90 Day Plan to Turnaround a Runaway Sales Team

November 26, 2019

Sara Howshar

If you’ve just landed a new sales leadership role, or you’re looking to turn things around on an under-performing sales team, you’ve come to the right place!

We’ve outlined an 8-step plan to help you right the ship below.

Runaway Sales Team Plan

Here are our other top tips:

  • Take an honest look at your market
  • Deep-dive your product/process (and competitors’ too)
  • Consider your people… at every level
  • Frame the problem
  • Get commitment to a simple vision
  • Empower the team
  • Act agile
  • Invest in team-building and collaboration

Without further adieu, here we go!

Day 1-30: Get Grounded! #

It’s critical that you don’t make assumptions, and avoid taking decisions too fast. The first thing you need to do is get a really deep understanding of your market, product, and people.

Take an honest look at your market #

To understand your market, read recent industry reports and complete a TAM, SAM, SOM exercise. If you haven’t already completed one, follow these steps:

  • First, put a dollar value behind your total addressable market (TAM). This is typically available in industry reports. For example, if you’re selling Learning & Development technology, look at the total amount of spending that takes place on L&D technologies as a whole.
  • Then, consider the Serviceable Addressable Market (SOM). This is the part of the market that’s purchasing any product or service like yours. For instance, if you’re offering a Platform to create employee training content, look at what’s spent on training content creation services and technologies specifically.
  • Finally, determine the Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM). This is the realistic percentage of your SOM that you can sell given the competition, countries/languages you service, trends, expected demand, your sales forecast, and other market influences. As a benchmark, your SOM is not typically greater than 10% or your TAM without strong justification.

If your SOM is not in line with your sales goals, you may have a larger problem at play and need to consider ways to expand your offerings or revise your revenue goals.

Deep-dive your product and process (++ competitors’ too!) #

Consider these steps:

  • Use Conversation Intelligence to review calls from every stage in the sales cycle, such as Cold Calls, Discovery, Demos, Proposals, Technical Calls, and Procurement Calls, including a mix of calls taken with each vertical and role you sell. Review calls taken with both live customers and prospects.
  • Specifically look at calls with competitor mentions or major objections
  • Meet with the product and engineering teams to understand their process and plans
  • Deep-dive into competitive products (one good way to do this is to read customers reviews, particularly on G2Crowd)

Consider your people (at every level!) #

To better understand your people, get an honest assessment of performance and any barriers standing in the way of a rep or managers’ success. A few ways to do this include:

  • Lead a “Stop, Start, Continue” exercise as a team or as part of your bi-directional performance reviews
  • Review recorded sales calls via Film Review
  • Consider quota attainment while keeping in mind the rep’s ramp period and book of business

It’s critical that you give a voice to every level of the team during this part of the process and that you don’t just rely on the perspective of people managers.

Day 31-60: Clarify your problem(s) & plan #

First, frame the problem. #

It’s pretty typical that the problems on an under-performing sales team are worse than you think. That’s because people don’t like to admit it when they’re struggling. Sometimes problems will be visible in the business metrics, such as high churn. Other times the problem has to do with talent, process, or communications and culture.

Check out our State of Conversation Intelligence Report to see how your team stacks up against companies with similar ACVs across common sales benchmarks. Then, consider these common challenges faced by sales teams that are generally visible in your metrics:

  • You don’t have enough qualified leads to hit your goals
  • The sales team doesn’t have the processes and tools in place to hit the KPIs needed in each sales stage (or you haven’t outlined them yet!)
  • Sales performance is all over the map (i.e. the sales team is likely not using the same repeatable process and story)
  • Customers are falling out of the pipeline after a discovery call or demo (if less than 30-40% of meetings progress, this might mean your customer doesn’t see an urgent need to buy, or you’re not getting in front of the correct buyer with a budget)
  • Customers are falling out of the pipeline in late-stages (meaning they were likely not qualified enough, or the team needs help handling objections)
  • You’re frequently losing deals to competition (e.g. you might need to focus on one part of the market where you’re strong or refine your differentiation story)
  • Customers are being closed who are not actually qualified to use your product and grow long-term, so they inevitably churn
  • Customers are being over-sold things that the product doesn’t do, which also leads to churn
  • The team is taking a long time to ramp or few are hitting quota (e.g. you need to invest in improving coaching)

Other common problems include:

  • An under-staffed sales team with unrealistic quotas per head
  • Lack of process, or too much process that’s slowing down deals
  • A culture problem, which often starts with people managers who struggle in one of the following areas:
    • Use fear-based tactics/have not fostered a collaborative environment
    • Have too many direct reports who aren’t getting proper attention or are struggling to be a player-coach
    • Have not received formal management training/don’t know how to properly coach or manage teams

Get commitment to your vision. #

Once you’ve identified the problems, bring your vision to life - i.e. your plan for how to turn things around. Keep it simple with goals that are clear and attainable for the team.

Some things to include:

  • What revenue is each person responsible for bringing in?
  • What other KPIs are critical to the team’s success, such as discovery calls taken or demos completed?
  • What projects related to process or collateral need to be completed to help the team hit its number, and who is accountable for what?

Get everyone to commit verbally and in writing that they’re on board with their part of the plan!

Day 61-90: Empower the team & act agile #

Empower the team. #

No sales team scales when the sales leader is involved in closing every deal. That’s a band-aid, and if this sounds familiar, you’ve got to get out of that zone fast.

If you give your people the ongoing coaching, process, tools, and a realistic book of business to hit their quota, they’ll generally crush it. Focus on delivering here and developing core sales skills, such as leading effective cold calls or discovery calls, rather than only coaching on deals.

Rather than micro-managing, use open-ended questions to guide coaching conversations. Try these:

  • What do we need to focus on today?
  • At the end of the conversation, what do you want to resolve?
  • What do we need to talk about today?
  • Where do you stand with the challenges we have been discussing?
  • What are the issues you want to work on today?
  • What do you need from me today?
  • What are you committed to accomplishing today?

Act agile. #

Focus on more collaboration and less sweeping change. Rather than sticking to the plan, be ready to adapt quickly. The best way to do this is to keep a close pulse on what’s happening in the field at every stage by listening to customer conversations. Rather than relying on insights from individual deals, look across all of your recorded sales calls to identify macro-trends.

It’s particularly important to focus on what’s working within Closed Won deals and to examine the behaviors of top-performing reps. These are called “bright spots,” and the answer to a lot of sales challenges lie there.

Finally, invest in team-building and celebrating quick wins.

Some tactics to try:

  • Set up tools and processes to foster peer coaching
  • Host an offsite or summit
  • Celebrate small wins at every stage rather than just focusing on Closed Won deals, such as the SDR with the highest conversion rate, or the team member who submitted the most offers this month.

To Recap: #

We’re not gonna lie. If you’re made it to the end of this blog, you’ve got some work to do. However, we hope this is a great starting point for you to turnaround a runaway sales team.

We’d also love to hear your best-ever “sales team comeback” stories and tips that worked for you in the comments! We’ll re-share some of our favorites in a future blog and credit you.

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