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10 Powerful Ways to Inject Discipline Into the Revenue-Generation Process

Many CEOs of middle market companies view sales and marketing functions as autonomous. When problems or inefficiencies arise in operations, finance, manufacturing or other areas of a company, CEOs zero in on well-established metrics and processes to pinpoint trouble spots and address them. However, that same kind of rigor and discipline is often absent in sales and marketing.

As a result, the CEO may be unsure of the underlying causes of disappointing revenue performance and often miss the real source of the problem. Is it the market, pricing, sales team, go-to-market strategy, or something else?

To improve performance, where should CEOs get involved? By analyzing multiple clients across several industries, we identified 10 common trouble spots that yield the greatest revenue improvement potential. By beginning with the three or four that resonate most strongly for their company, CEOs will see revenue expansion and establish a systematic approach for driving continued growth.

1. Segment the market and target high-priority customers. All customers are not created equal. Therefore, the time a company spends parsing new customers should not be evenly allocated among its prospects. Nor should it be left to individual reps to determine how to spend their time. They tend to gravitate to accounts that are most comfortable, the loyalists, and not necessarily those that will bring the most growth, such as customers where the company has a lower share of wallet. Nudge them to step out of their comfort zone.

“CEOs need to push sales reps out of their comfort zone by focusing them on customers with the most potential for growth and the lowest share of wallet.”

An effective segmentation and targeting strategy identifies the most attractive customers, both prospective and existing, so sales and marketing organizations know where to focus. It also accounts for buyer values and decision-making criteria so the sales team clearly understands how to win in each segment. When salespeople understand what is important to different buyer groups—and which prospects in that group are most valuable—they can hone in on the messages that will best resonate with them, increasing the likelihood of a high-value win.

2. Develop meaningful account plans. Requiring clear action plans for each customer account with tasks, owners, and timing allows for a shared vision of what needs to happen. The account becomes a company asset, not just an individual salesperson’s asset. Many sales reps view account planning as unnecessary additional paperwork—a “homework assignment” more about checking boxes than creating something of value. But a good account plan is indispensable in proactively determining how to grow a customer.

Sales organizations lacking detailed and effective customer account plans will struggle to focus on the right actions to grow their business. They simply wind up reacting to requests. Good account plans allow for tracking of progress and building organizational learning on what works and doesn’t. Plans facilitate coaching conversations, giving sales managers a tool to measure progress and coach strategy. In short, meaningful account plans drive revenue growth.

3. Monitor progress via a simple set of metrics. There are two important elements in monitoring: metrics and simplicity. CEOs aiming to inject discipline into the revenue-generation process must establish and track a defined set of metrics that aligns with their growth initiatives. Metrics provide a fact base about a company’s revenue performance, reveal growth opportunities, help CEOs gauge progress and guide sound decision-making. They are fundamental and must measure activity as well as outcome. Without the right metrics, companies can only base decisions on assumptions, anecdotes and outdated information, perpetuating poor revenue performance.

The second element is simplicity. Good metrics-tracking plans encompass only those data points most relevant to growth. To be effective, track only those metrics that relate directly to your growth aspirations and levers. Don’t track metrics simply because others track them or because it’s the way things have always been done.

4. Provide effective coaching and sales supervision. Putting effective sales management at the helm of sales teams has far greater impact on performance than upgrading the talent of individual reps. Great sales managers lift the performance of the entire team while a mediocre manager degrades team performance and often prompts top performers to leave.

Great sales managers know the importance of good coaching and do it consistently. In its 2014 Sales Management Optimization Study, CSO Insights found that of companies with a formal coaching process, 62.3% of reps meet or exceed quota and the organization hits 91.2% of revenue plan attainment—sharply higher than companies with informal coaching. Yet only 21% of companies have a formal coaching process identifying appropriate coaching activities (group meetings, individual meetings, ride-alongs, celebrating successes, etc.), appropriate activity cadence, and tracking across managers. About eight in 10 firms are missing out on a potent opportunity to drive revenue growth.


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