Picture this. You are driving a supercar at 300 Kmph on a rainy day in Italy while being chased by 19 competitors for the podium. It’s a perfect playdate for adrenaline junkies. And you feel right at home. If there is any sport that constantly dabbles between high stake results, adrenaline-pumping action, and profound dangers, it is Formula 1.
Formula 1 is known for being a sport like none other. On face-value (and often to newbies) it seems like an individual sport. But once we start looking closely, an interesting pattern emerges. Mercedes (the current dominant team in the race) employs 980 team members with each of them working round the clock to get every possible detail of the car right. One mistake (even something as minute as a screw went wrong) and it can lead to something like this.
Why are we talking about this today? Because Sales Acceleration in Key Account Management is like Formula 1 on steroids. If Key Account Management is the engine in our scenario, Sales Acceleration is the driver. For a shot at the championship, both ingredients are indispensable.
What is Sales Acceleration and Why it Matters?
Sales Acceleration may seem like a self-explanatory concept, but it is far from it. At the surface level, it is about improving the speed and efficiency of the sales process. The idea is to identify key areas of improvement in the sales process and scale them in a way that adds tremendous value. This may include:
- Reducing process inefficiencies and refining the end results
- Leveraging key trending technologies that accelerate sales
- Extending the requisite training to your sales team
- Syncing marketing with sales for better lead nurturing
LiveHive CMO Micheline Nijmeh defines sales acceleration as “a set of tools that drives, pushes, promotes the sales cycle — that is, their goal is to push a sale across the finish line. ”Jim Lundy, founder and CEO of Aragon Research has declared sales acceleration as “like nothing that salespeople have ever seen,".
Why is Sales Acceleration important?
There is no denying that the sales industry has undergone fundamental evolution. Your average sales rep today is no longer overbearing to the point of repulsion. Instead, they are highly trained, professional, and empathetic personalities who constantly check on their customers and guide them towards gentle, value-oriented sale closures.
How is this achieved?
By using the right amount of research, analytics, and account planning softwares. What was once a soft-skill arena has now turned into a technically-sound and process-driven culture. With the right managerial mindset, Sales Acceleration fits right into this equation. It makes use of processes and data to achieve sales success, rather than relying on ad-hoc decisions and hunches.
5 Key Pillars of a Sales Acceleration Formula - The Vision of Mark Roberge
Considered as the father of Sales Acceleration in the modern era, Mark Roberge devised a sales acceleration formula for scalable and predictable revenue growth at HubSpot. Using this, he was able to scale revenue to $100 million in 7 years. According to him, the Sales Acceleration formula or process has 5 key pillars:
Sales Hiring Formula
- Defining the ideal characteristics of a salesperson for your organization and devising a framework to test these skills.
- Finding top-performing salespeople by incentivizing internal recruiters on success rates.
- Determining the first ideal hire in the sales team, someone that perfectly aligns with the characteristics, long-term vision, culture, and maturity.
Sales Training Formula
- Creating a systemic sales training program that is focused on the buyer journey, sales process, and sales qualification matrix.
- Taking into account individual traits and skills of salespeople in a way that is predictable and scalable.
- Constantly iterating the sales training program and ensuring that it aligns with the needs of the team instead of merely the organization.
Sales Management Formula
- Sales Training: Focusing on a single skill set every month instead of a list. Manager support is driven by open dialogue, self-reflection, and mutual buy-in.
- Performance Analysis: Creating a metrics-driven dashboard to analyze how a salesperson is performing at every funnel stage.
- Compensation and Incentives: Evolving incentive programs as the business grows. Creating a culture of promotion based on success metrics.
- Promoting from Within: Supporting internal transitions from sales to managerial positions and establishing sales leadership coaching.
Demand Generation Formula
- Shifting from cold calling to inbound by positioning salespeople as thought leaders.
- Creating a buyer matrix to pinpoint the interest level of leads in your product or service.
- Mapping customized buyer experiences for leads based on their buyer journeys.
Technology and Innovation
- Understanding that most technologies increase the workload on salespeople and selecting them wisely.
- Using technology that empowers salespeople and/or improves the buying experience of customers.
- Creating a bottom-up culture of experimentation by selecting the top-performers.
- Focusing on metrics such as Lifetime Value and Customer Acquisition Costs, customer retention, sales productivity, etc.
Top Goals or Functions of a Sales Acceleration Framework
By now, you understand the ‘What’ of the trade. But how does an actual Sales Acceleration framework looks like in practice? Here are the top 4 deliverables that a successful Sales Acceleration framework should include:
- Engagement-tracking: Whether it is in the form of feedback analysis of inbound calls or monitoring the lead closing process, engagement tracking is an important ingredient to understand how well your key accounts are growing.
