SFDC Implementation: ways SME can make the investment impactful

Many SME adopt SFDC to drive transparency and efficiencies of their sales operations. They initiate the roll out with a lot of pomp and gusto, but do not witness the outcomes they have envisaged.  The implementation process goes awry, frustration creeps in, staff loose motivation and despite all the right start SFDC implementation loose its mojo. Reasons for this are plenty. Based on our experience we find seven deadly sins listed below are the major ones.

  1. DIY woes: Often, companies with 5-10 licenses believe SFDC is easy to roll out and they know all that is required to about SFDC fall into a DIY trap. SFDC is simple, and yet can be daunting to the founders and management of SMEs if they are new to such software. The complex functionality and features of SFDC need deeper understanding of not just the software but how it would be used to extract value for their company. Companies pursing DIY route end up with broken process and demotivated employees. This creates confusion in process design and leads to low adoption and utilization in many organizations. Also, does not force fit your time tested sales process to SFDC. This not increases the cost of customization, but actually impairs adoption of best practice.
  2. Whammy Cycles: In our experience, many SME choose to pursue SFDC without due considerations of their business cycle faced stability and adoption challenges. Salesforce or any sales software is best to be implemented during lean periods not during the high tide quarters. SFDC roll out requires sufficient training and hand on experience to gain adoption and depth of use. Drawing sales resources away from the market during high tides affects revenue recognition.
  3. Double timing: Whenever salesforce is rolled out, companies need to plan how they would pursue the sales planning and review in their current format and also planned adoption of SFDC. Companies need to adopt a business as usual data capture and review process, till the SFDC adoption is complete and stable. Maintaining sales administration around both BAU and new process is key for sales management.
  4. Data Despairs: Generic tools like excel spreadsheets are used in company for data collection and reporting at various stages of the sales cycle. Data is crucial to glean historical insights. Different formats are used during sales planning, sales activity, sales review makes data migration a tough task. Unfortunately, many SME do not realize the time and efforts to clean up and migrate data and they believe SFDC roll out must wait till all historical data is ported into the system.
  5. Rush Hour drive: SFDC like any other software necessitates change management. Start with a broad 90 days adoption plan, with intermediate milestones for team training, leadership absorption, salesforce administrator review and beta roll outs. Without planned schedules, emphasis on compliance and rush jobs, companies end up pressurizing their resources, but end up with poor adoption. This is a primary reason for disillusionment of SFDC roll out.
  6. Misaligned teams and incentives: Many sales teams discourage sharing of information about networks & influence of client organizations across team members. A particular sales person may be approaching a client organization in a certain suboptimal way without privy to alternate courses. Other colleagues may have prior experience of the account and/or situation to tide over the apprehensions. Bereft of multiple perspectives, the sales cycle would linger, and eventually the sales resource will lose interest on the account and drop it from his hunt. Incomplete sharing of information and inadequate planning for a particular opportunity is another challenge sales team face. Weak alignment, between inside sales and direct sales teams or KAM teams with others is another area that leads to sales inefficiencies.  Role conflicts and tensions may also arise due to operational and personality issues.  Poor policies on account transfer between direct and inside sales team, weak sales operations, and ineffective review can exacerbate drop rates. A salient issue in solution selling companies is lack of comprehensive involvement, poor alignment and ineffective role management between pre-sale and sale teams across various stages of a customer acquisition. Diffused and selective ownership without a complete coverage of customer experience management leads to lengthy customer requirement cycles, protracted customer sign off process and potential financial loss.
  7. SOC Underinvestment: For many companies, sales operation is an additional expense. Usually they would have a personal secretary or a junior clerk do the data management and generate basic reports. Sales operations also need people person with enough tact to obtain information without stepping on the boot. SME do not recognize SOC has key role in ensuring data availability, data integrity, support and monitoring of the resources. Sales leaders in SME sometime don the role of SOC without dilution of their priorities.
  8. Measurement errors: One of the key problems in sales is to choose the right metric on which sales resources are measured. The metric chosen are often not in alignment with the sales objectives set by the management. If the objective of the business may be sales improvement by up-selling a new product to existing customers, then the metrics chosen must be aligned to this. Measuring coverage or addition of new customers to the pipeline because we always did so is a classic case of misalignment of metrics and objectives. Many SME measure their lead generation team by number of mails sent and calls made in a day. Lead generation representative earned their incentives irrespective of whether their efforts were meaningful and delivered any tangible outcome. Measuring performance against the wrong metric results in ineffective incentive calculation. Beware, you may be setting up your sales to loose, not win.
  9. Parsimonious Training: Sitting on shoe string budgets, SMEs take train only a few people or let leader train approach while implementing SFDC. With leaders juggling multiple roles, if only leader is trained, people on the field are ignorant of the features and purpose of SFDC implementation. Learning and adopting is seen as tedious and time-consuming by the busy sales force. On the other hand, if the sales resources are trained to use SFDC and no training for management, the roll out may not get the visibility required to make a difference. Either way, the lack of training hurts the overall purpose of achieving sales improvement through CRM.
  10. Acrimonious Reviews: In many SME reviews turn out to be generous expletive session which leaves an acidic taste for the participants and satisfy the ego of leaders. SME also suffer from data itch at inappropriate levels. It is not uncommon to see balance between big picture and details lost at several layers of sales organization. Functional focus and sales objectives get messed up and review meetings end up meandering around specific accounts or a customer at the cost of overall funnel.  It is not just what is reviewed, but how often it must be reviewed is another challenge for SME leaders. Some SME leaders resort to daily review meetings even when they are not in run rate business.

