- A sales growth framework starts with a strategy that engineers revenue growth. It defines a calculated approach to achieve a financial objective. It applies specific methods to produce the outcomes that most matter and avoids wasting time with activities that don't. It makes it clear what staff need to start doing, stop doing or do differently. Strategy is a precursor to everything that comes after. Great execution won't get you very far if your strategy is wrong.
- Showing the discipline to use a revenue growth framework is commensurate with the likelihood of being successful. Significant and sustained business expansion is most likely to be achieved when applying a proven and repeatable framework that orchestrates the three building blocks of strategy, evidence-based best practices and enabling technologies.
- Striving for accelerated revenue advancement without a solid framework is a lot like watching a foreign language film without subtitles. There's a lot of activity, but you have no idea where it's going. On the other hand, applying a solid sales acceleration framework will define, de-risk and maximize the likelihood you achieve targeted results.
A Systemic Approach to Rising Revenue Growth
Research findings published in The Sales Excellence Report shared the Best-in-Class leaders (i.e., the top 15 percent) grew revenues 1.6X more than their peers by applying sales strategies that assemble the optimal combination of best practices, technology automation and performance measurements.
We've applied this research and refined the Johnny Grow Sales Acceleration Framework for more than two decades. It's something we call EXCEL and it's a replicable 3-component process illustrated below.
Here's how it works.
Start with a Sales Acceleration Strategy
A sales acceleration strategy must do 3 things.
- Identify prioritized objectives. And to support operational execution and frequent measurement, the goals must be specific and time-bound. For some companies, this could be as simple as "grow revenues 40 percent in 12 months." Or you may want to include goals such as market share expansion, company market cap or profit realization.
If you are unsure how to develop the most important, highest impact and achievable selling objectives, consider a one-day Design Thinking workshop.
- Plot the most direct path to success. There are many potential pathways to your goals, so this step is to find the most direct route that can be accomplished in the least time and cost and with the least risk. The optimal pathway must be calculable and based on data, so the best technique here is to apply a pro forma revenue engineering model that shows how departments, divisions or different lines of business contribute and roll up results to achieve the company's goals. An example is shown below.
Business growth is a process, not an event. So, to visualize that process we use a proprietary model we call the Predictive Pyramid. It's a bottom-to-top roll-up that shows how lower-level selling analytics align and feed higher level performance measures to satisfy the company's top priorities.
The pyramid is needed because no revenue process, program or tactic lives in isolation. Each has cascading effects that impact many areas and those impacts must be considered when making tradeoffs. This visualization is extremely helpful in determining where to invest your limited time and money to achieve the biggest financial uplift.
- Determine the methods to achieve your goals. Many companies launch sales plans with much fanfare but little substance. You cannot just tell staff to grow the business and expect it to happen. You should not expect them to achieve improved results without improved methods to make it happen.
Instead, you need to show how improved methods can be applied to grow revenues. The best technique here is what we refer to as a Strategy Blueprint.
It's a one-page data-driven value chain model. It starts with the headline goal, identifies the best practices to support the chosen strategies and applies company data and industry benchmarks to drive the metrics and conversions. Like the predictive pyramid, it makes the strategy measurable and predictive.
Some Sales Strategy Advice
When sales strategies are clearly communicated, they identify what's important and where the company will invest its time and money. That also means anything that doesn't directly contribute to the strategy is a distraction. A good sales strategy is equally valuable in showing what not to do.
Some people bypass strategies because they take a lot of up-front time. That may be somewhat true but short sighted. The thing about strategies is that they deliver order of magnitude time savings.
The hours invested to plan the optimal route to the most important financial objectives will save weeks or months in execution time. When I'm building a sales strategy, I'm reminded of Abe Lincoln's quote, "If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four hours sharpening the axe."
Other people avoid strategies because they end with up with broad, generic or esoteric documents that don't lend themselves to planned and measured execution. These are the strategies that seem to believe value increases with word count. These are also the strategies that get a once-over and are then filed away.
Strategies should be practical not theoretical. What's needed are prescriptive strategies that show how to achieve specific and measurable goals.
Each of the three strategy artifacts described above is data-driven and not particularly verbose. In fact, in our experience, each can be accomplished on a single page. And when done well, the strategy will drive both clarity and simplicity.
Design Your Go to Market Execution
Just doing more of what you are already doing is unlikely to accelerate revenues beyond the current pace. To do better consider the three most influential selling execution techniques to drive improved results.
- Start with Sales Best Practices
Selling recommendations without supporting data are just somebody's opinion.
A better approach is to apply evidence-based best practices that are validated by field research, include prescriptive guidance, have purpose-built measurement systems (i.e., metrics and dashboards) and leverage technology automation.
A single best practice will deliver incremental revenue improvement. A collection will achieve synergy and deliver exponentially more.
Certain best practices have overlap, so doing them together will reduce time and increase the impact for both. And completing some best practices will provide a jump start to others. So, logically sequencing them can further decrease time and investment and accelerate results.
