategy based on changes in the marketplace? Are your lead generation and sales strategy workable, or do they need to be adjusted? Are the systems you set up efficient and easy to use and do they support the sales effort, or do they need to be improved? And finally, do you have the right people in the right jobs to make this all work?
Like any system, your Sales Operating System needs to be continuously improved and changed as your situation changes.
Implementing your system
Your Sales Operating System is unique to your company. It isn't plug and play, and there are no shortcuts. You will need to create a sales operating system that meets the specific realities of your company. Once you build it, everyone who touches the system must understand it. The sales operating system isn't just for sales. Marketing, operations, accounting, and anyone else who interacts with the process needs to understand it and support it.
Once everyone understands it, set out the expectations about how everyone will interact with the system. Make sure they know the rules, the cadences, and the outcomes expected. No one is exempt. Set out the expectations, make sure everyone starts using the system. That means everyone is working toward the same strategies and goals. Everyone understands what their role is in achieving those goals. Everyone is following the process and using the systems.
Then it is critical to reinforce. If leadership indicates at any time that it is OK to skip steps or ignore the rules, people will. As a result, the system will fall apart, and the growth will stall, or sales will decline.
The sales operating system represents a cultural change in your organization, and that kind of change is never easy. So, the question for you is, can you do it and is it worth it? If you want a predictable revenue stream, to manage the unmanageable, fewer mistakes and more sales revenue, then it is worth the effort it will take to create, implement, and reinforce your sales operating system.
If you would like some help getting started, schedule a no-cost, no-obligation call with a sales strategist.