What must SME do get their SFDC roll out return higher moolah than what they have invested in terms of money and efforts. Simple, plan in advance, manage roll out and keep it simple. Here are the tips to get the best out of SFDC implementation.

  1. Work with partner ecosystem: SFDC ecosystem hosts partners from around the world who have experience and expertise in implementing SFDC. Involving partners will bring industry best practices to the company and help maximize ROI. Process design and training services are also offered by SFDC partners. Partners make a huge difference by bringing industry best practices and insights on salesforce administration and review.
  2. Blending Times: The management should understand the business cycle and choose a time when the sales force is not pre-occupied for roll out of CRM. If the company sees higher activities in Q1 and Q4, our recommendation is to roll out SFDC in Q2. This would give the sales team time to understand, absorb, and adopt before the start of the crucial last quarter.
  3. Parallelize rollout: In our experience, SFDC process roll out and existing process must be running in parallel for at least 45-60 days. Parallelizing the process addresses adoption challenges, especially the front end sales resources. In our experience, the ease of use and simplicity of the process is vital for SFDC adoption.
  4. Plan Data Migration: Encouraging the sales teams to clean up current data by provisioning some time for this activity eases post-implementation challenges. Outsource data migration activity to third parties, the cost is abysmally low and keeps your staff engaged in most value impacting sales activity.
  5. Planned change: Implementing SFDC in the relatively quite periods during the sales cycle gives enough time for the sales resource to understand the working of new software. We recommend a 90-120 day period before the company can achieve maximum utilization of the CRM. Providing time initially can go a long way in acceptance of the CRM tool. Setting a date for going live and working back from that day in a 3-4 month time frame can help achieve better results upon implementation. Setting milestones for data clean up, data migration, training for staff and leadership, designing sales process on SFDC and finally going live makes the process more efficient. Stage gating also gives agility to the process. Review at each stage helps the management identify any possible challenges and suitable alterations can be recommended. This reduces the chances of major upsets once the process is complete.
  6. Gamify metrics: As discussed in the earlier section, if the objective is to up-sell new product, to the existing clients, metrics like revenue growth from key customers or % of deals progressing in key accounts must be measured. Many CRMs like SFDC have gamification capabilities. Gamification is the process of creating a game experience in a non-gaming environment. It helps improve sales by rewarding and recognizing the individual or team performance against the metric chosen. Gamification can be used at various stages of sales cycle. If the objective is sales improvement by up-selling a new product to existing customers, creating a gamified experience which rewards the sales force every time they meet this objective can motivate the individual or team to perform better. Points can be awarded for collaborated efforts from members within a team leading to faster closure of deals. This will instill the spirit of collaboration. Hence, business result and behavior improvements can be achieved by the right use of gamification.
  7. Copious training & Ownership: It cannot be emphasized enough that educating all concerned about the purpose and use of the CRM is the key to implementation success. It can be argued that with proper training, all the other challenges that organizations may face can be negated. It is critical to enable the sales resources to use the technology provided to them. Unless the people on the field enter the data, mangers use it to review and plan; management cannot expect high ROI on the CRM. Through training, the sales department should be made aware that SFDC, will be their ‘single point of truth’ for all their data. Management’s forward looking aspirations must be clearly communicated. The sales force should know that SFDC is a tool to help them perform better and not to create a sales accounting system. Compliance through ownership of the process must be the goal of training. Reinforcing the idea of giving support and training them to use it should lead to success in CRM implementation. Decentralize teams across product lines or focus (hunting vs harvesting), define broad contours of ownership & tactics.
  8. Invest in SOC: Sales operations centre or coordination has different meaning for every company. In some, sales coordination does number collation and crunches data. In some they are responsible for system, programs and process. In some they are responsible for pricing and participate in large complex deals. Fundamentally, the role of sales coordination is to capture the data related to sales activities, and help sales team to make decisions based on data rather than subjective assessment. Sales operations more than just being a data sink, helps integration benefits to the organization by linking various sub-sales motions, right from inside sales to direct sales. While many sales resources may have love/hate relationship with the sales, creating and sustaining the sales coordination and review operations is a must for successful sales improvement plan.
  9. Focussed Reviews: SME leaders forget the sales review is to evaluate the direction (market and offerings), pace (movement between stages), and behavioural correction. Erudite sales strategies can only yield result if they are embraced and executed with right breadth and depth at various levels. Encourage your team to share the presentation in advance, keep the review period short, and stick to the set agenda. Leaders must come prepared with areas that need to be addressed and use the podium to invite suggestions and solutions. Effectively engaging and connecting with sales team at strategic and execution level is a must to see the intended outcomes. Sales leaders must demonstrate their ability to take tough decision based on data. Reviews must involve sales, marketing and product teams, and bring visibility across the company. Finally, reviews must go beyond sales activity to know what is working and what is not and how to improve it.

