Building Your Sales Machine

Oct07, 2016


In my most recent post about building a demand generation plan, we discussed how marketing can use simple math to create a winning formula. But what about the other side of the equation? The side that does the selling. I’ve never held back about marketing needing to align with sales to be successful—but the pendulum swings both ways, and sales is also accountable for aligning with marketing. Like the relationship between a quarterback and receiver, it’s all about timing and being on the same page.

If marketing is traditionally held responsible for 50% of the leads, what is sales doing to make up that other half? Yes, many of them do end up coming from marketing sources like analyst reports, press, and general brand awareness, but let’s face it—without a true partnership between marketing and sales, leads would never become opportunities and opportunities would never close.

The “Where Are the Leads” Myth

Sales organizations often make the mistake of prioritizing the “almighty lead” first and foremost. I’ve often joked the most commonly heard comment from sales leaders is “I need more leads.” However, simply dumping a bunch of leads in the top of the funnel is simply an old school way of looking at things. But it’s important to remember that a lead isn’t just a number or a profile. It’s a person. Just like you and me. And they don’t care about your sales process. They simply care about getting as much information as possible to make an informed solution. I agree completely with Jay Baer when he says “helping is the new selling.” While traditional demand gen models say marketing and sales own equal shares of lead generation goals, the truth is that everything kind of blends together. The most important thing is the velocity at which you turn those leads into opportunities and how effectively you help a prospect through the buying cycle.

Pipeline Velocity

The true hero of the demand gen equation? In my opinion, it’s pipeline velocity—by far the most overlooked metric of the whole model. How well are you moving prospects through the buyer’s journey, thinking from their perspective instead of as a seller trying to meet quota? The key is in relentlessly tracking conversion rates and pinpointing the exact location of the problem areas to solve them more accurately.

  • Lead to opportunity rate stalling out? Dig in to see if BDRs or reps aren’t following up fast enough or you’re targeting the wrong audience.
  • Oppty to closed won rate failing? It may be a messaging or sales training issue.

The challenge often doesn’t come back to the number itself. It’s about the conversation between your team and the buyer. The companies that are winning are successfully blending the art and science of selling—combining the data and optimization of the sales cycle with the humanness of the buyer’s journey.

Success lies in effective enablement. How well are reps being trained to sell with a message that is not only accurate, but consistent across the company (not to mention relevant to the buyer in solving their challenges.) If the message is off, then nothing else matters. In my experience, enablement can often work best when it’s in marketing. In enterprise sales, it’s not uncommon for it to take about 9-12 months to ramp a rep—but I think that’s way too long. If hiring fundamentals are strong and there is a solid training/onboarding program (followed by tight messaging and positioning), ramp-up times are often cut in half.

After all, sales and marketing are the only two departments linked together on the income statement. Yet, few leaders are managing the whole. Anyone can say they’ll have a more holistic approach, but how does it actually manifest in your sales plan? Let’s take a look at the science behind the sales machine with a template of simple inputs you can easily plug in.

5 Simple Elements to an Effective Sales Plan

In my last post, I highlighted the fact that we as marketers often over complicate things—especially when it comes to hitting our lead generation goals. In much the same way, we’ve started over thinking how we accomplish our sales targets and made it way too hard.  All you need to create a strong sales plan are the answers to these five simple questions (which you might already know off the top of your head):

  1. How many reps do you have?
  2. How much quota is each carrying?
  3. How fast can you ramp up a new rep?
  4. How much quota do you want to over-assign?
  5. What percentage of revenue is sales responsible for?

Once you know these inputs, it’s simple to crank through a hiring plan. To help you execute on building your sales team’s capacity, we’ve linked a model below that you can implement within your organization.

Just like the marketing template I shared in my last post, I collaborated with High Alpha’s finance expert, Blake Koriath. High Alpha is a close partner of Hyde Park Venture Partners, and the first investment from our second fund in May 2015. High Alpha is a venture studio that conceives, launches, and scales cloud-based software companies. Blake is a huge part of that process, as a finance professional that truly understands the overlap of sales, marketing, and finance as the backbone of SaaS companies.

SaaS Sales Capacity Model (Link to Sheet)

As an early stage investor, I often see companies missing the mark when it comes to reaching revenue benchmarks. Not to oversimplify the complexities of building a startup, but at its core, SaaS is a numbers game. Without staying on top of your sales rep hiring and training, you are always going to be playing catch up. For example, if you aren’t hiring now for 2017, you’re already behind. The math sneaks up on you quickly, leaving little time for recovery. Don’t let that happen to you. Time is the one thing that you cannot get back, even with money. Not factoring in the proper lead time needed to hire enough reps to achieve growth is a major oversight.

Blake and I created this simple model to help you visualize your sales goals, and build a hiring plan to successfully get you there. Of course, it’s all about execution, not math, in the end. This is where the art aspect of the process comes into play. Hiring the right reps, and quickly onboarding them to ensure they’re set up for success.

Understanding the Pressure of Sales

In closing, we can’t underestimate the difficulty and pressure that sales reps go through when they’re out in the field. If you don’t believe it, go carry a bag for a while. Marketing and the rest of the organization must still commit to understanding and respecting the day-to-day pressure that sales faces when striving to achieve those goals, and adjust accordingly to ensure they’re successful. The more you understand about how the two teams work together, the more your selling machine will be cranking on all cylinders.

This post is the third in a three-part series on Demand Gen. The first two posts, “Demand Gen vs. Branding: Which is More Important” and “How to Build a Killer Demand Gen Plan” have generated great discussions. Please comment below, and share with your team.


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