Because they are data driven, they can be modeled to show investment, cash flow impact and payback.
Below are the top 9 best practices published in the Sales Excellence Report.
- Consider Process Improvements
Research shows that companies incur headwinds when processes are inefficient, cumbersome or manual.
Legendary business guru W. Edwards Deming advised, "Eighty-five percent of the reasons for failure are deficiencies in the systems and process rather than the employee. The role of management is to change the process rather than badgering individuals to do better." That's good advice.
The best selling process design is not just focused on refining steps and activities but on eliminating process steps or tasks that don't add value to the outcome.
Our motto at Johnny Grow is everything that gets repeated get automated. And one of the most powerful sales tools for this purpose is Agile Value Stream mapping.
This technique is well suited for processes such as lead scoring and assignment, opportunity qualification, quote and proposal generation, and approval processing. But it's extensible so can also be applied to things like content searching and distribution, CRM activity entries, forecasting, and other processes that if left inefficient will drag down productivity.
Streamlined and automated processes root out excess cost, improve execution, enable scalability and facilitate continuous incremental improvement. Highly efficient and repeatable processes become part of your intellectual property.
- Develop your Go-to-Market Roadmap
Once the sales strategy identifies the most direct path to the top goals, you need a roadmap to show how to navigate that path with sequenced actions. It should calculate, schedule and manage the investments, resources, best practices and actions needed to succeed.
It's a step-by-step approach with milestones and stage gates.
Apply Sales Technologies
Technologies are essential to achieving accelerated growth. And the three most important technology goals are to support process automation, enable advanced acceleration techniques and deliver real-time information reporting.
Process automation eliminates manual labor and reduces cycle time. Most companies already have a CRM system and that single technology can automate the majority of processes.
However, CRM modification or specialty apps will be needed to go beyond basic selling processes and apply technology for higher impact results. For example, extended capabilities may include integrating with a sales methodology or adding key capabilities such as account win plans at the opportunity record, account health scores at the account record, account engagement scores at the contact record, calculated lead or opportunity scores, or sales playbook integration.
The challenge will be to leverage these more advanced technologies in a way that builds upon your CRM and existing tech platform and does not create fragmentation and complexity.
This challenge can be solved with a technology strategy called PACE.
A Technology Strategy Will Simplify Technology Management
PACE is a technology strategy that directly supports sales acceleration strategies by aligning software capabilities with revenue outcomes. Or more specifically, the PACE model aligns the methods leaders use to create business expansion, described in terms of common ideas, different ideas and new ideas, with a technology portfolio that segments CRM and other business applications into layers called Systems of Record, Systems of Differentiation and Systems of Innovation.
PACE supports a roadmap that acquires technology pursuant to a business development plan. It also allocates more investment to the capabilities that drive the most business expansion and less investment toward capabilities that that are table stakes or don't deliver differentiation or competitive business advantages.
Use Analytics to Measure and Adjust
The thing about sales plans is they seldom go according to plan. That's why analytics are needed to display real-time variances that need quick remediation.
Depending upon your CRM maturity, you may need to start by first creating a closed loop reporting system that links data, insights, actions and outcomes. Establishing this sequential connection is a prerequisite to advancing from information visibility to information predictability.
Sales Dashboards are the top delivery tool to get the right information to the right person at the right time.
However, there are a few challenges to make dashboards effective. The first is to shift information from being merely interesting to inducing action.
Power is created from action, not visibility. Simply displaying key performance indicators (KPIs) in a dashboard falls short of inducing action. However, when dashboard KPIs are aligned with objectives, compared to benchmarks, linked to playbooks, or integrated with next-best-actions, the information drives action.
The dashboard KPI is not the goal. It's a recommendation for action. Action is the goal.
The below dashboard is an example that quickly shows what's working and what's not. It highlights variances and provides links to actions, in this case links to a sales playbook and selling best practices.
It uses alerts to surface problems or opportunities and notify the right person in real-time. These alerts may include things like resolving revenue leakage, such as leads not being followed-up or sale opportunities not being followed-through. Or they may surface business process breakdowns such as a quoting or order entry problems. Or they may recognize that a high value customer is dissatisfied and at risk of churn. Swift course corrections prevent the loss of short-term and long-term revenue.
The most important thing for dashboards is to display deviations that need intervention and induce action. If your information reporting is not causing continuous course corrections and shifting tactics, you're doing it wrong.
Lets Get Growing
To achieve new heights in sales growth, it's more important to do the right things than do things right. This 3-step framework identifies the right things.
Without a framework it's easy to confuse activity with progress and difficult to separate the urgent from the important. Without a framework, the salesforce attempts to navigate without a clear map and execution becomes aimless. When they then incur investments or effort that do not directly drive advancements, they steer off course and delay or degrade the most important objectives.
Significant sales growth is a lot of effort but need not be a daunting task. In working with clients, we do a quick gap analysis and typically find some processes are in place, some need minor refinement and some need reinvention.
The most important thing is to get started and make continuous improvements. As said by Mark Twain, the secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.