Peter Seller’s, Being there (1979) Hollywood film, has an interesting message. In the movie, US President asks a simple and sheltered gardener whether growth could be simulated through temporary incentives. Sellers who played the gardener makes a profound statement, garden needs to watered regularly, weeds needs to removed and roots supported to run deeper to survive across seasons and witness growth. Companies adopting SFDC must understand CRM is a cultural change and requires investment, management efforts and patience to yield results.  Sales team members must experience the trust and openness to share everyone view and the collective decision making.  To get the best out of your SFDC, keep the focus beyond template, keep the migration simple, involve all concerned and reap the benefits.

Bhavana S Kashyap and Dr TR Madan Mohan

Why Sales enablement is key to SFDC led sales transformation

It was interest meeting sales leader of a two decade old furniture manufacturing company that serves primarily office and industrial segment. In the course of the discussion what he mentioned brought old demons back and it seemed world has not moved. The company has rolled in SFDC with all earnest but was finding poor adoption by front line staff, data management was a challenge and resistance to change at mid-senior levels. Reports usage was far and few and sales operations patchy. What transcribed was they had seen SFDC as IT tool and not used this to recast their sales operations. Even after roll out of SFDC, company management had not aligned their marketing and sales. From our experience this is not a one off case. Many CRM roll outs do not seem to have met the expected outcomes.

In our experience CRM tools like SFDC yield significant impact when companies create the right environment, define expectations and encourage ownership to adhere and improve outcomes. People involvement is the key to outcome. Training, incentivizing adoption by gamification and other principles is important to drive adoption. Resistance to change can be addressed only through education and enablement of sales teams. Sale roles whether acquisition or account mining have their own nuances and challenges. Sales review templates is a major bone of contention. Address their fears and apprehensions, educate them how transparency is critical for sales and their organization. Direct, partner or inside sales team require customized sales training for functional improvement, but also broad based training to appreciate cross-functional integration. Invest in training to lock out legacy issues including why move beyond call list and Excel sheets.  Let the sales resources realize SFDC will help not micromanage them. Let them discover the value of managing out-of-date sales funnel data.