- Data analytics: Hands-on data about deal sizes, distributions, sales velocity, or productivity sheds light on opportunities that can be used to grow key accounts and pinpoint avenues of account expansion.
- Automation: With the right technology, you can automate redundant day-to-day tasks such as auto-dialing, price quote generation, or inventory monitoring. This leaves the door open to focus on more strategic account management tasks.
- Personalization: Boosting customer engagement by leveraging personalized content in Account Management.
Benefits that Sales Acceleration Brings to the Table
When each pillar of Sales Acceleration is aligned with the organizational vision, immense value is created. And when it comes to Key Account Expansion, the value is only compounded given the natural scope for growth and scaling. Once you set out on this journey, here are some benefits that you can expect:
- Quicker deal closes: Given how difficult it is to close Key Accounts, a faster conversion cycle only means more bang for your buck. Since accounts can be closed earlier, your sales reps will have more time in their arsenal to put to use and bag more deals.
- Easier target achievement: Sales Acceleration is all about mindset, automation, and technology, enabling sales teams to reach their targets quicker. For instance, they can use automated dialers to quickly prospect leads and sift through low-level accounts to find promising opportunities for Land and Expand.
- Better control over trends: Having access to a wide range of sales data, industry trends can be mapped out in advance. Account management and growth strategies can be accordingly mapped out.
- Higher customer engagement: Armed with all the necessary information, sales reps, and key account managers can make the experiences of customers as personalized as possible across multiple platforms or touchpoints.
- Increased sales revenues: As you may have guessed by now, all this naturally contributes towards the overall revenue growth as organizations become more cost-effective and key account expansion and management become more productive.
Types of Sales Acceleration Technologies
While an impeccable sales process is an important part of the trade, technology holds a prominent (and often the central) role in Sales Acceleration and Sales transformation.
Simply because the right tool or platform will deliver a sound foundation for your entire sales process to catapult towards growth. Here is a close look at some of the leading sales acceleration technologies that you should explore:
- Email Tracking Software: Help to know the exact date and time that an email has been opened. This helps you create more compelling emails, schedule them better for more engagement, curate impactful follow-ups, and save a ton of time and resources.
- Inbound Call Tracking Software: To put it simply, this tracks the source of all inbound sales calls and displays contextual data of the leads. Consequently, you get an entire snapshot of the campaigns that are driving valuable inbound calls. Account managers can also make better-informed decisions on how inbound sales calls should be distributed among teams.
- Market Intelligence: Helps key account managers and sales reps to access critical information about leads and accounts such that they can be easily scored and segregated into cold, warm, and hot categories.
- Outbound Sales Dialers: A sales productivity tool, an outbound sales dialer eliminates repetitive tasks such as dialing phone numbers or sending emails with intuitive features such as click-to-call or accessing a list of prioritized dialers. The idea is to speed up sales prospecting.
- List Building Tools: Integration tools that sync up and link with various data and social media channels in order to help sales reps identify new key accounts that meet the sales criterion.
- Predictive Analytics: Leveraging a horde of customer data across multiple channels and making use of intelligent machine learning models to accurately predict future sales opportunities.
- Salesforce Automation (SFA): An information technology that ties up closely with the sales process in order to automate tasks based on specific inputs. This usually includes repetitive tasks such as automated follow-up emails to leads.
- Sales Gamification: A tool to boost motivation within sales teams and increase competition by using game mechanics in sales activities.
- Configure Price Quote (CPQ): Automated and accurate generation of sales proposals, quotations, and pricing with centralized business rules and sales data.
- Sales Coaching Tools: Dedicated tools to coach sales reps to success. These might include models for feedback, coaching journals, sales management tools, peer group facilitation, and more.
Looking Forward - Building a Metrics-Driven Sales Culture
Now that you are armed with all this information, let’s consider a scenario. Imagine that you are the sales manager and a sales rep in your team has been grossly underperforming. How will you address the situation?
Most managers often dismiss this as an activity problem rather than digging deeper or looking at the bird’s eye view.
For instance, you might consider in this situation that the sales rep is not motivated or productive enough when in reality, a close look at the data might reveal that he/she is simply not receiving the volume of leads that other sales reps are. By now the message is clear - not to base your decisions on intuitions and always look at the data instead. What is the best way to do is?
To collect data around every possible touchpoint (internal or external) in the sales process and make well-informed decisions at every step.
This is crucial, not only to fit into Roberge’s concept but to appreciate that a union of Sales Acceleration and Key Account Management/Expansion is a beast that is not easy to tame and warrants its due attention from all directions.