Sales Productivity and Hypergrowth

Elay Cohen, former SVP of Sales Productivity at Salesforce and current CEO at Saleshood, shared the secret sauce that he believes drives sales productivity. In his experience, the most successful organizations on the planet think critically about three pillars of sales productivity: vision, culture & process, and operational cadence. Here are his tips for implementing them:

Define sales team needs in terms of company growth
Being able to quickly scale a sales team is dependent upon prioritizing the foundational aspects of sales productivity. Elay recommends that small startups and hyper-growth companies focus first on establishing a strong product training ”bootcamp” that hones in on key messaging, teaches key sales skills and pitching strategies, forecasts for wins & losses, and clarifies central values. As the organization scales, the focus can then shift from a sole focus on product training to building out an extensive training university with more formalized certifications.

Start with sales values
Values anchor an organization around how to win and allow all team members to know what the key tenets are. Values transcend the sales process and methodology - they become a unifying mantra among all sales team members. They define how to have conversations with customers, reduce sales rep ramp time, and improve forecasting accuracy.

Salesforce sales values: the keys to your “SUCCESS”
Nine years ago, the Salesforce team constructed a value map that has become an integral part of their sales team and company culture. These values quickly became branded curriculum, best practices, and formed the foundation for everything from onboarding programs to weekly team meetings. The acronym for their value map was “SUCCESS”, with the breakdown of their values being:

Seed and grow: Focus in on core business problems, gain departmental wins, and grow virally inside of an account
Users sell for you: Embrace reference selling
Compelling demos: Create demonstrations tailored to each account
Connect the dots: Always look for new connections and know who you’re talking to
Experience Events: Bring customers together with prospects in a high-energy environment
Sell high and through: Don’t just sell to the VP of sales - instead get all the different types of buyers -- regardless of seniority -- aligned
Show them the money: Use business case-studies for selling

Map your sales values to your sales process
After verbalizing and standardizing an organization’s values, the task then becomes translating those values into concrete actions for the sales team to perform throughout the sales process. Each step in that process should exhibit one or more of the core values, such as creating a sense of urgency, nurturing relationships, or offering a customized demonstration. Sales processes are more circuitous than linear; however, constructing this map of actions and values provides a useful path to success.

Research: What’s working and not working
Talk to top sales reps and customers in order to unravel exactly how deals are won on the frontlines. Conduct focused interviews with key individuals over a period of several weeks in order to hone in on the words and messages that reveal the useful “tribal” knowledge of the organization. Involve at least one interviewer that has great curiosity and sales experience, and a second interviewer who can organize the data and identify key patterns. At Salesforce this research activity was conducted annually.

Create playbooks that the sales team appreciates
Document the research insights and package it in a way that’s consumable by the sales reps. The final format may be a PDF, video, or its own mobile product/tool. Playbooks can be framed around the product, competition, industry, or the sales process itself. In any case, it should deliver a step-by-step prescriptive approach that adds discipline to the organization and enriches the relationship between sales and marketing.

Brand values to give them life
Construct a list of values, each of which is actionable. If possible, map those values to a letter of a word that can be readily memorized and inherently meaningful. Words like SUCCESS, CONNECT, and ADVOCATE has been used as values acronyms for companies in the past. Since these acronyms will represent the values the sales team will build their brand around, you should always try to keep them front and center - get them on their mobile devices, put them on the walls, and pin them up on every desk.

Integrate values and process with training
Create a world-class onboarding program (that should ideally occur before an employee is in the field), with boot camps and coaching from the top to the bottom of the organization. The training should also include ongoing learning and coaching in the form of regular sales meetings and one-to-one mentoring. Share best practices with your peers around deal strategies, pitches, and proposals.

Optimize the onboarding Program
Don’t try to jam everything into one week. Instead, create a program that is at least two weeks long and walks new hires through daily learning pillars. At the end of every week, you should have each sales rep stand and deliver something (e.g. a pitch). Think critically about what information reps must know immediately in order to be successful, then spoon-feed them everything else after the initial two weeks.

Get your reps on the same message (and keep them there)
Getting reps on the same message is critical. Messaging is all about practice and alignment - not necessarily about repetition and uniformity. When reps are on message they can be entirely aligned with the vision yet communicate that in their own words. Create bite-sized pitch contests with reps that have them practice and deliver elevator pitches, customer stories, frame a discovery conversation, open a solution & demo, and deliver a one-slide executive proposal. All messaging should map back to your team values and sales processes.