Ensuring sales leaders at all levels demand compliance with set standard is important to drive adoption and breadth of use of SFDC. Consistency and rigour in SFDC can be brought in by bringing on board a sales administration during SFDC roll out. Creating a dedicated sale operations centre is must. SOC will ensure all forms of waste is eliminated; all states and faults are visible and equip the company to correct quickly. Adopting suitable process whether SPIN, or SPENCO others that suit the organization brings standardization benefits.  A salesforce administrator ensures sales processes are not disjointed and workflows are all over the organization. Salesforce administrator also plays a key role in expansion and scaling up of SFDC roll out.

Sales teams must also be trained to use different marketing assets at each stage of sales process so that right assets are deployed at right stage. This is important for many solution based organization as the predominant approach is to use demos even when qualification is not done. Sales teams must use assets including blogs, SEO, Media placement to create brand awareness at qualification stage. Need analysis stage may need case studies, white papers and explainer videos to convey experience and expertise. Negotiations stage may need ROI or TCO templates, presales led demonstrations and product walkthroughs, product testimonials to address credibility, references and case scenarios. Thought leadership, product manuals, user tools may be required at closure stage. Marketing must work hand in hand with sales to create content that can create opportunities for sales team and help them closure better. Marketing team must consistently use feedback from sales team to create content that they actually use and create content around sales pipelines. While papers, frameworks, blogs, Infographics, videos all have their own value, cost and time to create. Sometimes, a goliath of an asset is what is required and hence marketing TAT’s become crucial. Similarly, sales resources must give inputs on user behaviour, competitive programs and what is working and what is not from door opening to closure.

 ROI of the SFDC increases if it is kept simple.  Take care of people (including organization parameters like structure, who owns what), technology, processes and add a dose of common sense, that all is what you need to ensure your SFDC roll out rocks.

Dr TR Madan Mohan and Bhavana S Kashyap

Getting the Juice out of gamification on SFDC

Sales is a competitive function and management realizes they need tools and methods to keep their sales flock motivated to go after opportunities. Many companies use BLAP (badges, leader boards, achievements, points) gamification methods hoping they would excite their sales force to change their behaviour or move in a certain direction. SFDC has many plugins including Hoopla, Ring my bell, Level Eleven, Spinify, Nitro and others that allow companies to use BLAP to roll out gamification to direct and manage their sales teams effectively. When designed properly, BLAP on SFDC can drive organizational and sales performance. They can be used to shape people’s behaviour by highlighting what are required and creating positive reinforcement actions for those adhering or meeting the desired behaviour or actions. Sales gamification works best when it is used to spur a sales team to sustain a boring and repetitive task while enabling user control in tracking progress with some fun. Sales gamification works when it improves engagement around tasks and workflows not just as a part of the job, but adoption of non-job related activities. If the objective is to increase the volume of sale pitches or log more appointments, push more calls to high-potential leads in SFDC gamification works best. All these are best examples of extrinsic motivation led tasks.

When designed poorly, SFDC BLAPs can bring unintended effects including de-motivation, attrition and possibly driving people to game the system by adopting wrong behaviour. From a gamification design perspective, one must use gamification for tasks that are primarily uninteresting for most but have information and decision making value to the company. It is also important to ensure gamification does not undermine intrinsic motivation of the employee to perform or what is known as over justification effect.

Expected leverage for sales gamification could be outcome or behaviour changes. However, how SFDC BLAP shared either in public or within a selective group has an impact on the gamification results. When BLAP are awarded in public, they confer recognition and status, but can also make inequality more apparent and could be de-motivating. Assessing sales team working in different regions with unique regional challenges; measuring them on sales outcome when the experience of the resources is varied, creates a feeling of inequality and unfair. Also, if your leadership scorecard has the same names coming up each month, it may not serve as motivational hook for underperforming sales resources. In fact this may lead to settling at “contentment zone” fallacy. If a company uses sales gamification around attendance and punctuality, the program can be de-motivational. Sales resources who are mostly on the field may perceive this as lack of trust and curtailing of their freedom. Such acts impinge on autonomy, trust and sense of ownership which all affect intrinsic motivation.

Leader board serves two primary purposes – to assess the performance of all people across the organization and making it visible to the all users. While designing a leader board, one not only need to understand what is its purpose, but also how results would be communicated. Signalling effect of communicating outcomes is an under focussed area when companies roll out gamification. Companies must realize not all sales outcomes be publicly visible scorecards. There is an element of appropriateness, probity and hierarchy that needs to be preserved to ensure reinforcement of positive behaviour. Hence some scorecards must be visible to only specific levels or teams. Carefully designing metrics and appropriate communication method can be an important route to enhancing gamification effectiveness and reduce its adverse effects.  If the gamification is used to measure the rate of adoption of SFDC amongst different teams, then publicly displaying under-utilisation of CRM may de-motivate and discourage a team that is leading in funnel growth. Communicating this result privately may help bring about the desired behaviour correction without any adverse effects.

Reality of human behaviour is more complex than the simple vision built into most gamification apps.  SFDC gamification loses appeal once position are fixed or taken. Even SFDC leader boards can exhaust themselves quickly as few performers at top and laggards in the later part. Key to effectiveness of SFDC gamification is to use it for short-term or as a one-off activity. One way to keep the friendly completion and fun element is by bringing in fair play to avoid “self-selection of contentment zone”.  Use SFDC gamification considering all aspects, limit it a period till intended behavioural outcomes can emerge and quickly dismantle it when it outlives its utility.

Bhavana S Kashyap

Are your sales and marketing aligned across Segments?

Robert De Nero and Anne Hathway starer “The Intern” has a particular scene wherein the sales analysis shows the company has been spending more marketing dollars on low value segments and practically nothing at all on high margin low volume segment.  Does not this sound familiar? While companies realize Sales and marketing need to be tightly aligned, but that seldom is the case.  A senior marketing director in a recent conversion blurted out that while her marketing budget has increased YoY, the ROI seems to be elusive. What was bothering her was the fact the company spends substantially in curated events managed by respected analysts, and yet sales find the coverage insufficient.

Companies spend a fortune on the conferences and events but the outcomes belie expectations. It is not surprising for many corporates to find 75% of the participants who attended their events came for free lunch or a swanky dinner. Many of the participants may not be the decision maker or influencers, but pretty junior in their organization. Corporate gifts, industry exhibitions cost a dime, and yet ineffective. Albeit companies continue to pursue many of these acts they are afraid to pause and question fundamentals. What is the objective of the event?. Why this city and this hour?, How this format will help sell their ware?. Unfortunately, many leaders want to just follow the herd. Therefore it is not surprising when studies across industry indicate:

  • 50% of marketing budget is totally wasted
  • Only 34% of feel their content marketing works
  • 25% had no marketing strategy
  • 44% had no alignment between various marketing media

So how can companies ensure their marketing dollars are well spent and drive intended sales outcome. On the outset, it is important to realize marketing function serves three objectives. These are inform, influence and advocacy.  Any marketing activity is to help consumers associate with the brand, help differentiate its offerings and seek higher revenues. Companies use various marketing assets to communicate to the interest group their unique existence, product/service offering set, pricing and other advantages. The objective is maximize reach at an affordable cost. Companies use several approaches to drive influence. Awards, citations, sponsored industry events, directed online community forums, endorsements are all effective mediums of influencing consumers. Advocacy is to enlist willing individuals who would eschew the role of brand ambassadors and drive positive word of mouth.

Different marketing assets serve different purpose and effective at different stages of sales cycle. Assets such as breakfast meeting facilitates more personalized one on one discussion that may be more effective in later stages of sales cycle. On the other hand,   assets like newsletter or blog may be more useful in the early stages of sales cycle. Marketing assets also vary by their cost and impact. Some of these cost a dime and more effective to lock-in, while some may be low cost approaches to increase reach only.

Companies can realize better return on investments in their sales and marketing when these functions are congruent and well-coordinated. Congruency can be gained by ensuring same goals drive their quarterly activities, common goals entwine both functions at various levels and incentives encourage them to support each other. Coordination improves when event plans, promos, content marketing and other assets are aligned with sales motions. It is important to realize sales motions differ across segments within a company. Segments vary on the “value” of purchase and the number of customers in that particular segment. It is common to have a segment A that has few numbers of customers with a high purchase value. B and C segments are those with lower values of purchase and incumbent sizes. Each of these segments exhibit different sales behaviour. Purchasing cycles may be longer and more formal in Segment A, while the decision making could be shorter in Segment C.  Sales may have to interact and influence multiple owners in enterprise segment. Order qualifying criteria may not be just enough in Segment A. Marketing must be able to push the company over to order winning plateau.

Segment A requires an enterprise sales approach where formal decision structures and vendor registration and assessments exist. Customers in this segment may be well informed about the happenings in the markets, and well-endowed to invest high ticket investment. Many customers in this segment may already been served by your competitors and would only move if there is a compelling value proposition in terms of cost, or innovation advantage. Sales function is completely managed by direct sales as relationships and continuous coverage matter to enter and grow the revenues. While inside sales functions support the direct sales with deeper profiling of people and secondary data analysis, direct sales has a key role in engagement of the segment.

Customers in segment A place a high premium on scalable and proven solutions. Prior experience and in depth expertise of the vendor play a key role in awarding the project. Marketing platforms must facilitate experience sharing and credibility reinforcing functions for direct sales to influence and close deals in this segment.  Thought leadership vehicles including standards, industry frameworks and innovation ideas fly well in face to face meetings with the customers.  Breakfast meetings, Industry association, standard setting bodies, and Knowledge sharing conferences serve as valuable platforms for direct sales to position the company at state of art knowledge.  These platforms allow discussions to be personalized and centred on solving the problems the clients face, hence meeting service immediacy.

On the other hand, segment C, which has large number of customers with low ticket value may need a marketing and sales approach where the total transaction costs are optimised.  It is practical to have inside sales as the champion to host and on board customers in segment C. Marketing functions role for this segment is to improve the reach across the market and reuse the content to improve the richness of various marketing assets.  Companies can improve the reach and engagement with Segment C by adopting a consistent campaign blast policy. Mail them a newsletter, case studies and customer wins to increase awareness about your brand. Emphasize on content creation, curation and extension to reduce investments in content development. Content can be text, video and other formats. Use social media platforms to connect owners and decision makers and also to run campaigns.  Figure 1 presents the alignments between Segments and Marketing assets.

Figure 1: Alignment between segments and marketing assets.


Sales efficiencies can be gained only when direct sales team are running after few accounts with a deeper insight and ownership. Also, how the inside and partner (indirect) sales team complement the direct sales matters for Segments B and C. What works best is when companies know how to mesh mash both sales and marketing functions for each segment. Have a quarter-wise marketing plan aligned to sales expectations. Content development and curation can happen in stages and stronger stories and messaging will emerge with each asset to engage and influence customer. Having a common Head of Sales and marketing or marketing aligned with sales in another structural approach that can be tried. Cross functional teams tasked with joint activities across sales and marketing will also be useful.

Dr TR Madan Mohan



How companies are adopting Holacracy principles to build effective sales teams

For many companies, sales function is an area where outcome is never closer to expectation. Companies suffer from weak funnels, missed closures, lengthier closure cycles, order losses and attrition.  These are the waste that emanate in sales function. It is well known sales teams that hunt as a pack always produce better results than those that hunt individually. Unfortunately, many sales teams discourage sharing of information about networks & influence of client organizations across team members. Many a times a particular sales resource may be approaching a client organization in a certain suboptimal way without privy to alternate courses. Other colleagues may have prior experience of the account and/or situation to tide over the apprehensions. Bereft of multiple perspectives, the sales cycle would linger, and eventually the sales resource will lose interest on the account and drop it from his hunt. Incomplete sharing of information and inadequate planning for a particular opportunity is another challenge sales team face.  Weak alignment, between inside sales and direct sales teams or KAM teams with others is another area that leads to sales inefficiencies.  Role conflicts and tensions may also arise due to operational and personality issues.  Poor policies on account transfer between direct and inside sales team, weak sales operations, and ineffective review can exacerbate drop rates. A salient issue in solution selling companies is lack of comprehensive involvement, poor alignment and ineffective role management between pre-sale and sale teams across various stages of a customer acquisition. Diffused and selective ownership without a complete coverage of customer experience management leads to lengthy customer requirement cycles, protracted customer sign off process and potential financial loss.

Companies are realizing to counter bounded rationality problems, improve commitment and camaraderie within the sales teams, they need to build coopetition teams.  Teams in a coopetition collaborate to address common challenges, and address gaps and yet can remain competitive in pursuit of the individual goals. In recent years, companies like Ternary software, Zappos, David Allen Co, Precision Nutrition and others have adopted Holacracy (the system of self-governance) as an approach to build self-managing teams. Holacracy is an approach to distribute authority across the organization. In a Holacracy the organization evolves continuously adapting its structure and process through ongoing peer-to-peer governance. Common elements of organizations adopting Holacracy principles are a) constitution that defines the roles and distribution of authority related to tasks or outputs, b) roles and accountabilities, c) collaborative decision-making process enabling change in roles and authority consistent with evolution and d) meeting process that promotes co-creation and collaborative working.

Companies adopting Holacracy principles for sales organization implement following. Firstly, they create a leadership ring to build multiple owners who can eschew same corporate and sales dream and chase the horizon. However, unlike the Holacracy organizations, these rings are limited to the first level of sales, pre-sale and delivery management, the organization below each leader is still hierarchical. The leadership ring collectively evaluates opportunities, discusses approach or various sales motions (national, key accounts, acquisition, strategic account, label wins), creates proposals and pricing models, and comprehensively manages customer interaction.  The group runs as a virtual organization within the company. They validate customer requirements, aligned design and delivery, and eliminate rework. Recognizing the need for flexibility to counter exigencies, leadership ring has weekly rhythm meets to discuss progress and exceptions. Any engagement model deviations, change requests, requirement changes or client leadership exits are discussed openly, opinions are considered and a comprehensive approach is arrived after considering multiple perspectives. One strategy is collectively approved individuals are given complete ownership ad freedom to pursue the actions. To support the changes in the roles and ownership of different teams over the life cycle of a customer engagement, the sales teams build a culture and process where different people wear the leadership hat. In the initial part of customer engagement, sales resources own and direct inform and influencing of customer. However, a pre-sale expert takes over the solution enumeration and client acceptance, after which the sales leader and pricing teams dons the mantle. Finally, the crown comes back to the sales resource to chase the closure. Once the order is picked, the mantle moves to delivery as the prime owner and sales as the secondary owner. Finally, what distinctly distinguishes “Holacracy” team sales reviews, is this is not the typical high octane name calling threat laced ritual. The review system moves away from status and fault finding to status and solution offering. Each review meeting is initiated with a revisit of the purpose and with a focus on actions by individuals and team can impact positive outcome.

Companies adopting Holacracy principles for sales must understand it is a cultural change and requires both management investment and patience.  Sales team members must experience the trust and openness to share everyone view and the collective decision making. Parochial leaders may find the process limiting insular control of team and threatens group politics.  Importantly the ability to steer the focus towards “problem solving” than “one man up”  behaviour is the key to the success of the program.

Vasavi R, Sai Vinoth and Dr TR Madan Mohan

Priming your Industrial (B2B) sales…..

Industrial or B2B presents unique set of challenges.

Vendors may be selling to an intermediary for example an EPC or a contractor who in turn may be executing the project for an end user. While the intermediary may be more concerned with price, speed and availability, end user may focus on quality and performance. Managing diverse decision criterion requires fine balancing of relationships and strategies.

  1. Getting the product as an industry standard or emerge as a default choice is most important part of marketing. This may require informing and influencing not just the end user, but intermediaries like EPC also. Importantly the design folks within the client organization and outside need to be influenced and won over.
  2. B2B environment is highly competitive, in fact in some segments your former employees may be working for your competition with complete tacit information about sales strategy. Often there would be handful of customers with balance of purchasing power tilted towards them.
  3. B2B markets also highly exposed to commoditization. Pricing pressures could be high. Product cycles may be shortened by innovations and substitutes emerge often to displace the markets.
  4. Replacement market is a major growth opportunity. But the decision-making can be short, and unscientific. Replacements are made are 3rd party advice, availability, and price rather than quality or performance.
  5. White labelling or contract manufacturing is yet another sales growth opportunity that brings its own challenges of cannibalization of focus.
  6. B2B sale requires sales process to be customized to the procurement process. Unlike B2C business cold calls by themselves will not get business. According to a Forbes article, more than 50% of B2B sales resources consistently miss their targets. Many orders fail to materialize as the arc of meeting; educating, influencing and closing the order have been missed.


How can one ensure their B2B sale is firing? Right structural alignment, adherence to process to capture the activity at each sales stage, and appropriate incentive systems help a company realize right sales outcomes is what I actually needed to make B2B sales happen.

Get the right rhythm of activities between arc of initial meeting, mapping of key decision makers, product education and influence, defining right commercial terms and closure. End users need to have a solid reason to place an order, may need to follow up documentation and hierarchy before the decision is made.  Customer segmentation, need analysis, profitability and associated risks must be weighed much before you respond to an RFP.  If the end user happens to be government or large organization additional challenges of bank guarantees, penalties and receivables must be evaluated in detail.

With increased adoption of mobility and availability IT tools, companies can use appropriate structural arrangements to minimize the cost of sales and yet improve reach and conversion. Sales structures must include not just direct sales teams, but inside, partner and product teams that complement the direct sales. Create a dynamic sales organization that not only covers the markets, but builds partners and ambassadors for it. A dynamic sales organization must include:

  • Inside sales – Identify people, Google search, secondary data
  • Sales Executive – Feet on street, Coverage, Meet people, Verifying data and collect Information
  • Branch Manager – Administrative Cover, Link with Technical and Project people, Pre-order and post-order point of contact
  • Product Manager – Technical specialist, Influence Design/ Technical team, Identify the cost saving technical options, Match/ Improve technical
  • Regional Manager – Business Leader for the region, Price and Margin manager
  • General Manager – P&L leader, management representative, maximum interest with company and across company, Revenue Leader

With new technologies B2B companies must realize sales resources are not the only one to open door and neither opportunities nor marketing is the exclusive promoter. With many B2B buyers self-educating using tools like social media, vendors need to effectively empower and promote product and application engineering teams to network and influence the ecosystem, right from design companies, EPC contractors, Standard setting bodies and user community. Role of product management that helps in inform and educate, influence the design and procurement teams by its expertise and bring alignment between requirement and solution is often under invested. Product managers are key to requirement gathering but also define the specs of an RFP.  Promote product management –client and design interactions at all levels.

Invest in sales operations. Sales operation has different meaning for every company. In some, sales operation does number collation and crunches data. In some they are responsible for system, programs and process. In some they are responsible for pricing and participate in large complex deals. Fundamentally, the role of sales operations is to capture the data related to sales activities, and help sales team to make decisions based on data rather than subjective assessment. Sales operations more than just being a data sink, helps integration benefits to the organization by linking various activities.

Make available non-sales oriented platforms and information content to inform, educate and advocacy of their expertise and products.  More educational content from a B2B vendor helps in build trust and respect for its expertise. Share original content on social media platforms and optimize for search. Companies that go beyond their product range and address the complete industry are seen as leaders and more such content augments the credibility of the company’s brand.

A major change B2B vendors need to make to their sales strategy is to consciously move away from the decades old sales playbooks they treat as mantras. B2B vendors who just moved their sales process to modern technologies without fundamental changes in the sales engagement find the results are always below expectations. With the new technologies and information intensive markets, B2B vendors may have to rework their sales playbooks but also rethink how they are enabling the sales person to decipher and deepen the customer’s knowledge. While adopting the new technologies ensure the playbooks allow sales resources to adjust their individual strategies and styles to add value to the sales engagement process.

T R Saivinoth